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Whats in a Name?
on Thursday 14 May 2009
by WebMaster author list
in article > History

The story of a place or the story of a family can often be gleaned from names. We are familiar with, and justly proud of, our wonderful townland names derived from the original Irish, and the meanings attached to them. They are part of where we belong. But names disappear or get lost very easily and within a few generations can be totally forgotten. If the post office had it’s way our townlands would be reduced to numbers. Thankfully this has been avoided for often the only link that the descendent s of emigrants may have is a townland name.
Some years ago some visitors at Dernawilt stopped my late brother Jack. They enquired if he knew where they could find “Wallace’s Ford”. My brother, who had lived all his life in the area, had no idea where it was. He returned home and related the story to my father who was then approaching 100 years old. He immediately said that Wallace’s Ford was up the mountain road near Doon and it referred to a ford over the stream that crosses the road at that place. He went on to say the family were called McMahon and they had gone to America years ago and that he believed some descendants had been stationed at Crom with the US army during the Second World War. Wallace is not a common name in this area now.

This led me to think of other names that seem to have fallen out of use in the Killyfole area. We used to talk about “the Mill Brae”. Now the mill has gone and it has become the hill up to the school or the church. The use of the word brae to describe a steep hill indicated the Scottish connection with the settlement of the region. We referred to “Mount Derby brae” and the “Trap Brae”, the latter so called because a robber had got trapped and died in the chimney of an old house there. There was supposed to be a ghost on the “trap brae” and as a child I was terrified to come up that hill at night. My father was coming up the brae one dark night and found the road blocked. He felt around and encountered something warm and hairy. He kicked out at it but it was only three donkeys that had lain down on the road to pass the night. That tells us a lot about the quiet roads in those days.

No one now refers to “Sweetman’s Turn” which described a bend on the road to Clones near Lackey.
Who was Sweetman and what happened that family. Thinking of Clones do they still refer to the “Pound Hill” or is it now the Chapel Hill? The Pound was where stray animals were confined in days past. Most towns had “a pound” but now they are all but forgotten.

When I was young we referred to traffic on “the new line”. This was the road from Donagh to Rosslea built in the 1840’s and 50’s as a famine relief scheme. It was the only road in the area that was finished with tar in my youth and was still the new line one hundred years later! 

We talked too, of “McIlroys of The Lighthouse.” The light was at the summit of the mountain to guide travellers going from Clones to Fivemiletown in former times. Travel was by foot or on horseback in that period and the road more a rough track. They would probably have entered Fivemiletown by “Spout Lane” called after a water spring. It is now called Cooneen Road.

“The Cockpit” was at the junction of Coolnamarrow Lane and the old Mt Derby Road. It must have been the venue for cockfighting long ago when it was a common entertainment. The “Ramper or Rampart” is at the southwest end of Killyfole Lough and referred to the dam built to divert the mountain stream into it to provide water for the old mill. “Donegans Hill” was the steep hill on the road at Cornagague. I do not believe many of these descriptive names are in common use by young people today. There is population mobility now and these names do not mean anything to newcomers to the area. Would anyone now understand if you asked for some “hairy Ned” that reddish sisal rope once used for everything? Somehow I don’t think they would.
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