The Townlands/Na Bailte Fearainn

Posted by: Client
Category: Stair/History

Eagarthóir/Editor:  Seán Ó Cnáimhsí, An Príomh Shráid, An Clochán Liath, Condae Dhun na nGall.

19 March 2021

The townlands divisions of Ireland are very old and pre date the coming of the English/Normans to Ireland in 1167 – 1172. They do not exist in England and are to be found only in Ireland and the western part of Scotland.

The Boundary Survey (Ireland) Act of 1825 carried out slight alterations to the boundaries of townland. In Arranmore there were probably a few additions. Sheep Park up at Lough Cowaney was one. In addition, there may have been a mountain townland that was done away with or subsumed into the others. If you look at the map you can see that the townlands in Arranmore look as though they have been stretched a bit. It would seem that bits of the mountain have been added on to them. This has had strange consequences in that what you would expect to be Upper Leabgarrow is part of Ballintra or sometimes referred to as Ballintra North. The mountain townlands only those who look at maps would use those terms.

There are local names that are not townlands such as Scraigathoke “the crag of the hawk”  and Pollawaddy “ the hole of the dog but probably more likely the hole of the otter or Madadh Uisc” shortened by dropping the Uisc.  in Leabgarrow and the Keeran/An Caorán or the boggy land in Fallagowan. The Caorán is the land opposite the holiday village as you go towards Bun An Fhid. (Bun is the bottom of a river or streamand Fhid is from Fead a stream or water)

When it comes to names that were in existence at the time of the early 17th Century surveys only two are recognisable. They are Mín Na gCloch Corr and that must be the “flat land of the erratic stones” and can only be Cloughcor. An erratic or a cloch corr is a stone that was deposited by melting glacial icebergs as it moved over the land to get to the sea. They were called ‘erratics’ because they were out of place. They could be one kind of stone such as granite in a place where the bedrock was of another stone not granite maybe quartize, imestone or sandstone. Cloughcor has many “erratics” although some of them were removed about 20 years ago to provide rock armour for Leabgarrow Strand to try and stop erosion there. The second name that can be recognised from the 17Century is RossIllion or Ros Na hUilleana meaning the “angled headland”.

  • Fallagowan/Fal A’Gabhann is the enclosure of the smithy.
  • Gortgar or Na Goirt Gearra is the ‘short fields”. There are no short fields that I can see in Gortgar. They may have existed before Rundale was abolished by John Stoupe Charley the landlord.
  • Leab (or Leadbh if you use the pre 1958 spelling- they dropped what were called the redundant consonants in words and in this case that was the d and the h) Garbh means “the rough strip”. Leabgarrow runs from near the Courthouse to Pollawaddy.
  • Leab Rannach means “the strip of Rannagh” and that is a reference to the nearby headland of Rannagh. John O Donovan the scholar in antiquities who advised the Ordnance Survery, or his staff who worked for the Ordnance Survey felt that this was a reference to “the fern strip” but that seems very unlikely. A Rannach is a piece of land jutting out into water. They are usually by the sea but you come across that name on rivers and lakes as well. Aphort School is in Leabrannagh and it was built in 1915. The older school is still standing and located about five hundred yards from it. The first school on the far side of the island was in Torries, it is thought. I do not know how the name Aphort School came about.
  • Torries in Irish Na Tuirithí is the plural of Tor meaning a high rock. The rocks are just off the shore and are very conspicuous. One the biggest one is called Tór Dubh. Oilean Thorai is from the same word. The corrects spelling of the townland according to the OS is Toories. The double oo was to give an u sound in English but that did not work.
  • Ballintra is Baile An tSratha meaning “the settlement of the holm” A holm is land created on the banks of a river as it was gorged out by glaciers dropping soil all the time.
  • Uillean or Illion means elbow or angle and is a reference to the shape of the headland.
  • Athphort means the “far port/harbour”. John O’ Donovan or his staff who worked for the Ordnance Survey felt that this was a reference to “the port at the ford” but that does not make sense as there is no river far less a ford. John O’Donovan was never in Arranmore although he was in Dungloe in 1835 and met two Arranmore men there who advised him, Phelimidh Boyle from Leabgarrow and Manus O’Donnell from Torries. If he met anyone else he did not say who they were.
  • Lighthouse Lot is just the land around the lighthouse. It was a fairly recent townland as the first lighthouse was not built until 1798.
  • Ploghogue or Plochóg is often translated as “ a cave.” Dinneens Dictionary gives a cave but it also gives “as sequestered glen” that would be a hidden or isolated glen or maybe hollow Upper Ploghogue is hidden from below. Dinneen also said that it was the name of a townland in Arranmore North. The source of this information in Dinneens was A Doherty who prepared a list of word associated with the Rosses and Gaoth Dobhair. Anthony Doherty was a teacher on Cruit Island. He was highly thought of as a great teacher. He got into a bit of bother and was jailed for making poteen. It was probably not the whole story as he probably would not pay the fine as a protest of some sort. It might have been at the time of the Gaoth Dobhair Evictions and there was a sort of civil disobedience campaign. Dinneens was published in 1927 and Anthony Doherty may have been dead at that time. A cave does not make sense for Ploghogue so maybe Anthony Doherty was nearer to it.

Townland or baile fearann is a misnomer or misleading as it does not refer to a town but to a settlement. Fearann is another name for a manor of land. Narin near Port Noo is a reference to a Manor as in An Fhearaimm that is then pronounced in English as Narin.

A town is a “baile mór” not a townland or “Baile Fearann”.