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Ballypitmave, County Antrim


Ir. Baile Phite Méabha ‘townland of Maeve’s vulva’


Ballypitmave is a hill townland, forming the northern part of Crew Hill. The northern extremity is the mound called Greenmount 524 feet, the landmark for the meeting point nearby of five townlands.  The north-east bound goes through Cairn Hill, 612 ft. Earlier references to the name omit Baile: Patt Mave (Census p.6, 1659), Pitmave held by Robert Graham (Belfast Newsletter index 1795).  The Maeve of the name seems to be the ancient supernatural queen of Connaught whose military expedition to Ulster to carry off a prize bull is told in the Ulster Cycle tale of Táin Bó Cualnge, ‘the raiding of the cattle from Cooley’. Although the bull’s owner lived in Co. Louth, the Brown Bull and his herd were allowed to roam widely over the southern parts of Cos Down and Armagh.  Carmavy ‘Maeve’s cairn’ nearer Antrim is named from Queen Maeve. However, the name Ballypitmave sees Maeve as less of a war-goddessthan an earth or fertility goddess.  In one version of the Cattle-raid story, Maeve’s menstrual flow created channels in the landscape near Athlone (TBC II ll.4831).  Here the place-name seems to refer to a chambered tomb on Cairn Hill, of which little now survives, but which had been regarded as an entrance to or communication from the underworld.  The tomb was described in 1814, when it already had an alternative name in English: ‘At Pitmave is to be seen an ancient cemetery called the Giant’s Grave, at the spot whence that townland derives its name’.  Something of the meaning of the name seems also to have been remembered.  In Revd Cupples’ section on Names of Townlands, Pitmave is translated ‘townland of the pit of shame’ (Ir. meabhal, Shaw Mason Par. Sur. ii 241, 273).

(LNP 31)


Kay Muhr

Additional Information

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference
Pitinewy, vil. et ter (Killultagh, Sir Fulk Conway1625Inq. Ult. (Antrim) Car.I $1
Patt Mave1659cCensus 1659 6
Pitmeane1669HMR Ant. 102
B:pitmeave1780Lendrick Map
~Baile Pite Meidhbhe ""town of Meadhbh''s pit(?)""1832cJ O'D (OSNB) A24
Massereene Upper
Parish in 1851
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