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Strange Irish Place Names
by Lily Murphy

We Irish have a penchant for strangeness and this is displayed greatly in the names of town lands, cities and villages across Ireland.

Over the years I have travelled around the country soaking in its strangeness and of course the rain. The many place names I came across have often times caused my sides to burst. Never before have I gained so much laughter from my own country.

In Galway I came upon a crossroads called Maam. I was informed by locals that every Autumn a popular horse fair takes place there. Yes Maam! In County Tipperary I drove through a small village called Horse and Jockey and found that no horse fair ever takes place there.

Confusion may rain down on tourists who visit Ireland but for the native Irish, these places are the norm. Places like Castlefreake in West Cork or Gorey in County Wexford may raise an eyebrow with some, but these names are normal names for those living there.

Now I may overstate the fact that we Irish find no problem with some of our unusual place names, but while taking in the scenery of Connemara in the lovely County Galway, I came across one of the longest place names in Ireland: Muckanaghederdauhaulia. I couldn’t pronounce it then and I still can’t pronounce today! I found out that the English translation of this little village simply means ‘pig shaped hill between two seas.’ Ah! Of course! But I prefer the Irish version, even If I can’t pronounce it!

Keeping with long place names, I passed by Newtownmountkennedy in County Wicklow and while making my way around County Laois I came across one of Irelands shortest place names, one which could find something in common with kids who like to wear black and mope around: Emo.

These place names are not deliberate by any means. Places such as Kilbrittain in West Cork is not a village founded out of political frustration with Britain, and Coke Lane in Dublin city is not where one can find suppliers of Bolivian marching powder.

Cruel jokes often abound regarding some Irish place names such as a village called Ovens in County Cork which became the source of great hilarity some years ago when plans were made to locate a crematorium there. Thankfully those plans were scrapped and burned!

Innuendo is also rife with some place names in Ireland. Nobber in County Meath derived its name from the Irish word ‘work’ while Cum is a rural area in County Mayo. Ballsbridge is an affluent part of Dublin city while Kilcock in County Kildare comes from the name of Saint Coca who founded a church there in the 6th century. Gaggin lies on the outskirts of Cork city while in the city itself one could come across a street called Dyke Parade.

In east Limerick I got lost in a townland called Lickadoon. Opening up the map I saw that the next townland was called Bushy Island which was just before a village called Ballywackeen.

In Wexford I came upon a place called Horetown and wondered how the people living there felt with an address such as that, but then as I travelled further on up the road I entered Leachestown.

Ireland is renowned for its cold and wet weather, some may think that certain place names can be attributed to our despairing climate. Birr in County Offaly or even Blueball which is also in County Offaly may point to Offaly as being the coldest county in Ireland.

From weather to animals and to Dublin where you can find places such as Dolphins Barn and Leopardstown, and if its not animals its humans.

In the Wicklow hills there is a picturesque village called Coolboy while you can find Ballyguy in west Tipperary. In Dublin you can find a greyhound track at a place called Harolds Cross, why is he so cross though!? But spare a thought for Bastardstown in County Wexford.

If you think living in a place called Bastardstown is a little off putting, then think about the locals who live in the village of Effin in County Limerick. The people of Effin had a hard time recently when they tried to be taken serious by Facebook, but only if Mr. Zuckerberg knew that in Effin he could find the Effin school with a lot of Effin students and the Effin church with the Effin parish priest and the Effin pub which hosts some Effin drunks.

If you lived in Pilltown County Kilkenny then it may be suspect that the town is full of drug addicts and pushers but the name in fact comes from a local legend of a battle that proved so violent that the river there ran red with blood from the battle field and the town became known in Irish as Baile an Phuill which means town of the blood.

Staying on the addiction side of things, in Ireland the main vice is alcohol and we are world renowned for our bacchanalian ways but in County Limerick there is a village called Bruree which is also the place where you can find one of Irelands biggest alcoholic treatment centres.

From the complete irony to the complete bizarre and in Westmeath you can come upon a crossroads in the heart of the countryside called Crazy Corner and just up the road from it is Pass-If-You-Can, an area of fields and a scatter of houses. In north Kerry, laying in a direct horizontal line are the villages of Lyre, Meen and Cuss.

While we Irish have a great knack for taking some of our unusual place names with a stern seriousness, we always hold a sneaking joy at such outlandish names. Be they completely random or bursting with innuendo, we Irish love our place names and love it even more when they leave some people confused and bewildered!