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Movilla, County Down


Ir. Maigh Bhile ‘plain of (the) sacred tree’


Forms a suburb on E side of Newtownards

par: Newtownards bar: Ards Lower

The first element of Movilla is maigh ‘a plain’. The second element is bile ‘sacred tree’; in pagan times the bile frequently had religious significance (DIL s.v. ; Joyce i 499-501).  The name Mag Bile, as it is was known in Old Irish, ‘plain of (the) sacred tree’, suggests that the famous monastery here was deliberately built on a site close to a sacred tree (the practice of founding ecclesiastical sites near sacred trees is discussed in Lucas 1963, 30-4). 

The monastery at Mag Bile, became the chief church of the Ulaid and was on the borders of their own túath (Kenny 1929: 390-1).  It was founded c. 540 by St Finian, whose death is recorded in the Annals of Ulster under the year 579 AD.  It is possible that this Finian was the Episcopus Finnio, Episcopus Vinnianus etc., mentioned in Adamnán's 7th-century life of St Columba.  According to the Annals of Ulster Movilla was plundered by the Norsemen in 824 AD. 


Hannan R. J. (1992): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 2 p. 233; McKay, P. (2007): A Dictionary of Ulster Place-Names, p. 112

Additional Information

Historical name form

Old FormRef. DateReference

Moige Bile, quies Finniae

0580AIF 76

Maighe bile, epscop

0602AFM i 230 et passim

episcopus Campi Bili

0603AU (Mac Airt) i 100 et passim

Moige Bili, mors...Sillain

0621AIF 86

Maighi Bili, mors Cronain

0650AU (Mac Airt) i 126 et passim

Mhaighe bile, hUidhreini

0691AFM i 296

Maige Bile, quies...Udrine epscoip

0693AIF 100

abbas Maigi Bile

0736AU (Mac Airt) i 188 et passim

Mag Bile

0824AIF 124

prinnceps Maige Bile

0825AU (Mac Airt) i 280 et passim

Findbair Maigi

0830cMart. Tal. Sep 10 p. 70

Findbarr Maige Bili

0830cFél. Óeng. Sep 10 p. 193

Findbarr Maige Bili

0830cFél. Óeng. Sep 10 p. 193

Findian Maigi bile

0830cFél. Óeng. Sep 10 p. 204n

Finnen Muighi bili

0830cFél. Óeng. Sep 10 p. 204n

Finnian Maige bile

0830cFél. Óeng. Sep 10 p. 204n

ab Muighe bile

0830cFél. Óeng. Feb 3 p. 68 et passim

abb Maige Bili

0830cMart. Tal. Jan 2 p. 4

abb Maigi Bile

0830cMart. Tal. Feb 3 p. 14

abbatis Maigi Bili

0830cMart. Tal. Apr 29 p. 37

episcopi Maighe Bile

0830cMart. Tal. Feb 11 p. 16

episcopus Maige Bile

0830cMart. Tal. May 3 p. 39

o Maig Bile i n-Ultaib

0830cFél. Óeng. Sep 10 p. 204n

Bili, ecclesiam

0900cTrip. Life (Stokes) ii 310

Muigi Bile, comarba Finnen

1007AU (Mac Airt) i 438 et passim

Maig Bile, Finnian

1125cCSH 136. 1, 23

Maige Bili, Finnen

1125cCSH 703. 18, 132

Maighe Bile bain, Finden

1125cCSH 662. 140, 96

Maigi Bile, Finnian

1125cCSH 712. 5, 160

Maigi Bili, iar cúl Finniain

1125cCSH 729. 1,185

Muigi Bili, Finnen

1125cCSH 423, 64

mMaig Bile, i

1125cCSH 136. 2, 23

Muighi-bile, for lar

1167AU ii 156

Muighi-bile, mac Comarba Finnéin

1170AU ii 164

abb Maighe bile

1170cMart. Gorm. Jan 2 p. 6n

epscop Maighi Bile

1170cMart. Gorm. May 3 p. 88n

epscop Maighi Bili

1170cMart. Gorm. April 29 p. 86n
Maynbil, abbey of1275cGreat Rolls Pipe 33
Moville, Mon. de1420Annates Ulst. 116 app
Moyvilli1505Annates Ulst. 113
Ballemavill1603Ex. Inq. (Dn) 2 Jac. I
Mavilla1603Ex. Inq. (Dn) 2 Jac. I
Monvil1603Bartlett Maps (Esch. Co. Maps) 1
Newton1603Ex. Inq. (Dn) 2 Jac. I
Ballymaville1605CPR Jas I 72b
Mavilla1605CPR Jas I 72b
Monuell abb1610Speed's Ulster
Movill1615Terrier (Reeves) 45
Movilla1615Terrier (Reeves) 45
Movilla1615Terrier (O'Laverty) 326
Movilla1621CPR Jas I 546a
Moyvill1622Ulster Visit. Reeves 51
Ballinieagh al Movilla1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xliv
Ballinreagh al Movilla1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xxxi
Movilla1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xxxii
Movilla1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xxxi
Movilla1623Ham. Copy Inq. [1623] xliv
Movilla1626CPR Chas I 131
Ballinreaghe al Movilla1627CPR Chas I 228
Movilla1627CPR Chas I 228
Moville1627CPR Chas I 225

Maighe bile, Beoghain, abb

1630cMart. Don. July 27 p. 202

Maighe bile, Cubretan, angcoiri

1630cMart. Don. Oct 16 p. 278

Maighe bile, Finnen, epscop

1630cMart. Don. Sep 10 p. 242

Maighe bile, Maolaithgein, epscop

1630cMart. Don. Sep 9 p. 242

Maighe bile, Sinell, saccart

1630cMart. Don. Oct 1 p. 264

Maighe bile, Siollán, epscop acus abb

1630cMart. Don. Aug 25 p. 226

Maighe bile, Siollán, maighistir

1630cMart. Don. Oct 21 p. 280

Maigi bili, ab

1630cMart. Don. Jul 16 p. 194

Mhuighe bile, Eoghan, abb

1630cMart. Don. May 31 p. 140

Muigh bile, Lochait, abb

1630cMart. Don. Jan 2 p. 4

Muighe Bile, Findia, epscop

1630cMart. Don. Feb 11 p. 44

Muighe bile, Breccan, epscop

1630cMart. Don. April 29 p. 112

Muighe bile, Cairpre, epscop

1630cMart. Don. May 3 p. 118

Muighe bile, Cairpre, epscop

1630cMart. Don. May 3 p. 118

Muighe bile, Cronán

1630cMart. Don. Aug 7 p. 213

Muighe bile, Cuánan, Glinne, abb

1630cMart. Don. Feb 3 p. 38


1645cMacCana's Itinerary 55
Ballencreagh al Ballinry al Movilla1650cInq. Ult. (Down) $109 Car. I
Ballinreagh al Ballinry al Movilla1650cInq. Ult. (Down) $109 Car. I
Movilla al. Ballehary1661BSD 87
Mowhill1663Sub. Roll Down 281
Movilla1810Wm. Map (OSNB) E 32
Movilla1830cBnd. Sur. (OSNB) E 32

Magh Bile ""plain of the old tree""

1834cJ O'D (OSNB) E 32

Magh-bile [Movilla}, Ailill of

1864Mart. Don. p. 114 n1

Maigh Bhile ""plain of the sacred tree""

1999Dict. Ulst. PN 112
Ards Lower
Parish in 1851
Place name ID
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