‘Celebrating Ulster’s Townlands’

Just in case people are not aware of it I wanted to bring to your attention the Ulster Place-Name Society’s ‘Celebrating Ulster’s Townlands’ exibition/booklet which is available on their website here.The exibition as clickers on the link will discover is pretty comprehensive and offers a very good introduction to the subject. A subject which in my view should form a part of a ‘Gaelic Studies’ course which I would favour as an optional subject in our schools.

The little known Ulster place-names Society was formed back in 1952 with the aims …

to issue periodically to members a bulletin devoted to aspects of place-name study, and ultimately to publish a series of volumes embodying the results of the Survey;

to hold meetings periodically for the diffusion of knowledge of Ulster toponymy amongst its members;

to engage in any other activities which will promote the work of the survey, including co-operation with other bodies of similar interests.

Few could object to those aims? Forgive me for repeating an over used mantra but I think that place-names do form part of our ‘shared heritage’. They somewhat unavoidable. They are also inextricably linked with the Gaelic language as has been recongised by many unionists, see below, though because a knowledge of at least the topographical elements and the grammar of Gaelic are necessary to study 96+ of Ulster’s place-names, former pupils of Northern Ireland’s state school system are somewhat disadvantaged in this pursuit.

Take the Irish language for example. Though this has become a nationalist fetish there is nothing to prevent Protestants subverting the cultural enclosure of the language issue in a positive way. No cultured person in Northern Ireland ought to be ignorance of the linguistic influences – in place-names, in figures of speech – of their own land.
Aughey, Arthur in Irish Kulturkamp

An the other side of the coin I feel that many Irish speakers take the knowledge of place-names somewhat for granted and do not give it the attention it deserves, Irish speakers have a vital role in collecting the thousands (millions?) of minor names still to be recorded, many of which languish now only in the minds of the old. The same task could be put to those with a knowledge of Scots.

In the past the study of place-names in Ulster was well funded, and I think this sort of funding would recieve general support, though I know that many Irish speakers can be suspicous of Foras na Gaeilge monies being spent on projects of a ‘hertitage’ nature rather than on the promotion of Irish as a venacular.


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