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Portavogie, County Down


Ir. Port an Bhogaigh ‘port or place of the boggy area’


On E coast of Ards Peninsula, 11km NE of Portaferry

par: St Andrewsal. Ballyhalbert bar: Ards Upper

Many 17th-century documents refer to the presence of a bog here. We can also note the modern road name Bog Road, and the name Bogge, marked a little north-west of Portavogie on Mercator's 1595 map of Ulster, roughly straddling the boundary between the parishes of Ballyhalbert and Inishargy, may indicate a significant marshy district at that time.  However, the extensive bog spoken of in the 17th century has apparently been exhausted in recent centuries as the Ordnance Survey Memoir of 1834 remarks: ‘The bogs are not of very good extent’ (OSM vii 84).  An Bogach may therefore refer either to a bog within the townland, or alternatively to a larger district in the vicinity of the Blackstaff River.  This latter possibility would be consistent with the Blackstaff being marked as a significant boundary on early maps, such as Bartlett's Ulster (1603) or Norden's Ireland (1610), on which it completely cuts off Little Ards which lies to the south, making it an island.

As to the interpretation of Ir. port, it may mean either ‘port’ or ‘place, spot, locality’ (DIL), or even port móna ‘turf-bank’ (Ó Dónaill).  Port an Bhogaigh, then, could mean ‘port of the bog’, or merely ‘bank/place of the bog’.  If 'port' or 'harbour' is the relevant sense, it would seem to apply to a different landing-place from the modern harbour of Portavogie (for which the original name appears to be Portavaud) as this is not marked on the first edition of the Ordnance Survey 6" map surveyed in the 1830s.  John's Port, approximately 1km further north in the townland of Portavogie may have been the location of the earlier harbour in the vicinity.  There is no settlement or landing-place evident in the townland on the Raven's map of the Clandeboye estate (1625).  A rabbit warren is indicated in the south-west where the harbour is located today.

The historical evidence suggests that the townland of Port an Bhogaigh was also known by another Irish name, i.e. Mullach Mór ‘large hill or summit’.


Hughes A. J. (1992): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 2 p. 108; with additions PT, 2013; McKay, P. (2007): A Dictionary of Ulster Place-Names, p. 120

Additional Information

Town, 1961 census

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference

Portauowge  [large lettering] illeg. Gortavogo (?) [note in smaller script]

1625cRaven Map Clandeboye

Port a Bhogaigh "Bank of the Bog''

1834cJ O'D (OSNB) E174

Port an Bhogaigh

1989GÉ 146

Port an Bhogaigh "place of the bog"

1992PNI ii 108-9 (A.J. Hughes)

Port an Bhogaigh "harbour of the bog"

1999Dict. Ulst. PN 120
Ballimulloghmore1605CPR Jas I 73a
Portaboggagh, the bog of1605CPR Jas I 73b
lez Magies de Portabogagh1605Inq. Ult. (Down) $2 Jac. I
Balleportevogie al. Mulloghmore1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xxxiv;xlvi
Balleportevogie al. Mullogmore1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xlii
Portabogagh1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xxx
Portovogie1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xxxii
Balleportivogie al. Mullaghmore1645Inq. Ult. (Down) $104 Car. I
Portevoggy1659cCensus 1659 92
Portevogey1661BSD 89
Balleportavogie al. Mullaghmore1662Inq. Ult. (Down) $23 Car. II
Portavogy1681Ham. Copy Rental 108
Portavogie1810Wm. Map (OSNB) E42 no. 100
Portavogie1830cHigh Const. Applot. (OSNB) E42 no. 100
Portavogie1830cTythes Applot. (OSNB) E42 no. 100
Portavogie1830cBnd. Sur. (OSNB) E42 no. 100
Ards Upper
St. Andrews alias Ballyhalbert
Parish in 1851
St. Andrews alias Ballyhalbert
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Place name type