Placenamesni.orgthe history behind our place-names

Groomsport, County Down


Ir. Port an Ghiolla Ghruama  ‘the port of the gloomy fellow/attendant’


3.5km NE of Bangor

par: Bangor bar: Ards Lower

The anglicized form Groomsport is based on a semi-translation of the Irish name for this place, Port an Ghiolla Ghruama ‘the port of the gloomy fellow/attendant’.  We know this place had another name, Ballivulleragh, Ballimulleragh etc. which is attested as an alias in 17th century documents.  Furthermore it is listed in the early 14th-century document Inq. Earldom Ulster as Mollerytoun, the first element being a surname followed by the English element tun ‘town’.  This Norman form of the name was gaelicized as is clear from many of the historical spellings which have baile as a first element.  There is no record of a surname MolleryMullery is recorded as a variant of Mulroy from Ir. Ó Maolmhuire, but this name is chiefly associated with Connacht (de Bhulbh 1997: 311).  It is possible that the surname in question is Mallory, which derives from Old French, maloret ‘the unfortunate, the unlucky’ (Reaney 1958, 213).  Given this meaning, it seems possible that giolla gruama in the Irish form of this name is a calque on the Anglo-Norman surname Mallory. 

The 1603/1604 form Ballevullecragh (Ex. Inq. (Dn) §2 Jac. I; CPR Jas I 38a) suggests a further possibility, namely a link with the Irish surname Ó Mhaolchraoibhe.  In 1744 Cloinn Í Mhaolchraoibhe were listed as dependents of the Clandeboye O’Neills (O’Neill Fun. Oration iii 268-9), holding the area round Groomsport. However, this name is usually anglicised Mulgrew (de Bhulbh 1997: 87) or O'Mulcreevy and it is uncertain whether it can be reconciled with the earlier Mollerytoun.  These early 17th c. forms may, therefore, either represent the true origin of the name, or a re-interpretation after this family came to prominence locally.


Hannan R. J. (1992): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 2 p. 163; with additions PT, 2013. ;McKay, P. (2007): A Dictionary of Ulster Place-Names, p. 80

Additional Information

T., 1851 Census

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference


1333Inq. Earldom Ulster iii 66


1603Ex. Inq. (Dn) $2 Jac. I

(?) Ballevullecragh

1604CPR Jas I 38a


1604CPR Jas I

Ballivulleragh al Ballimulleragh

1620Ham. Patent [1620] xx


1620Ham. Patent [1620] xxii

Ballymulleragh al Gilgrooms-Port

1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xxx

Gromes Port

1625cRaven Map Clandeboye 15

Gromes Porte

1625cRaven Map Clandeboye 20

Grooms, Porte

1625cRaven Map Clandeboye 16

Ballimulleragh or Gilgroumsport

1630Ham. Patent [1630] x


1633Inq. Ult. (Down) $41 Car. I

Ballemulleragh al Gillgroomsporte

1645Inq. Ult. (Down) $104 Car. I


1655cCiv. Surv. x $68


1659Census 1659 94

Ballemulleragh al Gurmesporte

1661BSD 91

Ballymulleragh al Gillgroomsporte

1662Inq. Ult. (Down) $23 Car. II

Grahams Port

1683Descr. Ards 38


1743Maxwell Rent Roll fol. 2


1744O'Neill Fun. Oration 269


1810Wm. Map (OSNB) No. 54


1830cGrand Jury Pres. (OSNB) No. 54


1830cBnd. Sur. (OSNB) No. 54

Port a'Ghiolla Gruamdha "Gilgroom's port"

1834cJ O'D (OSNB) No. 54

Baile Maoilmhuire

1905Post-Sheanchas 75

Port an Ghiola Ghruama

1905Post-Sheanchas 75

Port an Ghiolla Ghruama

1969AGBP 116

Port an Ghiolla Ghruama

1988Éire Thuaidh

Port an Ghiolla Ghruama

1989GÉ 146

Port an Ghiolla Ghruama "port of the gloomy fellow"

1999Dict. Ulst. PN 80
Ards Lower
Parish in 1851
Place name ID
Place name type