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genitive: Sheilsceire
Saint Selskar's Loading...
Explanatory note
  • English

    The evidence for this place-name demonstrates that St. Selskar’s is a misnomer. The early historical examples clearly demonstrate that the parish church was dedicated to Saint Peter (and Saint Paul), e.g. ‘Sancti Petri de Selescar’ (1), ‘Ap[ostoli] petri [e]t pauli de Sellesker iuxta Weysford’ (3). Selskar is actually the name of the area in which the now-ruined church is located (cf. AIW 1481; Colfer, 2002 p.16). Some examples from the seventeenth century such as ‘Selker’ (14) and ‘Selkar’s’ (18a) indicate that a local pronunciation may have dropped the internal -s-. With the replacement of the patrons’ names with the place-name, e.g. ‘parish church of Selskyer’ (7c), this appears to have produced the confused form ‘in p[ar]och’ s[an]c[t]i Selcar’’ (“in the parish of Saint Selcar”) (19). This reference is found alongside ‘in p[ar]och’ s[an]c[t]i Iber’’ (“in the parish of Saint Iberus”). This ghost-name ‘[Saint] Selcar’ may then have led to the erroneous association of the parish with the Saint Sepulchre (“the Holy Sepulchre”) (cf. Grattan Flood, 1916 p.130–1).

    In regard to the etymology of Selskar, it has been noted above (see Introduction) that it is one of the rarely occurring place-names of Norse derivation in the county. Its precursor most likely meant “seal-rock, seal-skerry”, and the modern form Selskar can be compared to Icelandic selr “seal” and sker “a skerry, an isolated rock in the sea” (see Ice. Dict. s.vv. selr, sker). Notably, Selskar is also the name of a rock located southeast of Bannow Bay, which indicates further Norse activity there (see ARKLOW (#53583), par. Clonmines).

    Given the antiquity of this place-name, it must have come to English through the medium of Irish (cf. ST. DOOLOGE’S (#2611), par.). No evidence of this Irish form survives, however. The Irish version proposed here, Seilsceir, is a phonetic approximation based on the loanword sceir “reef” (see Flanagan & Flanagan, 1994 p.139; see also FGB).

    [Excerpt from Logainmneacha na hÉireann IV: Townland Names of County Wexford, 2016]

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