Celebrating Ulster's Townlands

 

 

Signpost: Townlands

  2. Identity

Gravestone at Lislea Chapel, S. Co. Armagh: Crónan Ó Doibhlin. Art Bennett, Gaelic scribe and stonemason of  Ballykeel townland, for his father. 

Gravestone at Lislea Chapel, S. Co. Armagh: Crónan Ó Doibhlin. Art Bennett, Gaelic scribe and stonemason of  Ballykeel townland, for his father. 

 

Obelisk in Arrowtown graveyard, South Island, New Zealand : Kay Muhr. John McKibbin native of Marshallstown, Downpatrick, Co. Down Ireland 1894  

 

Court cairn at Ballymacdermot, Co. Armagh: Kieran Clendinning

Court cairn at Ballymacdermot, Co. Armagh: Kieran Clendinning

 

The island of Inishamer in the river Erne, Fermanagh / Donegal: Kieran Clendinning

The island of Inishamer in the river Erne, Fermanagh / Donegal: Kieran Clendinning

 

Logo: Townlands

In the16th century it is clear that townland addresses were used in Ireland. In most cases people granted lands at the Plantation kept the original names. Some townlands were given new English names or translations. However, the Scots settlers were well used to Gaelic, Welsh and Scots place-names at home, where farm names were also used as an honorary title.  

 

By the 19th century townland names were inscribed on graves of Ulster people in their own churchyards and in places far away, such as that remembering the McKibbins of Marshallstown in the gold-mines of Arrowtown in New Zealand. A poem by Bridie McGurn gives the local addresses of  Fermanagh migrants to New York:  

 

From Crieve Hill came the Meehans, Frank McCaffrey of Creagh

The Breens from Braes of Brockagh, the McConnells Lisnaskea,

The Monaghans of Cloghtogle, the Doyles of Ballyreagh,

The McGurns came from Derrin, Lynch and Rooney from Roslea.

("Fermanagh's Annual Ball" from A Taste of Tempo, published by Tempo Historical Society)   

 

 

Townland names have been used by Ulster folk poets to remind people of home:

I would rather be back in the streams of Remackin

or knee-deep in Bernish in bracken and fern,

or tramping the heather in warm August weather,

the grouse-haunted heather on high Fallaghearn..

(W.F. Marshall, published Belfast Telegraph c. 1961)   

 

 

I slipped my oars near Portglenone one evening falling fine

And to Bracknamuckley Forest then rowed to pass the time

Wild trout in rings were rising where a line curled with a fly

Beyond the Clady's peaty burn I rowed where salmon lie.

(W. J. McCann, in “Quiet places of the lower Bann valley”)  

 

 

The sound of each name conjures up an image, whether part of the original meaning or not. Seamus Heaney is also part of this tradition:   

I met a girl from Derrygarve
And the name, a lost potent musk, 

Recalled the river's long swerve,

A kingfisher's blue bolt at dusk

(A New Song, in Wintering Out 1972, p.23)  

Oak tree by the Gweebarra, Co. Donegal: KM

Kingfisher: MH, EHS.UPNS UPNSP

 

 

So I say to myself Gweebarra

and its music hits off the place

like water hitting off granite.

I see the glittering sound.

(The Singer's House, in Field Work, 1979, p.27)

 Cottage above the Gweebarra estuary: KM

Cottage above the Gweebarra estuary: KM

 

Looking north up the Gweebarra valley: KM

Looking north up the Gweebarra valley: KM

 

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