Ballybuggy in Co. Laois, Ireland

There is a townland in county Laois that has the name Ballybuggy. If it was anglicized in the same way as almost all ‘Bally’ place names, then a quick translation would give the name of Buggy’s town. The townland is located a short distance south of the village of Rathdowney, which is in south county Laois, just inside the border with Kilkenny. It is located in the Roman Catholic diocese of Ossory. The definitive authority on antiquities, historical churches and heritage in this diocese is Canon William Carrigan who compiled the four volume History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory between 1897-1903. Carrigan writes just under a page about Ballybuggy.[1]

On the map below we can see the ancient ruined church of Ballybuggy, along with the graveyard, on a small hill in the top left corner, as described by Carrigan. The thick red lines show the boundary of the townland, with narrow red lines indicating land holdings. Carrigan also says that the small hill had a rath on top measuring “40 yards in diameter and still showing traces of a stone and mortar caiseal (castle type structure) along the top of the enclosed earthen rampart.”

Map (circa 1850) of section of Ballybuggy townland with enlarged view inset[2]

What makes this rath interesting comes from a description of the name of Ballybuggy as outlined by the Placenames Database of Ireland which was created by the Irish Government and Dublin City University. One of their sources, from the year 1838, says of Ballybuggy, “it contains…an old church and graveyard, a Danish fort.”[3]

The mention of this Danish fort is potentially interesting. I have written about how the Viking Buggi name came to Britain from the 9th century onwards. Vikings, of course, also came to Ireland. It is possible that a Viking with the name Buggi settled in this area of south Laois and over time intermarried with local Gaelic peoples. The fusion of the two races and cultures could have produced the name of Bogaig.

There is plenty of evidence that the Vikings were very active in north Kilkenny and Laois, within 40 kilometres of Ballybuggy. It is quite likely that the Vikings had a longphort (port) on the river Barrow, known as Dunrally Fort, on the Laois/Kildare border  in the townland of Vickarstown Dodd.[4] It is mentioned in the Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland (Annals of the Four Masters) that it was established by a Viking named Rodolf and destroyed in the year 862.[5] Ballybuggy is only about 45 kilometres from this area. The Annals also make reference to a Viking massacre carried out in Dunmore Caves, which is in north Kilkenny and only about 38kms from Ballybuggy.[6]

Rodolf was also known to have raided up the river Nore from Waterford.[7] The Nore goes through Kilkenny city and is one of the three ‘sister rivers’ along with the Barrow and the Suir. Just north of the small town of Durrow, in Laois, the river is only 15kms from Ballybuggy. Rodolf was the son of Harold, a Danish Viking. As we know, the Danes brought the name Buggi to Britain. Ballybuggy is located in what was the ancient kingdom of Osraighe (Ossory). In the second half of the 9th century the Osraighe had a powerful king called Cearbhall. He had numerous interactions with the Vikings through diplomatic mission, marriages and warfare.[8]

At most this is interesting speculation. The evidence is tenuous at best and by no means proves that the Vikings brought the Buggi/Bogaig name to Ireland.

[1] Vol II, p.341-342

[2] Copyright of (c)2003 OMS Services Ltd, Eneclann Ltd and the National Library of Ireland.

[3] Accessed 29 June 2010

[4] Kelly, E.P and Mass, J. (1995) Vikings on the Barrow in Archaeology Ireland, Vol. 9 (3).

[5] Ibid.

[6] The Royal Irish Academy (1951) Proceedings of The Royal Irish Academy: Mathematical, Astronomical and Physical Sciences. Dublin: The Academy

[7] Kelly and Mass (1995)

[8] Accessed 29th June 2010

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2 Responses to Ballybuggy in Co. Laois, Ireland

  1. James Clarence Buggy III says:

    Hi Joe,
    Interesting article on Ballybuggy.
    Jim Buggy

  2. Pam Loughman says:

    I read with great interest as my grandmother’s family lived at #17 Ballybuggy in 1911. The possibility of a Viking history is fascinating. Thank you for your work on this topic.

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