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Donaghadee, County Down


Ir. Domhnach Daoi 'church of the motte' or 'Daoi's church'


Town is 8.5km E of Bangor

bar: Ards Lower

The initial element of Donaghadee derives from Irish domhnach, an early term for ‘church’ borrowed from Latin dominicum.  Many domhnach-names are traditionally associated with St Patrick, and whilst others may have been coined independently of the Patrician mission, the word domhnachhas been taken to indicate a church of the Early Christian period, as it appears to have fallen out of natural linguistic use by the end of the 7th century (Flanagan, D. 1981-2c: 70).  However, Donaghadee is first attested in 1204 (ecclesiam de Donanachti,  Pontif. Hib. i §59) and there is no tradition of a pre-Norman church or settlement here.  Indeed, little is known of the town before it was planted by Sir Hugh Montgomery in the 17thcentury.

The second element is particularly problematic.  Although the official Irish version of Donaghadee is Domhnach Daoi (89), the meaning of Daoi is obscure and this form must be treated with some caution as there are no early references in Irish language sources on which to rely.  Reeves suggested that Donaghadee derives from Domhnach Díth ‘church of loss’ (EA 17).  The variety of 19thcentury interpretations suggests that the name was not understood.  R.J. Hannan considered the possibility of a saint, as combinations of domhnach + saint’s name are reasonably common (PNI ii 195).  On purely linguistic grounds one might consider David, bishop of the Welsh, who lived in the 6th century and whose Welsh name, Dewi, is not too far removed from Daoi.  However, we lack supporting evidence for his veneration at Donaghadee, and in Ulster more generally.  Although the church of Donaghadee is listed in the Papal Taxation of 1306 as ecclesia de Dofnachti (EA 16), there is no mention of a dedication to a particular saint, and, at present, this gap cannot be filled from later church records.

A more satisfactory solution may be provided by the word daoi ‘embankment, moat, house’ (Dinneen; OIr. doé, DIL), an interpretation which was apparently supported by Seán Mac Airt (see archival records at, though this view remained unpublished.  The earliest known structure at Donaghadee is a medieval motte, now surmounted by a castellated tower built in 1821 (ASCD 193).  If the correct meaning of Domhnach Daoi is 'church of the motte', it would appear to date to Anglo-Norman times rather than the Early Christian period (cf. Donaghcloney, which also lacks early medieval history).  

The final element of the place-name may represent the name of an unattested saint, possibly of British origin. The present Church of Ireland church in the townland of TOWNPARKS OF DONAGHADEE may mark the site of both the pre-Norman and the medieval church [Donanachti 1204].


McKay, P. (2007): A Dictionary of Ulster Place-Names, p. 57; Hannan R. J. (1992): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 2 p. 195; revised PT, 2013.

Additional Information

T., 1851 Census

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference

Donanachti, ecclesiam de

1204Pontif. Hib. i $59

Dofnachti, Ecclesia de

1306cEccles. Tax. 16


1524Reg. Cromer viii 339 §32

Domhnach Dioghbhalach "the injurious or hurtful Sunday"

1834cJohn Mc Greevy, Saul (OSNB) E 167, E 24

Domhnach a Díth ""church of the destruction""

1834cJ O'D (OSNB) E 167, E 24

Domhnach Dith ""the church of loss""

1847EA 17n

Domhnach Diagh

1905Post-Sheanchas 58

Domhnach Daoi

1969AGBP 115

Domhnach Daoi

1988Éire Thuaidh

Domhnach Daoi

1989GÉ 89

Domhnach Diagh, from Tigh Mhóire to [explained by Ó hÓgáin as 'Donncha Daoi’, source not cited]

1991Ó hÓgáin, D. 1991 305

Domhnach Daoi perhaps "Daoi's church"

1999Dict. Ulst. PN 57

Damaugh Dee

1603Ex. Inq. (Dn) 2 Jac. I
Ba: Done1603Bartlett Maps (Esch. Co. Maps) 1
Ballidonoghdee1605Inq. Ult. (Down) $2 Jac. I
Dony1610Speed's Antrim & Down
Dony1610Speed's Ulster
Donaghadee1615Terrier (O'Laverty) 327
Donaghadee1615Terrier (Reeves) 57
Donoghdie1617CPR Jas I 326a
Donoghdee1622Ulster Visit. Reeves 35
Donaghodie1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xxxiv
Donoghdie1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xliv
Donaghadee1625CPR Chas I 66
Donadee1627CPR Chas I 230
Donaghdee1627CPR Chas I 230
Donaghdee1627CPR Chas I 230
Donoghdee1633Inq. Ult. (Down) $41 Car. I
Donaghdy1636Inq. Ult. (Down) $75 Car. I
Donoghdee1636Inq. Ult. (Down) $75 Car. I
Donaghdee1645cInq. Ult. (Down) $105 Car. I
Donaghdee al Downadee1650cInq. Ult. (Down) $109 Car. I


1657Inq. Down (Reeves1) 137
Donnadee1659cCensus 1659 93
Balleno al. Donnaghadee1661BSD 88
Donnacaha dee1661Trien. Visit. (Bramhall) 13
Donnaghadee, ye Parishes of Newtowne &1661BSD 88
Donaghdee1663Sub. Roll Down 281
Donnaghadee1664Trien. Visit. (Margetson) 22
Donachadee1679Trien. Visit. (Boyle) 44
Donaghadee1693Collins B'fast Lough
Donaghadee1739Reg. Deeds abstracts ii $26
Donaghadee1810Wm. Map (OSNB) E 167, E 24
Donaghadee1830cBnd. Sur. (OSNB) E.167/E.32
Ards Lower
Parish in 1851
Town Parks of Donaghadee
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