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Cushendun, County Antrim


Ir. Bun Abhann Doinne ‘foot of the river Donn’.


The element bun ‘foot, bottom, base, end (of a valley, etc.)’ (cf. Bonamargy) does not recur among English historical forms after 1610, at which time forms beginning with cois, a locative form of cos ‘leg, foot’ meaning ‘at the foot of; along, beside’ (Ó Dónaill sv.) appear. The Co. Limerick barony name Cois Sléibhe (anglicized Coshlea) has been translated ‘(place) beside (the) mountain’ by Ó Maolfabhail (1990, 138). Ó Maolfabhail also notes that cos may denote a measure of land in some instances in place-names (ibid. sv. An Chois; cf. also Dinneen sv. gníomh). Mac Giolla Easpaig (Place-Names of Rathlin 29) has translated the Rathlin subtownland name of Cois an Locha as ‘the side of the lake’, while Ó Mainnín has translated the south Co. Down name Baile Cois Abhann (which has given rise to the anglicized townland names Ballycoshone Lower and Ballycoshone Upper) as ‘townland by the river’ (PNI iii 77). Cois may however have been used in the sense ‘foot or bottom of the valley’ in a historical variant of the townland name of Ballyteerim, so it is not certain whether the bon- and cush- variants originally represented two distinct names or indicate the replacement of the first element.

  The place-name beginning with bun appears in the local Irish song Aird a’ Chumhaing. Recensions of this song collected locally furnished forms Bun ‘ann Duinne and Bun Abhann Duinne. This song appears to have been composed in the early 19th century, which suggests that Bun Abhann Doinne survived longer than the English variants would otherwise indicate.                                  

  The final syllable of the place-name has long been lost in anglicized variants. The river called the Dun or the Glendun River enters the sea in this townland. The river name is this case, An Donn ‘the brown (river)’ (nom.; dat. An Doinn), seems to be a substantive fem. noun alluding to the colour of the river. DIL notes the use of the adj. donn to denote ‘dun, brown, apparently a light brown inclining to yellow or red’ and gives some examples of its use to describe water. An Fhinn (Finn River, mainly in Co. Donegal) from fionn ‘white’ and An Dearg (as in Caisleán na Deirge anglicized Castlederg in Co. Tyrone) from dearg ‘red’ appear to be somewhat similar river names ( 105, 42). Both Dinneen and Dwelly list duinne as the fem. gen. form of donn ‘brown’ but doinne is the spelling in standard Modern Irish. The earliest forms Bun-abhann Duine (1567)and  mBun Abhonn Duine (1578c) (on which Cois Abhann Dúine‘mouth or foot of the river Dun)may be based), which contain only one n in the final element, may have omitted a second n by the non-transription of a shortening mark.The central element, the gen. form of abhainn ‘river’, is barely perceptable in anglicized variants due to its unstressed position.

  This place-name appears in the Annals of the Four Masters (Bun-abhann Duine) in connection with the assassination of Shane O’Neill by the MacDonnells (cf., for example, MacDonnells Antrim 122-46). He was reputedly buried nearby at Cross Skreen (see Other Names). Reeves (EA 284) noted in 1847 that there was a small mound in Cushendun which he called Cruik-na-Dhuine (perhaps Cnoc na Doinne), where ‘according to local tradition, O Neill and Mac Donnell fought in single combat’.


(info. from Mac Gabhann, F. (1997): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 7 p. 138)

Additional Information

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference
~ag bun abhann duine1567AFM v 1616
mBun Abhonn Duine, i1578cLCABuidhe 38 LE $54
Bonondony1590cJobson's Ulster (TCD)
Bounondunne1590cJobson's Ulster (TCD)
Bundunon1590cBartlett Map (Greenwich)
Barnadowne1595Mercator's Ire.
Bunondune1603Bartlett Maps (Esch. Co. Maps) 1
Bonnodrinny1610Speed's Antrim & Down
Bonodrumy1610Speed's Ireland
Bonodrumy1610Speed's Ulster
Bunondune1610Norden's Map
C''oshendonn1652Hill's Stewarts 143
Cushandin1655Civ. Surv. x $60
Coshandin1655cCiv. Surv. x 60a
Cushandin1657cHib. Reg. Cary
Coshendune1668ASE 116a $19
Coshendune1669ASE 169b
Coshandun1683Dobbs' Descr. Ant. 386
Cosh''n Den1699Lhuyd's Tour 221
CwshinDun1699Lhuyd's Tour 222
Cashendon R.1711Ire. Map c.1711
Cossendon Bay1734Stewart's Survey 13
Cushendun1777Taylor & Skinner 272
Cushendun1780Lendrick Map
Cushendun1789Culfeightrin Map [1789] 1
Cushindun1830Bnd. Sur. (OSNB) B 24 B 37
Cois Abhann Dúine ""mouth or foot of the river Dun""1831J O'D (OSNB) B 24 B 37
foot of the river Dun""1831J O'D (OSNB) B 24 B 37
>Cois-abhann-Duine which has the same meaning1869Joyce i 527
>of the river Dun...afterwards changed to>1869Joyce i 527
~Bun-abhann-Duine (4M) ""the end, i.e.the mouth>1869Joyce i 527
Bun ''ann Duinne1895GJ 6, 109
Bun Abhann Duinne1895GJ 6, 109
Bun Abhann Duine1905Post-Sheanchas 57
Cos abhann duine ""The foot of the river Duine""1905Ó Dubhthaigh 136
the river Duine""1905Ó Dubhthaigh 136
mBun Abhann Duine, i1912Claidheamh Soluis 28 Mn.F., 5
mBun Abhann Duinne1914Iris MYN c.1907 88
Cois Abhann Duinn ""foot of the brown river""1923Rev. Magill 13
the brown river""1923Rev. Magill 13
mBun Abhann Duinne, i1925cAntrim Notebooks i 108
Bun an duine1926Antrim Notebooks i 91
mBun Abhann Duinne, i1934DCCU 104
Bun Abhann Duinne1935Ultach 12:6, 5
Cois-Abhainn-Dúinne1935Ultach 12:5, 13
mBun (mBon) an Duinne, in1940Holmer, N. 1940 103
Chois Abhann Duinne, ar1954Ultach 30:11, 11
Cois abhainn duinn ""The foot of the brown river""1981Dallat's Culfeightrin 35
of the brown river""1981Dallat's Culfeightrin 35
Bun Abhann Duinne1989GÉ 40
Bun Abhann Doinne ""bottom of the river Donn""1996NIPNP signage FMacG/KMcG
Bun Abhann Doinne ""end of the river Donn""1997NIPNP replies FMacG/AC
~Bun Abhann Doinne ""foot of the river Dun""1999Dict. Ulst. PN 53
Parish in 1851
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