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Whispered in the Landscape / Written on the Street

Whispered in the Landscape / Written on the Street

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This is a copy of my masters Thesis on Irish Placenames and the difference between local and offical names.
This is a copy of my masters Thesis on Irish Placenames and the difference between local and offical names.

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Published by: Gearóid Ó Díomasaigh on Sep 19, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Along with the OS placenames which were recorded and mapped in the 1800’s there a
number of other sources for ‘official’ placenames in the 19th

century. The most widely

used of these, it could be argued, was the post office names which were standardized

by the postal service separately to the OS names recorded during the 6-inch mapping

of Ireland. There is no comprehensive history on the subject of the origin of post

office names. While discussing the issues of this thesis with Nollaig Ó Muraíle some

information has been gathered. The post office names were established before the

collection of placenames by the OS and represent a form of names used locally within

a community.

The Postal authorities adopted anglicized forms of their own and refused to

conform to the revised forms used by the Ordnance Survey on their maps, which

were also used in official documents such as the Census and Griffith’s Valuation.

The anglicization used by the post offices were quite arbitrary and were, in the

main, taken from such sources as landlords’ rent-rolls, tithe applotment books,

Grand Jury maps, etc. They did not go through the process of being examined

and assessed by John O’Donovan and his colleagues in the OS Topographical

Department. The post office was also in the habit of recognising local forms of

townland-names which people had begun to use; the result was that people in the

same townland might use two or three separate forms for one place.5

An Post’s view on the subject, as explained by Stephen Ferguson, is that the postal


listed the names of places in the 18th

century of postal towns noting the local

services available. The spelling of these names would be recorded according to

spelling forms of the period. In the 19th

century, regular guides were published as

official list of post office names. Post Independence guides were published in


Nollaig Ó Muraíle, interview via e-mail. [Pers. Comm.] 22 June 2011 to 25 July 2011, see appendix



both English and Irish. The post offices did not set out to collect placenames but

over time they began to compile lists of the location of postal towns. While the

central offices may have liked there to be a standardized spelling for names, the

local Post Master and office staff would use local names and spelling which

reflected the local pronunciation.6

The names which were used by the post office as the official postal address for a place

were the ones most widely used within a local community and so have fed into the

local perception of what is the correct name for an area. The Permanent Committee on

Geographical Names for British Official Use (PCGN) note, on their website, on the

importance of placenames that

Geographical names impact upon many areas of life, including business/trade,

national statics/census, property rights/cadastre, urban & regional planning [...]

maps [...] navigation, tourism and communication (including postal and media

services), unlike most other information on a map, it is these names which are the

most meaningful information for the user.7

It is the conflict between the varying official placenames in Ireland which causes

inconsistency between what is official and what is acknowledged by local

communities to be the correct name and what is standardized by the Government as

the official name.

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