Title: Ulster Place-Name Society

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Ulster Place-Name Society Newsletter October 2016

UPNS Autumn Lecture: Professor Thomas Clancy of Glasgow University will talk on  ‘The advent of Gaelic in early Scotland: what can place-names tell us?’ on Thursday 17th November 2016 at 8pm at Queen’s University Belfast (Peter Froggatt Centre 03/017). This event will be preceded by the Society AGM at 7pm.


Members are encouraged to renew their membership if they have not already done so; the fee is £10/€14 and £15/€20 for institutions.  If you have received this newsletter by post we do not have an e-mail address for you. Please send an e-mail to townlands.upns@gmail.com and we will amend our records.


The 13th volume of Ainm: A Journal of Name Studies is at press. Contents include: Pat McKay’s Scots Elements in Minor Ulster Place-Names; an examination of the element t(e)áis in minor place-names of Connacht by Fiachra Mac Gabhann; and the second part of Conchubhar Ó Crualaoich’s Irish Surnames in Wexford 1530-1660.

Each  member of the UPNS will receive a free copy and copies will retail at £10/€14 for individuals and £15/€20 for institutions.

Devenish Heritage Association has recently published Devenish Townlands: Hectares of History and Heritage, which is available from local bookshops. It covers the 126 townlands of Devenish Parish, Irvinestown and contains historical information, geographical features, photographs, memories, traditions, folklore, songs and poetry.

Northern Ireland Place-Name Project: Completion of linked databases 19 September 2016

We are grateful to Foras na Gaeilge which has funded the creation of a two-way electronic link-up with the Placenames Database of Ireland (www.logainm.ie) and this project is now complete. Logainm.ie contains data for the whole of the island and a total of 11,066 links has now been created between the two databases. The benefits of this link-up include the ability to access names in Northern Ireland via the all-island portal as well as through placenamesni.org (which will facilitate access internationally to our data); and the sharing of archive material to the benefit of both databases. We would like to thank our colleagues in An Brainse Logainmneacha for their constant help and support. We are extremely grateful to Aengus Finnegan who developed the project, trained the assistant editors, and who checked or created most of the 10,000 links created in 2014/15. Thanks also to  Úna Bhreathnach, Brian Ó Raghallaigh, and Máiréad Nic Lochlainn (Fiontar, Dublin City University), and to Jonathan Sloan (Land and Property Services, Department of Finance), without whose efforts this collaboration would not have been possible.

More Place-names online

A very interesting source of townland maps is www.townlands.ie, produced by the Open Street Map Community of Ireland, which publishes out of copyright maps online. See also the Facebook site Logainmneacha na hÉireann - Irish Place-names.


Kay Muhr spoke at the launch of Devenish Townlands on the 24th of June. Gordon McCoy has produced a brochure The Languages on Ulster which has a section on the similarities of  Scottish and Irish place-names. He gave talks on the place-names of Portstewart on 6th September and on the place-names of the Downpatrick area on the 22nd of October. On 16th September Pat McKay gave a bilingual talk to the Cairde Uí Néill group in Coalisland Co. Tyrone on ‘Place-Names of Coalisland, Clonoe and District’.

Forthcoming Events

5th November 2016: Scottish Place-Name Society Bill Nicolaisen memorial conference at Edinburgh (www.spns.org.uk). An onomastic talk at the DIAS tionól, November18th: Colmán Etchingham: ‘Gaelic personal names in Iceland’s Landnámabók, and the historical antecedent of Kjarvalr Írakonungr’ (see www.dias.ie). March 24–27 2017: SNSBI spring conference: Milton Hill House Hotel, Steventon (see www. snsbi.org.uk). First conference on Dindṡenchas Érenn to be held at the School of Celtic Studies, DIAS, Burlington Rd, Dublin on Friday 24 and Saturday 25 March 2017 (www.dias.ie).

Annual Deirdre Flanagan Talk: Úna Lawlor

Úna gave a presentation on some of the townland names in Lower Duleek, County Meath and an account of how she identified their original meanings. Concentrating on the names for high places and wet places, she collected historic references from published texts, such as annals, genealogies, church and official state documents, many of which were not available in John O’Donovan’s time. Local pronunciation was important in interpreting Cullen as cuilleann ‘a steep slope’ rather than cuileann ‘a place abounding in holly’, as both of these places are pronounced differently in the locality. Knockcommon, first attested in the the 19th century, was identified as having elements cnoc + cam + abhainn from earlier forms such as Cnokcamcan (1306) (with possible scribal error of /c/ for /a/ in the final syllable) and Knockamawen (1540); Úna drew upon other examples of the use of cam in river names in Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany and Austria. As regards the initial element ‘anna’ with qualifiers in place-names, she distinguished between examples of áth ‘a ford’ accompanied by na (the feminine singular article) and eanach ‘a marsh’, a neuter noun, which eclipses a following noun. Thus Annagor is Eanach gCorr ‘the marsh of the herons’ (carrying the same meaning as Easca na gCorr, Reachlainn (Rathlin Island) Úna finished by considering how Thurstayniston (a medieval given or habitation name Thurstayn +  possessive is + ton) became Ballytraton, involving the translation of ton to baile, together with the process of metathesis, loss of ‘s’, and unaccenting of the final syllable which transformed Thurstayn  Trustayn  Trutayn  Trutan. 

Registered with The Charity Commission of Northern Ireland: NIC103003

Gordon McCoy, Mícheál Ó Mainnín, Kay Muhr, Pat McKay, UPNS c/o Irish and Celtic Studies, School of Arts, English & Languages, QUB BT7 1NN townlands.upns@gmail.com

www.ulsterplacenames.org            www.placenamesni.org               www.logainm.ie