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Dromore Parish, County Down


Ir. Droim Mór 'big ridge'


Dromore is the name of an early monastery, a parish, a diocese corresponding to the baronies of Iveagh, and the town around the cathedral church. 

Although the name Droim Mór 'big ridge' is used earliest to refer to St Colman's monastery, the church site and the town which has grown up around it are in a hollow between the hills.  However, Harris in 1744 was happy to explain the name of the town as "'the great back of a hill', being a cluster of houses spread on the side of a hill" (Harris' Hist. 98).  There is a ridge to the north of the town and another, Barban Hill, to the south (1:10,000 sheet 202).  There is a rath in the north-west of the town on Maypole Hill, just above the cathedral, and between it and the main Belfast-Dublin road.  The next earliest site, the Anglo-Norman motte, is on a spur close to the north bank of the river Lagan (ASCD 203).  Only the top has been excavated, but if the motte has been built on a native foundation this could also be the droim of the name. 

Despite Bieler's suggestion, it is unlikely that the form Druim Moccu Echach from Muirchú's Life of St Patrick, could refer to Dromore in Iveagh (Muirchú (Bieler), index 257).  Druim Moccu Echach "ridge of the descendants of Echu" is described as "a wild place high up in the hills" where St Patrick found Mac Cuill of the Grecraige who became Bishop Maughold of the Isle of Man.  However, since it is located among the Ulaid, which at this date would mean Dál Fiatach, the name probably refers to Uí Echach of the Ards, although an identification with Nendrum is also unlikely (ASCD 292b).  The abbot of Colmán's monastery of Dromore is sometimes referred to by the name of the founding saint rather than the place (AFM ii 756, AD1006; AFM ii 842, AD 1043).  The references from the Newry charter (c.1157) with the Irish forms Dromamoyr, Dromamoir clearly shows the Irish genitive inflection; however, in the late Fragmentary Annals, the name is uninflected even in an Irish text (princeps (ab) Drommór, §450, s.a. ?913).

As a land unit the name Dromore is linked with Ballenegalga, now the townland of Ballymaganlis.  There is no townland named Dromore in the parish.


Muhr, K (1996): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 6 pp. 104-8

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