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Castle Balfour Demesne, County Fermanagh


An English form


The townland of Castle Balfour Demesne includes the southern portion of the town of Lisnaskea and stretches for about three quarters of a mile southwards.

The element which is variously written as –skie, -skee, skey etc, in the earliest recorded spellings goes back to the Irish word sciath which literally signifies “shield” and represents the initial element of Sciath Ghabhra, the name of the inauguration mound of the Maguires.  This is also the feature referred to in the final element of the name of the town of Lisnaskea.  The mound in question is now known as “The Moate Fort” and it stands in the townland of Cornashee, a short distance to the north-east of the town..  Sciath Ghabhra signifies literally “shield of (white) horses” but in this case the element sciath seems to be used metaphorically to signify “stronghold, fortress”.  It is clear that the name of the mound, in the abbreviated form Sciath, came to be used for the entire district, hence its use in Castleskea et. var., the name of the later castle, the ruins of which still stand in the townland of Castle Balfour Demesne.  In the 1618c form which informs us that the district in question consisted of a thousand acres, Carowshee obviously represents a corrupt spelling of Carrowskee which derives from Irish Ceathrú Sciath “quarter or district of Sciath or Skea”, while Belford is a poor spelling of Balfour.  The spelling Carowshee may be influenced by the orthography of the aforesaid nearby townland of Cornashee.  

The aforementioned castle in the townland of Castle Balfour Demesne (whose remains stand in the graveyard of the Church of Ireland church) was built c.1618 by Sir James Balfour of Fife in Scotland, on land originally granted to his brother Michael in 1610 (CPR Jas I 166a).  This castle was constructed on the site of the stronghold of Conor Rua Maguire who had fought on the side of the English during the Nine Years’ War (1594-1603) and it is obviously the Maguire castle which is referred to in the earliest historical spellings and which is shown on a map dating from 1609 (9).  It is from the aforesaid Sir James Balfour that the townland is named.

In 1619 we find a grant to Sir James Balfour Knight “of all his former lands in the county of Fermanagh, ... a free school to be built at Ballybalfoure, near the Lougherne” (CPR Jas I 454b).  The Ballybalfoure in question is without doubt the settlement centred around Castle Balfour which was eventually to become the town of Lisnaskea and which in 1622 is referred to as “a village consisting of about 40 houses of mud walls and timber, which are inhabited with British” (Livingstone 1969). 


(info. from McKay, P. (2004): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 8 p. 36)

Additional Information

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference
Castlekeagh, 2 qrs of1609CPR Jas I 384b
Castleskeagh1612CPR Jas I 232b
(?)Castleton1615CPR Jas I 300a
Ballybalfoure, near the Lougherne1619CPR Jas I 454b
Carrowshee al. Castlebalfour1620CPR Jas I 482b
Carrowshee, the manor of Legan and1620CPR Jas I 482a
Carrowshee, the precinct of1620CPR Jas I 482b
Carrowshee, the small portion of1620CPR Jas I 482b
Castlebalfour1620CPR Jas I 482b
Castleskeagh al. Carrowskeagh, containing the haml1620CPR Jas I 482b
Ballybalfoure1622Sur. Fer. 293
Carrowskee1622Sur. Fer. 293,294
Ballybalfoure, the town of1624CPR Jas I 584b
Ballibalfore1629Inq. Ult. (Fermanagh) $14 Car.I
[ ] Balfore vocat'' Dromboyes1629Inq. Ult. (Fermanagh) $8 Car.I
Balleballfoure1630Inq. Ult. (Fermanagh) $16 Car.I
Ballybalfoure, vil de1639Inq. Ult. (Fermanagh) $45 Car.I
Ballibelfor, a stone house and garden in (JN)1662cCourt of Claims $412
Casseell balfore in the countie of fermanach1685Sav. Ards 254
Balfour Castle - Balfour Esq.1777Taylor & Skinner 257b
Balfour Castle - Balfour Esq.1777Taylor & Skinner 47a
Balfour Castle - Balfour Esq.1777Taylor & Skinner 259b
Castle Balfour1817GJM M'stephana (OSNB) B113
Castle Balfour1826HC Ed. Rept (OSNB) B113
Castle Balfour Demesne1830cBnd. Sur. (OSNB) B113
Castle Balfour Demesne1834cSur. & Val. Lisnaskea Est. (OSNB) B113
Castle Balfour Demesne1862Griffith's Val.
Parish in 1851
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