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Drumgath Parish, County Down


Ir. Droim gCath ‘ridge of battles’


Most modern scholars have agreed in deriving this name from an Irish form meaning ‘ridge of the spear’ and the Rev. Bernard Treanor cites a legend of uncertain date which relates that St Patrick cast a spear from a spot in the townland of Tamary in the parish of Clonduff, declaring that where it should land would be the site of his church, and in this way, we are told, the location of the church of Drumgath was chosen (Treanor 1960, 5).  There were originally two very similar words in Irish for ‘spear, dart’, gae and goth or gath, which later fell together to give modern Irish ga (DIL svv. gae, 3 goth; Ó Dónaill svv. gath(a), ga1). We may compare Drumgath with Cloncagh in Co. Limerick which is thought to derive from Cluain Cath (Ó Maolfabhail 1990, 116).  This now forces us to consider the possibility that the name goes back to an original Droim gCath. As we have seen, cath is attested as a place-name element elsewhere.  As far as can reasonably be established at the present time, ga occurs in no other place-name in this country and these two facts tend to weigh in favour of cath as the origin of the second element of this name.  Art Ó Maolfabhail (1990, 116) tentatively suggests a meaning ‘meadow of (the) battles’ for Cloncagh in Co. Limerick but adds that cath might have another meaning besides ‘battle’ in this name.  In an article on the place-names of the Rosses in Co. Donegal, Dónall Mac Giolla Easpaig notes that a number of the places whose names contain this element are somewhat isolated and are thus unlikely locations for battles and proposes instead that it may refer to some natural feature (1984, 53-4). There is another word cáith, gen. sing. cátha, meaning ‘chaff’ and this must be considered as a strong possibility in all these names.  Unfortunately, there is no way to distinguish between either of these words in the anglicized spellings with which we have to deal so that no firm conclusion as to the origin of the name Drumgath can yet be reached.


Toner, G. (1992): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. I p. 121

Additional Information

See the townland of Drumgath for historical forms of this name

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Parish in 1851
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