Ballymoney – ‘Town of bigots’…

WHEN Ballymoney Council was asked to provide Irish street names in three villages last week, the vote didn’t pass – perhaps unsurprising in a unionist-dominated council. However, the vote was (I believe) four for and four against, with the mayor – hardline Paisleyite John Finlay and casting vote holder – abstaining. Like Finlay, most of the DUP councillors actually abstained, with only two DUP and two independent unionists voting against the signs. The Council seems to have gone against the spirit, if not the letter, of its own rules. It’s something you’d expect Irish language newspaper La Nua to get annoyed about, and it does, in its balanced front page story last week. However, the headline on the splash – Baile na mbiogóidí (Town of bigots) – goes beyond ‘whataboutery’. Fighting perceived sectarianism is fair enough – but labelling the entire population of Ballymoney as bigots is counterproductive and just plain stupid. Just imagine a whole town suing a paper for defamation…!

  • Dewi

    One dialect that is still alive is Gwenhwyseg – the dialect of Gwent and Glamorgan. Still some native speakers which is cool – just caught in time.

  • Nevin

    Placenames of NI and other material, gaelgannaire.

    Muileann na Buaise is a singular mill, AFAIK.

    The probability of Scottish Gaelic influences was drawn to my attention by a lecturer in Irish at UUC. He compared Drumahitt with Drumcett, Drumahaman with Portcaman, Portnahapple and Tullycapple.

  • Ice-9

    I’d like the little green man on pedestrian crossings to be changed to a pink hippo.

    Thankfully there are people who will see that as impractical and not worth the expense of having it done.

  • Rory

    Why, Ice-9, are you “thankful” that something you would like to happen will not happen because others would not wish it?

    As Michael James, in Synge’s Playboy of the Western World, asked:

    “Is it mad youse are?”.

  • Rory

    “I kept thinking about that Irish word baile. I wonder if it’s related to “bailey”, as in moat and bailey castles.”

    Of course not, Dawkins. It is derived from the much later Ulster planter “Bally”, meaning “a silly place in Antrim”.

    Much as “abacus” was derived from the similarly sounding “electronic calculator”

  • Nevin

    Has anyone any thoughts on the Moyle placename ‘Croyer Hill’? I think it probably relates to crozier.

  • gaelgannaire


    Some people in Dublin think everything north of Drogheda is Scottish Gaelic.

    A Gaelic place-name is a Gaelic place-name.

    Having siad that some people in Lewis think everything south of Harris is Irish.

    Maybe Croyer Hill is Scots?

  • Fermanaghman

    And then there is Ballinamallard, who’s local school and football team have adopted the mallard duck as their symbol.
    The name of the town is Béal Átha na Mallacht, the mouth of the cursed ford. It has nothing to do with a duck.
    Again I stress, it has nothing to do with a duck.

    Even my Béal Átha na Mallacht mother is embarassed by the duck.

  • Nevin

    Fermanaghman, is Sammy Morse the mouth of the cursed Ford? 😉

  • Ulster McNulty


    “Even my Béal Átha na Mallacht mother is embarassed by the duck”.

    Belfast’s coat of arms has a bell on it, according to Belfast City Council website “The precise origins and meanings of the symbols contained on the Coat of Arms are unknown” – I think Ballinamallard FC could help them clear up the mystery.

    The BCC website goes on to say “The name ‘Belfast’ also originates from the Gaelic ‘Beal Feirste’, which means ‘mouth of the river’” – I think somebody who actually knows what it means should get in touch with them.

  • Belfastman

    On the Belfast Lord Mayors medals it says “Érin go brách”, Ireland Forever.

  • Ulster’s my homeland

    Ulster Gaelic, now wouldn’t that be more acceptable to the Ulster Unionists, rather than labelling it Irish?

  • Dewi

    “Maybe you could help me out, I notices looking at some map of where Welsh is spoken in Wales and noticed that there is/was a pocket were a large percentage of people speak Welsh, where would that spot have been?”

    Apologies for the delay – been away from data.

    Three broad strongholds in the South.

    1) Cluster of villages in rural Ceredigion:

    Llandysul: 70%
    Tregaron : 68%
    Llanwenog: 65%

    2) Industrial Carmarthenshire – Gwendraeth and Aman Valleys:
    Cwarter Bach : 75%
    Pontyberem : 73%
    Llan-non : 71%
    Gors-las : 70%
    Pen-y-groes :70%
    Garnant : 70%
    Glanaman : 67%

    Adjoining but in different county:

    Cwmllynfell 68%
    Brynaman Isaf 68%
    Gwauncaegurwen 68%

    3) A cluster in rural Carmarthenshire

    Llannon : 70%
    Llanfihangel-ar-Arth : 66%
    Glyn: 66%

    Worrying is the North Pembrokeshire cluster – only 6 wards over 50% in the whole county

    Crymych 63%
    Clydau 58%
    Maenclochog 55%
    Dinas 54%
    Cilgerran 52%
    Llandudoch 51%

    Wonderful dialect there by the way. In standard Welsh to say:

    “It was cold in the woods yesterday” you would say:
    “Roedd hi’n oer yn y coed ddoe”
    In Pembrokeshire it would be:
    “Wedd hi’n wêr yn y cwêd dwê”

    More encouraging outside the “Gaeltacht”

    Cardiff 13.4%
    And my village in industrial Gwent a whopping 9% !!

  • gaelgannaire

    Thanks Dewi,

    I’ll have to get out me phrase book and book a flight some time and check it out for myself.

  • Billy Pilgrim


    “Perhaps you miss the point, Dewi, militant republicans promoting the language is counter productive, especially when they are hostile to other forms of cultural expression.”

    Ah, sorry Nevin but that’s just not good enough. SF may be all the things you say they are, but you’re clearly just using them as an alibi for your negative feelings about the Irish language.

    You’re saying that even when the case for Irish language signs is unanswerable (as it is here – Ballymoney council are contravening their own policy!) you’re still agin’, because it’d kill you to see SF “win”?

    Irish language activists can’t stop SF from supporting them. You’re setting the bar to an unfairly high level. You (and let’s be honest here, a huge proportion of unionists share your view) need to chill out, to give Irish language activists a break, to show a little respect and indeed generosity of spirit.

    Instead of working overtime to find pretexts to, as another poster said, stick it to your neighbours.

    Because to be honest, when I look at the Ballymoney situation, I DON’T EVEN see bigotry. I see only pettiness and mean-spiritedness.

  • Closer than you Think

    There are Methodist services in Belfast and Down every sabbath in Ulster Irish, and probably in other areas that I don’t know about. This has nothing to do with SF/IRA, abosolutely nothing. Its like the Red Hand symbol, we use it, as other people use it.

  • Nevin

    Billy, you must have a vivid imagination; none of what you’ve said applies to my posts :0)

    My negativity was directed at an Irish language ‘ourselves alone’ approach to the explanation of placenames; let all the linguistic roots breathe.

    I suspect most decent Irish language devotees and speakers would run a mile from SF’s cultural fascism.

  • dewi

    If “cultural fascism” means wanted the language to survive and flourish then I’m in favour. It’s safe in the academic sense of annotated and recorded but needs speakers to speak and write to flourish and develop – and that stuff does require radical state intervention.
    On Ballymoney council – if they don’t allow number 13s in streets I reckon they are not far from burning witches…..

  • páid

    a point about ros, generally meant as a headland.

    I think. Ros, or Rhos, can be found in all the Celtic languages – Ireland, Scotland, Man, Cornwall, Wales and Brittany (e.g. Roscoff).

    Though whether this is a unionist or nationalist point… I don’t know.

  • gaelgannaire


    ‘Ras’ meaning ‘head’ is found in almost all semitic languages …

    … the game is afoot?

  • “to give Irish language activists a break, to show a little respect and indeed generosity of spirit”

    Whilst Irish Language activists like OC continue to lambast unionists in the most intemperate language?

    There is a bit of chicken and egg about this situation, but it is the activists who need the status quo to change, so I’m afraid it is for them to explain their position, to distance themselves from republicanism and to reach out to the unionist community. Otherwise perceptions will understandably not change, that this is a politicised language championed by the least palatable of nationalist representatives.

    Personally I would welcome coherent and constructive policies on Irish from unionist parties, but realistically there is little incentive to extend the hand of friendship whilst shrill voices like OC’s are those advancing the position of the Irish Language.

  • Nevin

    “If “cultural fascism” means wanted the language to survive”

    No, Dewi, devotees, speakers and pluralists would want the language not just to survive but to prosper.

    What form of state intervention do you suggest? Presumably, it would need to be different from that used in the RoI.

  • Nevin

    TA 29 30
    Yorkshire ER
    ‘Moor’ or perhaps, ‘promontory’.

  • Dewi

    Absolutely different from the South. Bilingual adverts on the tele – each and every one – packaging of goods bilingual by law – every shop facsia in both languages. That’s the sort of stuff that’s necessary – and it ain’t easy.

  • Dewi

    gaelgannaire – semitic languages ? What does that mean ?

  • Nevin

    So what are they doing wrong, Dewi? Why won’t the Plain People speak it?

  • Nevin

    MacBain’s Scottish Gaelic dictionary:

    a promontory, Irish ros, promontory (North Ireland), wood (South Ireland; its usual Irish meaning), Early Irish ross, promontory, wood; in the former sense from *pro-sto-s, “standing out before”, root sta, stand, Latin sto, English stand, etc.; especially Sanskrit prastha, plateau. In the sense of “wood”, ros is generally regarded as the same word as ros, promontory, explained as “promontorium nemorosum”, with which is compared Welsh rhos, a moor, waste, coarse highland, Breton ros, a knoll.

    cf English ‘crest’.

  • Oilibhear Chromaill would have little to say about unionists except that politicians like David McNarry and the nay-sayers of Ballymoney give ample scope for fortright and frank language to counter the intemperate and kneejerk negativity emanating from the political and cultural dinosaurs.

    And shrill? Forgive me if I have a wee chuckle given the track record of some of the less hinged unionist commenters who come to this website to comment on cultural matters.

  • Nevin

    “the political and cultural dinosaurs”

    Chuckle Brothers and their acolytes, how are you?

  • dewi

    Why won’t the plain people speak it?

    Dev a bad influence. Whole idea of rural poor and Gaelic speaking not the best strategy. Not too late however – Irish language schools on the up in the South also.
    My position is a bit proscriptive I know but what’s needed is:
    Compulsory bilingual advertising and goods packaging.
    All announcements at sports events and train stations bilingual.
    Those who can use it in the Dail.

  • RG Cuan

    Compulsory bilingual advertising and goods packaging.
    All announcements at sports events and train stations bilingual.

    This should go without question in the south but unfortunately they’re still only getting there.

    As for the Baile Monaidh situation, the local Irish-speaking community should take the issue to the courts.

  • Dewi

    RG Cuan – without an ILA don’t know what courts can do. A Council policy means nowt. I’m with GG – make your own signs….- A bit more strategic in the South the goodwill is there but not the willingness for appropriate action – strange.

  • Nevin

    Posters might like to read the debate on Scottish Gaelic when the bill went through the Scottish parliament in 2005. It highlights the absence of a confrontational approach ie not a baseball bat/hurl wielding balaclavaed PRM look-a-like in sight.

    Perhaps those in Ballymoney borough who wish to promote Irish and Ullans should combine forces; at present, they’re likely to damage the fortunes of both languages.

  • gaelgannaire

    RG Cuan,

    I am not 100% but I think there could be a legal route here.

    Does anyone know what name plates are needed exactly?

  • RG Cuan


    Agree about ILA but i believe they are thinking of taking the case further.

    Making your own signs is a pro-active step that’s already being taken by some in the north. See Irish Gaelic action group, Na Ceithearna Coille –

    They are currently posting stickers that say ‘An tIúr’, the Irish for Newry, on road signs around the city. Doesn’t cover the English proximation, caters for all local drivers, both English and Irish speaking – who can complain with that?

  • BonarLaw

    R G Cuan

    “who can complain [sic] with that?”

    The DRD who are the victim of criminal damage.
    Local Unionists to whom this is marking territiry.

  • BonarLaw

    Sorry- local Unionists to whom this is marking territory.

    I know, people in glass houses …

  • El Django

    Does this mean that all towns without bilingual signs are going to be labelled as “bigoted”?

  • RG Cuan


    Have you actually seen these new signs? It’s quite a stretch to call them criminal damage. Businesses put stickers on road signs all the time.

    And as discussed on other threads, they are not intended to ‘mark territory’. They simply reflect the linguistic makeup of the local community in Newry, South Armagh and South Down. Providing the original version of placenames and giving Gaelic and English equal prominence is hardly excessive.


    No. Three housing developments in villages in the Ballymoney District area (Rasarkin, Dunloy and LochgCaol) requested bilingual signage and were refused. Other places didn’t request bilingual signs and that’s fine.

  • páid

    One way to defuse the ‘marking territory’ problem (there are more than enough markers already IMO), would be for locals of whatever religious persuasion to erect signs in Ulster Irish or Ulster Scots.

    As is done in Scotland and Wales.

    This would require a small bit of education and leadership.

    Perhaps Willie Ross, a backwoodsman by name and nature, might be persuaded to take up the cause.

    Or perhaps not.

  • Dewi

    Nevin – read the debate and thanks for link. Despite the goodwill and positive vibes the situation of Gaelic in its island heartlands is perilous. Less than 60% in Eilean Siar

    It’s strange than when a language reaches such a small number of speakers then it’s somehow less important to defend it than if it’s a bit stronger. The opposite is of course true – when it trouble more radical action is required.

    RG Cuan – for the life of me I can’t find the percentages by inhabited island which I know I’ve found before. Any ideas ?

  • RG Cuan


    I would support signs in Scots in pro-Scots areas but i doubt many people would campaign for them. About 1% of Ulster’s placenames come from the Hamely Tongue, over 96% come from Irish.


    Not certain on that one – i’ll have a look through my ‘library’.

  • Nevin

    Dewi, my suggestion for the joint Irish-Ullans approach was influenced by Elaine Murray’s contribution to the debate and my own reworking of ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’. Collaboration could be more effective than the present tug-of-war.

  • Séamaí

    Collaboration could be more effective than the present tug-of-war.

    The tug of war is between the Irish-speaking community and those in the English-speaking community who do not want to recognise native culture.

    As we all know, the ‘Ullans’ community does not exist.

  • Nevin

    Séamaí, I thought we were supposed to be moving away from the tug-of-war approach? IMO culture should be open to all and not be used as an expression of self-imposed apartheid. Why don’t you drop the silly ‘native’ nonsense?

  • gaelgannaire

    As I am a keen supporter of traditional Ulster-Scots dialect speech and a strong advocate of its study, recording and the teaching of it.

    It disturbed me to find out the the ‘Ulster-Scots language’ was shot dead in QUB on Friday last.

    A leading academic on the Scots language suddeningly took out a small pistol during a confernece on Scots and shot Ullans in grammer, screaming coldly that it was indistingushable from English.

    It is understood another shot was then fired into the sound system, accompanied by similar claims.

    The coup de grace was delivered into vocabulary, which has unique features but is essentially the same as English it was claimed.

    The paramedics were there and some efforts were made to save it (maybe one of them are here?). But it was to no avail.

    The autoposy revealed that the ‘Ulster-Scots language’ may well have been killed by the first shot.


  • Nevin

    What did you make of the Scottish Gaelic dialect debate – link p6#8, gaelgannaire?

  • gaelgannaire


    I think that people who are working with languages and dialects fundamentally related to the langauge that threatens them have a particular difficulty, I am no expert on things matters.

    My above post was an attempt at humour, I am no expert at that either and will not attempt it again!

    The Scottish Gaelic debate in the Scottish Parliament must be seen in the context of the weakness of the legislation and the fact that they have been working on it it for thirty years.

    When a Scottish Gaelic Bill was first put forward in the British Parliament in the early eighties it was as strongly opposed as the proposed ILA here.

    Likewise, in 25/30 years I would expect an ILA to slip quietly through the relevant political institution here.

    On the matter of Scottish Gaelic I have always found the debate around it (if one follows it at a local level) to be as vicous as anything in Ireland if not more so as people are not under the same pressure to appear non-sectarian. Ignorance is also the defing factor as well as traditional lowland suspicion of the highlander, ‘mí-rún mór nan Gall’.

    One lady I recall had a letter printed in the national press suggesting that if Gaelic medium education was to be permitted then the highlands would become a rebellious afganistan like ghetto.

    Scottish Gaelic has fallen behind Irish in recent years due to a lack a radicalism in recent years, motivated by efforts to be seen as moderate.

  • Séamaí

    I, like the majority of the Gaelic-speaking population, would love to move away from the tug-of-war situation. Those who oppose Irish will gradually lose their extreme stance.

    Culture should be open for all – that’s why the ILA should have been passed.

    Why don’t you drop the silly ‘native’ nonsense?

    Carson, a chionn ‘s gu bheil e fíor?

  • Rory

    I transcribe below a piece from the Rotten Boroughs section of the current edition of Private Eye which is of interest (and especially, I would think, of interest to Dewi).

    Residents of a newly-built street in the village of Morda, near Oswestry, Shropshire, are happy with their new houses, apart from one little thing. Oswestry borough council has named the road Cae Onan. “Cae” is Welsh for “meadow” or “field”, but “Onan” has no meaning in the language. It was, of course, the name of the chap in Genesis (38:7 – 10) who came to a sticky end after angering God by “spilling his seed” in preferance to impregnating his brother’s wife as instructed. Sniggering locals are now referring to the address as “Wankers Meadow”. The council, which perhaps intended to call the street “Cae Onnen” (Ash Meadow), claims it would be too much bother to change the name now. What a bunch of halwyr!*

    *halwyr? Translation if you please, Dewi for we poor monolinguist dorks.

  • Rory

    P.s. Maybe OILibhear could provide us with an Irish translation for “Wankers’ Meadow”.

  • Rory @ 01:57 PM:

    Do NOT assume this is entirely an accident.

    There is an excellent tradition in English local government of planners (and the odd deviant committee member) trying to smuggle innuendo past the committee.

    Hence we have “Letsby Avenue” in (I believe) Sheffield. Somewhere else Pigg Lane does the same business. Yes, both run past a police station.

    Nice to see our Welsh colleagues are capable of, indeed exceed this subversion. The advantages of a (non) bilingual culture.

  • D’All seeing Eye

    Cluain na Tarraingtheoira (Wankers Meadow)

  • Dewi

    Rory – “Halwyr” is cool but for the life of me can’t see what the council did wrong !

  • Concerned Loyalist

    “but labelling the entire population of Ballymoney as bigots is counterproductive and just plain stupid”

    It’s libellous, never mind “stupid”. The Irish News once labelled New Buildings on the outskirts of Londonderry as “the most sectarian village in Northern Ireland”, causing an uproar by local people. It looks like this republican rag is looking for a similar reaction…

  • Dewi

    Concerned Loyalist – Have you grown up yet ? I’m still collecting for your emmigration fund – how much Irish do you speak ?

  • RG Cuan


    Republican rag? Lá Nua? Far from it – the paper has a strong Unionist columnist every Wednesday! A bhodaigh gan eolas!


    Are there many placenames of Welsh origin in the English counties that border Cymru?

  • Nevin

    So, RGC, a Republican rag from the former Angrytown News stable with a token Unionist. Brilliant!!

  • RG Cuan


    An féidir leat an nuachtán laethúil seo a léamh go fiú?

    Can you even read this daily newspaper you call a rag?

  • Dewi

    Are there many placenames of Welsh origin in the English counties that border Cymru?


    Shall I list them from London (Llundain) and Kent (Caint) West or even Dover(Dwfr) … a couple of parishes, Archenfield in Herefordshire and Oswestry in Shropshire, Welsh speaking till last century (Still Welsh Speaking chapels in Oswestry)

    Close to the border you have direct Welsh names such as Pontrilas and Bagwyllydiart….how they pronounce the second one of those I have no idea.

  • RG Cuan

    I knew placenames such as London and Dover have Celtic elements but can you say they are Welsh, as we know it?

    What does Dwfr mean in Cymraeg?

  • Dewi

    Flowing water !
    This from Ann Griffiths:

    Almost enough to make you religious.

  • Nevin

    RGC, the parapolitical affiliations of the Angrytown News/Belfast Media Group are hardly a closely guarded secret.

    RGC and Dewi, I’m also curious about the p-Celtic and q-Celtic influences on our placenames eg where the p might have got dropped in a (mainly) q zone and where p/b and q/c forms exist together.

    As you know, I’m very much an amateur in this field so maybe you could enlighten those of us who have an interest in placenames. I should think that river names and the names of religious/ritual centres are likely to be ancient, maybe even inter-related.

    Let’s take Billy. It’s the name of a parish on the east bank and at the mouth of the River Bush. The name in Irish is bíle – a venerated/sacred tree. In Norman records it’s referred to as Episcopus de Bili. The Irish for tree is crann so that made me think that Billy was related to a deity, perhaps Bel/Baal. I then thought of another religious site, Ely, and had a look at some placenames in the vicinity. I found Bele super Dedehill (dedehill – hill of the dead). Could Billy, bíle and Bele be closely associated? What about Ely? Might there have been an earlier p form for Bele and might it have been dropped in a q-Celtic zone to yield Ely? Is there a link to peel/pele towers? Is there a common thread linking Beili-glas, Belaugh Green and Peel Green?

  • Nevin @ 12:18 PM:

    Nice thinking, and well worth pursuing.

    There are numerous place-names across England which imply a pagan origin: google “pagan+place+name” for a plethora, but mainly of the Saxon and Danish periods, admittedly. Rivers are a different matter: they tend to go back to Celtic originals (and, of course, the Celts tended to associate running water with female deities, often very presciently, and often with female deities of a fairly violent disposition: Seine/Sequanna; Boyne/the Boann; Marne/Matrona).

    Don’t put any money on “Ely”, however. It is simply “Eel-island”, and obviously so from its position. It is, incidentally, one of the few towns that developers haven’t quite destroyed yet. Go visiting, but not in in winter months, unless you are prepared for semi-Arctic conditions. I used to regularly change trains there (in the days of steam), and there is a wind which comes direct from the Urals.

  • Dewi

    Dunno Nevin – I’m an accountant….. We have an Afon Elai – River Ely here – if that’s helpful – google it and you’ll find the Afon Elai Mosque in Cardiff !!!

    Rivers are usually old and many times named after deities – Nedd – Neath after Celtic God Nudd fr’instance. I quote from Nice BBC site below:

    “Gods and goddesses in river names
    The names of gods and goddesses are also very apparent in river names. The name of a battle goddess occurs in the river Aeron – aer (battle) and the suffix -on. The same suffix occurs in Aberdaron, which refers to the goddess oak (derw).

    There is also a divine connection in the name of river Dyfrdwy (Dee) – dwfr (water) and the element dwy(w) (goddess), as in Dwyfor, Dwyfach and the Dee in Scotland. It is likely that the goddess in questions here was Aerfen, the goddess of war. Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake) is called Llyn Aerfen in medieval literature.

    It is thought that Alaunos, the name of an old Celtic god who may correspond with the Roman god Mercury, is the source of the name. It is possible that al- means winding. This element also ocurs at the beginning of the names of the rivers Aled and Alwen.”

    On Ely I reckon Keith from Dinas Powys is on the right track LOL LOL LOL !!!

  • PaddyReilly

    It’s libellous, never mind “stupid”

    No it isn’t. It has already been established that a libel must refer to a person or group of persons no larger than a football team.

    Thus we are free to say all Man U supporters are (libel omitted), but we cannot say, for example, that the jurors in a particular court case took bribes, without exposing ourselves to civil suit.