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03-09-2020, 18:37   #1
briany
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The history of townland names

How does a townland get its name?

Did Bishopland once belong to a bishop?

What about all these -towns? Who was the Gernon in Gernonstown?

Are there any townlands with names that allude to a historical occurrence?

How does a townland get its geographical shape? Looking at it on modern maps, many seem to have no rhyme or reason.

Do any textual sources exist to catalogue all of these townlands and give a brief summation of the meaning behind the name? I know it's over 60,000 places, but worth asking.
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03-09-2020, 18:41   #2
pinkypinky
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www.logainm.ie or townlands.ie are great places to start.

A lot of names written down for the first time when the Ordnance Survey was created (see also Translations by Brian Friel).
They had to decide how to write them in English as a lot were only Irish names at that point. Some are direct translations and some are phonetic.
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03-09-2020, 18:45   #3
is_that_so
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Here's a potted summary.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Townland

There's also a site townlands.ie that might be of use to you.
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04-09-2020, 03:26   #4
Peregrinus
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The townlands are the oldest land divisions we have - much older than parishes, baronies or counties. If the borders seem random, that's becuse they are based on patterns of settlement and land use that in most cases disappeared centuries ago.

As a rough rule of thumb, in areas where the land is richer or more productive, townlands are smaller in size. This suggests that the townland was probably related to the productive capacity of the land - a townland should support so many head of cattle, or yield so much crops, or support so many families. But the specific criteria used may have varied from place to place, depending on (among other things) the type of agriculture practised in the area.

The -town suffix in anglicised townland names is often a translation of baile in the original name; this is true also of the Bally- prefix. In modern Irish baile means a town, but Gaelic Ireland didn't have urban settlements so it can't have meant that then and, unfortunately, we have no real idea what it did mean, except that it probably indicated some kind of settlement.
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04-09-2020, 05:04   #5
magicbastarder
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Quote:
Originally Posted by briany View Post
Are there any townlands with names that allude to a historical occurrence?
An example I only recently learned about (despite having lived in one of the two following towns for several months about ten years ago) - Garristown in north county Dublin and Ardcath just north of it in Meath. Garristown is Baile Ghaire as gaeilge, and is reputed to be the site of Cath Ghabhra, the battle of Gabhra, the battle which saw the end of Na Fianna. Ardcath translates literally as 'the height of the battle' - it's on top of a hill, and is where Na Fianna assembled before the battle.

Last edited by magicbastarder; 04-09-2020 at 05:08.
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04-09-2020, 07:10   #6
Peregrinus
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Originally Posted by magicbastarder View Post
An example I only recently learned about (despite having lived in one of the two following towns for several months about ten years ago) - Garristown in north county Dublin and Ardcath just north of it in Meath. Garristown is Baile Ghaire as gaeilge, and is reputed to be the site of Cath Ghabhra, the battle of Gabhra, the battle which saw the end of Na Fianna . . .
In this instance, though, the place is not named after the battle. Rather, the battle is named after the place.
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04-09-2020, 10:23   #7
magicbastarder
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any idea where the name gabhra came from, or does it have a known meaning?

someone once suggested to me it might refer to 'noble'.
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04-09-2020, 10:41   #8
Peregrinus
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Well, gabhar means a goat, so the name of the townland could be connected to goats.

And there's a (probably related) Middle Irish word gabor meaning a horse or (possibly) any hooved animal.

So, something to do with livestock, anyway.
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09-09-2020, 14:05   #9
BryonManning
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In this instance, though, the place is not named after the battle. Rather, the battle is named after the place.
Absolutely true. Battle name in honor of the place.
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14-09-2020, 20:02   #10
BonnieSituation
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Article in the Examiner a few weeks back about the influence of Agriculture on townland names:


Quote:
Originally Posted by The Irish Examiner: Study of old placenames yields insight into agricultural practices
Did you know that Aughamore means 'The Big Field' or that 'Annamult' means the field of the castrated rams?

A new study shows that old Irish placenames, some of them dating from medieval times, can provide fascinating insights into the kind of agriculture practised in a particular area centuries ago.

"Our countryside is replete with specific names that recall physical, cultural, historical, or functional characteristics for a location," says Rob O’ Hara of Teagasc’s Agri-Food Business and Spatial Analysis Department, and one of two researchers whose study, 'Finding Farming in Our Placenames', is published in the summer edition of Teagasc’s journal, TResearch...
https://www.irishexaminer.com/farmin...-40031945.html
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14-09-2020, 20:28   #11
billo516
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Spanish point and Spanish Cove probably allude to Spanish armada days.

Quote:
Originally Posted by briany View Post
How does a townland get its name?

Did Bishopland once belong to a bishop?

What about all these -towns? Who was the Gernon in Gernonstown?

Are there any townlands with names that allude to a historical occurrence?

How does a townland get its geographical shape? Looking at it on modern maps, many seem to have no rhyme or reason.

Do any textual sources exist to catalogue all of these townlands and give a brief summation of the meaning behind the name? I know it's over 60,000 places, but worth asking.
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