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Ballysheil, County Down


Ir. Baile Uí Shiail ‘O’Sheil’s townland’


Ballysheil was misprinted on the first edition of the OS 1:50,000 map as Ballyshell (later corrected).  The name Skateridge, now a hill in the adjacent townland of Ardbrin, was used as a land unit including current Ballysheil until the late 17th century, as revealed by an alias form in 1661 (Ballyoheele al. Siatrick).  This unit was church land in the 17th century, held with Aughnacloy by the O’Sheil family.  Although the O’Sheils had to forfeit Aughnacloy and Skeatricke in 1658, from then on the townland name included their surname.  It is not clear when the hill called Skateridge became part of Ardbrin townland, and there was still a Cormicke O’Sheill of Scatricke in 1663 (Sub. Roll Dn 277).  Ballysheal had become the recognized spelling of the townland when O’Donovan altered it to Ballysheil in 1834 to indicate the connection with the family, by that time generally spelt as Sheil with ‘but one l’ (OSNB). The family of O’Sheil, earlier Ó Siadhail, were famous in Ireland as doctors (De Script. Hib. 92; Brady 1947, 50-1).  There is another Ballysheil in Co. Offaly where the O’Sheils of that district were hereditary physicians to the MacCoghlans (AD 1548, AFM v 1508 n.b).  In Dromore diocese they were prominent as clergy during the late 15th and 16th centuries, different members of the family being connected in AD 1526-7 with the churches of Donaghcloney, Tullylish and Annaclone (Swanzy's Dromore; Reg. Cromer 208, 213, 223).  Members of the family were pardoned as followers of the Magennises in 1602 and 1610 (Fiants Eliz. §6616; CPR Jas I 175a, 195b) and of Slught O’Neales, the O’Neills in Castlereagh (CPR Jas I 86b-87a).  By 1659 the surname was most common in Orior Co. Armagh, eastern Fermanagh and in Co. Donegal (Census 32, 120, 59, 64).


Muhr, K. (1996): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 6 p. 68-9

Additional Information

spelt Ballyshell on the 1:50,000 map 1st edn; corrected on C version

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference

Baile (Ui) S(h)iadhail "O'Sheil his town"

1834cJ O'D (OSNB) E18.172

Baile Uí Shiail

1992PNI 68
Ballyoheele (al. Siatrick)1661BSD 117
Syapatrick al. Ballyoheele1661?S & D Ann. (Mooney) 23 (f. 83)
Ballysheal1810Wm. Map (OSNB) E18.13, 172
Ballysheal1830cBnd. Sur. (OSNB) E18.13, 172
Ballysheil1834cJ O'D (OSNB) E18.172
Iveagh Up., Up. Half
Parish in 1851
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Place name type