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Fishing season
Middleton/Mainistir na Corann “the abbey of the weir”
(see logainm.ie #658)

Date: 21/02/2024

Although some inland fisheries re-open at the beginning of January, many only resume at the beginning of March or ever later. This onset of the angling season brings to mind the bradán feasa “salmon of knowledge” of Irish mythology. Salmon fishing was an important part of life during the Gaelic Irish era, a fact which is not immediately apparent from townland names, which contain few unambiguous references to the king of fish. We have Loughnambraddan/Loch na mBradán “the lake of the salmon” (#14637) in Donegal along with Maine/Maighean an Bhradáin “the eminent place of the salmon” (#33505) in Louth. However, as often happens with placename elements, Bradán can also occur as a personal name: Tullybradan/Tulaigh Bhradáin “mound of Bradán” (#30342) in Leitrim and Meenybraddan/Mín Uí BhradáinÓ Bradáin’s tract of grassland” (#13955) in Donegal refer to the personal name and its associated surname, respectively.

However, probably the best-known placename in Ireland referring to salmon — Leixlip (#893), the name of a town and parish on the Kildare–Dublin border — is not of Irish origin at all. The name means “salmon-leap” (it is found in early documents in the latinized form Saltus Salmonum) but whether it originated in Old Norse (from the Vikings) or Middle English (from the Anglo-Normans) is a matter of debate. If it is derived from Old Norse Lax-hløypa it would be by far the furthest inland of the 30 or so verifiably Scandinavian placenames that survive in Ireland. Anglo-Norman origin has been suggested to be more likely, from the Middle English elements lax + hlēap (as found in non-Scandinavian placenames in England such as Lexmere “salmon-pool”, Ruislip “rush-leap”, etc.). The modern Irish form Léim an Bhradáin is a translation, but there is good evidence that in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Irish speakers knew the town by the gaelicized name *Leascaip — phonetic adaptation working in the opposite direction to usual in the Irish context.

Far more numerous — too numerous to list in full here — are the townland names which contain an indirect reference to fishing in the form of the element cora “weir”. Examples include Baile na Cora “the town(land) of the weir” in Cork, Limerick, Mayo, Waterford, Armagh, Galway, and Sligo (see logainm.ie); Barr na Cora “top, hilltop of the weir” in Cork, Galway and Longford (see logainm.ie); Béal Átha na Cora “approach to the ford of the weir” in Donegal, Mayo, Armagh and Limerick (see logainm.ie). The most widely known placename containing a reference to a cora “weir” is Midleton, the name of a town and civil parish in Cork, whose Irish name is Mainistir na Corann “the monastery of (the river of) the weir” (#658). Corann is a variant genitive singular form of cora, referring to the name of the river on which the monastery was founded, Owennacurra/Abhainn na Cora “the river of the weir” (#116509). The same river — the scene of such devastating flooding in October 2023 — also gave its name to the village of Ballinacurra/Baile na Cora “the town of (the river of) the weir” (#12283) just 2km south of Midleton.

(Conchubhar Ó Crualaoich & Aindí Mac Giolla Chomhghaill)

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