To reiterate kernowclimber, the sad thing is that the original names,some now lost, were so pertinent to their area. Sometimes place names are the only links left to us with the human beginnings of a place as noted by John Feehan, in his ‘The Landscape of Slieve Blooms.’
It is an issue that did not go un-noticed by Sir Charles Coote who commented (Statistical Survey of the King’s County, (County Offaly) 1801), ‘These territories, whose denominations seem so barbarous to us, we find on looking into their derivations, that they are significantly applied, and undeserving the harsh criticism, which some authors have bestowed on them, thus, only exposing their own ignorance, by cavilling at what they did not understand.’
The names had a ‘sense’ of place and a musicality about them. In my own locality, Ballykenneen, was baile na gcoinín, the townland of the rabbits, Forelacka, cold hill slopes, Glendossaun, the glen of the thornbushes, Glenkeen, the beautiful glen, Glenlahan, the wide glen. Ballymacrory, was once known as Bonaclotty, bun na sléibhte, the foot of the mountains, or Ballynalack, the townland of the flagstones, or my own personal favourite, Coolnacrease, cúl a chraois, the back-land of the hunger.
John Feehan notes too that ‘At the time the Grand Jury map (Daniel Cahill’s Grand Jury map of the Queen’s County (County Laois) of 1805) was made most people in the area could still speak Irish but by 1840 they had lost touch with the Irish language and the tradition associated with it. As an example, on Cahill’s map Glenamoon appears as Glenmeen, (gleann mín, the smooth glen) and Gorteenameale appears as Gorteenamullach (goirtín na mullach, the cultivated patch on the summits), a name which is highly appropriate, and which does not require the slight twist which the existing name requires to explain it.’
Our local hills, now called Sliabh Bloom is the anglicised form of Sliabh Bladhma, or Sliabh Bladma, or one or other of its some two dozen variations of spelling and pronunciation attributed to it over the years, from Slefblathme of 1306, Slewbloom of the middle of the 17th century, to Bliew, Blemy et Bladine Montes, the Bliew, Blemy and Bladine mountains, Bloding, Mons smoil, Smól mac Edlecair and so on. Sadly it turns out the original meaning was lost, and the variations since are guesstimates of that lost meaning.
So all credit to anyone, including barryd for highlighting and preserving our heritage in this regard.