Inishcrone and Enniscrone

 

A chara, – In “Dispute over town name leads to plebiscite” (News, July 16th), you assert that the controversy about the English spelling “Inishcrone” began when that spelling was “enshrined as the official name of the town in the 1970s by An tOrdú Logainmneacha, who took the lead from names used by the post office network”. (Note that An tOrdú Logainmneacha does not refer to an official body as seems to be implied here; it merely means “the Placenames Order”.) You appear to have conflated the Placenames (Centres of Population and Districts) Order which was enacted in 2005 and the Placenames Act (Irish Forms) of 1973.

The former Placenames Order replaced the latter piece of legislation in large measure – both pieces of legislation gave legal recognition to the Irish names of post towns in Ireland and in order to do this, the corresponding official English forms of placenames had to be included. Hence the concept of the Placenames Order “enshrining” Inishcrone – the disputed English form of the name – is misleading.

In fact, the official English form of the name was already established on early 19th-century Ordnance Survey maps and in the alphabetical Indices of the Townlands of Ireland (dated 1871, 1901) for instance. Sources such as these are the basis for the official English spelling of administrative placenames in Ireland.

When the Irish form of the disputed name was comprehensively researched in or around 1960 by the Placenames Office staff and examined by the government-appointed board of the Placenames Commission (precursors of the current Placenames Branch and the Placenames Committee respectively), it became clear that Inis Easgrach Abhann – one of the Irish forms which was recommended in an influential publication about 50 years previously – was without any historical foundation. The proposed Irish name-change from Inis Crabhann to Inis Eiscir Abhann which is to be included in the forthcoming plebiscite is a slightly simplified version of that historically inaccurate form of the name.

The earlier Irish name, although well-documented in historical sources from the 15th century at least, includes a variety of spellings such as, Sais sgrebaind (dated, 1417), Inis Sgreabhoinn (circa 1540), Eisgir obhuinn (1589), Esgir Abhand (1649), Inis Sgreobuinn (1666), while the local Irish pronunciation was recorded as Inis creabhann in 1838. The historical development of the name can be set out as follows: Eiscir Abhann, which changed in speech through re-segmentation to Eis C(i)rabhann, and subsequently to Inis Sgreabhoinn, Inis (S)Cr(e)abhann and so to Inis Crabhann, the official Irish form of the name since the 1960s. It was never known as Inis Eiscir Abhann while Irish was the vernacular in the locality. – Yours, etc,

Dr PÁDRAIG

Ó CEARBHAILL,

Chief Placenames Officer,

Department of Culture,

Heritage and the Gaeltacht,

Joyce House,

Lombard Street East,

Dublin 2.