Numbers in Fermanagh

Many regular readers will know of my on off move to Fermanagh and of Elenwë being from Fermanagh. As such I read the “Impartial” quite frequently.

This one: a row about whether or not to have house numbers is interesting. Being an outsider I am not fully conversant with this issue and I do not understand why it seems to have become party political. Has it? I quite enjoy the fact that our Christmas cards to our relatives in Fermanagh have no house numbers on them and I would point out that a friend who moved to Somerset has no house number either. Still I can see that there may be problems with multiple families with the same surname and getting post let alone the very serious possibility of an ambulance not finding a house. GPS seems a lot dearer and potentially more unreliable than house numbers.

I suppose Mrs. Foster may have to make a decision. If, however, it is a contentious will it require cross party support? Or will she just be minded to do something and then not?

  • HumpThe Begrudgers

    The street/ road numbers issue links into the issue of maintaining townland names in our rural areas. Something, in my own experience, which has seen unionists and nationalists agree upon. I think you’ll find that many of those seeking “proper” road names and house numbers might be ‘blow-ins’ escaping to the country.

    Incidentally, the previous Assembly back in 2001 agreed to an Alliance motion “That this Assembly calls on each Government Department to adopt a policy of using and promoting townland names in all Government correspondence and official documents.”
    As the former (I think UUP) MLA, Joan Carson said, “In the Tyrone area, where I live, we have a proliferation of the same names applied to roads leading to and from the village of Moy.
    All of those roads are called Moy Road. There is a Moy Road in Portadown; a Moy Road in Moy; a Moy Road in Armagh; and a Moy Road in Dungannon. You can imagine the confusion that that leads to. The new designation was supposed to help, but instead it has led to great confusion, so most people began to use the townland names again.
    I live on one of those Moy Roads and I find my mail going hither and thither along another Moy Road. I, in turn, was receiving mail intended for those who lived at the same house number on another Moy Road. I solved my problem by adding the townland name to my address. Thankfully, since then, there have been no more problems. I encourage people who are experiencing similar problems to start using the townland names again.”

    A few verses from “A Lost Tradition” by John Montague can be seen to sum the situation up:

    All around, shards of a lost tradition:
    From the Rough Field I went to school
    In the Glen of the Hazels. Close by
    Was the bishopric of the Golden Stone;
    The cairn of Carleton’s homesick poem.

    Scattered over the hills, tribal-
    And place-names, uncultivated pearls.
    No rock or ruin, dún or dolmen
    But showed memory defying cruelty
    Through an image-encrusted name.

    The heathery gap where the Rapparee,
    Shane Barnagh, saw his brother die –
    On a summer’s day the dying sun
    Stained its colours to crimson:
    So breaks the heart, Brish-mo-Cree.

    The whole landscape a manuscript
    We had lost the skill to read,
    A part of our past disinherited;
    But fumbled, like a blind man,
    Along the fingertips of instinct.

    (Rough Field – Garvaghey – Garbh Achaidh
    Glen of Hazels – Glencull – Gleann Coill
    The Golden Stone – Clogher- An Cloch Óir)

    The Irish poet John Montague has led a rich life and known many interesting people.Montague, born in Brooklyn in 1929, was dispatched at the age of four to his father’s sisters in Co. Tyrone to receive a rural upbringing. For six years he suffered the repressive atmosphere of St Patrick’s College, Armagh (recreated in 1993 in a pungent sequence of poems, Time in Armagh). After this, he understandably relished the power to decide things for himself and gravitate towards people and places he found congenial, from the unrefurbished glamour of 1950s Dublin to the spicier surroundings of 11 Rue Daguerre in Paris.

    A contemporary of Behan, Austin Clarke and cantankerous Patrick Kavanagh, along with early Dolmen poets such as Thomas Kinsella.
    For all his local attachment, though, Montague’s cosmopolitan instincts have been well to the fore. They fuelled his enthusiasm for the literature of America and France and directed him unerringly, in his personal life, to the choicest of literary compeers.

    As for those who don’t like his take on the place names and their (now often lost) gaelic origins – well, Brendan Behan had a word for it: “Hump the begrudgers!”

    His poetry includes Forms of Exile (1958); Poisoned Lands (Dublin, The Dolmen Press, 1961, 1977); A Chosen Light (1967); Tides (The Dolmen Press, 1971); (The Rough Field (Dolmen, 1972); A Slow Dance (Dolmen, 1975); The Great Cloak (Dolmen, 1978); The Dead Kingdom (Dolmen, 1984); Mount Eagle (Gallery Books, Co Meath/Wake Forest University Press, Winston Salem, 1989); The Love Poems (Exile Editions, Toronto, 1992; Sheep Meadow Press, New York, 1993); Time in Armagh (a sequence) (Gallery Press, 1993); Collected Poems (Gallery Books/Wake Forest University Press, 1995); Smashing the Piano (Gallery Books, 1999); and Drunken Sailor (Gallery Books, 2004).
    His fiction includes The Lost Notebook (1987); and the short stories An Occasion of Sin (1992).
    His essay collections are The Figure in The Cave (1989); and Born in Brooklyn (1992).
    He has published two volumes of autobiography: Company (2001); and and The Pear is Ripe: A Memoir (2007).
    He has edited Bitter Harvest, an anthology of Irish Poetry (Scribners, New York, 1989). He received the American Ireland Fund Literary Award (1995).
    The inaugural Ireland Professor of Poetry, he is a member of Aosdána and lives in County Cork.

  • Alan

    Serious question – How does anyone from outside Fermanagh ( or who doesn’t know the locality) find a house in a rural area in Fermanagh without a number?

  • joeCanuck

    If you are a woman, you ask people you meet.
    If you are a man, you just drive around aimlessly, then go home.

  • ulsterfan

    For many years I had to travel round Fermanagh seeking addresses based on old townlands only.
    Each townland was then followed by”Enniskillen” and the precise location could be anywhere between Garrison in the north to Derrylin in the South of the county.
    I recall an address which was unknown to the Post office but in any event it made interesting travel and where better to get lost on a fine summers day.

  • I’m also a fairly regular visitor to Fermanagh due to women issues Turgon and my girlfriend’s family are strongly against the use of house numbers. Indeed they have refused to take credit cards etc because companies demanded a house number. Personally I can’t really understand what the big deal is.

    I also have a pour over the Impartial when I’m down. I was particularly interested in a debate over twinning which went along rather predictable lines. Alex Benjamin wrote an excellent letter to the paper but unfortunately there is no link.

  • gaelgannaire

    Bailte fearainn go brách, maith sibh na Fir Manach!

    Up the townlands forever, fair play to Fermanagh people.

  • Harry Flashman

    Wasn’t Fermanagh the last place in the UK to have post codes?

    Good for them.

  • Delta Omega

    You might be interested in my unusual take on this issue. As the husband of a rural GP and someone who is very supportive of the use of townland names, I recall a couple of incidents of late night on call emergencies where the absence of visible numbers created havoc. My wife was pregnant at the time so I was chauffeuring her around on late night and early morning call outs. In one case the patient lived in very rural Tyrone and after getting details of the medical problem, I requested directions. Even with knowing the area reasonably well, this patient was well off the beaten track and the directions were getting ever more complicated. The patient eventually specified the townland (which thankfully I recognised) and so I was able to get to the correct area at least. However in this townland they don’t use house numbers, or those that do use house numbers don’t have them in a sensible place where they can easily be found. After several additional phone calls to finally home in on this location, we resolved the issue by having the partner of the patient place an identifying symbol at the end of their lane, so that we could locate the correct house. In this case the identifying symbol was a bright orange bucket!

    In another situation the patient lived way beyond the back of beyond in a townland that I had never heard of. Unfortunately the condition of the patient was such that they could not give me directions, so to find the house we contacted the PSNI, who very kindly met us and escorted us to the locality. The police themselves were unsure of the correct house as again no identifyable numbers were displayed, but kindly?? woke (at 3:30am) what turned out to be a neighbour. Unfortunately the neighbour showed great reluctance to give the police any information relating to the whereabouts of the patient and directed us several minutes up the road to where someone of the same name lived. When we eventually got them roused it turned out that the patient lived beside the first house we had called at, but due to the police presence information had not been forthcoming.

    So, by all means use your townland names without identifying house numbers, but if you need a GP in the middle of the night be prepared for a long wait, or have a bright ornage bucket at the ready!

  • willowfield

    Why are must use of house numbers and the use of townland names be mutually exclusive?

  • “They use the words ‘UK’ and ‘Britain’ inter-changeably.

    When they remember that the north isn’t part of Britain”

    What laughable comments from our wee Brain!! Perhaps he should do a little research sometime – from state sources:

    Brian in the USA

    Life of Brian

    cf Little Ireland

  • OOPs – Wrong page!!

  • Alan

    An Orange Bucket sounds very effective – perhaps we should all get one !

    Couldn’t agree more about it being a wonderful place to get lost. It was one of the joys of my life spending two weeks driving around the county.

    I understand, however, that at this time of year Fermanagh is in Lough Erne, rather than vice versa, which further complicates matters.

  • Pointer includes the townland name.

  • interested

    I’m more interested by the fact that at least one Sinn Fein councillor clearly doesn’t understand the description “luddite”….

    Mind you, there doesn’t have to be an abandonment of townlands, either from general use, or from addresses by using numbering. Other rural councils in the same general area like Omagh have included townland names on all of the roadsigns.

    Surely the address could just be written as:

    55 Something Road

    Or is that too difficult?

  • An tIolar

    I think that the reference to Luddism was mangled by the press – the councillor refered to the Unionist representatives adopting a Luddite approach to the potential of 21st Century technology in enabling the townland system to be retained within a unique address system. Anyone who knows anything about the council would not be too surprised by this label for Fermanagh Unionist councillors who are quite conservative and old-fashioned to say the least.

    As for the use of townland names alongside roads – I feel that this misses the key point. Once townlands are unnecessary to an address they start to be lost – retaining them as an essential component is critical to ensuring that they are retained as a living element of the local identity.

  • You can check out your Fermanagh townlands here.

    You’ll find Agagay, Aghahoorin, Atnamollyboy, Barr of Bolustymore, Coolkill, Cultiagh, Drumskinny, Fargrim, Fartagh, Galloon, Gorgesh, Grogey, Killycat, Mockbeggar, Mullaghbreedin, Rushin East, Salloon, Tents, Tonynelt, Woaghternerry ..

  • bertie

    “Serious question – How does anyone from outside Fermanagh ( or who doesn’t know the locality) find a house in a rural area in Fermanagh without a number?”

    It’s a local county for local people 😉

  • Rabbit

    No one from Fermanagh wants to get rid of townlands, but people with addresses there would just like to get a credit check; mortgage; insurance; loan; phone contract; NIE, BT or broadband connection; courier delivery; or on-line shopping like everyone else.

    Ever tried getting a phone contract when you have three different post codes- one given to you by the bank, one from the rates people and one from the electoral register- none of which are actually correct?

    A number of local councillors in Fermanagh are not listening to their constituents and have to have at least experienced one or more of these problems, yet, they still insist of keeping Fermanagh in the dark ages!!

  • Paddy Matthews

    Pointer died last year.

  • Paddy Matthews is the nearest equivalent.

  • JoeJoe

    Hi Turgon (Another Fermanagh Number Issue) Are there any stats on boxes from the recent election to support unionist statements that their vote didn’t comeout; with comparions on the nationalist side.

    Also, are there any boxes that would be from a 100% catholic or protestant area, that contained x-community (not Alliance) votes.

  • Drumlin Rock

    can they not number the houses in each townland?

    15 Ballyboghole Td.

  • Rabbit

    Regardless of whether or not they number townlands, the problems will still remain the same as residents in the area are not being afforded the same opportunities as those outside of the county.

    The majority of Fermanagh residents have never been issued with a standard postcode, instead other organisations have just assigned them one as a means of keeping their own paper work right.

    Do SatNavs even work in the county? When I tried to take out a contract with O2, they told me it would be an international contract as my address in Fermanagh doesn’t fit with the information they require. I have since taken out a contract in my friend’s name- oddly when it comes to paying the account’s phone bill my details work okay, I just have to make sure my friend (the account holder) is present during all correspondence. This is the same with other phone providers. There are households which can’t get the internet or broadband installed because their house is not recognised on wider databases. Only through my bank could I get a credit card, but outside of this one organisation I don’t have any credit history. How can I get a mortgage?

    I find it hard to believe the local councillors aren’t having similar problems, although given their desire to keep their constituents in the 19th century; they probably still use an outhouse and travel from A to B on a Penny-farthing!!

    Give us a postcode. Just one postcode. A postcode that is widely recognised and correlated with the rest of the world!! Actually, screw the rest of the world… (baby steps… baby steps) I would happily settle for a system that would align us with the five other counties in the North.

  • Rabbit

    The Royal Mail has also created their own system for Fermanagh-

    Name Of Occupant
    Dp [random number],
    Made Up Street Name,
    Incorrect Postcode

  • Rabbit