Engraved Townlands

It’s not always easy to find townland names on modern signs, so I go hunting in old graveyards.  I try to look professional, but inside I’m gleeful when I find a townland engraved on a headstone.  I’ve already used graveyard images for my posts on Ballyhenry, Ballystockart, Craigantlet, Moneydorragh, and Church Quarter.  Today I’m showing you more of my explorations into churchyards.

Gravestone robin KillysugganThese photos show graves from more than a century ago, so I hope you find them interesting, rather than sad or spooky.   My best chances of finding townland names have been with 18th and 19th century graves.  It’s not so common nowadays to add a townland to a headstone.

Drumawhy headstone MovillaIdentifying the townland isn’t always straightforward.  Spellings change over the centuries. So the townland of “Drumawhey” in the photo above from Movilla Cemetery in Newtownards is now spelled “Drumawhy”.

The next one (also in Movilla) challenged my knees as well as my brain.  Once I’d got down on the ground under the leaning stone I could see the name Ballywitticock – which is a real townland on the Ards Peninsula, now known as Ballywatticock.

Ballywatticock gravestone It took me longer to work out that the townland on this Killyleagh grave for the McKee family was the modern-day Ballymacromwell.

Ballymacromwell gravestone Some inscriptions are abbreviated.  The town of Newtownards often appears as “N.T.Ards”.  On this headstone for the Garret family in Miller Hill, the townland of Ballybuttle has been reduced to “B.buttle”.

Ballybuttle gravestone GarretBut do you think the stonemason intended to write the townland of Cunningburn like this, on the headstone for the McCalla family in Movilla?  It looks more like a 19th century “typo” to me.

Cunnningburn gravestone name only

Cunnningburn gravestoneOnce I’ve found every townland on my list, I can relax and look at the landscape.  These snowdrops were growing between the graves of Holy Trinity Church, Ballylesson, Drumbo.

Snowdrops in Ballylesson (1)I will finish with a Celtic cross from Killysuggan graveyard near Newtownards (also home to the robin in the first photo).

Celtic Cross Killsuggan graveyard



  1. Carolyn, a new and very interesting book on townlands has just been published by a friend of mine. It’s not yet available in bookshops. It’s beautifully illustrated and very informative. I think you’ll love it.

    If you’d like a copy, I can get you one (even autographed!) from my friend and give you it when you’re next home. They cost £15.

    Best wishes
    Lolly x


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