Exploration of local placenames around Quin

The importance of placenames, particularly those local, have attracted a new appreciation lately with the collection of field names in Kerry, Meath and elsewhere. Manchán Mangans book ‘Thirty Two Words for Field’ has stirred an interest in the many ways that a field, or other common local features, can have. If we lose our sense of place through loss of local placenames and local geographic features, we surely lose that which makes where we live special or unique.  Much of our appreciation of this has already been lost as a result of the corruption of many names when translated into English. In many cases it was like pushing a square peg into a round hole, trying to make a name fit where it was never intended.

Tim Robinson, the writer and cartographer describes this process as follows: ‘Irish place names dry out when anglicised, like twigs snapped off from the tree’. This article is intended to start the ball rolling in our little bit of the country. John Skehan has already started it and his description of the original townland names and their meaning is to be found elsewhere on this website. I will therefore only touch on these briefly and concentrate on more local rather than administrative place names.

Townlands

Most place names have their origin in the Irish language, more so on the western side of the country. Some even pre-date what we know of as the Irish language. While about 70% are of (Celt & pre-Celt) Irish origin, the rest are mostly English, with Viking Norse and a little Norman-French thrown in.

In the surrounds of Quin, the townland names are almost entirely Gaelic, Snugborough being the exception. Most relate to the names of the families that once resided within them.

Baile Mhic Clúin(Clune), Baile Uí Marcacháin (Markahan), Baile Uí Ici (Hickey), Béal Átha Sheanáin (Hannon), Caithair Cheallaigh (Kelly) are a few.

An Chraobhach Mhór relates to the Creagh family who resided there, both names are derivatives of the Irish word for branch of a tree.Incidentally, Baile/Bally was only introduced as a place naming convention in the 12th century.

Very few describe the natural environment, as in some other parts of the country. Exceptions are Átha Solas which relates to a crossing point on the river and Coill Droma which describes the wood on the ridge.Others describe the built environment such as An Daingean Breac or Caisleán an Fhorghais.

It can be a very enjoyable exercise trying to unpick these names. John has already covered this well so this is just a flavour of what the townlands tell us. The place name research team Fiontar, working with DCU, have created a great website where the hard work has been done for us: Logainm.ie

 

Water networks

Just as important as the local placenames are the local topographical features and the names used to describe them. Here I will concentrate of the water features and network around Quin. Most of which tiein with the Rine River (Abha an Rinne).

This local river was named in some early maps as the Quin River. As we know, it has enough names already without adding to the pot. Fed by a number of streams originating in the hills around Maghera and also the Affick River, which in turn collects from Slieve Aughty, The Kiltannon (Abhainn Cill tSeanáin) begins its life near Tulla.From here it meanders on contentedly for 2km until it reached Newgrove/Ballyslattery Bridge directly west of Tulla when it becomes the Tomeen River (no translation available, is it derived from the nearby Tome, meaning bush). It is fed by a few more streams to supplement its thirst but 2.5km south it has another name change and is now the Boolyree River (Abhainn Bhuaile Fhraoigh) at Dangan Bridge. After another 2km of contentment with its new identity it meets up with the Hell River (Abhainn an Ifrinn) close to Magh Adhair. It is left alone for a time and passes through Quin as the Rine (Abhainn na Rinne). When it reaches The Ardsolas Bridge it must be weary of its name because it becomes The Ardsollus River (Abhainn Áth Solas). Life is short lived under this name and it soon reaches Blackweir Bridge where it reaches its senior years and becomes the Latoon Creek (Crompán Latúin). It is now tidal as a result of linking up and emptying itself into The Fergus River (An Forghas). This poor river must surely suffer from an identity crisis! In Quin we have the townlands of Rineen and Rine, in Tulla there is also a Rine townland and in Shannon where the Fergus dumps its load there is the townland of Rineanna (the original name of the airport). Have these names been inspired by, or in some way have linkages to our local river? 

In the Quin locale, the river Rine facilitates a network of named features which are worth looking at. The largest feed into the river in the area is the stream called Sruhaunaverry in the original Ordnance Survey maps. This runs from Deerpark Lough past the new cemetery in Drim east-west towards the River Rine through Ballykilty/Rine. This name has been disputed in the past by a local with a keen interest in such matters.

We must remember that many of the local feature names in the original OS maps were recorded as heard by the ears of English Sappers (British Army Engineer Corp). The expertise of John O’Donovan and Eugene O’Curry was not employed until 6 years after the national survey had begun.

Additionally, they were not in a position to vet everything that the soldier surveyors put down in supporting documentation.

We know that Sruh and Srutháin mean small stream. There is no Irish translation available for the entire name. Might this be tSrutháin Daoire/Sruhaunderry instead? Was there an oak wood along this route anywhere? As can be seen from the diagram below, this stream was also fed from another that originates at Ballymacloon Lough.Biorach is another Irish name for field, might it be Srutháin Bhiorach?

Ultimately, Sruhaunaverry is fed by water emanating in Loch Chathair Choinn near Múchan. Also, within this network is a small lake called Poulahoyle. While we know that Poll (Poul) means hole, there is no translation for the full name. Someone local may have more information on this.

The only other named stream feeding into the River Rine is Bunnasruh. There is no translation given for this but it is likely to be Bun na tSruth as in the stream that originates in the bottom field. This will hopefully be clarified sometime in the future through scholarly research but there is no harm in locals kick-starting the conversation. This stream originates from a network that sinks and rises throughout the Feighquin townland. Three different named caves should stimulate interest as to the correct names and their origin.

These are Poulnacranneela, Poulnagordan/gordon, Poulnagaunt/gaune. These are another example of badly laid down local names. The correct spelling and pronunciation is dubious and so prevents official translation, but let’s explore anyway.

We know from the early maps that this particular water network supported a number of eel holes and salmon holes. From research conducted into the diet of the monks in Clare Abbey, we know that eels were an important source of nutrition. Might this be the case here in Quin? If so, would it influence the names attached to the holes from where the monks or locals dined? Salmon certainly would have been very important alongside trout. This information may be totally irrelevant but there is no harm to give some context before we start.

Poulnacranneela is the easiest of the three to start with. Might this be Poll na Crann Úlla (the hole below the apple/crab apple tree)? The Irish word for eel is eascann. Is this name a corruption created by merging the Irish with the English to describe the eel hole beside the tree?

Poulnagordon also defies us. No official translation is available. Other local features such as Cahill’s well and Lawlor’s Cave attach the feature to the owner of the land.

Might this be the case here? Is it possible that it refers to the type of field (Poll na Gáirdín) it was situated in? The nearby Ordan Bridge defies the tracing of its origin, might these be related?

Poulnagaun(t) is the most difficult of the three local caves to interrogate. The exact English spelling is difficult to interpret from the first edition 6inch map.

See map tract to the right. Might the ‘gaunt/gaunle’ be a corruption of Gabhal the meaning of which is ‘crotch’. There is a Hiberno-English word ‘gowl’ which is a hole in the ground or pavement.

These 3 caves are linked in an underground network crossing Feighquin/Rine that are known to house many bats.

Poulnamuck which is close to Dangan Castle, although not officially translated for us, must have been the residence of wild pig or boar at some point. We will presume this to be Poll na Muc. It has spawned a lovely folklore tale that is told by a local child in the 1930’s collection.

Loughaun (Locháin) is a small lake in Madara from which a small stream flows in a southerly direction while making its way to the Rine River. This stream is not shown on any map and as far as I can make out, remains nameless. Perhaps one of the property owners that this srútháin passes through has a name that we are not aware of.

Poulbeagh (Poll Beag) in Ballymarkahan is not a cave but a small pond which does not appear to be linked to any obvious water network.

Ballymacloon Lough (Loch Baile Mhic Clúin?), Deerpark Lough and Poulahoyle Lough in Ballymarkahan are on the same water network linking into Caherkine Lough (Loch Chathair Choinn). The nearby Snugborough Lough appears to sit alone without any linkage. The two Ballymarkahan features are not translated for us and the origin of their names is not obvious.

Before leaving the topic of water features, we will touch on two particular wells. These are Cahill’s Well and Toberkeeghaun. Mike Houlihan has covered the topic of wells throughout Clare on this website and in his book ‘The Holy Wells of Clare’. Most are already translated for us and background examined elsewhere.

Cahill’s Well is very close to Quin Friary and within touching distance of the new footbridge. It appeared on the first edition OS maps but has not appeared since. Remnants of what appears to be its location can still be seen on the ground. Was this named after the person on whose land it is situated. Do we know of previous owners in the early 1800’s that might have inspired this name?

Toberkeeghaun is to be found in Kilnacrandy (Coill na Crannaí) which is the next townland to Knappogue (Cnapóg). It is adjacent to Knocknakilla (Cnoc na Coilla?) children’s cemetery and within spitting distance of Toerandillure (Tobar an Duilliúr – the Leafy Well). No translation is available for Toberkeeghaun and so available for others to unpick!

Locales

Deerpark Lough is so named because of the locale in which it is situated. But what of the origin of this? Deerpark sits at the southern end of Ballykilty below another locale named as Parkatruhaun which sits below another named Park Owen. The last of these crosses the townlands of Rine and Feighquin and roughly equates to the field where Rine Rovers soccer club once called their home ground. Is this the same Owen that gives his name to Craggaun Owen (Creagán Eoghain), which is not a million miles away as the crow flies! It should be easy to translate this locale either way as Páirc Eoghain.

Incidentally, an ancient tribe called Uaithni (Ptolemy named them Auteini on his Map of Hibernia nearly 2 thousand years ago) existed somewhere between Galway, Clare, Limerick and Tipperary. Their name survives in the barony of Owney &Arra in Tipperary and Owneybeg in Limerick.

Might our Owen discussed above really be Owney and derive from this tribe?

Deerpark as a placename is almost meaningless as it is found scattered every place the gentry built their manors. In the same way that we might like to ‘show-off’ our new deck or barbeque kitchen, the gentry liked to display their very own deerpark!

The 3 ‘Park’ locales

Parkatruhaun also gives it name to a substantial fort (CL042-030) and is the area through which Sruhaunaverry flows.Páirc an tSrútháin would be a reasonable stab at this area name. Pairc is one of the many names that Manchán Magan mentions to describe a field in his book ‘Thirty two Words for Field’. The three park names mentioned here are not administrative boundaries and each covers too large an area to relate to a particular field.

While on the topic of parks, the area which crosses through Ayleacotty (Aill an Choite) and Ballykilty (Baile Uí Chaoilte) known as Race Park deserves an article to itself.

It appears to have been part of the great plans of Sir Edward O’Brien to replicate the racing centre of Newmarket in England in proximity of his Dromoland residence.

The belvedere construction sitting at the top of the hill and looking down on the M18 motorway was also part of this plan. This was intended to provide a comfortable viewing point from which to follow the races below.

It is too far from the above Race Park but may have been part of another grand plan.

The Race Park of Ayleacotty

Some Archaeological Features

Ballylassa Fort (CL042-025) sits at the bottom of Ballykilty. Given its proximity to Áth Solas (the ford of the light) and if this translates as Baile Lasa (as in ‘light up’), could there be a link between these two place names?

Keevagh Fort (CL034-127) might translate as Dún an Chéibh?

Knopoge Cromlech (CL042-092). Both elements of this name require attention. The original English spelling for the townland and demesne is Knopoge but is more commonly today spelt Knappogue. The finally accepted spelling of names that were recorded in OS maps always attract debate, even to this day (eg Lehinch/Lahinch). Cromlech is a welsh description for an archaeological feature we call Dolmen. It seems to have been a popular garden feature in the estates of the big houses or maybe the gentry just happened to build their manors close by the nearest Cromlech!

Knopoge Cromlech

This wedge tomb feature is variously described so its translation will probably have to await professional adjudication! This applies to similar features in Baile Uí Marcacháin, Creagán Eoghain, Baile Uí Ici, Tamhnach.

Click here – for further information on our heritage sites.

Field features

Within the Quin area we come across the following Irish descriptions for various type of fields: Gort/Gorteen, Páirc, Cluain, Maigh/Magh. In every part of rural Ireland there is locally known names applied to their local fields. Here is listed those names used around Quin and collected mostly from the 1930 Schools Folklore Collection https://www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/5177640/5175535/5194543.

Cúil Riasc is a local field mentioned somewhere near Dangan. Cúil means corner or nook. From the townland name Moyriesk (Maigh Réisc) can we reasonably deduce Cúil Riasc to mean the ‘marshy corner’ ?

Other local field names extracted are The Cragg, The Kyles (Kyle/Cill/Church), The Jennett’s Cragg, The Bog, John Clune’s, Jimmy Hassett’s and White Island. Hill names are Hassett’s and Dan Corbett’s. Incidentally, while we are referring to this family name, south of the townland of Ballagh (Bealach meaning way) where we know an early branch of the family lived (Ballagh House – see ‘In Pursuit of Kate Corbett’ by Ann Loughnane) is a small lake called on OS maps ‘Corbit’s Lough’. If anyone can add to our limited knowledge of these place names please add your comments to the website.

Village Name & Meaning

Cuinche to the medieval English ear sounded, if we are to go by the way they spelt it, variously like Quint, Quinchy, Quin. There is no debate around the correct spelling for the original Irish name. There is however, some confusion regarding the meaning of the name Cuinche. The highly respected antiquarian James Frost was the first to speculate in 1893 that Cuinche (he spelt it Cainche) was derived from the Irish for arbutus tree (otherwise known as the strawberry tree).PW Joyce, another highly respected antiquarian quoted Frost’s speculation. In fact, the Irish translation for arbutus is ‘Caithne’. What started as an intelligent guess seems to have since become accepted wisdom! Defying this is a wood in Maghera called Derrynacahney, Doire na Caithne, see appendix at the bottom of this post.

The authoritivePlace NamesBranch/An Coimisiún Logainmeacha(see Fiontarwebsite Logainm.ie) do not accept that Cuinche has anything to do with the arbutus tree and likewise in the case of Feighquin and Cappoquin. Academic research carried out since James Frost’s publication has led to this position by Fiontar, but they have not offered an alternative. The arbutus tree originates in the Iberian Peninsula and relies on reasonably warm conditions. Micheline Sheehy Skeffington tells us in her study (Is the Strawberry Tree, Arbutus unedo Ericaceae, native to Ireland, or was it brought by the first copper miners?):

“The Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo L.) is often referred to as one of Ireland’s ‘Lusitanian’ species to describe its disjunct distribution, since it is absent from Britain and is mainly found around the Mediterranean Sea and on the Iberian Peninsula. In Ireland, it is regarded as native in the south-west and in Co. Sligo. However, a recent genetic study suggests that it could have been introduced to Ireland directly from northern Spain”

Others have undertaken similar studies and support similar conclusions regarding the growth and spread of this tree in Ireland. Much trade took place between Spain and the southwest of Ireland (so much so that Spanish was the second language in many west Cork and Kerry coastal towns).

It is assumed that this is how it made its way and found suitable conditions arising from the gulf-stream influence of temperatures in that part of Ireland. It is unlikely to have found its way this far north and inland.

Unfortunately, Fiontar do not offer an alternative translation for the name Cuinche! It is now open to the new generation of language researchers to explore this on our behalf. There may have been a reluctance on the part of Joyce, Westropp, McNamara and even O’Donovan or Curry to contradict their fellow antiquarian but this has led to a reverential reliance on the work of a single individual, who did his without the benefit of peer support and historic research.

Dr Pádraig Ó Cearbhaill  (An Coimisiún Logainmeacha) has warned that many of his placename explanations are “at best dubious and often incorrect”. Another example from our own district is Caherkine townland (named after the fort within its territory) which Frost explains as ‘sunny fort’. We now understand this to be Cathair Choinn (Fort of Con).

For more information on the research into this, please see the report extracts at the bottom of this post.

Wells/Holy Wells

The intention of this article is to give a flavour of local place names. It is not a complete audit. We have only looked within a radius of approximately 2km of Quin, which means it does not cover the entire Quin parish (let alone the Diocesan parish). Archaeological features, cillíns and wells have been researched and much work done by the likes of Mike Houlihan and information on these can be found elsewhere on this website. For information on wells see the following website: https://heritage.clareheritage.org/category/places/holy-wells.

Time to wrap-up!

Without an interest in knowing and preserving local descriptions and names, we are in danger of introducing Anglo-American appendages to our built environment such as vale, dale, brook etc. These, unfortunately, have become all too popular in many parts of the country. Hopefully some of the local names referred to above will help re-focus attention when looking for inspiration for developments or house names in the future.

Much of the above post in one way or another centred on our local river. It has influenced the location and even names of many of the features. The River Rine tells a great story but do we know its full story yet? Is there more that can be done to respect it and exploit its amenity value? Its access and even visibility might be improved in the future through better management of the trees/bushes and provision of boardwalk pedestrian ways.

This post has been put together in the hope of stimulating interest and further research into our local names. Hopefully it will encourage discussion and feedback through the Quin Heritage website.

Appendix to Name of Village. From The Irish Forestry website:

Michael Maguire, 05/02/2024

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