So the limits of his territory were often
defined by means of a river, stream, ditch, trees or wall. With the arrival of
the Normans in the 11th- 12th Centuries, the system of townlands was introduced
in order to make administration easier. In the new civil parish, which often
coincided with the limits of the truth, there were anything from five to thirty
or more townlands grouped together, and in many cases the old mimes were
However, many names were lost and changed
because of the attempts to Anglicise the old Gaelic words. The townland was a
division used in the Tithe Applotment Hooks, the Censuses and Valuation Books.
When MacDonnell, the Earl of Antrim, came to
Ireland, he gave grants of land to landlords, who in turn rented parts of it out
to tenants. The farmers divided their plots up in their own way, many using
field names to distinguish parts of their farm.
This name could refer to the geographical
position or maybe referring to a feature in the field. These names, many of
which referred to features of the landscape, were passed down through the
generations and in general they were not recorded. Many of the spellings of
Irish words are phonetic and others are lost forever.
The Purpose of this Project was to research
information on our local townlands, and disseminate it among the local and wider
community through erection of signs, production of a booklet, and other
The parish of Cushendun extends from the sea
to the head of the Glen (Glendun) and northwards along the sea coast to the
promontory of Torr. Within the parish there are 58 townlands, nearly all of
which are crossed by public roads.
The aim of this project is to identify each
townland by erecting a roadside sign, which is inscribed with its name in
English and in the original Irish, together with a translation.
We will also be erecting a large map of our townlands in the Village.
These permanent signs will act to raise
awareness of these ancient subdivisions of the countryside, which after many
centuries are in danger of passing out of usage. The signs will help people to
read the local landscape, subdivided as it is into townlands which correspond to
the ladder pattern of fields on the valley sides.
Providing a translation of the Irish name
will allow identification of the geographical feature from which the name
We hope that local people will use these
names as their postal address, so that they will regain the currency they once
The roadside markers themselves will become a
distinctive feature of the Parish in the same way as the cast-iron milestones,
which line the Coast Road from Lame to Ballycastle, and will enhance the
local environment and heritage.
Although the names of townlands are not a
tangible or visible part of the local heritage, they are as worthy of
preservation as the landscape itself. As they derive from prominent features of
the landscape, whether topographical or of human construction, they provide an
insight into how earlier inhabitants viewed and interpreted the countryside they
Thus they form a link to the age in which
they were first used, as expressive of that time as constructions such as
crannogs, raths or standing stones.
Nowadays fewer and fewer people earn their
living solely from a family farm, or live on the farm which their ancestors
worked for generations.
Townland names no longer play a role as
identifiers of farming families. Thus the present generation are less aware of
this part of their heritage.
The need for this project was certainly
compounded by the actions of the Post Office and local Council in imposing road
names that ignore townland names.
The townland is a valuable piece of our
history, reflecting earlier times. It can sometimes give information about the
family which was associated with it, the local landscape and even the buildings
that once stood there.
The introduction of postcodes and house
numbers by the Post Office in the early 1970s threatened the local usage of
these small divisions, but the Post Office has since come to acknowledge the
heritage value of these old names.
In addition, housing developers have given
names to groups of dwellings in a townland which owe nothing to heritage or
landscape - names which grate on anyone with a feeling for the local heritage.
The signs erected in each townland will be a
visible reminder of the old names and will assert their continued legitimacy for
the present generation and ensure that they are not buried through neglect.
They will be a monument to past generations
and communities and traditions.