Downpatrick is a town in County Down in Northern Ireland, about 33 km south of Belfast. It is the County town of Down with a rich history and strong connection to Saint Patrick. It had 10,316 inhabitants in the 2001 Census. Downpatrick is where the local council, Down District Council has its headquarters.
As the largest town in the Lecale area, Downpatrick is a commercial, recreational and administrative centre for the locality and serves as a hub for the nearby towns and villages. Within an hour drive of Belfast, the location serves as a commuter town for a large number of people. The town has a number of primary and post-primary schools educating students from all over the East Down area.
Downpatrick is characterised by the rolling drumlins
that are a feature of the Lecale area. It also has the distinction of being the lowest place on the island of Ireland
, with the marsh surrounding the north east of the town recorded as being 1.3 ft (0.4m) below sea level. Downpatrick is approximately 21 miles from Belfast with a regular bus service.
An early Bronze Age
site was excavated in Downpatrick on the Meadowlands housing estate, revealing two round houses. One measured over four metres in diameter and contained a hearth in the centre, while the other round house was over seven metres across.
Downpatrick is one of Ireland's most ancient and historic towns. It takes its name from a dún
(fort), which once stood on the hill that dominates the town and on which Down Cathedral
, about the year AD 130, includes it as Dunum
in his list of towns of Ireland. The old name of the town was Rath Celtair
. It was superseded by the name Dun-leth-glas
which in turn gave way, in the 13th century, to the present name of Dún Phádraig
(anglicised as Downpatrick) - from the town's connection with the patron saint of Ireland.
Saint Patrick was reputedly buried here in 461 on Cathedral Hill, within the grounds of Down Cathedral. His grave is still a place of pilgrimage on St Patricks Day (17 March each year). The Saint Patrick Visitor Centre in Downpatrick is purpose-built to tell the story of St Patrick.
In 1183, John de Courcy brought in some Benedictines from Chester in England and built a cathedral friary for them at Downpatrick. This building was destroyed by an earthquake in 1245.
For more information see The Troubles in Downpatrick
, which includes a list of incidents in Downpatrick during The Troubles
resulting in two or more fatalities.
Downpatrick is classified as a Medium Town by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency
(ie with population between 10,000 and 18,000 people). On Census day (29 April
2001) there were 10,316 people living in Downpatrick. Of these:
- 26.6% were aged under 16 years and 16.0% were aged 60 and over
- 48.5% of the population were male and 51.5% were female
- 86.8% were from a Roman Catholic background and 11.9% were from a Protestant background
- 5.1% of people aged 16-74 were unemployed.
- St. Brigid's Primary school
- St. Colmcille's Primary school
- St. Patrick's Boys Primary school
- Bunscoil Naomh Pádraig
- Convent of Mercy Girls Primary school
- Downpatrick Primary School
- Down High School Prep Department
Further and Higher Education
The area is served by two weekly newspapers
Down FM is the local community radio station broadcasting on 105.0 MHz. The station's RDS programme identification (PI) tag is "Down FM". The station's parent organisation is South Eastern Regional College.
- Ann Breen, a country singer, is from Downpatrick. She is often referred to as "The Star Of The County Down".
- Lynn Doyle, the pseudonym of the humorist & playwright Leslie Alexander Montgomery, was born in Downpatrick on 5 October 1873 (d.18 August 1961). He was part of the Ulster Literary Theatre movement and is most famous for his Ballygullion series of 20 books which fondly caricatured Northern Ireland village life. Interestingly he chose his pseudonym after seeing a large tin of linseed oil in a paint shop, initially signing "Lynn C. Doyle" but later dropping the "C.".
- Dr. Maurice Hayes, the former Northern Ireland Ombudsman, Chairman of the Ireland Funds and Taoiseach-appointed Senator in Seanad Éireann, was born and still lives in Downpatrick. He has written a memoir about growing up in the town titled Black Puddings with Slim. He served as town clerk of Downpatrick in the 1960s, succeeding his father in the role.
- The rock band Ash are from Downpatrick.
- Paul Mahon, guitarist of rock band The Answer is from Downpatrick.
- James Heatley, drummer for rock band The Answer lives in Downpatrick.
- Ian Mitchell from the band Bay City Rollers was born in Downpatrick.
- David Healy, the Northern Ireland and Fulham striker was born in Downpatrick.
- The comedian Colin Murphy hails from Downpatrick.
- Patrick Kielty attended (St. Patrick's Grammar) school in Downpatrick.
- Miles Kington journalist, musician and broadcaster born in Downpatrick.
- Thomas Russell the United Irishman co-founder who took part in the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and Robert Emmet's failed rebellion of 1803 was gaoled and executed at Down County Gaol by hanging on October 21, 1803. His memory is honoured by the local GAA club being named after him.
Downpatrick is home to RGU Dún Phádraig GAC. The Russell Gaelic Union was formed by Willie Byrne & Willie McDowell in the County town in the early 20th century. The team traditionally wears green & white hoops and are the only GAA team in Ireland registered under these colours. Downpatrick have had mixed fortunes over the years but have still managed to produce excellent county footballers such as Ray McConville
, Conor Deegan
, Barry Breen
& Ben Collins
All of which won All-Ireland Football Titles. The Club is built on tradition and this is very apparent even today as great grandchildren of the original founders can be found lining out for the various men & ladies teams.
Downpatrick's senior amateur football team is Downpatrick F.C.
, who compete in the Amateur Section A
of the Northern Irish football league. However, there are numerous other clubs associated with the town, and others from surrounding areas. These include Rossglass County Football Club, and Ballyvange F.C. There are also many youth football teams such as the Celtic Bhoys, the Shamrocks, Rossglass and Patrician, who, along with many other teams in the area, participate in the Downpatrick Youth League. Downpatrick has a large following of Glasgow Celtic Football Club
, Their main Supporters Club "Joe Miller Celtic Supporters Club
" was founded in 1984 and was named after a striker of team at that time. Downpatrick is home to one of the biggest Irish branches of the Manchester United
's supporters club, Downpatrick Manchester United Supporters Club, which was founded in 1993.
Downpatrick Cricket Club and Downpatrick Golf Club, which have their own club grounds. Downpatrick has several other clubs that use the facilities of the Down Leisure Centre (run by Down District Council) such as the Lecale Amateur Swimming Club and the East Down Athletics Club.
Snooker and billiards
Downpatrick is also the home of the Downpatrick and District Snooker and Billiards League. Many of the local towns compete in the highly successful leagues. Teams from Downpatrick, Newcastle
and Ballyalton strive to be the best in the local district.
Places of interest
- Ballyalton Court Cairn is a single court grave situated on a rock outcrop by the roadside 0.5 miles from Ballyalton village, which is 2.25 miles east of Downpatrick, at grid ref 531 448.
- Ballynoe Stone Circle, a large circle of over 50 closely-spaced upright stones, surrounding a mound which, when excavated, was found to contain two cists in which cremated bones were found, is only 2.5 miles (4km) south in the hamlet of Ballynoe. The site is near the disused railway station, reached by a long footpath off the main road, at grid ref: J481404.
- Inch Abbey, a large, ruined monastic site featuring early Gothic architecture is 0.75 miles (1.2km) north-west of Downpatrick on the north bank of the River Quoile off the main road to Belfast, at grid ref: J477455.
- The Lecale peninsula covers an area of some 78 square miles between Downpatrick and Dundrum. It is an area of historical and geographic significance.
- Quoile Castle is a ruined 16th century Tower house, just off the main road from Downpatrick to Strangford, at grid ref: J4963 4701.
- Struell Wells is a set of four holy wells 1.5 miles (2.4km) east of Downpatrick (grid ref: J513442). The wells date from before the time of Saint Patrick, and even today are used for people seeking cures.