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Researching the placenames of Co. Clare: Methodology, Sources, and Restoration - Dr. Pádraig Ó Cearbhaill

Clare Placenames in the English Language

Up to now, I have concentrated on the historical development, restoration and modern spelling of various placenames in the Irish language. The question of spelling is also relevant to the English forms of certain placenames. Thus Ballyvaghan has been used on Ordnance Survey maps since the first edition of the Ordnance Survey map series at scale six inches to one mile for the county, although Ballyvaughan is now the prevalent local spelling. The following list reproduces all the spellings of the name noted in the Ordnance Survey namebook of 1839, in which the current modes of writing the placename were given, as well as those collected from historical documents such as various late sixteenth and seventeenth century Inquisitions (= Inq.) and Henry Pelham’s map of Co. Clare published in 1787 (= Pelham).

Ballyvoughan & Island Boundary Survey
Ballyvaghane Pelham
Ballyvahane High Constable
Ballyvahane Co. Bk
Ballyveaghan Inq. Elizabeth
Ballivyhine Inq. James I
Ballyveaghane Inq. James I
Ballvoghane Inq. James I
Ballyvoghan Inq. Charles I
Baile Ui Bhiochain written in pencil
Baile Ui Bheacháin, 'O'Beahan's town' JOD
Ballyvaghan JOD

Note that none of the authorities or historical sources recorded the name as it is commonly spelt nowadays. The modern spelling was probably influenced by the Welsh surname Vaughan, an anglicisation of Bychan (Morgan & Morgan, 1986, 58). The Irish entry in pencil, Baile Ui Bhiochain, was probably recorded in the locality. Compare with Stiofán Ó hEalaoire’s pronunciation of the placename, Bail’ Í Bhocháin, Bhucháin (Ó Duilearga, 1981, 243, 297). The standardised Irish name, Baile Uí Bheacháin, is in John O’Donovan's handwriting (= JOD). The same spelling was also recorded prior to that in Irish texts, such as the Ancient Irish Deeds and Writings published by James Hardiman in 1826. The orthography recommended for the Ordnance Survey maps, Ballyvaghan, was authorised by the aforementioned O'Donovan. It does not agree with any of the recorded authorities, but as Andrews (1975, 125) has demonstrated in his book dealing with the early edition of Ordnance Survey maps, such a rejection of all written forms was not unusual.

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