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pdtempan
2008-10-08 15:39:08
Townlands Highlighted On New OSNI Discoverer
Anyone who has recently bought a 1:50,000 map for areas north of the border will have had the pleasant surprise of finding the reverse side of the map printed as well as the front. The 2008 edition of the OSNI Discoverer Series includes a townland map and index on the back. For my money, this bonus more than makes up for the rather hefty price of £6. Townlands are unique to Ireland. They are sub-divisions of civil parishes and are the smallest administrative units in the country. There are approximately 66,000 of them. On previous editions of the 1:50,000 series (called Discoverer in the north and Discovery / Sraith Eolais in the south) some townlands were named, but boundaries were not marked. Coverage of townlands was good in mountainous regions (where they tend to be big, due to poor land quality) but in fertile agricultural areas and in towns, the coverage was sometimes as low as every third or fourth townland. The new Discoverer maps make it possible to identify the townland in which an archaeological site or hill-top is located, which is of great help if you want to look for further information. Previously you would have had to consult larger scale OS maps (1:10,000 or 6” to a mile) which are generally only available to the public at libraries and council offices. Most archaeological surveys and place-name surveys are structured by parish and townland. The new maps also help to promote awareness of townlands, which are rather nebulous entities for many city-dwellers and visitors to Ireland. Previously townland names were only distinguished from names of spot-features by the use of a different font. The marking of the boundaries makes them much more of a concrete reality. Townlands are still regularly used in postal addresses south of the border, and, although they have been somewhat undermined in the North by the introduction of postal codes in the 1970s, the Stormont Assembly agreed to protect and promote their use in addresses in 2002. OSNI is to be congratulated on this very positive initiative. Let’s hope that OSI soon follows suit.
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