We get a brief glance at the medieval make-up of Dromore parish in a statement by leading Tyrone men in 1609, when they tell us that this parish contained “two ballibetaghes, viz., Ballinegranaghie and Ballinegallvolly” 30 What is a ballibetaghe?
Briefly, each barony was divided into so many “ballybetaghs”, each of 16 tates. The number varied
ever so slightly, but 16 was the normal. The tates correspond to our modern townlands….The name
‘ballybetagh’ signifies, in Irish, ‘food town’, baile biatach. Rents were paid then in foodstuffs –
butter, pork, oatmeal, etc. ‘Rent-paying unit’ would, I think, express the meaning. From the fact
that many of them bear family names, e.g. Ballymaconlon, it would seem to me that they were at
one time, anyway, the possession of a single family. Of course, a family then was something like
four or five generations, no of course, in the one house, but acting as a legal unit – a corporation.
Hence possibly the division into tates…31
The parish of Dromore had two “ballybetaghs” or estates. One “ballinegranaghie” in the townland of Cranny. The other “Ballinegallvolly” survives in the townland of Galbally. These two estates were controlled by two families. The only reminders of Galbally that have been found are: A Mr. Crawford of Trillick, writing on June 29, 1872, tells of a remarkable bronze rapier with whalebone handle and other antiques that came from this ancient place:
They were found in April 1864, in the townland of Galbally, adjoining a small lake containing a
little island, where many objects of ancient art have from time to time, for the last forty years, been
discovered. These, however, from want of care and attention, have been nearly all lost to society.
There were two forts or raths close to the lake, one of these remarkable for its great height and
The ring-forts of the western part of the parish landowners are present today. The one mentioned for it’s height and symmetry above is southeast of Galbally Lough. The other is west from Newpark (formerly Galbally). The “little island” mentioned above is also there.
Foreign warriors or troops from the Hebrides and Argyll brought in by O’Neill most likely gave name to Galbally. These troops were a standing army to Tir Eoghain. Fr. Eamonn Devlin tells us that it was Donall O’Neill, King of Tir Eoghain who first introduced these Gail-Gaeil (foreign Irish) and settled them into the territories.33 Many families of these tall fighting men were given lands by Irish lords from the mid-thirteenth century on. O’Neill’s gallowglasses were among the most famous of them all-the MacDonnells and their relations, the MacSorleys. 34 These surnames are common in Dromore and Kilskeery parish today.
Like elsewhere, the O’Neills of Cepel Eoghain had occupied many of the lands of the older Airghialla inhabitants to make room for their fighting men in their continuous
30 Inq. Cancell. Hib. Repert., ii, Appnedix II – Tyrone, col., 10
31 CR (1955), 19-20
32 RHAAIJ, series 4, vol. ii, part I (1872), p. 195
33 Op. Cit., p. 49
34 Ibid., brief account of MacDonnells and MacSorles, pp. 48-62. Here the old surname, MacDhomhnaill, is sometimes englished as Mac Co(a)nell and even O’Donnell.