Celebrating Ulster's Townlands

 

 

Signpost: Townlands

  17. Ancient Buildings in Place Names
 

Promontory castle at Dunseverick Co. Antrim: EHS

Promontory castle at Dunseverick Co. Antrim: EHS

 

Fort at Rathtrillick Co. Armagh: EHS

Fort at Rathtrillick Co. Armagh: EHS

 

Logo: Townlands

Many townlands, and indeed larger areas, have been named from ancient dwellings within them, such as Irish dún meaning “hill fort”, ráth and lios meaning “ringfort”.

 Dunseverick, “Sobhairce’s fort”, on a promontory on the north coast was named after an early chieftain and long considered to be the northernmost point of Ireland.  Many of these sites were later used by the Normans to build castles such as Dundrum “fort of the ridge” Co. Down, or Dunluce which appears to mean “hillfort of the fort” on the north Antrim coast. Dunmisk “Mescán’s hill fort” in Tyrone seems in fact to have been a religious site, named after St Patrick’s brewer. In the case of Downpatrick the saint’s name is a late addition, and the hillfort may be the site next to rather than under the cathedral. 

  A well-preserved ringfort which gave its name to the townland is Rathtrillick “ringfort of the stone tomb” in the far South-West of Co. Armagh.  However the site of the “trillick” is now a mystery. Rathfriland “Fraoile’s fort” is now under the town in Co. Down.  

  In the north the most common term is lios, and in any towns as well as townlands containing Lis- as part of their name. In Fermanagh we have Lisbellaw, lios béal átha “fort at the approach to a ford”, and Lisnaskea “fort of the shield”, since the mound on which the Maguire chieftains were inaugurated was called Sciath “shield”. It is in the townland of Corrnashee “quarter of the fairy mound”. The first part of the name Lisburn seems to come from the fort called Lisnagarvey “fort of the gamblers” which named a townland included in the modern town, but burn is unexplained.  Lisburn suffered two major fires, but since it is beside the Lagan the word may be Scots burn “stream”. Promontory castle at Dunseverick Co. Antrim: EHS

Inauguration mound of Corrnashee at Lisnaskea Co. Fermanagh: EHS Ulster Placenames Society Northern Ireland UPNS

Map c. 1800 of Lissanoure House and crannog, Castletown, Loughguile Co. Antrim: PRONI D 1062/2/4 

Map c. 1800 of Lissanoure House and crannog, Castletown, Loughguile Co. Antrim: PRONI D 1062/2/4 

 

The forts of Lisleitrim “fort of the grey hill”, Co. Armagh, and the Macartney castle called Lissanoure “little dun fort” at Castletown by Loughguile “the narrow lake”, Co. Antrim, looked out on an artificial island or crannóg once used as a place of retreat. They were often twinned with a stronghold on the shore as at the castle of Monea (“champion’s plain”) in Fermanagh and were still important in 16th century.

 

Monea Castle and crannog Co. Fermanagh: W.A. Green UFTM

Monea Castle and crannog Co. Fermanagh: W.A. Green UFTM

 

  The crannog in Loughguile was shown on John Speed’s map of Ulster in AD 1610. The illustration of the map opposite shows other crannog sites coloured in.  

John Speed's map of Ulster 1610 (crannogs marked) 

John Speed's map of Ulster 1610 (crannogs marked)

 

 

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