Celebrating Ulster's Townlands
Slieve Bearnagh, Mourne Mountains Co. Down: EHS
Barnes in the Sperrins, Co. Tyrone: EHS
Summit of Knockninny, Fermanagh: Eddie McGovern
Orangemen at Drumcree Church, 1998: Belfast Telegraph
River Bann (Upper) near Lough Neagh: Kieran Clendinning
Church at Loughinisland, Co. Down: Kieran Clendinning
Rathlin, off the coast of Co. Antrim: Kieran Clendinning
Omagh Co. Tyrone: W.A. Green, UFTM
|11. Landscape in Irish-language names|
the townland system was in place before the plantation, most townlands
have Gaelic names. So do large features of the landscape, all now
spelled as if they were English.
is in Irish Sliabh: the first
picture shows Slieve Bearnagh,
the “gapped mountain”, and the word bearna(s)
“gap” appears in other mountain passes like Barnes
in the Sperrins and Barnesmore
“big gap” in Donegal. A smaller hill is cnoc,
Englished as Knock as in
Knockninny, "Ninnidh’s hill”.
The river has a very old name Banna “goddess”. The streams which gave the name Clady and Claudy to villages share the name of the great river Clyde in Scotland, an old word meaning “one who washes”. The usual Irish word is Abhainn and this appears in several rivers called Owenreagh, Abhainn Riabhach “speckled stream”, usually swift-flowing rivers with a stony bed. A form of the word for stream, sruth appears in the river Strule near Omagh and Struel Wells in Co. Down.
The most frequent term is droim “back, ridge”: as in Dromore, counties Down and Tyrone “big ridge”. Drumcree is “ridge of the boundary”, where the boundary is probably the river Bann.
The element béal “mouth” often means “approach to a river crossing place”, as in Belfast “approach to the sandbank/river Farset”, and the townlands of Belcoo, “approach to the narrows” and Belleek “approach to the rocky ford”. Belturbet Co. Cavan is also “approach to the crossing place”. An element like Carry, Irish cora, indicates a weir which could be used as a ford, as in Ballycarry “townland of the weir” Co. Antrim, Doochary “black weir” Co. Donegal.
river valley is Glen, gleann
borrowed from Gaelic into Scots in Scotland, as was the word for a
broader valley srath, anglicised as Strath in Scottish place-names. In
Ulster, we have Strabane, the
“white river holme” and Stranorlar
“river holme of the valley floor”.
The Gaelic word loch, in
that spelling in Scotland and Lough in Ireland, is used for English
townland names, like Ballylough “townland of the lough” near
Banbridge in Co. Down, provide evidence for small loughs which have now
been drained. However some names in –lough contain an ending that
meant “place of”, such as Gregorlough
townland meaning “place of tree-stumps” in Co. Down.
Many townland names contain the word Annagh, Irish eanach “marsh”, like the village of Annahilt “marsh of the doe” in Co. Down. Sheskinshule in Tyrone, is seisceann siubhail “the moving bog”. The commonest word is móin which often appears as money.
means “ island”, as in Enniskillen
“Ceithlean’s island”, Fermanagh, the monastery of Inch, Co. Down. Another word appears in Loughinisland, Co. Down where there are medieval church ruins. Rathlin,
as in the island but also Raffrey
and Raghery townlands in Down and Armagh, seems to mean a “place by
earlier magh “plain” appears in Omagh
the “untouched plain”, while Armagh
is the “height of Macha” the “goddess of the plain”. Many names
begin Agh- from achadh “field”,
not now used in Irish but still the ordinary word in Scottish Gaelic. Gortin in Tyrone is the “little enclosed field”.