Historic barony centred around Downpatrick
Lecale, centred around Downpatrick, is an historic barony that includes Strangford, Saul, Inch, Ardglass, Killough and Dundrum. The Lecale Historical Society is one of the longest established and most consistently active local historical societies in Ulster.
Since 1974 it has organised events both to inform its members and to encourage more general interest in the heritage of Lecale and adjacent areas of east Down. Membership is open to all who subscribe to its aims. Members are entitled to attend the lecture programme and other events organised by the society, and to participate in elections to the executive committee. Society newsletters and a free copy of their journal are additional benefits of membership.
The name Lecale is derived from the Gaelic Leth Cathail, meaning ‘Cathal’s portion’, after a prince of Uladh who lived around 700AD. The even earlier name of Magh-Inis, meaning ‘the island plain’, reflects the area’s geography. Until approximately 200 years ago, when the first sea barriers were constructed and land drainage began, Lecale was almost entirely encircled by Strangford Lough, the Irish Sea and Dundrum Bay. Indeed some people in the area still use the name Isle-Lecale.
On one low hill in Lecale stands a giant statue of St Patrick, symbolically looking over the rest of Ireland. It commemorates the fact that this is the area where Ireland’s patron saint both started and ended his mission.
Today, the land surrounding the market town of Downpatrick is still largely rural. Many people commute to the city of Belfast to work, and within Lecale the principal occupations are centred on farming, fishing, tourism, and the service industries.
© Lecale Historical Society