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Killinchy, County Down


Ir. Cill Duinsí ‘Duinseach’s church’


Village is 9km SSE of Comber

bar: Dufferin

The church of Killinchy is listed in the 1306 Papal Taxation as Ecclesia de Kilwyinchi, a name which Bishop Reeves explained as Cill Insi ‘church of the island’ (EA 10-11, 10n; O’Laverty I 347).  Reeves and O’Laverty followed the view of the local informant in the 1830s, Luke Killen.  However the w in the 1306 spelling indicates that this is too simple, and an anglicised spelling Kilduncy was recorded in 1427 (Reg. Swayne).  All the early Irish martyrologies recorded the name of the virgin saint Duinseach ‘brown girl’. The Martyrology of Tallaght commemorated her on Aug. 6th: Duissech for Loch Cuan ‘Duinseach near Strangford Lough’ (Mart. Tall. 60).  Three give her day as Dec. 11th, and remember she had three churches in east Ulster, Duinsech óg ó Chill Dúinsighe I nUltoibh, 7 atat tri cealla aice ann, Duinseach ‘from Cill Dhuinsí among the Ulaidh, and she has three churches there’ (Féil. Gorm. 236). Killinchy parish is the chief of these, and the others were at Killinchy in the Woods in Killyleagh and Dunsy Island in Strangford Lough, as elucidated by Art Hughes in Celtica xxiii 111-24.  Although St Duinseach was no longer familiar to Luke Killen, a holy well called Dunsy Well was remembered in Kilclief parish in recent times (Hughes 1999).  The 1615 Terrier and several references in the 1623 Hamilton Inquisition call the parish church Killinchie-Nemaghrie ‘Killinchy in the plain’ (Ir. machaire) to distinguish it from Killinchie-Nekelly, Killinchy in the Woods.  The townland around the church site and village measures 555 acres.  Killinchy townland as well as the parish was listed in 1659, and it appears to have been referred to as Baile Dhuinsí ‘Duinseach’s townland’ in 1605-23.

The original Irish form proposed here is Cill Duinsí  rather than Cill Dhuinsí.  One would not expect lenition of d- after -l as these are homorganic consonants.  Hughes (1999) has argued convincingly that the re-interpretation of the name as Cill Inse in some later Irish sources (such as Luke Killen's interpretation recorded in OSNB) and the absence of the d- in the modern anglicised spelling and pronunciation are due to assimilation of d- to -l rather than lenition (cf. Clonallan < Cluain Dalláin).


KM, 2009; revised MÓM 2012; McKay, P. (2007): A Dictionary of Ulster Place-Names, p. 87;;

Additional Information

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference

Duissech [recte Duinsech] for Loch Cúan

0830cMart. Tal. 60

Duinsech óg ó Chill Duinsighe i nUltoibh, 7 atat tri cealla aici ann

1170cMart. Gorm. Dec 11, p. 236, comment in margin


1306EA 10


1427Reg. Swayne 61

Killinshy in Macher.., Ecclesia de

1615Terrier (Reeves) 55

Duinseach, ógh, ó Chill Dúinsighe i nUltu

1630cMart. Don. Dec 11 p332

Duinsech, ogh, for Loch Cuan, i nUltoibh

1630cMart. Don. Aug 5, p. 210


1657Inq. Down (Reeves1) 143

Cill Inse

1834cLuke Killen (OSNB) 36/56

Killinchy, Cill Inse, the Church of the Island

1875Knox Hist. 541

Cill Dhuinsí

1989GÉ 56

Cill Dhuinsí ""Duinseach''s church""

1999Dict. Ulst. PN 87

Ceall Duinsighe

2008HDGP iii 165
Ballinchey1605Inq. Ult. (Down) $1 Jac. I
""Killinsey""1622Ulster Visit. Reeves 13
""Killinsey""1622Ulster Visit. Reeves 53
""Kullinseach""1622Ulster Visit. Reeves 31
Killinchy1659cCensus 1659 84
""Killinchea""1661Trien. Visit. (Bramhall) 11
""Killinchy""1664Trien. Visit. (Margetson) 21
Killinchy1802Stat. Sur. Dn (Dub.) 36/56
Killinchy1810Wm. Map (OSNB) 36/56
Killinchey1830cBnd. Sur. (OSNB) 36/56
Parish in 1851
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