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Drumgath, County Down


Ir. Droim gCath ‘ridge of battles’


Hamlet is 5km SW of Rathfriland

bar: Iveagh Upper, Upper Half

Most modern scholars have agreed in deriving this name from an Irish form meaning ‘ridge of the spear’ and the Rev. Bernard Treanor cites a legend of uncertain date which relates that St Patrick cast a spear from a spot in the townland of Tamary in the parish of Clonduff, declaring that where it should land would be the site of his church, and in this way, we are told, the location of the church of Drumgath was chosen (Treanor 1960, 5).  There were originally two very similar words in Irish for ‘spear, dart’, gae and goth or gath, which later fell together to give modern Irish ga (DIL svv. gae, 3 goth; Ó Dónaill svv. gath(a), ga1). We may compare Drumgath with Cloncagh in Co. Limerick which is thought to derive from Cluain Cath (Ó Maolfabhail 1990, 116).  This now forces us to consider the possibility that the name goes back to an original Droim gCath. As we have seen, cath is attested as a place-name element elsewhere.  As far as can reasonably be established at the present

time, ga occurs in no other place-name in this country and these two facts tend to weigh in favour of cath as the origin of the second element of this name.  Art Ó Maolfabhail (1990, 116) tentatively suggests a meaning ‘meadow of (the) battles’ for Cloncagh in Co. Limerick but adds that cath might have another meaning besides ‘battle’ in this name.  In an article on the place-names of the Rosses in Co. Donegal, Dónall Mac Giolla Easpaig notes that a number of the places whose names contain this element are somewhat isolated and are thus unlikely locations for battles and proposes instead that it may refer to some natural feature (1984, 53-4). There is another word cáith, gen. sing. cátha, meaning ‘chaff’ and this must be considered as a strong possibility in all these names.  Unfortunately, there is no way to distinguish between either of these words in the anglicized spellings with which we have to deal so that no firm conclusion as to the origin of the name Drumgath can yet be reached.

There is a graveyard in the townland which may mark the site of the medieval parish church [Drumgaa 1435].


McKay, P. (2007): A Dictionary of Ulster Place-Names, p. 62; Toner, G. (1992): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. I p. 121

Additional Information

See also the parish of Drumgath

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference

Vicarius de Drumga

1546Reg. Dowdall $113 80

Rector de Dromgath

1661Trien. Visit. (Bramhall) 15

Vicaria de Dromgath

1661Trien. Visit. (Bramhall) 16

Drumgath rectoria

1679Trien. Visit. (Boyle) 46

Drumgath vicaria

1679Trien. Visit. (Boyle) 47

Viaria de Dromgath

1679Trien. Visit. (Bramhall) 14

Druim a Ghath ''Ridge of the dart''

1834cOSNB Inf. 98

Druim ""a back"" and Gah ""a sting""

1834cOSM iii 19

Druim gCat

1905Post-Sheanchas 62

Druim gatha "ridge of the spear''

1950cMooney 1950c 135

Druim gatha "ridge of the spear''

1950cMooney 1950c 139

Droim Ga

1969AGBP 116

Droim Ga

1989GÉ 93

Droim gCath ""ridge of battles""

1999Dict. Ulst. PN 62
Drumgo1407Reg. Fleming $34
(?)Drumgan1431Reg. Octavian 92
Drumgaa1435Reg. Swayne 158
Drumga1530Annates Ulst. 297
Drumgath1609Jas I to Dromore Cath. 314
Dromgagh1611CPR Jas I 190b
Dromgaghe1612CPR Jas I 235a
Dromgagh1629Inq. Ult. (Down) $13 Car. I
Dromgath1657Inq. Down (Reeves1) 93
Dromgah, Parish1657cHib. Reg. Up. Iveagh
Drumgagh1657cHib. Reg. Up. Iveagh
Dromgagh1659cCensus 1659 73
Dromgagh Parish1661BSD 110
Dromlagh al.Dromgagh1661BSD 110
Drumgath1664Trien. Visit. (Margetson) 24
Drumgath1664Trien. Visit. (Margetson) 26
D:gagh [townland]1672cHib. Del. Down
Dromgah als Dromlagh [parish]1672cHib. Del. Down
Drumlagh alias Drumgagh1681ASE 273 b 29
Drumlagh alias Drumgigh1692Rent Roll Down 10
Drumgarth1784Reg. Deeds abstracts ii $701
Drumgath1810Wm. Map (OSNB) 98
Drumgath1830cBnd. Sur. (OSNB) 98
Drumgath1833EA 311
Iveagh Up., Up. Half
Parish in 1851
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