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Seapatrick Parish, County Down


Ir. Suí Phádraig 'St Patrick's seat'


The civil parish of Seapatrick, centred on the town of Banbridge, contains 16 townlands, none of which bears the parish name.  The old site of the parish church is in the townland of Kilpike, on the east bank of the Bann, but the church itself was described as "old walls and out of repaire" in 1657 when the parish was reckoned at "13 townes and a half" (Inq. Down (Atkinson) 135). 

The river Bann runs through the parish, as did the barony bound between Iveagh Upper, Upper Half (Balleevy, Ballydown, Ballyvally, Dooghary, Edenderry, Lisnaree, Tullyconnaught, Tullyear) and Iveagh Lower, Lower Half (Ballykeel, Ballykelly, Ballymoney, Drumnagally, Drumnavaddy, Kilpike, Lisnafiffy).  From the barony bounds of Lower Iveagh given in the Civil Survey of 1654-6 it seems that in this parish the Bann formed the original boundary between Upper and Lower Iveagh. 

Reeves suggested that Dysertmoygh, a name which occurs in early ecclesiastical documents (e.g. Reg. Dowdall), referred to this parish (EA 106, 309).  The name Desertmoy was used from 1306 to 1541. The spellings indicate that this represents Díseart Maighe 'hermitage of the plain', and díseart, which was derived from Latin desertum 'lonely, deserted place', seems to have been a formative element in ecclesiastical place-names by the 8th century (Flanagan 1981-2 (c) 72).  The doubtful Irish forms from CGH (409 330c53), c.1125, and from Descendants Ir, c.1200, the place of a murder among the Dál Fiatach royal line in the early 7th century, are given from the Ulster genealogies at Margaret Dobbs' suggestion (M. Dobbs ed. Descendants Ir xiii 340 n4), but have a different first element deisceart 'south'.   The corresponding form tuaisceart 'north' was anglicized as the Anglo-Norman district of Twescard in Co. Antrim, which makes it unlikely that deisceart would be anglicized as desert here.  Another scholar linked Descert Maige instead to Descert Maige ind àendruind, mentioned in a place-name poem on the view from Sliab Fuait (an upland area in south Armagh) and this is more plausible (E. Gwynn, Met. Dinds iv 162, 420n; Hogan Onom. Goed. 289a).  Forms of the name Seapatrick appear from 1505 to the present.  The 1505 form (Annates Ulst. 292) may have misread Saug- as Samg-, but the 1546 form (Reg. Dowdall §113 80) makes it plain that the name was derived from Suidhe Pádraig, in modern Irish Suí P(h)ádraig, 'Patrick's seat', which was latinized as Sessio Patricii by Colgan (EA 106n). The element suí is quite common in the name of various hills throughout Ireland called Seefin: Suí Finn 'seat of Fionn (mac Cumhail)' (for example, Seafin in Drumballyroney).  The patron of the church thus appears to have been St Patrick, a shrine to whom was mentioned in the neighbouring parish of Tullylish in AD 809 (AU). 

At present Seapatrick is also the name of the village around the site of the original church of the parish.  In the past Seapatrick was sometimes used as the name of a land unit (e.g. in four forms from CPR) equivalent to sessiagh Kilpatrick, which is probably the modern townland of Kilpike in which the church is situated.  Carrowentample, which must be in Irish Ceathrú an Teampaill 'church quarter', occurs in two other forms from CPR as the name for the glebe land of the parish, which was 60 acres in 1657, and Glebe House was shown in 1777 on Taylor and Skinner's map 15 on the opposite side of the road a little south of Seapatrick church.


Muhr, K. (1996): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 6 p. 301-4

Additional Information

See also the village of Seapatrick

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