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The History and Topography of the County of Clare by James Frost

Appendix VII - County of Clare: Irish local names explained

Name Index






E - F



H - I





N - O

P - Q



T - W

According to the Maps of the Ordnance Survey, there are, in the County of Clare 2,176 townlands. In almost every case the names of these can be interpreted. That County being almost entirely surrounded by water and by mountains, has been so isolated and so exempt from foreign influences that there is less difficulty in making out the meaning of its place names than those of any other part of Ireland. Its people too, long retained the use of their native tongue and spoke almost nothing but Irish down to our own times. This is fortunate, because we derive little help from Irish writings, for Clare or its concerns are rarely mentioned by authors. However, the precision with which the names are pronounced by Irish speaking people makes the work comparatively easy. Only a few townlands are found of which the meaning cannot be discovered, and if our vocabularies were more complete these, no doubt, would be found out as well as the rest.

All the place names of Clare are unmistakeably Celtic, thus proving that whatever race or people, whether Fomorians, Tuatha de Dananns, Firbolgs, or Milesians inhabited the territory of Thomond they were Gadhaels and spoke the same tongue as that used by the people of the present day. The surprising richness of that dialect, and its suitableness for giving descriptive titles to localities are demonstrated by the list given in this little work. As may be expected, the designations given to localities savour very strongly of their situation, soil, aspect, and quality. Hills, rocks, rivers, bogs, marshes, mountains, woods, and many other characteristic features of the country are made use of. We find in Clare numbers of townlands named after peculiarities in their situation, quality of soil or position with reference to neighbouring woods, lakes, marshes, hills or other natural features. These are easily explained, but there are a few, with names derived from the language in its archaic form which demand more close inquiry.

It is evident that the country, in ancient times, was very extensively covered with woods and shrubberies. It also appears certain that the area under cultivation was surprisingly small. Our forefathers seem to have lived in almost absolute idleness, feeding principally on meat, and cultivating the least possible extent of land.




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