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Castleboy Parish, County Down


Ir. An Caisleán Buí  ‘the yellow castle’


Castleboy contains the remains of a tower-house, possibly 15th century in date (ASCD 230). The castle was certainly in use in the early decades of the 17th century, as it is referred to in a bardic poem which was composed for Seaán Ó Néill, of the Clandeboye O’Neill family, who died in 1617. It appears to have been deserted by the late 17th century, judging by the following: ‘the great ruinous pyle called Castle boy once ye Seate of ye prior of St. John’s in ye Ardes which hath a manor Court also’ (Descr. Ards 1683 36).  

An older name for Castleboy was  St Johnsto(w)n(e). O’Laverty (i 412) describes it as: ‘the commandery or Preceptory of the Ards belonging to the Knights of the military order of St. John of Jerusalem (now called the Knights of Malta), an order which professed the Rule of St. Augustine, and was instituted to protect the Christians of the Holy Land and pilgrims going to Jerusalem’.

Knox (Knox Hist. 470) dates the foundation of the commandery or preceptory of St. John the Baptist of Jerusalem to the year 1189 and Atkinson (1823: i 289) informs us that ‘At Castle-buy, or John’s Town in the Ards, three miles north of Portaferry, a religious institution dedicated to St. John the Baptist, was founded by Hugh de Lacy in the 12th century. Nothing now remains of the building but ruins; the family of Echlin possess several townlands and a manor court, formerly attached to this institution’.  The church must have been destroyed before 1744; Harris speaks of ‘the remains of an old Building called Castlebuy or Johnston, once a Preceptory of St. John’s of Jerusalem’ (Harris Hist. 67). 


Hughes A. J. (1992): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 2 p. 75

Additional Information

See townland of Castleboy for historical forms of this name.

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Parish in 1851
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