A LEADING Queen’s University academic is calling on people in Northern Ireland to help preserve their local place-names and at the same time explore their shared cultural heritage.
Dr Mícheál Ó Mainnín, from Queen’s School of Modern Languages, is inviting people to explore the origins and history of their local place-names through www.placenamesni.org, a new website launched today (Monday 21 January).
The site contains 30,000 place-names located across Northern Ireland and 130,000 historical references to townland names in particular.
Users of the new website can search for places by name, location (e.g. all names in a parish), or common strands (e.g. all names containing ‘knock’). The site also features an interactive searchable map, provided by Land & Property Services.
Building on many years of work, the resource has been produced by the Northern Ireland Place Names Project (NIPNP) after gathering evidence for the origins of county, barony, civil parish and townland names, as well as the names of major urban settlements and physical features such as rivers and mountains.
The research team used evidence from archaeology and historical records, literature and folk tradition, and local history and topography to track the development of the names. Some of these date back to the early Christian period in Ireland, while others originated in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in the aftermath of the Plantation of Ulster.
Dr Mícheál Ó Mainnín, Director, NIPNP said: “Northern Ireland has a rich tapestry of place-names, reflecting all aspects of our cultural heritage, some of which are under an increasing threat due to urbanisation and population decline in rural areas. We hope this new online resource will encourage people to find out more about where they live and in doing so keep their place-name alive. The new website sheds light on the complexity of our linguistic and cultural diversity, and has an important role to play in the promotion of education for mutual understanding. It is hugely important that our place-names are preserved for future generations.
“The 30,000 names in the database bear witness to all the peoples who have left their mark here over the centuries. The oldest names are of Irish origin, but the database also includes many names coined by English (e.g. Draperstown), Scots (e.g. Glarryford) and others in later centuries. The name Strangford, for example, has Norse origins and Pomeroy appears to have originated in French.
“Work on the database is ongoing. An extensive analysis of the name of every single townland and major settlement in Co. Down has been completed, and we hope to secure funding to extend that to the other five counties. We are also collaborating with similar projects in the Republic of Ireland so that people all over the world can utilise local place-name evidence in tracing their ancestry and family origins on the island of Ireland.”
Daithi McKay MLA, Chair of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Committee for Finance and Personnel which hosted the launch, said: “Townlands and place-names are of cultural and historical importance and are reflective of our rich and diverse local history. By safeguarding and promoting place-names this project will provide a useful tool in education for mutual understanding for future generations, in addition to offering an online resource for assisting overseas genealogists in establishing family links to this part of the world which, in turn, has the potential to boost tourism.
“The Committee has been supportive of previous calls for funding for the project, which is supported by Land and Property Services, an agency within the Department of Finance and Personnel. Indeed, the Assembly itself has recognised the value of place-names by officially including the townland location of Stormont – Ballymiscaw – in its address.”
The new-look website at www.placenamesni.org is hosted and maintained by Land & Property Services, who provided mapping for the project.
The website is being launched later today in Parliament Buildings (in the townland of Ballymiscaw).
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Weather for Ballymena
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 11 C
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Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 8 C to 16 C
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Wind direction: South east