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Ballee Parish, County Down


perhaps Ir. Béal Ia '(ford-)mouth of the meadow or district’


Church is 5.5km SE of Downpatrick

bar: Lecale Lower

Ballee has given name to the townland of CHURCH BALLEE in which it is situated and also to the adjoining townland of SPITTLE BALLEE. The ford is said to have been on a stream which separates CHURCH BALLEE from the neighbouring townland of BALLYBRANNAGH.

The name Ballee is first recorded in 1183 under the name of Belgach which was one of the townlands granted by Bishop Malachy to the abbey of Saint Patrick (Grant of Bishop Malachy (EA) 163). The townland of Church Ballee contains the site of a medieval church, the name of which is recorded as Capella de Baliath in the Taxation of Pope Nicholas in c.1306 (Eccles. Tax. 40). In the year 1541 the name of the church is recorded as rectoria sive ecclesia de [‘rectory or church of’] Bealgach alias Bealy (Inq. 1 Ed. VI (Reeves) 42) and in 1630 as Bealyath alias Bealy (Lib. Munerum).  The modern spelling of the name Ballee first appears in 1615 (Terrier (Reeves) 42). The first element of the name Ballee is clearly Irish béal ‘(ford-)mouth’ and it appears to refer to a ford (now replaced by a bridge) across the stream dividing the townland of Church Ballee from the townland of Ballybrannagh Lower which borders it on the east. The Irish version of Ballee has been established as Béal Ia in the Gazetteer of Ireland (34). However, the meaning of the element Ia is obscure. It may represent a form of iath meaning ‘meadow’ or ‘district’. The exact location of the church referred to in c.1306 is unknown but its site may be marked by the present Church of Ireland church in the townland of Church Ballee.


McKay, P. (2007): A Dictionary of Ulster Place-Names, p. 9; PMcK, 2009

Additional Information

See the townland of Church Ballee for historical forms of this name

Historical name form

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Lecale Lower
Parish in 1851
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