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Drumballyroney Parish, County Down


Ir. Droim Bhaile Uí Ruanadha 'ridge of O'Roney's holding'


There are 23 townlands in the parish, no other divisions being known (OSM iii 17b).  The 1657 inquisition says there were then 21 townes, although the names are not given there (Atkinson's Dromore 135).  In 1659 Drumarkin, Grallagh(greenan), and Tirfergus were reckoned as half-towns (Census 76).  Earlier Imdel was counted as two townlands (CPR Jas I 189a, 1611).  Alternatively, the townlands of Cavan and Lissize, shared with Clonduff and Drumgath parishes, may not have been included in the reckoning (PNI i 123, iii 83-4, where the cross-reference to Cavan in Drumballyroney should be omitted).  The river Bann (PNI iii 175-7) flows through the parish from south to north, forming the boundary between the townlands that lie along its course.  It was shallow in this parish but "subject to sudden and heavy floods" (OSM iii 11).  The river Muddock (PNI iii 182) forms part of the south-east boundary of the parish, between this and Clonduff (OSM iii 14b; Inq. Ult. xlii; CPR Jas I 304b).  

When John O'Donovan came to the parish in 1834, in association with the Ordnance Survey, he had unsatisfactory interviews with Dubourdieu the rector, and with Mackay the parish priest "altho' a native and an Irish scholar".  Eventually the place-names were pronounced for O'Donovan by "Old Hennan of Lisnacroppan and two other old natives" (OSNB E63).  "Old Hennan" was a well-off farmer, nearly 90 years of age, with "much animal spirits and surprizing energy, but very hard of hearing", who told O'Donovan that "Irish was the first language that I ever spoke" (OSL Dn 61).  He gave local Irish forms for many of the names, which O'Donovan generally accepted.  Mrs Con Magennis of Annaclone, another Irish-speaker, also assisted.

The earliest place-name recorded in the parish is that of the Anglo-Norman castle of Moycove, 1188-1261 AD (the plain of Magh Cobha, see Iveagh).  This was identified by Lawlor with two sites, the stone castle at Seafin beside the Bann, but probably at first the motte and bailey on the other side of the river in Ballyroney townland half a mile downstream (Lawlor H. 1938(b), 88). The parish is called Drum in the ecclesiastical records in 1422 and 1546, while Reeves suggested it may also have been the parish of Drumlyn referred to in 1306 (EA 105, 316, 317).   The original droim or "ridge" may have been the hills around Knock Iveagh, the highest point in the parish, although two townlands also begin with the element Droim-, and the town of Rathfriland and the parish church in Aughnavallog were on hills.

The rest of the parish name, Baile Uí Ruanadha 'settlement of O'Roney' comes from the land granted to the O'Roneys, later one of the Magennis chief tenants, though whether originally as erenaghs or poets it is difficult to say.  The position of the lands of the learned family near the Magennis chief seat, and Knock Iveagh, their possible inauguration site, could indicate that the O'Roneys performed some role in the ceremony.  The modern village of Ballyroney is actually in the townland of Lackan, not in the townland of Ballyroney, and it seems that Ballyroney could also be used as a district or as the parish name (OSM iii 10a,13a).  Baile here could then indicate the large unit called ballybetagh rather than the townland unit or ballybo.

The etymology of Drumballyroney was known to Old Hennan in 1834 (OSNB), and, less confidently, to English-speakers in the parish: "By some it is said to have taken its name from a family of the Rowans or Roney who are said to have resided here, but we have been unable to trace the derivation with certainty" (OSM iii 13b).  However this does establish the relationship locally of the surnames (O')Roney and Rowan (not mentioned by Bell, Woulfe, or MacLysaght). There is a Rowan's Hill in the neighbouring parish of Drumgooland.


Muhr, K. (1996): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 6 pp. 151-3.

Additional Information

See also the townland of Ballyroney

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference

Druim Bhaile Uí Ruanadha "ridge of O''Rooney's town"

1834cOld Hennan and others (OSNB) E63

Droim Baile Uí Ruanadha

1992PNI 152
(?)Dru[m]lyn, Ecclesia de1306cEccles. Tax. 104
Druim1422Annates Ulst. 294
Vicarius de Drom.1422Reg. Dowdall $129 275
perp. vic. St Patrick''s Druim1422Cal. Papal Letters vii 241
Droyn, Vicar of1546Reg. Dowdall $113 80
Vicarius de Droym1546Reg. Dowdall (EA) 317
Ba Rone1603Bartlett Maps (Esch. Co. Maps) 2
Dromebaly1610Speed's Ulster
Dromballyroy, vicar'' de1629Inq. Ult. (Down) $13 Car.I
Dromballyrony, vicar'' sive capell'' de1639Inq. Ult. (Down) $85 Car.I
Dromballyroney1657Inq. Down (Reeves1) 81
Dromballironow parish1657cHib. Reg. Up. Iveagh
Vicaria de Dromballarony1661Trien. Visit. (Bramhall) 16
Drumballirony1664Trien. Visit. (Margetson) 24
Drumballyrony1664Trien. Visit. (Margetson) 25
Dromballironew1672cHib. Del. Down
Drumballironey1679Trien. Visit. (Boyle) 48
Drumballironey vicaria1679Trien. Visit. (Boyle) 48
Drumballirony Rectoria1679Trien. Visit. (Boyle) 46
D.Ballirowne1690cLamb Maps Co. Downe
Drumballyroney1810Wm. Map (OSNB) E63
Drumballyroney1830cBnd. Sur. (OSNB) E63
pronounced Drumballyrooney1834OSL 1909 edn 61
Iveagh Up., Lr. Half
Parish in 1851
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