Niall Comer from the University of Ulster delivered ‘Placenames of Derry’ - the first lecture in a series being delivered during the Pan Celtic Festival - in the Tower Museum on Wednesday (April 23), providing a fascinating insight into the origins of many of the townland names in the city and its hinterland.
He provided translations for several Waterside locations and also offered some interesting theories about others.
He explained that all the Waterside townland names were located within the Clondermot parish, which he said was derived from Clann Dhiarmada, meaning ‘The Descendants of Diarmaid.’
Amongst the many townlands he talked about were Clooney (Cluain Í) - ‘The Meadow of the Yew;’ Creevedonnell (Craobh Uí Dhomhnaill) - ‘O’Donnell’s Tree;’ Maydown (Maigh an Dúin) - ‘Plain of the Fort;’ Ballyoan (Baile Abhann/Eoin) - ‘Place of the River/Eoin;’ Killymallaght (Coill na Mallacht) - ‘Wood of the curses;’ and Kilfennan (Cill Fionnáin) - St Fionnán’s Church.’
He also courted academic controversy by suggesting some long assumed placename meanings may not be accurate after all.
For example, most people think Altnagelvin and Lisnagelvin mean ‘Height of the Swallows’ and ‘Fort of the Swallows’ respectively but he believes they might actually derive from ‘Alt Uí Dhoibhleacháin’ and ‘Lios Uí Dhoibhleacháin’ meaning ‘Ó Dhoibhleachán’s Height’ and ‘Ó Dhoibhleachán’s Fort.’
People in the city also generally think Prehen comes from the Irish ‘Préachan’ from the word for crow.
But Mr Comer suggests it might actually come from ‘Prí Chéin,’ meaning ‘Cian’s Hill.’ He even suggested Pennyburn might be Welsh from ‘Pen y Bryn’ meaning ‘Hill Head’ or as one Welsh speaker at the lecture rendered it ‘Top of the Hill.’
Listen to the full talk above.