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Ballykeel, County Down


Ir. Baile an Choigil ‘townland of the distaff’


Ballykeel meaning ‘the narrow townland’ (An Baile Caol) is a recurring townland name. This one is long and narrow in shape, extending from the coast into the Craigantlet hills.  It was a church townland attached to the church of Holywood. Alternative spellings in 1604, 1606, 1623 seem to arise from misreadings (where k has been read as cr).

The 1605 form Ballikigell (CPR Jas I 73a) is repeated in sources which date to 1620-1662 where it appears as an alternative spelling with a two-syllabled second element: –kigill in 1620, 1645, and 1662, -kegill in 1623, 1627, and 1630.  Coigeal ‘distaff is also sometimes used of something long and thin, so that this name was probably originally Baile an Choigil in Irish. In Ulster Irish, e.g. in the word sagart, -g- is sometimes vocalised and disappears and this may explain the variation between forms such as Ballikigell and Ballykeel in the sources.


K. Muhr, 2009; revised MÓM

Additional Information

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference

Baile Caol ""narrow town""

1834cJ O'D (OSNB) No. 29
Ballekeile otherwise Ballicruell1604CPR Jas I 39a
Ballikigell1605CPR Jas I 73a
Ballekeill or Ballycreel1606CPR Jas I 72b
Ballikeel al Ballikigill1620Ham. Patent [1620] xx
Ballmanake al Ballimanagh1620Ham. Patent [1620] xx
Ballekeill al. Ballekegill1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xlv
Ballykeile1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xxxi
Ballykeile alias Ballycreel1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xxxiii
Balle Keele1625cRaven Map Clandeboye 34, 41
Ballekeile alias Ballekegill1627CPR Chas I 230
Ballykeile1627CPR Chas I 228
Ballekeile1630Ham. Patent [1630] xi
Ballikeele al. Ballkegill1630Ham. Patent [1630] xi
Ballekeele1645Inq. Ult. (Down) $104 Car. I
Ballykeele al'' Ballekigill1645Inq. Ult. (Down) $104 Car. I
B:Keell1659cCensus 1659 87
Ballekeele1661BSD 124
Ballekeele1662Inq. Ult. (Down) $23 Car. II
Ballykeele al'' Ballykigill1662Inq. Ult. (Down) $23 Car. II
Ballykeel1663Sub. Roll Down 284
Ballykeel1810Wm. Map (OSNB) No. 29
Ballykeel1830cBnd. Sur. (OSNB) No. 29
Castlereagh Lower
Parish in 1851
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