‘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.

  • Devil Eire

    The recently-launched Placenames Database of Ireland may also be a useful resource for those interested in Irish-language place names.

  • foreign correspondent

    On a Christmas visit home I saw that Derry City Council have adopted the rural road namesign format which incorporates the townland name, something Omagh, Strabane (maybe others too) have been doing for some time now. It would be great if all councils followed suit, to bring the townland more into the public conscience after it was banished for so long by the imposition of the postcode.
    And if the Irish language version of the relevant placename was on the roadsigns as well all the better I say.

  • Harry Flashman

    The townland names of Ireland are indeed worth preserving as many are very beautiful (although it has to said there are a few mouthfuls too), as I recall Fermanagh was the last place to hold out against the ubiquitous post codes because they didn’t want to lose that aspect of their heritage but I recently received a Christmas card from a friend outside Lisnaskea and I see it was addressed from some dreary BT numeral.

    As regards Derry City, in the immediate city area there don’t appear to be many Gaelic townland names (or more probably they have been lost to the mists of time) but instead they are for the most part very English; Bogside, Northland, Pennyburn, Lone Moore, Newbuildings, Little Diamond, Brickkilns, the Strand, Top of the Hill, Rosemount, Brandywell etc in contrast to Belfast say where for example Shankill and Ardoyne show their clear Gaelic origins. I wonder why that is.

  • GGN

    Harry,

    I think you are wrong actually and I am not sure if the examples you quoted are actually townlands, but I will not be able to provide evidence today I’m afraid.

  • GGN

    Harry,

    Well here is Templemore, on of the civil parishes in which Derry City rests.

    These are its seven townlands.

    Baile Mhic Robhartaigh/Ballymagrorty
    Baile na gCailleach/Ballynagalliagh
    An Creagán/Creggan
    An Chúil Mhór/Culmore
    Culmore Level (Intake)
    Seantalamh/Shantallow
    White House

  • Harry Flashman

    Well, my understanding of a townland is a small local area known by a certain name, if I am wrong do please enlighten me.

    There are certainly Gaelic place names in the Derry City Council area but I can’t help thinking that for the most part they refer to areas built up in the post war public housing boom ie Shantallow, Lisnagelvin, Gobnascale etc but on the whole the “urban” Derry place names are largely English or Scottish, I’m not making some sort of political point, merely pointing out a particular local oddity.

    Templemore and Culmore are certainly Gaelic names but they kind of mark the end of the old Derry City area if you know what I mean, as do places like Gransha and Ballymagorry, but on the whole the local place names (if “townland” is too specific a term) for the central Derry area, (indeed out to and including Leafair, Bloomfield, Meadowbank and Irish Street etc) are generally English in character. Even the “Bogside” area (actually a much smaller area than is now encompassed by the term) is decidedly lacking in Gaelic place names despite it being a traditionally Catholic/Gaelic/Irish area; Hogg’s Folly, Lecky Road, Meenan Field, St Colomb’s Wells, New Road etc., if there are Gaelic “townland” names for these areas I for one would be delighted to hear of them.

  • GGN

    Harry,

    Follow the link!

  • Harry Flashman

    I will, but just to assist me what is the precise definition of a townland? I understand that my idea of it might not be precise.

  • Paddy Matthews

    Townlands are units of land which have legally-defined boundaries – below the level of (civil) parishes, baronies and counties.

    The old Corporation area of Derry consisted of three whole townlands (Londonderry, Edenballymore and Cloughglass) and parts of three others (Ballymagowan, Creggan and Pennyburn) on the city side, and one whole townland (Clooney) and parts of two others (Gobnascale and Tamnymore) on the Waterside.

    If you go to http://www.osni.gov.uk/index/mapstore/admin_boundaries.htm and go down to the “Local Government District Maps, 1974” you can download maps showing townland boundaries.

  • dub

    Harry,

    Gobnascale, Altnagelvin, Shantallow and Creggan for example, sre very old townlands in Derry City Area, not just names of post war housing estates. I think your idea of townlands in Derry City Area is of small parts of land, whilst in the Derry City area, they can be quite large. Townlands are the smallest units of land in Ireland, below parishes which are themselves below baronies. There are about 64,000 on the whole island and confusingly they can vary in size from less than 10 acres to thousands of acres. Templemore would be the name of the parish that covers all of the cityside, Clondermot likewise for the Waterside. The Bogside area would mostly be in the townland of Edenballymore. See this for townlands in part of cityside area:

    http://www.creggancountrypark.com/uploads/WHO OWNED CREGGAN_20081023114847.pdf

    names of all townlands in the parish of Templemore:

    Ballougry Ballynashallog Edenballymore Sheriff’s Mountain
    Ballyarnet Cloughglass Elagh More Spring Hill
    Ballymagowan Coshquin Killea Spring Town
    Ballymagrorty Creevagh Lower Londonderry Termonbacca
    Ballymagrorty or White House Creevagh Upper Mullennan White House or Ballymagrorty
    Ballynagalliagh Creggan Pennyburn
    Ballynagard Culmore Shantallow

    Names of all in parish of Clondermot:

    PARISH OF CLONDERMOT,
    Co. Londonderry

    Townlands

    Altnagelvin Clondermot Glenkeen Lisglass
    Ardkill Clooney Gobnascale Lismacarol
    Ardlough Coolkeeragh Gortgranagh Lisnagelvin
    Ardmore Corrody Gortica Lisneal
    Ardnabrocky Craigtown Gorticross Lissahawley
    Avish Creevedonnell Gortin Magheracanon
    Ballyoan Cromkill Gortinure Managh Beg
    Ballyore Curryfree Gortnessy Maydown
    Ballyshasky Currynierin Gortree Prehen
    Bogagh Disertowen Gransha Primity
    Bolies Drumagore Gransha (Intake) Rossnagalliagh
    Brickkilns Drumahoe Greerstown or Cloghore Stradreagh Beg
    Carn Drumconan Kilfinnan Tagharina
    Carnafarn Dunhugh Killymallaght Tamnymore
    Carrakeel Edenreagh Beg Kittybane Templetown
    Caw Enagh Knockbrack The Trench or Lisaghmore
    Clampernow Fincarn Lisaghmore or The Trench Tirbracken
    Cloghore Glenderowen Lisdillon Tirkeeveny

    Plenty to chew on there!! And plenty of Gaelic!

    Seriously i love this stuff, makes all of our divisions seem crazy.

  • Harry Flashman

    “Seriously i love this stuff, makes all of our divisions seem crazy. ”

    Fascinating, I couldn’t agree more, so the ancient Gaelic place names of Derry that I assumed to have been forgotten are in fact still known, well isn’t that something, Edenballymore eh? Much nicer than “Creggan, the Moore and the Bog” by a long chalk.

  • dunreavynomore

    The use of townland names in English can sometimes stump the outsider. Consider the British soldier who asked a local where he was coming from, “I’m coming from Killinaman” was the local mans reply so the soldier said ‘You’re coming from Killing a man! Where are you going now?”
    The reply was “I’m going to Killmore.” A good kicking was the result of the man’s honesty.(Killinaman means the women’s church and Killmore means the large church ‘though Kill or Kil can also come from the word for woods)

    Placenames are a good historical tool too. Take an area called Kiltybane meaning the White Woods and when you see that there are no woods to be seen it is obvious that some event or other disposed of the woods. Limavady, The Dogs Leap makes me wonder just what was so great about the leap of that dog. Cullaville crosses the Armagh Monaghan border and is Cullaville on one side but Culloville on the other, both meaning McCulloch’s dwellings.

  • Tochais Si­orai­

    Or he could’ve said ‘I come from around here which is more than I can say for you’.

    Probably still would’ve got a kicking though.

  • Harry Flashman

    I’m hooked now.

    Looking at those “Waterside” townland names quite a few are immediately familiar due to some industrial or other use; Stradreagh, Drumahoe, Maydown, Coolkeeragh etc. some are known to those of us who grew up playing in that area (Bolies, the quarry out by Prehen, hence “Brickkilns” and “Newbuildings” presumably), a few have changed their spelling a little bit; Lisahawley, Kilfinnan, others are now names for roads, Trench, Caw, Corrody, but far and away the most interesting are the beautifully poetic names that are never used these days.

    One imagines Tirkeeveny, Tagherina or Gortgranagh to be lovely little rural idyls despite the fact that for all I know they constitute some grim end of Lincoln Courts.

  • RepublicanStones

    Cabhán an Chaorthainn abú !

  • Paddy Matthews

    One imagines Tirkeeveny, Tagherina or Gortgranagh to be lovely little rural idyls despite the fact that for all I know they constitute some grim end of Lincoln Courts.

    Gortgranagh (presumably Gort Greanach – the gravelly field) is the far side of Tullyally, and both Tirkeeveny (Tír an Chaomhánaigh – Kavanagh’s land) and Tagharina (not sure about the second part, possibly Teach an Rionnaí – house of the engraver) are both out on the Tyrone border, so I’d imagine they’re still rural.

  • Harry Flashman

    Paddy your maps are interesting but unfortunately hard to read would I be pushing it a bit to ask have you any other links as you seem to be well acquainted with the subject?

  • Paddy Matthews

    Paddy your maps are interesting but unfortunately hard to read would I be pushing it a bit to ask have you any other links as you seem to be well acquainted with the subject?

    The files are large (8.77 MB for the Derry/Limavady one) but you should be able to view them using PictureManager if you’re using Windows. Set the scale to 50% which should leave it as being the correct original size and also make it easier to navigate.

    For Northern Ireland, the POINTER web site was useful, with information about earlier versions of placenames from the OS Name Books of the 1830s, but unfortunately it was hacked last autumn and has been down since then. The Historic Maps section of the OSNI website shows OS maps from the 1830s through to the 1960s (requires free registration). There’s also the Election Maps website but it can be difficult to navigate.

    For the Republic, there’s no directly equivalent site to these – OSi are extremely jealous of their data, including historic maps which are long out of copyright at this stage. There are a couple of viewers – one at the Exploration and Mining Section of the Department of Energy and Natural Resources (allows you to view early 20th century OS maps) and another at the Environmental Protection Agency which combines aerial photography with townland boundaries.

    There’s a searchable version of Griffith’s Valuation at the Library Association of Ireland website which allows you to search for placenames and see the 19th century Ordnance Survey map for the area – but there are a number of gaps in coverage where Northern Ireland is concerned.

    To simply get listings of townlands for the whole island, there is the Placenames Database referred to earlier, though its coverage of Northern Ireland is not as thorough as that of the Republic, and the IREAtlas database, based on the Townland Index to the 1851 Census, although it can contain errors and omissions and requires cross-checking with other sources.

  • PaddyReilly

    Kiltybane might not be white woods: it could be the Church of the White House, or of the White Side.

    Townlands are, it appears, not much understood by townsfolk: But in the country everyone knows their names, Edna O’Brien mentions being taught the names of all the local townlands, in English and Irish, in school.

    Of course they are not the ultimate division: ususally all the fields have their own name as well.

  • dunreavynomore

    PaddyReilly
    it is spelled Coillte ban in Irish. No church ever in the area, nor is it the side of a hill.Next to it is Drumlougher, rushy ridge or hill, Drommore, big hill or ridge. we have plenty of them like Creganban and Cregganduff, ( bright or dark and stoney) Mullaghduff and Mullaghban (dark or bright summits).Lots of Mo,Ma, magh and Meigh names all meaning plain, or flat area. These ‘plains’ are very small but do lie between hills or small mountains. We also have Lorgancoillenboy which I particularily like along with Sheetrim, the enchanted hill or hill of the sidhe.
    Townland names are a very interesting subject and the original of many of them will never be known for certain, like , for instance, Crossmaglen or Cullyhanna, plenty of possibilities but no certainty.

  • Of course they are not the ultimate division: ususally all the fields have their own name as well.

    Indeed. In my own neck of the woods there are names for areas that defy definition – they are not ‘bounded’ by anything other than their own selves – Poll-something for a hollow in the landscape (also used in coastal areas, but I’m not sure what for), or Lug-something for a smaller hollow. Some things have names known only to a handful of people – unfortunately as they die the names are lost.

    Local histories are treasure-troves of local names, and by now most areas have one or more good local histories written. My own home parish has an excellent one, but even it can be added to with even more detailed information.

  • PaddyReilly

    it is spelled Coillte ban in Irish

    Surely white woods in Irish would be coillte bána? And surely woods are green, not white. The second element could be Bábhún, as in Hamilton’s bawn: a sort of fortified enclosure, I think. Kill could be caol, narrow. Sometimes it only means cemetery.

    Vast numbers of place-names are poorly understood and mistranslated: achadh a word still current in Scotland for ‘field’, is confused with áth, ford.

    Sunday’s Well in Cork is from Tobar an Domhnaigh, the Lord’s Well. Days of the week tend not to have wells for their exclusive use.

    The same thing happens with surnames, as with the famous Ó Coinín, grandson of the little Hound, ludicrously translated as Rabbitte, after a creature which only came to Ireland with the Normans.

    I have noticed in Wales and Scotland, I can’t think of an instance of it in Ireland, how sometimes one part of a village has a particular name, and 20 yards down the road there is a different name.

  • Paddy Matthews

    Surely white woods in Irish would be coillte bána?

    The final -a (which would be an unstressed schwa) might well have been dropped on the transition into English.

    And surely woods are green, not white.

    Nothing exceptional about a green wood. One which is different (perhaps by having a lot of hawthorns or some tree whose leaves are a lighter green in colour) is the one that’s going to get a distinctive name.

    See: Coill Rua or Coill Dubh for comparisons.

  • I can’t think of an instance of it in Ireland, how sometimes one part of a village has a particular name, and 20 yards down the road there is a different name

    The town of Charlestown (Baile Chathail) in County Mayo (on the road to Knock ;-)) straddles the Mayo-Sligo border. But the Sligo part, which is essentially just the road leading to Tubbercurry, with a straggle of houses and a filling station, is called Bellaghy. So as you enter the town from the Sligo side the nameplate says Bellaghy, but if you come in from the Knock side it says Charlestown!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlestown,_County_Mayo

    Charlestown is, BTW, where the forebears of the Gallagher brothers (of Oasis fame) come from.

  • dunreavynomore

    Paddy and Paddy

    Indeed, it is hard to be exact. White in this context probably means bright, like Kavanagh’s ‘my dark hills’ of Shancoduff referring to the dark side rather than the side that got most sunlight. Not far from Kiltybane is a townland called Freeduff, fraoch dubh, dark heather rather than black heather.I don’t claim to be expert, just highly interested.
    Paddyreilly,
    just a point of interest, Sth Armagh was heavily wooded (like much of ireland) untill the 17th century so woods and trees abound in place names. We have one called Drumbilla, the ridge of the sacred tree! Still some fine old trees around Hamilton’s Bawn but few further south. You are right about bana,that is how it is spelled.

  • Let’s adopt the Scottish approach to placenames ie recognise all of the linguistic influences.

    Here are some useful links:

    Administrative Divisions of Ireland

    Townland Database

  • “The recently-launched Placenames Database of Ireland may also be a useful resource for those interested in Irish-language place names.”

    Devil Eire, the translators seem to have got Bushmills wrong: Muileann na Buaise/Bushmills ie mix-up between singular and plural. Older names are Bush Towne and Magheraboy.

  • PaddyReilly

    If S Armagh was full of woods (fiodh even today Scottish Gaelic), then it seems highly unlikely that a place in the middle of them would be called “woods”. In that case, I propose that the first element in the name is cúil, translating as ‘nook’ or ‘corner’, the nook of the white house, the slight change in vowel being due to the way Ulster folk speak, as in “Wullie”.

  • PaddyReilly

    There is a similar problem in C Cork, with Clonakilty (God help us). Some propose “Cloch na gCoillte”, I prefer “Cluana Chaoilte”. Stone of the Woods sounds a little too simplistic in a largely wooded countryside: the clearings of Caoilte sounds more plausible.

  • Paddy Matthews

    Nevin:

    Devil Eire, the translators seem to have got Bushmills wrong: Muileann na Buaise/Bushmills ie mix-up between singular and plural. Older names are Bush Towne and Magheraboy.

    The documentation for the name (http://logainm.ie/Iomhanna/131b/po62110_1.JPG) gives:

    Muileann na Buaise – an t-ainm Reachrannach

    (Muileann na Buaise – the Rathlin Island name (for the place))

    The policy is to use the most recent attested Irish-language form if it exists, which it does in this case.

  • Paddy Matthews

    There is a similar problem in C Cork, with Clonakilty (God help us). Some propose “Cloch na gCoillte”, I prefer “Cluana Chaoilte”. Stone of the Woods sounds a little too simplistic in a largely wooded countryside: the clearings of Caoilte sounds more plausible.

    The problem with that idea is that the early 16th century documents (http://logainm.ie/Iomhanna/98/po9192_1.JPG through to http://logainm.ie/Iomhanna/98/po9192_9.JPG) all contain forms of the name where the first syllable is written as “Clogh” or “Claugh”, which would indicate that the Irish form begins with Cloch (which can mean “stone castle” by extension).

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]Cabhán an Chaorthainn abú ! “[/i] post 15

    RepublicanStones, why do you need to introduce the Irish languagage into an English debate?

  • Ulsters my homeland

    Hi Nevin, you’ll have to do better then that.

  • picador

    UMH,

    Don’t you mean Gaelic? Or have you gone soft?

    😉

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘”Cabhán an Chaorthainn abú ! ” post 15

    RepublicanStones, why do you need to introduce the Irish languagage into an English debate? ‘

    Tá bron orm mo chara. Considering I wasn’t the first to write as gaeilge, one can only assume you don’t read all the posts, merely choosing instead to scan for the names of those you dislike. In which case, Im flattered. Secondly I didn’t see the rules list where this was prohibited. Thirdly you don’t seem to understand the etymology of the townland names, and townlands are what this thread is about. Hope that answers your question 😉

  • “The policy is to use the most recent attested Irish-language form if it exists,”

    So when was that singular Irish form ‘invented’, Paddy? 1922?

  • Paddy Matthews

    Nevin:

    So when was that singular Irish form ‘invented’, Paddy? 1922?

    Presumably it was collected from Rathlin (which still had native Gaelic speakers at that point) in 1922. Unfortunately there are no longer any around for us to double-check with.

    There’s another entry on the same page of the documentation from 1905,

    An Machaire Buidhe (nó Muileann na Buaise)

    and there’s a form underneath:

    Mill on the Bush

    from an inquisition in the time of Charles I in 1636, which would indicate that the English form might not always have been plural either.

  • Paddy Matthews

    Re: Bushmills.

    On the next page of documentation, there’s a reference to:

    sir Randall Mc.Donell – his whole mill lyeing upon the river of the Boish, under the church of Porkarnon(sp?) (not certain of the last name – as a native of the area you might have a better idea).

    from another Charles I inquisition of 1633.

    There’s no reason why one language might not adopt the singular of “mill” as part of the placename at one stage while another might adopt the plural at another stage – they’re not necessarily going to be direct translations of one another.

  • Paddy, I like your Porkarnon 🙂 The notes are very scratchy but the spelling is most likely Portcaman.

    Ballaghmore is on the west bank of the Bush Water; Magheraboy on the east bank. Lesser flu. in the area are called burns.

    We also have Bosthmilnes in the 1624 Boyd will and Bush Millns in Petty’s Survey from the 1650s.

    Attested sounds impressive but IMO that Irish or Scottish Gaelic singular form looks fairly shaky. It would appear to be relatively recent and may have been recorded/transcribed by an ‘outsider’.

    I’ve just spotted Bush Towne in the website notes. The name still lives on in the Bushtown Restaurant and Bushtown House at the junction of the roads from Coleraine to Limavady and Garvagh. The Strawbridge family of Bushtown House were formerly minor landlords near Bushmills. The family name lives on in Strawbridge Park, Portballintrae, and their former home is close to the golf club.

    The Logan family also had a mill and this family appears to have been in the the area a very long time. Can you shed any light on the placename Logenadoid [1650s survey]in the vicinity of Bushmills? Might it relate to the Logan family or is more likely to relate to lag?

  • Ulster McNulty

    Nevin

    “Can you shed any light on the placename Logenadoid”

    Could it be a composite like LondonDerry? i.e it was something/else/adoid and it got loganised. Is that the same Logans who own the big shop in the way to Port na Binne Uaine?

  • Paddy Matthews

    Attested sounds impressive but IMO that Irish or Scottish Gaelic singular form looks fairly shaky. It would appear to be relatively recent and may have been recorded/transcribed by an ‘outsider’.

    It may be that English speakers are more inclined to use the plural mills to refer to a single building (see here for an example) where Irish speakers might use the singular muileann instead of the plural muilte for the same concept.

    There’s not going to be a huge amount of written evidence for Irish in north Antrim but I think the same source for Rathlin forms of mainland names is referred to in the Place Names of Northern Ireland volume on North East Antrim (see also the form Baile an Chaisteil given for Ballycastle at http://logainm.ie/Iomhanna/131a/pan135717_2.JPG).

    The Placenames Commission’s policy from previous correspondence with them is to use the Irish language form that the last native speakers in the area would have used if there’s evidence for it. Hence Muileann na Buaise.

    Can you shed any light on the placename Logenadoid [1650s survey]in the vicinity of Bushmills? Might it relate to the Logan family or is more likely to relate to lag?

    It looks more Irish than Scots. The first part might be lag (or a variant log) or a diminutive form logán). Not sure about the second part of the name – the an in the middle would be reduced to a’ in front of a consonant – it might represent something like

    Log an Adóid or
    Log an Fhadóid or
    Log an Nadóid or
    Logán an Dóid or
    Logán na dTóid

    depending on what the first word is, but there’s nothing obvious there as to what the second word would represent. Do you have any other similar forms for the name from other surveys or a current form of the name?

  • dunreavynomore

    Paddy Reilly

    “If Sth Armagh was full of woods then it is highly unlikely that a place in the middle of them would be called woods” but its not called woods, its called white or bright woods which makes perfecr sense. Incidently where Kiltybane is the are no ‘Wullies’ but a few ‘Willies’, that area does not have have the ‘Northern’ twang, sounds much more southern, has trouble with the ‘th’ sound (i got beaten at school over that)so I’m sticking with Bright woods. we have the Cúl element in places such as Coolderry so it isn’t a case of accent mixing up cúl and kill or kil.

  • Gael gan Náire

    Nevin,

    “Let’s adopt the Scottish approach to placenames ie recognise all of the linguistic influences.”

    This remark interests me. Does it imply a crtique of Place-Name study in Ireland.

    If so, could you point me in the direction of any sources in which it would be developed?

  • GGN

    If anyones interested here is a very good article on placenames from Dónall Mac Giolla Easpaig.

    http://www.logainm.ie/Placenames_Policy_and_its_Implementation.pdf