Comórtas na mBailte Fearainn ar an Ghráinseach
Is mór ag pobal tuaithe Uladh ainmneacha na mbailte fearainn nó tugann siad léargas ar stair agus ar oidhreacht na hÉireann. Tá an cás amhlaidh ar an Ghráinseach, paróiste beag tuaithe atá suite taobh amuigh de bhaile Ard Mhacha, agus tá an staraí áitiúil Colm MacGabhann ag déanamh a sheacht ndícheall le ainmneacha bunaidh na mbailte fearainn a chaomhnú agus a chur chun tosaigh sa cheantar.
Tá taighde déanta ag Colm maidir leis na 36 baile fearainn i bparóiste na Gráinsí agus chuir sé amach léarscáil dhátheangach a shonraigh teorainneacha na mbailte fearainn agus a thug na céadainmneacha Gaeilge chomh maith leis an leagan Béarla a tugadh dóibh. Bhí an-éileamh ar na léarscáileanna agus shocraigh Colm gur mhaith leis an tionscadal a fhorbairt agus comórtas nua na mbailte fearainn a chur ar bun le go bhfaighfeadh muintir na háite tuiscint níos fearr ar an stair agus ar an seanchas a bhaineann leis an Ghráinseach.
Shocraigh Colm sraith tráthanna ceist idir dhaoine ó na bailte featainn éagsúla i gcomhar le CAIRDE Teo agus cuireadh tús leo i mí Eanáir ag CLG na Gráinsí. Iarradh ar dhaoine i ngach baile fearainn foireann a chur isteach sa chomórtas agus gheobhaidh an buaiteoir ’Trofaí Sheáin Mhic Uibh Aille’, trófaí atá ainmnithe in ómós iar-ardmháistir clúiteach bhunscoil na Gráinsí a chuir go mór le caomhnú an chultúir agus na hoidhreachta sa cheantar. Beidh babhta ceannais thráth na gceist na mbailte fearainn ar 8.30i.n. Déardaoin 26ú Aibreán i gclubtheach CLG na Gráisí sa bhaile fearainn Tulaigh Uí Dhonnagáin.
Thug an tUasal Mac Gabhann cuireadh do mhuintir na háite teacht amach chuig an imeacht agus tacú lena rogha carthanais mar atá Oispís an Iúir: “Tá fáilte roimh chách chuig an imeacht suimiúil siamsúil seo. Beidh caint ón staraí agus teangeolaí mór le rá Gerry Oates roimh an tráth ceisteanna agus beidh Antaine Ó Donnaile ón BBC i mbun na gceisteanna – fear arb as Eanach Each i bparóiste na Gráinsí féin é. Beidh ceol traidisiúnta ó Ciorcal Comhrá Ard Mhacha i ndiaidh bhronnadh Trófaí Sheáin Mhic Uibh Aille agus cuirfear soláistí ar fáil.
“Ba mhaith liom buíochas a thabhairt do na hurraitheoirí CAIRDE Teo as an tacaíocht leanúnach. Gabhaim buíochas le Brian Mac Uibh Aille a thug urraíocht don trófaí nua in onóir a athar. Bhí mo chlub áitiúil, CPG na Gráinsí iontach cuidiúil agus thairg siad ionad do chomórtas na mbailte fearainn agus tá mé fíorbhuíoch d’Antaine Ó Donnaile, do Ghearóid Ó Machail agus do Martin Mallon as a gcuidiú uilig. Tá an babhta ceannais oscailte do chách agus beidh saorchead isteach, ach iarrtar tabhartas deonach dár rogha carthanais, Oispís an Iúir”.
The preservation of townland names is a subject dear to the hearts of many people in rural Ulster as they provide an extremely important window to our oft-forgotten history and heritage. Nowhere is this moreso than in the small rural parish of The Grange, just outside Armagh City, where local historian Colm MacGabhann has made it his mission to keep the indigenous townland names of the area very much to the fore in the minds of the local community.
Colm has researched each of the 36 townlands within Grange parish and subsequently produced an informative bilingual map outlining the boundaries of the townlands and providing the original Gaelic names with English translations. The maps proved to be so popular that he considered it was time to take his project a stage further and inaugurate a townlands competition that would allow people from The Grange and beyond to gain a deeper and more comprehensive knowledge of the intriguing history and folklore that surrounds placenames in the locality.
Whilst the concept of townlands is based on the Gaelic system of land division, it was in the 1600s that they became mapped and defined by the English administration for the purpose of portioning the land for plantation. The first official evidence of the existence of this Gaelic land division system can be found in church records from before the 12th century. The term describes the smallest units of land division in Ireland. These are based upon various different kinds of Gaelic land division, many of which had their own names.
The term baile, anglicised as “bally”, is the most dominant element used in Irish townland names. Whilst today the term “bally” denotes a town or urban settlement, its precise meaning in ancient Ireland is unclear, as towns had no place in Gaelic social organisation. The modern Irish term for a townland is baile fearainn (plural: bailte fearainn). The term fearainn means “land, territory, quarter”—from a Proto-Indo-European root *wer- which is also related to the English word ware, a valuable commodity. The term “townland” in English is derived from the Old English word tun, similar to the Irish word tuath, denoting an enclosure.
The Normans despite not having a serious influence on townland names adapted some of them for their own use, possibly seeing a similarity between the Gaelic baile and the Norman bailey; both of which meant a settlement. Throughout most of Ulster, townlands were known as “ballyboes” from the Irish: baile bó, meaning “cow land”. These represented an area of pastoral economic value.
Beginning in January, Mr MacGabhann, in conjunction with local cultural organisation CAIRDE Teo, coordinated a series of townland quizzes in his local GAA club, An Ghráinseach CPG. People in each townland were asked to nominate a quiz team to represent them in a tournament where the winners would collect the ‘John Vallely Townland Challenge Trophy‘ (named in honour of the legendary former headmaster of the Grange school who contributed so much to the preservation of the culture and heritage of the area).
The popular cross community quiz tournament culminates at 8.30pm on Thursday 26th April in the GAA clubhouse in Tullygoonigan townland – incidentally, the name Tullygoonigan derives from the Irish Tulaigh Uí Dhonnagáin meaning ‘Donnagan’s Hillock‘.
Mr MacGabhann encouraged people to come along to the event and to support his chosen charity Newry Hospice:
“Everyone is welcome to attend what should be a highly informative and entertaining evening. An illustrated talk by celebrated historian and linguist Gerry Oates will precede the quiz itself which will be expertly compered by the BBC’s Dr Antaine Ó Donnaile – himself a proud son of Eanach Each (English: Annahagh) in Grange parish. Traditional music from An Ciorcal Comhrá Ard Mhacha will follow the presentation of the John Vallely Trophy and refreshments will be served.
“I would like to thank our sponsors CAIRDE Teo for being so supportive of the event from the beginning. Thanks also to Brian Vallely for sponsoring the new trophy named in honour of his father. My local club, CPG An Ghráinseach have been extremely helpful throughout in providing a venue for the townlands competition and I am grateful especially to Dr Antaine Ó Donnaile, to Gearóid Ó Machail and to Martin Mallon for their help with delivering the quiz series. The final of the competition is open to everyone and admission is free of charge. Throughout the competition, we have instead been accepting voluntarily donations towards our chosen charity, Newry Hospice”.