It’s become a ritual. The first time we drive through The Rower, everyone speculates on the origin of the name.
From a nearby viewpoint you can see River Barrow where we row, but The Rower is too high on Brandon Hill for water to flow through it. A little research tells us that it is a town and a parish in the barony of Ida, county of Kilkenny, province of Leinster. It has 41 “townlands” within its boundaries, with names such as Ballilogue, Carrickanoran, Knockatore, Rossnanowl and Tinnaslatty. And Stripes. The parish includes the “ruined castle of Coolkill … and there are several broken cromlechs in the vicinity of Ballynabarna.” Clearly there is a lot to learn about place names in Ireland.
“Bally” plus variations are derived from the Gaelic phrase ‘Baile na’, meaning ‘place of’. Kil refers to church. We see lots of churches when we visit Kilkenny but especially the impressive St. Canice’s Cathedral. Apparently Kilkenny is an anglicised version of the Irish ‘Cill Chainnigh’, meaning “Church of Cainneach”, or “Canice”, a name dating from the time when it was the capital of the Kingdom of Ossory. New Ross seems a rather dull name by comparison, although it is a lovely town that we row to and where we visit the Dunbrody Famine Ship. In the spirit (so to speak) of considering place names, Ossory sounds a bit like ossuary, where bones are stored, which brings to mind famine … never mind.
Irish and English words are not the only inspiration for place names linked to our rowing trips in the southeast of Ireland. Places ending in “ford” likely have a Viking origin, derived from fjord. Waterford apparently means fjord of the father – must be a story there – and Wexford means a very shallow fjord – which it can be at low tide.
This all leads us to Graiguenamanagh where our Four Rivers in Ireland trip begins and our Ancient East of Ireland weekend is based. According to Wikipedia the name comes from the Irish Gráig na Manach, meaning “village of the monks”, but a different source suggested it is derived from Grange of the Monks. However, a much more important question – how do you pronounce it? One guest insisted on calling it Greg-banana. Hint: saying Graig is just fine.