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Post details Post   (Contract pics)
padodes
2009-08-04 06:17:52
"Not a sally in sight: Sally Gap from Carrigvore" from padodes Contract pics
Picture: Not a sally in sight: Sally Gap from Carrigvore (Contract pics)

Changing names
Up to recently, the signposting at the Sally Gap in Wicklow gave the Irish name for this mountain pass as Bearnas na Diallaite (Saddle Gap), which always struck me as being quite apt, since it sits astride the head of the Liffey Valley to the NW and the Cloghoge River Valley to the SE. Indeed, it seemed far more appropriate than the English ‘Sally Gap’, given the absence of any obliging specimen of the willow family (Salix) in that whole area. Recently, however, the Irish name has been changed to Bearna Bhealach Sailearnáin (Gap of the Willow Grove Road) on new signs. At first I thought that perhaps some sensitive Wicklow county councillor who could no longer bear the disparity between the English and Irish names had decided to impose harmony, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. A look at the historical testimonies on the website logainm.ie shows that the newly given Irish name is in fact already attested in the 1655 Civil Survey and that the ‘Saddle Gap’ Irish variation would appear to be a later invention. That still leaves the botanical incongruity of the name intact, but I suppose vegetation can change over the years even more easily than names. It’s unusual, nonetheless, to find any coppice of trees or shrubs growing on open bogland in Ireland, though it is not uncommon in other countries.

I wonder if reverting to the older attested Irish name in this instance is the result of the ongoing work of the Placenames Commission? Perhaps we can expect to see other similar changes in the coming years.
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