What’s In A Name?

Interesting thread on Slugger O’Toole about place names, regerencing Mumbai/ Bombay and Derry/”Londonderry”. I am surprised that there was not more reference made to Irish place-names.

Even if I wanted, I cant contribute to Slugger. I do not know my password.But a few observations.

At the 2010 SDLP Conference, (then) Leader, Margaret Ritchie said in her speech “I am not afraid to say Northern Ireland”. i remember at the time that I wrote (probably on Slugger) that she would not be saying “Londonderry”.

Indeed at the time of the City of Culture nonsense, I predicted (again on Slugger) that the clumsy letsgetalongerist phrase “Derry-Londonderry” would become mainstream. As the SDLP Conference takes place in that city next month, it will be interesting to note any deviation from the traditional nationalist terminology.

Of course, nationalists take a lot of pride in “the county”. Take a walk in the Holy Land in Belfast…the student accomodation and you will see Tyrone, Armagh, Fermanagh etc flags in the windows of houses.

Of course, the “shiring” of Ireland was an English invention for administrative purposes and bears little relation to the mpre ancient dioceses or the shifting geography of “clan lands”. aS Dustin the Turkey (an authority on all things Irish) has observed “Leitrim is a mistake”.

Is it actually possible to drive from north Leitrim to south Leitrim without going thry another county.?

Irish independence necessitated the changing of place names. “Kings County” became County Offaly and “Queens County” became County Laois. Most of us know that PortLaoise was originally Maryborough and Daingean was Philipstown. I think that the change of name Parsonstown to Birr was a local decision pre-dating Independence.

The postcard was sent from Maryborough to Portrush in December 1915.

While Offaly and Laois were successfully gaelicised, few recall that County Donegal was officially “Tír Chonaill” for a few years after Independence.

But “English” place names did not fare as well as earlier (more established? ) Viking names. While we are all familiar with the “Irish names” for Wicklow, Wexford and Waterford, they have never really established themselves in everyday conversation. Indeed the same is true for our nations capital city. We all know the “Irish” but nobody uses it in everyday conversation.

Provision for local petition and referendum draws the sting from decisions. Or maybe its the officialese  of dual sign-posts. But Kells never really became “Ceanannus Mór” but Newtownbarry did become “Bunclody”….and while I suppose Mhuine Bheag, Rath Luairc and Mostrim are “official”, the reality is that Bagenalstown, Charleville and Edgeworthstown seem to be in common usage.

Somehow we seem to have found Irish solutions to Irish problems.


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