Friday, July 29, 2011

'Renaming Éire': The Ordnance Survey of 1824-1846

Imagine, if you will, a colonizing power coming into your country and renaming your cities and towns, so that the names of places you've known all your life are suddenly changed, and changed into a language which is not your own.  Imagine if 'New York City' was changed to 'Cathair Nua-Eabhrac'**.  Between 1824 and 1846, in essence, this is what occurred in Ireland.

Although the 'translation' of Irish into English began with the invasions of the Anglo-Saxons in the 12th and 13th centuries, the British Empire imposed the rule of English in earnest with the Ordnance Survey of 1824-46.  Under the command of Thomas Colby of the Royal Engineers, an army of soldiers and surveyors set about mapping the country, ensuring a more accurate valuation for the purpose of taxation, and in the process renaming the baronies, counties, and townlands, etc. of the island of Ireland.

Irish civilians who were deemed 'competent' in the Irish language were employed by the British in an attempt to have the Anglicized version of Irish names more accurately reflect the original Irish, but this was often a dismal failure.  Although the accuracy of the physical mapping has been praised as a boon to cartographers, many viewed the ordnance survey as yet another move to literally wipe Irish language and culture off the map.

With the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922, Ireland now had a native government whose policy was to promote the use of Irish in various areas of public life.  In 1937 Bunreacht na hÉireann (The Constitution of Ireland) came into force giving special status to the Irish language as the official first language of Ireland, and naming English as the official second language.  Article 4 of the Constitution reminds us of the special status of the Irish language, "The name of the State is Éire, or, in the English language, Ireland".

Today when you travel in Ireland you will notice that, although English does appear on road and street signs, Irish always appears above it.  On Irish license plates, with the exception of the English IRL for Ireland, place names, for example Port Láirge (meaning Waterford) or Baile Átha Cliath (meaning Dublin), always appear in Irish.

Baile Átha Cliath is Dublin

On Irish documents for birth, death and marriage the Irish language once again appears above the English.

Those of us who speak English are often relieved to see our own language on signs when we travel overseas, but we should not forget what the 'translations' of Irish into English meant to many of those who suffered under the hand of British rule. The opening paragraph of the Irish Constitution acknowledges the sacrifice of those who suffered "through centuries of trial".

"We, the people of Éire...

Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation...

Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution."


References and further reading:

** Cathair Nua-Eabhrac is the Irish translation for New York City.

Bunreacht na hÉireann, Constitution of Ireland.

Mac Giolla Easpaig, Dónall. "Placenames Policy and its Implementation" in A New View of the Irish Language, (2008) Nic Pháidín, C. & Ó Cearnaigh, S., eds. Cois Life, pp 164-177.

Brian Friel's Play "Translations" offers an interesting perspective on the meaning and impact of the Ordnance Survey and the Anglicization of 19th century Ireland.

Copyright ©Jennifer Geraghty-Gorman.
Some of this material originally posted 5 July 2010.

Monday, July 25, 2011

'Cycling Apparitions in the Castle Ruins': An Irish Story

Last July I first shared this story, recounted to me many times by my father when I was a child.  I hope that those of you who read it last summer will enjoy revisiting the tale, and for those to whom it is new, I hope it brings a smile to your face.

When my dad was a young man growing up in Ireland he was an avid cyclist, and he spent every spare penny he had on the maintenance of his bicycles.  When he was able to take a holiday from work, he and his friends would cycle around the country. Together they navigated the entire Republic of Ireland.  They were very well prepared, carrying with them sleeping bags and a primus stove for cooking, together with a neatly compact kit of cooking implements, some food, candles, and torches (a kind of flashlight) for night lighting.

Each day the travelling group would go as far as the wind and their legs would carry them.  Overnight accommodations were arranged as they went.  Their fellow countrymen were very helpful and very welcoming.  Many nights they found themselves sleeping in the hayloft of an accommodating farm in exchange for helping out a little the next day.  After such nights they were usually greeted with a delicious breakfast of fresh eggs, sausages, bacon, and coffee so strong "it would grow hair on your chest", as my dad used to say.

On a trip up into Connemara they found themselves arriving in a small village too late at night to make any sort of sleeping arrangements.  They had cycled through the Twelve Bens, a mountain range which, while not exceptionally high, has roads so narrow and drops so steep that cycling through it is not for the faint of heart.  The weather had closed in on them, and visibility was very poor; they had to stop for a while before completing their journey through the mountains, thus the very late arrival at the village.

The weather was still a little unstable when they arrived, and not wanting to get drenched by an overnight rain while sleeping under the stars, they decided to seek shelter inside castle ruins one of the party had spotted in a field on the edge of the village.  They made their way through the field, gingerly stepping over 'cow pies', and trying to quiet the clatter of their bicycles so as not to unsettle the cows.  My dad loved the darkness of the night; he said it seemed as though there were a billion stars in the sky.

They arrived to discover the ruins of the castle were in good enough shape that they would be well sheltered for the night.  They pulled out their gear, lit candles, heated up the primus stove, and prepared a small meal over which they enjoyed animated conversation about their day's adventures.  They used the torches and candles to poke around a bit inside the ruins before finally extinguishing them and settling in for the night.

My dad said he had never slept so soundly.  They slept late into the morning and awakened fresh and ready to go into the village for a hearty meal before they once again set out on their bikes.

Along the road they met a shepherd moving a large flock of sheep down the road.  He directed them to a small pub where they could get a meal, and told them to avoid the castle ruins on their tour because during the night he had noticed strange lights in the castle keep.  He said he was worried that the angry ghost who used to haunt the place might be back.  The cycling party said nothing and proceeded to the pub.

They arrived to find the place in an uproar with a couple of villagers excitedly talking about strange lights seen in the castle ruins the previous night, how the lights moved around so much, how they were glowing for a while and then suddenly gone.  There was one "ole fella" (my dad's words) in particular who seemed to delight in regaling the group with stories about apparitions met and ghosts that had once haunted the ruins, and who wondered aloud what this reappearance might mean.

My father and his friends felt they should own up to the fact that it was them lighting up the ruins the previous night, and not an angry ghost; however, everyone seemed so excited about it that they just didn't have the heart to say anything.  The 'cycling apparitions' happily shared a meal with the villagers at the pub and continued on their journey.

Copyright ©J. Geraghty-Gorman 2010.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thankful Thursday: The privilege to ponder

On this Thankful Thursday I want to say thank you to all of you who take the time to follow this blog, and to those of you who offer comments.  THANK YOU!

Lately I've been thinking about those of us who are afforded the time to think about, and write about, the lives of our ancestors, to research their backgrounds, and to find documents providing evidence of their history.  I am very grateful that I have been given the privilege to ponder the lives of those who have gone before me.  In this post, together with my sincere thanks to you, I offer a few shots of some of my favourite places from the land of my family, Ireland.  Click on the photographs to view larger versions.  I hope that you enjoy them.

Happy Researching Everyone!

The Bank of Ireland Building, Dublin.  Fingers crossed: the future Genealogy Centre of Ireland
O'Connell Bridge on a busy evening.
On the grounds of Dublin Castle, notorious in Irish History and in the history of my family.
The Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square, Dublin.  A place to contemplate and honour the past.
Looking up from the Stonebreaker's yard, Kilmainham Gaol, site of the Easter 1916 Executions.
The waterfall, Powerscourt Desmense, County Wicklow.
Ruins and rivers in Glendalough, County Wicklow.
Gazing back through the Wicklow Mountains
Tintern Abbey, County Wexford
Remembering men of history, The National School, Clonakilty, County Cork
The National School, Clonakilty, County Cork
Cobh (Cove) Cathedral standing high over Cobh city, County Cork.
The Cliffs of Moher, a slightly different perspective, County Clare.
In the land of the Ancients, The Passage Tomb of Newgrange, near Drogheda, County Meath.
Seas and skies of blue and green, County Dublin.
Always a rainbow after a storm.
...and an Angel to guide us along our way.

All Photographs Copyright© J.Geraghty-Gorman 2011.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wordless Wednesday, almost: A rainy afternoon in Dublin town

Scurrying across the Ha'penny Bridge
The Wellington Monument, Phoenix Park, liquified.
The Croppies Acre, fluidly. Collins Barracks in the background.
In the mist, the Clarence Hotel.
Click on photographs to view larger version.
All photographs Copyright© J.Geraghty-Gorman 2011.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: New sources added to 'Finding Irish Family: Research Aids' page

Here are some recent additions I have made to the Finding Irish Family: Research Aids page of this blog.

Happy Hunting Everyone!

Irish Emigration Database: I mentioned this database last year when it first went live, and over time they have greatly improved it. If you are looking for information on Irish ancestors who emigrated from Ireland in the 19th century, then take a look here. The database is freely searchable.

Also, if you want to view photographs of the replica famine ship, then view my post "The Dunbrody, A Famine Ship".

Deceased Online: This website is looking to become the one stop shop for cemetery records in the UK and The Republic of Ireland*.  Do check out their database listing to see which cemeteries are now included. You may conduct a free search; viewing records is on a pay-per-view basis.  *Note: a check of their database reveals that it does not currently include any cemeteries in Ireland, but they are committed to adding records on a regular basis, so this will be one to watch.

Buildings of Ireland: via the website of The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH).  The work of the NIAH involves identifying and recording the architectural heritage of Ireland, from 1700 to the present day.  In my opinion, projects such as this are always worth a look because you never know what you might learn from them in terms of your ancestors' experience of living in Ireland.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wordless Wednesday, almost: On a bus in Ole Dublin town

Dame Street
James Street Post Office, with a little surprise riding by.
Stuck in traffic reading the menu board at M. J. O'Neill's Pub
Entrance to Irish Museum of Modern Art courtyard, Military Road, Kilmainham

One of the many Guinness Gates

Stuck behind a bus on Suffolk Street

Click on photos to view larger version.
All Photographs Copyright© J.Geraghty-Gorman 2011.
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