I first visited here last year and am returning again this year-need I say more!! Galway is an exceptionally enjoyable and free spirited sort of place and a meeting point for young travellers. It has great 'crack' with plenty of music and drink. The best time to go is during July when the Arts festival is taking place. Your first stop should be the tourist information centre which is on your left as you turn out of the bus station. Like all other T. I. centres in the Republic of Ireland it provides comprehensive information of things to see and do in the surrounding area, as well as being a good souvenir shop. Outside of Galway, the scenary is fantastic. It is very rugged and rocky. Beyond is Connemara, a farming region where Irish Gaelic is still spoken. There are boat trips to the Aran islands most days if not daily. Like most other main towns and cities in Ireland it is experiencing the effects of economic growth and I sincerely hope that the huge amount of development taking place to increase the amount of shops and restaurants in the city does not take away the character of the place.
WHAT’S IN A NAME? Introduction: Most of us walk or drive through everyday life without paying any particular attention to where we are. Naturally, we know we are in our own area or in a different area but we pay little or no attention to what the origins of these places are. Most of us will say that, since we are not historians, it is only natural that we would not be expected to know the historical origins of our cities, towns and villages. We pass through places with evocative and descriptive names like Rathcogue, Dunquin, Killeenadeema, Tullamore, Ballybrittas and Derryvohy (and thousands like them) without having the slightest idea what the names refer to and how historical in context the names actually are. They can often be identified as descriptive of a place or a way of life which has now been superceded by ‘progress’ by hundreds (if not thousands) of years simply by referring to the parts which make up the names. Even with names that are not based in ‘Irish’ we can find references to the origins of the settlements that gave rise to the names. What’s In A Name? There are thirty-two counties in Ireland. Each county is broken down into Baronies and Parishes. These are divided into Townlands. The Townland is ‘the smallest official land-unit in the country’ (Flanagan & Flanagan, P.1). However, if we only had names for our townships and not their subdivisions, we would have difficulty in getting anywhere, in sending Post, in giving directions etc. Instead, Townlands are subdivided into minor names (which can be seen on the largest-scale of the Ordnance Survey maps). Most Townlands contain an average of up to 30 of these minor names and larger towns and cities also see their Townlands subdivided into estates. Assuming there are as much as 30 per Townland, the number of these minor names could run to 2 million in Ireland. The vast majority of place-names have locally-s
pecific elements in them, particularly in older areas. Even new suburbs of cities (although not necessarily housing or industrial estates, or street names) have their names based in some older established place-name. These elements are usually very descriptive. Places which begin with ‘Rath’, ‘Dun’ ‘Lios’ or ‘Liss’ are usually named after the site of an old Celtic fort or similar earthworks; place-names beginning with ‘Bally’ usually signifies ‘homestead’ (which, of course, Celtic forts actually were in most cases); places with ‘Bun’ in their names usually signify ‘Mouth’ (meaning ‘mouth of a river’); ‘Boher’ is a reference to ‘road’ and so on. The list is as long as the list of Ireland’s different town, village and townland names. Of course, there is no need to stop at Ireland’s town names since the UK, and particularly Scotland and Wales, have thousands more examples of the same way of inventing names. These names can give the amateur historian a quick-start into researching the basis for a town’s existence in the first place and can often lead to the ‘discovery’ of some historical event or person associated strongly with their area. Naming Names: Most Dubliners will have some idea where the City’s name comes from. ‘Baile Atha Cliath’ is the Irish name for the city and it approximates to the Township or Homestead at the ‘Ford of the Hurdles’ (Ordnance Survey, p.64). This relates to the original crossing-point (before the advent of bridges) of the river Liffey, known as a Ford. The name ‘Dublin’, as many of us know, comes from the Irish ‘Dubh Linn’ (meaning ‘Black Pool’) which refers to a very dark coloured lake or pool around the site of Dublin Castle. This shows us how the modern City has it’s roots very firmly
in environmental features - whether a river-crossing or a small pool. Many other towns get their names in much the same way. It is as if people, many hundreds and even thousands of years ago, would give directions using these natural or man-made landmarks much as modern man will often give directions in the same way. When arranging to meet a friend, for example, we might agree on a meeting under the clock which was fixed to the outside wall of Clery’s department store on O’Connell Street, or at "Clery’s Clock". Alternatively, when giving instructions to a delivery person we might use local Public Houses as landmarks as in, for example, "Turn right at the ‘Yellow House’, up past ‘Buglers’ to the roundabout" and so on. Certain of these landmarks live on in the minds and memories of people long after they are physically gone. Features like the huge outdoor Clock at Northside Shopping Centre in Coolock are long gone and yet people will still arrange to meet ‘under the Clock at Northside’. This may be part of the reason why towns and, especially, small villages still use the names relating to certain ancient features which no longer exist. It is almost like a collective local memory. Where Did You Get Yours? Presumably the citizens of many other large towns or cities (particularly those with a keen interest in their Heritage or who live in a town/city which promotes it’s own heritage) will have a basic understanding of the origin of the name of their area. Some of them, however, may not want to know where their town’s name originated since they are occasionally seen as just a little less ‘complimentary’ than other names. One example is a town in County Mayo called Swinford. Swinford’s Irish name is ‘Baile Atha na Muice’. This lovely little town bears it’s name (shortened from Swineford) as a result of it’s histo
ry as a market-place. The translation from Irish approximates to Townland (‘Baile’) of the Ford (‘Atha’) of the swine (‘na Muice’). ‘Townland of the Ford of the Swine’ is a bit of a mouthful so it was eventually shortened through usage to ‘Ford of the Swine’, or Swineford (later Swinford). Interestingly, another town which had almost the same Irish name (Beal Atha Na Muc) maintained it’s ‘Irishness’ and became Ballinamuck. Other examples of names which don’t necessarily cast a complimentary image of a town are Aderavoher (Place between two roads), Annalore (Ford of the Leper), Ballinamara (homestead of the dead), Creenagh (Things which are dry and rotten with age), Whiddy Island (Bad weather Island) and Knockcroghery (Hill of the Hangman). There are many more examples like these. Alternatively, for a more picturesque and complimentary name, we need look no further than places like Tullyallen (Lovely Hill), Teernacreeve (district of the sacred trees), Shercock (Sweetheart), Garrynafela (Garden of the hospitality), Derrynablaha (Oak wood of the flowers) and Fofannybane (Land of white thistle). Occasionally, when looking at town-names and their origins, we are left to wonder what the original settlers or visitors were thinking (or even drinking) when they came up with some of the names. For example: Tay Lough (Lake of tea), Glenavy (Church of the dwarf), Tonragee (Ass - backside - to the wind), Mace (Buttocks), and Ballyhack (Homestead of excrement). Looking at these last few names (which are just examples of what there is to find) we must assume that tourism was not one of the main sources of Ireland’s income, since these names (or, rather, what they mean) would be unlikely to be allowed by the authorities in modern times because of the connotations involved. Conclusion: Most of us are at least a little aware of the origin of the
area in which we live. We might know some of the specific details of the history, unless we are particularly interested. However, not many people are aware of the origin of the name of the area they live in. While they may be able to tell us the name in Gaelic and even it’s translation it is unlikely that too many people know just why their town, village, or city was named as it was. Of course, the larger and more tourist- or heritage- orientated centres will make their origins very well known. This is the reason most of us know of the black pool which gave Dublin it’s name and so on. The real interest in names comes when there are places with, as has been discussed above, very odd or very descriptive names. In these cases the name itself should be a starting point for researching the entire history of a locality, if only to find out just why the name was given.