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Cavan Townlands | September 22, 2020

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Name Book records of 1836

Name Book records of 1836

| On 01, Apr 2020

I reproduce below his 1979 introduction to a series of articles written by Liam O Ceallaigh over a number of years in The Heart of Breifne concerning the Ordnance Survey Name Book records of 1836. I would like to thank Anna Sexton, the editor of this excellent journal, for her permission to publish Liam’s work again and to keep alive this important part of the history of Cavan’s townlands.

The following parishes were covered in this series of articles (click parish name to view records):

Annageliff 1987 (awaiting digitisation)

Bailieborough (Killann) 1983

Castlerahan 1981

Crosserlough 1982

Denn 1986

Killinkere 1980

Knockbride 1984

Larah 1978 (translations of townland names only, not listed here)

Lavey 1979

Lurgan 1985 (awaiting digitisation)

Munterconnaught 1981

Shercock (Killann) 1983

Urney 1987 (awaiting digitisation)


Heart of Breifne 1987


Last year I was delighted to have the opportunity of publishing in the first

issue of The Heart of Breifne a list of the townlands of the parish of Larah giving

the meaning of  each name and its correct form in Irish as far as that can now be

ascertained. This year, prompted by the very energetic editor of this fine new

magazine,  I have decided to do for Lavey, another parish in the heart of Breifne,

what I  have already  done for  Larah. I am  very glad of the opportunity of

publishing the results of many years of research in this highly interesting field. For

the benefit of people who may not have read the first issue of the magazine I am

reproducing part of my introduction to last year’s article so that my new readers

may  understand at least some of the daunting problems that face the researcher in

this particular field. This then is part of what I said last year:

“In the preface to his booklet The Parish of Seagoe the author, the late Dean

Mooney, wrote: “If it takes ten men to make a pin, it would take at least as many,

each with his own special skill, to make a first-class book on placenames—even

those  of a parish.” I thoroughly agree with that statement. The study of Irish

placenames  is a very interesting one, but one beset with many pitfalls. The

ravages of history, the decay of Irish as the everyday language of the people and

the consequent break with the Irish tradition, have all conspired to make the work

of the student dealing with Irish place-names very difficult indeed.

In every parish in Ireland there is always a small number of townland names

which  seem to defy definition, and Larah is no exception. As examples of some of

the difficulties which arise when dealing with Irish placenames one could cite the

case of names of which agh, agha, aghy, form part.  Do these stand for—(a)

achadh, a field; (b) ath, a ford, or its genitive case atha; (c) or yet again, do they

stand for each, a steed? One has to be careful. Another example is that of kil, kill,

killy. Do they stand for—(a) cill, a church; (b) coill, a wood; or (c) coillidh, the old

dative form of coill? Many other examples of this type could be cited.

It is interesting to note that many place-names are formed from the Irish

form of the names of the parts of the human body. Thus we have ceann, the head;

eadan,  the brow; mala, the eyebrow; leacan, the cheek; droim (drum), the back;

gualainn, the shoulder; ton, the posterior; mas, the thigh, and many more.”

                                 NAME BOOKS

Every researcher into the meaning of Irish placenames must at some stage

study  what are generally referred to as The Name Books Of The Ordnance

Survey. In the course of his work with the Ordnance Survey Dr. John O’Donovan,

the noted  Irish scholar of the last century, visited most parts of Ireland to try to

obtain accurate information from local people about the meaning of placenames,

the limits and boundaries of ancient territories, etc. Afterwards he prepared notes

on his work from the information he had obtained and in these notes he gives:

(i)  what he considers to be the correct form of the name in Irish;

(ii) early anglicised forms of the name;

(iii) the meaning  of the name;

(iv)  in many cases he adds interesting bits of information about the townland,

such as the name of the landlord, the type of lease by which land was held,

the scale of rent and Co. Cess charges, the average size of farms,crops grown etc.

Dr. O’Donovan visited Co. Cavan in the Summer of 1836 and his notes on the

townlands give a wonderful picture of the lives of the people of Lavey, and indeed

of all Co. Cavan, in the decade before the Famine. These Name Books are indeed

a veritable mine of information for the student of that period and so I decided that

the people of Lavey might  be interested to learn what their countryside looked

like circa 1836 and how their ancestors lived in those years of poverty.

As might be expected these notes are rather difficult to read; contractions are

frequently used; there is little consistency about punctuation, the use of capitals or

indeed spelling but as the material is of value for its information only I have

modernised generally punctuation and spelling and expanded silently contractions into

complete words and phrases into sentences. A question mark denotes a

reading now illegible. In the case of the first townland, Aghadreenagh, I have given all the

 information noted by O’Donovan so that people may see what these

Name  Books  contain but as the variant spellings would be of interest to specialists

only. I have omitted them for all other townlands.

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