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Randalstown, County Antrim


Ir. An Dún Mór  ‘the great fort’           


While the identification of the historical forms marked with a question mark with Randalstown is not absolutely certain,there is no doubt that the earliest name for the townland of Randalstown was An Dún Mór ‘the great fort’.  There is a prominent motte-and-bailey, sometimes referred to as ‘The Mount’, which stands on the west bank of the river Main a little to the south of Randalstown and in the townland of Shane's Castle Park.  The area adjoining this fort is known locally as Dunmore and it is clear that the former townland of Dunmore comprised this area and also all of the modern townland of Randalstown.  Because of its Irish origin, one would naturally suspect that the name An Dún Mór ‘the great fort’ may have been originally applied to a native Irish fort which stood on the same site as the present motte-and-bailey, and that the name was later transferred to the Norman fort.  However, there is evidence that in this area of Co. Antrim the Irish themselves built mottes on the Norman model (see Downkillybegs above), and it is quite possible that they would have used the term dún to refer to them, in which case it is not necessary to speculate that the name has been transferred from an Irish to a Norman fort.  In the absence of documentary or archaeological evidence, it is impossible to draw firm conclusions on the matter.

The first documented reference to the town of Randalstown occurs in 1637, when it is referred to as the town of Ballyfeoghoge al. the Iron-Works upon the Mayne Water.  The town of Ballyfeoghoge is obviously the townland of Feehogue and it is clear that the iron works were situated in that townland, along the river Main, and a little to the north of the present centre of Randalstown.  It was no doubt around the iron works that the town of Randalstown grew up.  The name of the town is also shown as Iron Mills in c.1657 and as The Iron Mills in c.1672.  An anglicized version of the Irish form of this name, i.e. Mullynieren (<Muilinn Iarainn ‘iron mills’) is found in the Ordnance Survey Memoir of 1838. 

In 1667, the town was created a free borough and its name was changed to Randalstown.  The change of the name of the town was occasioned by the marriage of Rose O'Neill of Shane's Castle to Randal MacDonnell, second Earl and first Marquis of Antrim, in whose honour the town was re-named Randalstown.  Up until this time the town was also known as Mainewater

The change of the name of the townland of Dunmore to Randalstown is a much more recent occurrence, being first documented in 1813.  The old name of the townland is recorded in the OSNB of 1830, which gives the name as Randlestown or Dunmore townlanD.

The name of the town of Randalstown has been gaelicized as Baile Raghnaill in .


(info. from McKay, P. (1995): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 4 p. 59)

Additional Information

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference
(?)Ballyndownemore1605Inq. Ant. (DK) 45
(?)Ballindownemore1606Lodge RR Jas I i 252
>the Iron-Works upon the Mayne Water1637Lodge Fairs & Markets 2
Balledownemore (?)Ballidownemore1637Lodge RR Chas I i 407
town of Ballyfeoghoge al.>1637Lodge Fairs & Markets 2
>Parish of Drumaule1657cDS (Reg.) Drummaul
Iron Mills1657cHib. Reg. Toome
the Iron Works which is in the>1657cDS (Reg.) Drummaul
(?)Ballydowanmore1661BSD 135b
(?)Ballydownmore1661BSD 135a
Balledoonemore (?)Ballydonmore1663Lodge RR Chas II i 407
(?)Balledownemore1666EP Edenduffcarrick
> - created a free borough named Randalstown1667ASE 107 a 1
Randalstowne1667ASE 106a
Towne of Ironworkes als. Mainewater>1667ASE 107 a 1
Randles Towne1669HMR Ant. 143
Ballydownemore1672cInst. Edenduffcarrick
The Iron Mills1672cHib. Del. Antrim
Randalstown1683Dobbs' Descr. Ant. 382
(?)Ballydownmore1684Lodge RR Chas II ii 292
(?)Ballydownmore1684Comm. Grace 10
Dunmore1703Eccles. Reg. 73
Randalstowne1703Forfeit. Estates 365b
Randleston1711Grand Jury Pres. 8
Dunmore (?)Ballydonmore1712Reg. Deeds 10-133-3227
(?)Ballydownmore1739Reg. Deeds 90-172-62470
Dunmore1780Lendrick Map
Dunmore1785Duff's Lough Neagh
Randalstown1813Reg. Deeds 660-290-45758
Randalstown al. Dunmore1829cBnd. Sur. (Reg.)
>townland. Randalstown is a village in the>1830J O'D (OSNB) A 41 162
Randalstown. Dunmore is properly the name of the>1830J O'D (OSNB) A 41 162
Randlestown or Dunmore townland1830OSNB A 41 162
>""the iron mills....""1838OSM xix 40
Randalstown, formerly called Mullynierin or>1838OSM xix 40
Dunmore1884O'Laverty iii 305
Randalstown...formerly...called Main-Water1884O'Laverty iii 311
~Muileann-iarainn - ""the mill of iron""1884O'Laverty iii 311
~Baile Raghnaill1989GÉ 26
~An Dún Mór ""the big fort""1999Dict. Ulst. PN 123
Toome Upper
Parish in 1851
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