The Inishowen peninsula abounds in place-names, all steeped in history and legend, and all reflecting the flora and fauna of Donegal’s most beautiful province. These names celebrate both the macrocosm and microcosm of the landscape enshrined in every hillock, field, sea-cave and stream.
Since the 19th century – indeed since the first Inishowen map-makers of 1609 dipped their quills into ink – people have attempted a complete compendium of Inishowen place-names and their Gaelic origins. This book doesn’t claim to be the most forensic study to date but it is the first to cover the entire peninsula –from Urris to Templemore. Few are aware that four fifths of the parish of Templemore – now in Co. Derry – were once part of Inishowen and occupied a strategic location in the southern neck where the Gaelic O’Doherty chieftains built their most important castles and strongholds.
Seoirse Ó Dochartaigh is a lover of Gaelic culture and the Irish language which he has studied with dedication for over 4 decades. For several years now, he has been studying old maps and talking to many natives of the peninsula about the true origins and meanings of names of Inishowen townlands, mountains, rivers and hamlets. Though the work of collecting can never be truly finished until every stick, stone and nuance has been recorded and published, Ó Dochartaigh provided us with a rich harvest of colourful names, many of them published here for the first time. The author has, in effect, reversed the Anglicisation process that began in the 17th century and has even translated some English names back into indigenous Irish versions based on local ways of saying things and local ways of describing the landscape.
There is a plethora of maps here too– some very rare indeed – and historical sources used throughout the book indicate that many Inishowen place-names are more than 2000 years old – some even going back to the centuries BC and still in use today.
Seoirse Ó Dochartaigh’s book should not only stimulate local interest but should also tantalize the imagination of readers at home and abroad. This is a topographical odyssey.