Celebrating Ulster's Townlands

 

 

Signpost: Townlands

  19. Legends of the Landscape

Kinbane and Carrickmannan reef, Co. Antrim: EHS

 

Logo: Townlands

In legend many Irish lakes were formed when a magic well overflowed. Lough Neagh “Eochaidh’s lake” commemorates a king whose realm was drowned by such a well. This story was used in English to explain Lough Mourne in Co. Antrim. A pedlar prophesied a “Lough ere morn” and not till they saw “the eels wriggling by their hearthstones” did people believe him and flee.
 

The Isle of Man is often covered by mists said to be controlled by the Irish sea-god, Manannán Mac Lir. Manannán, also appears in Irish place-names like Lough Mannan and the dangerous hidden rock belonging to him called Carrickmannan, where he drowned sailors off Kinbane “white headland” on the north Antrim coast.

 

The Hound's Leap at Limavady Co. Derry: W.A. Green, UFTM

The Hound's Leap at Limavady Co. Derry: W.A. Green, UFTM

 

  Several names commemorate impressive jumps. The best known is no doubt Limavady, the “dog’s leap”, where a hound belonging to an O’Kane chieftain  jumped a chasm of the river Roe to warn his master of danger. The Horse Loup (the Scots form used by local people) is a ravine in Co. Antrim in the townland of Lemnagh which derives from léim an eich “leap of the horse”. Maggie’s Leap at edge of the Mournes commemorates the story that a girl called Maggie fled that way from some soldiers, safely carrying her basket of eggs. The Horse Loup in Co.Antrim is in the townland of Lemnagh meaning “horse leap”.

Maggie's Leap Co. Down: W.A Green UFTM

Maggie's Leap Co. Down: W.A Green UFTM

 

 

Many boulders are explained as left by giants who threw them at each other from hill to hill. The Giant’s Causeway gets its name from a giants’ attempt to build a road to Scotland.

The Giant's Causeway, Co. Antrim: National Trust (the first bay is Portavoe, "harbour of the cow") 

The Giant's Causeway, Co. Antrim: National Trust (the first bay is Portavoe, "harbour of the cow") 

 

 

Stones put up by humans sometimes had traditions of fertility rites, like the Holestone at Doagh Co. Antrim, where couples linked hands through the hole. A stone tomb in Co. Sligo was  known as the “kissing stone”.

 

Standing stone called the Holestone in townland of the same name, Co. Antrim: EHS

Standing stone called the Holestone in townland of the same name, Co. Antrim: EHS

 

White Wife at Carnalridge townland, NE Co. Derry: EHS Ireland        

White Wife at Carnalridge townland, NE Co. Derry: EHS Ireland        

  Stones that could be seen from a distance, might be imagined to be people or animals. Thus there is Conlig “hound stone” in Co. Down or Damphcloy “ox-stone” in Tyrone, and probably the same name is translated as the Daff stone near Garvagh, Co Derry. 
  A recurring term for a standing stone is Boghil, for buachaill bréige “false lad” or Farbrague “false man”, since from a distance the stones can look like people. A standing stone called the “White Wife”at Carnalridge in Co. Derry is still painted white, and the “Grey Wife”of Crotlieve in the Mournes was whitewashed and dressed up as a woman for Easter. Greengraves townland in Down takes its name from a tomb called the Kempe stones, an old English word meaning “warrior”. 

 

Damphcloy megalith near Gortin, Co. Tyrone: EHS

  Goddesses also appear in place-names, often as hags. The Cailleach Bhéara or “hag of Beare” had the cairn on Slieve Gullion as her house. A witch in north Antrim fled along Coskemnacally “the hag’s step”, and breathed her last at Oghbristacree “hill-breast of the heart-break”. The goddess Áine “brightness”, was known all over Ireland, as at Knockainy “Aine’s Hill” in Co. Tipperary. The tall tomb of Legananny Co. Down, is Liagán Áine “Áine’s little standing stone”. Knockmany in Tyrone was called Cnoc mBáine “Báine’s Hill” after the wife of an ancient chieftain, though the tomb with decorated stones on its summit is now called Ania’s Cove.

 

Knockmany decorated tomb near Clogher Co. Tyrone: Welch UM

Knockmany decorated tomb near Clogher Co. Tyrone: Welch UM

 

 

Legananny tomb Co. Down: Kieran Clendinning 

Kempe Stones, Greengraves townland Co. Down: EHS 

Kempe Stones, Greengraves townland Co. Down: EHS 

 

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