Mapping the Minor Place Names of the Cooley Mountains


We’re delighted to announce the publication of a new report on the minor place names of the Cooley Mountains. The report details over 200 minor place names collected from sheep farmers in the Cooley Mountains and is the result of a bursary from the Cooley Mourne Gullion GeoTourism project awarded in spring 2015. It was carried out by Eve Campbell and Andrew McGuinness with contributions from Siobhán McDermott and Wojtek Dominiak .

You can download the report for free here.

New field names from Labanstown, Parsonstown and Cruisetown

We’re still collecting field names!  John McCullen recently collected 33 new names from three townlands in the south of the county: Labanstown, Parsonstown and Cruisetown. The townlands are between Togher and Clogherhead. Labanstown is in the civil parish of Drumshallon, while Parstonstown and Cruisetown are in the civil parish of Parsonstown.


Location of Labanstown. Parsonstown and Cruisetown are adjacent.







The townlands have a mix of names of different derivations. Labanstown has a number of Irish-language names: Parcaneasai, Mollys, Ardnacoillian and Mullaghbawn.

The latter three names are topographical names referring to hills or heights. Molly comes from the word mala which means hill slope. Ard refers to a height or a hillock. The meaning of the second part of the word ‘coillian’ is unclear; it could come from cuileann – holly. Mullaghbawn (An Mullach Bán) means the white or lea or grassy hilltop. Parcaneasai probably means the field of the waterfall (eas), possibly referring to a feature on the small stream that borders the field.

Other names here refer to vegetation or crops. The Furry Field in Labanstown is a reference to whins or furze, while the Clover Field in the same townland comes from the agricultural crop.

Cruisetown has two field names that might refer to linen processing: the Bleakey and the Wrench Hole. The first connotes a bleach green and the second, perhaps, a flax retting hole.

Most of the fields in Parstonstown have personal field names, that is, field names that come from people or families. Mullens Field got its name from a man known ‘Poor Patrick Mullen’. According to Andrew J. Collier Mullen ‘lived in the church ruins [in the field] where flagstone graves were visible 50 years ago. He was reputed to have walked into the sea during the great famine’.

The Parsonstown church is a late-medieval parish church. The last person buried there is said to have been the daughter of the Earl of Carlingford.

Pappy Corrigan lived in his eponymous field and ‘left to join the British Army. He was killed at the Battle of the Somme’.

If you would like to contribute please get in touch with Eve at

The Irish language and field names in Co. Louth

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Anne O’Hanlon, Omeath, Co. Louth. Folklore Photographs Collection, UCD.

Over 20% of the field names collected during the Louth Field Names Project were in the Irish language. This was much higher in Omeath, where the last native speaker, Anne O’Hanlon, died in 1960.

You can listen to a recording of Anne speaking Irish here.

To listen to more recording of Irish speakers from Co. Louth made in the 1930s click here to go to the Doegen Records Web Project.

To learn more about Omeath Gaelic and its demise you can read Cathal Murphy’s thesis Mapping language death in Omeath, Co. Louth.


Distribution of Irish and English language field names in Co. Louth collected by the LFNP.



‘Lazy beds’ in the Cooley Mountains

Cultivation ridges in Doolargy.

Cultivation ridges in Doolargy.

If you travel up the Glenmore Valley you’ll notice long parallel lines carved into the sides of the mountains here and there. Like scars in the land, these lines are the traces of cultivation ridges made by small holders forced into marginal uplands during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They are a poignant testimony to the tenacity and ingenuity of farmers forced to the edge of subsistence. Growing crops on mountainous, marginal land was not easy. Ridges, sometimes called ‘lazy beds’, were a specially adapted growing method that was especially suited to land that was thin or poorly drained. Although types of ridge cultivation was used on bigger holdings for arable crops, they were firmly connected with small holdings. In particular they were associated with the potato, which served as the staple food for the bulk of the population in early nineteenth-century Ireland.

Ridges with growing potatoes at the National Famine Museum at Strokestown, Co. Roscommon.

Ridges with growing potatoes at the National Famine Museum at Strokestown, Co. Roscommon.

These ridges were called ‘lazy beds’ by contemporary writers because they were seen as a lazy method of farming. This was far from true. Each ridge had to be hand dug, using spades to turn over the heavy sods, and fertilizer in the form of manure or seaweed had to be gathered and then transported up to the mountain fields. There was much regional variation in the way that ridges were made. They were tailored to suit the exact soil quality, drainage, slope and aspect of the plots, as well as the crops to be planted and the time of year. Some ridges were even built asymmetrically to protect young crops against the prevailing wind. While very wide ridges were sometimes used for certain types of grain crops, mainly oats, ‘lazy beds’ were typically about 3-5 feet wide with a furrow of about half the width either side (Bell 1984, 80).

‘Lazy beds’ were made by turning over sods of earth to create a long raised ridge with a drainage channel at either side. Manure consisting of animal dung or seaweed was added to the top of the ridge and the loose soil from the furrow was piled on top (Bell & Watson 2009, 88). On sloping ground the furrow always ran across the gradient, allowing water to run off, and preventing waterlogging. The ridges were usually re-dug every year with one year’s ridge becoming the next year’s furrow (Bell 1984, 93).

A drawing of how cultivation ridges worked (after Bell 1984).

A drawing of how cultivation ridges worked (after Bell 1984).


Ridges in Glenmore.

‘Lazy beds’ can be found all over the Cooley peninsula. They survive largely on the lower mountain slopes, just above the modern line of cultivation. They are most frequently found in association with series of long narrow rectangular fields running down the mountain slope. In Castletowncooley, just above Rourkestown, ‘lazy beds’ cover just over 24 acres of mountain slope, between 140 and 220m OD. The area is divided into narrow strips between c.20 and 40m by 180m running down the side of the mountain. Low earth and stone banks divide the strips from one another. This whole area is known as ‘the Grazing’ and it is now used to pasture sheep.  Similarly, in Ardaghy an area of about 23 acres called Páirc na Sléibhe sits at between 200m and 270m OD. The area is divided into long narrow strips (c.30m wide) separated by low stone and earth banks. Both cases are likely to be examples of outfield taken into cultivation under the rundale system. The expansion of cultivation onto common grazing land can also be seen at Doolargy. In the south of the townland ‘lazy beds’ cover some 18 acres of ground between 200-50m OD. The ridges sit within a semi-regular series of fields. Ridges even cover the Doonan, a distinct semi-natural mound at the mouth of the valley. In 1854, this was mountain land held in common by 32 people from Lord Clermont (Griffith 1854, 157-8).

DSC_1631 Edentober

Ridges associated with relict settlement in Edentober.

There is another extensive area of ridges at Edentober on the Armagh border. Here ridges extend over 22.5 acres at a height of 210-60m OD. The ridges are within a series of irregular fields parcelled off from the surrounding marshy and rocky ground. The fields vary in size from 1.33m to 0.18 acres and are demarcated by dry stone walls. The ridges in Edentober are associated with three small abandoned dwellings. The dwellings are not marked on the first edition OS map (1835). In Griffith’s Valuation this area was mountain grazing. The ridges at Edentober vary in width between 3m and 0.90m. This could indicate that they were used for different crops.

Ridges on the unenclosed mountain in Tullaghomeath.

Ridges on the unenclosed mountain in Tullaghomeath.

At Tullaghomeath a small plot of unenclosed ridges (about one acre) sits in a sheltered spot at between 180 and 210m OD. The ridges are beside a ‘mari’ or sheep fold. Similarly, at Ananvera there is a plot of just over half an acre of unenclosed ridges associated with two hut sites at 230m OD. In Glenmore, a half-acre plot of open ridges is again associated with a ‘mari’ at 210m OD.

Smoothing Iron fields in Louth

A smoothing iron.

A smoothing iron.

Many field in Co. Louth have names to do with their shape. The “Smoothing Iron” is a name used to refer to small rectangular fields. The fields echoed the shape of the household objects found in many rural homes.

Smoothing Iron Boiles1

The Smoothing Iron Field in Bolies townland.

Smoothing Iron Derryfalone1

The Smoothing Iron field in Derryfaloone.

Smoothing Iron Mullaghattin (Jenkinstown)1

The Smoothing Iron field in Mullaghattin (Jenkinstown E.D.). The field has now been merged with another field, but the original triangular field can clearly be seen.

Smoothing Iron Haggardstown1

The Smoothing Iron field in Haggardstown. Houses have since been built in the field.

“Ask for Irish-grown tobacco”: tobacco cultivation in County Louth.

Tobacco plants on the Taaffe Estate in Smarmore. Courtesy of County Museum, Dundalk.

Tobacco plants on the Taaffe Estate in Smarmore. Courtesy of County Museum, Dundalk.

Tobacco was one of the more unusual crops historically grown in Louth. There are two instances of the Tobacco Field: one in Smarmore and one in Commons, Carlingford. The growing of tobacco was banned in Ireland by James I, whose book A Counterblaste to Tobacco (1604) is one of the earliest anti-smoking texts. Prohibition on the crop was revoked in the latter part of the eighteenth century and the crop became popular in some areas. There was an upsurge in tobacco cultivation in the 1930s, when the DeValera governemnt decreed that cigarettes produced in Ireland should contain a certain percentage of natively-grown tobacco. The crop was extremely lucrative and many small farmers began to grow it, spurring the introduction of regulatory measures, restricting growing permits only to those who had taken part in the 1933 growing season (Ó Faoleán 2013, 41). Early twentieth-century tobacco growing in Louth was centred in the south-west of the county, particularly around the Taaffe estate at Smarmore, where the crop is still remembered.

Harvesting tobacco on the Taaffe estate in Smarmore. Courtesy of County Museum Dundalk.

Harvesting tobacco on the Taaffe estate in Smarmore. Courtesy of County Museum Dundalk.

Tobacco in Smarmore: an interview with Gerry Caraher

Captain Taaffe grew tobacco round Glenkieran and there’s a field in Smarmore called the tobacco field.

A lot of farmers round here grew tobacco in the late twenties and the early thirties. They had to build a shed. The shed was I suppose about 25 foot high, maybe 20 feet wide, wooden sheds, and there was racks in them. The tobacco was cut with a knife, like for snigging turnips. It was for all the world like a dock [leaf] with a strong stem on it and then they were speared. There was a light lat with a metal end on it that was driven through the stems of the tobacco. The whole plant was taken in, hung on these racks in the tobacco sheds and coke fires were lit in barrels to dry the tobacco and then the tobacco was all packed and sent either to Player’s or to Carroll’s.

There was great money to made in tobacco up until … the government put a big levy on it.

The tobacco that could grow here I think was a bit strong or there was something wrong with it. It didn’t suit the cigarettes.

Years and years ago there was a tobacco shed here. There was one in Tom Finnegan’s, the Rogers had one, Tom Caraher had one over further, Frenchs had one. There must have been about a dozen of them in this area. It seems to have been an area that there was a fair bit of tobacco grown.

There was a lot of work [in tobacco]. It had to be grown in beds and then it had to be transplanted, and then, they used to say, you had to go and take the sprouts off it. I never saw tobacco growing. Did you ever see tomatoes growing? Do you know the little side shoot that comes off the axial of the leaf? I’d say that’s what they had to take off to let the plant grow up straight to get a bigger leaf.

Captain Taaffe used to send a lorry to Ardee to collect people. There was over a hundred people working at the tobacco in Smarmore in the twenties.

Did Captain Taaffe grow it on his estate?

He did. He grew it, he grew it on the estate.

Buy Irish tobacco! Advert from Temple's Annual. Courtesy of Gerry Caraher.

Buy Irish tobacco! Advert from Temple’s Annual. Courtesy of Gerry Caraher.

And then, did small holders grow it as well?

 They did. It was grown here. It was grown in all the other places I mentioned. There was a receipt, and I don’t know whether it was from Carroll’s or from Player’s. There was half an acre of tobacco grown here, and the cheque was for 13,000 pound. That was the first couple of years, and then after that the levy went on it. Then after that the tobacco, the plant, the leaf that they could grow here didn’t suit.

There was a teacher from Co. Cavan teaching in Ballapousta and some of the children said about growing tobacco in the area. She says, ‘Ah what are you talking about? Sure tobacco is grown in America!’ It must have been just very local to here. There was some grown in Randalstown, Co. Meath, as well. It seems to have been big in this area as well, I suppose it was from Captain Taaffe growing it.

He owned Glenkieran, and there was huge big sheds in Glenkieran [Co. Meath] where he used to do the drying of the tobacco. There were three-storey building in it. It was built for malt houses by people called Norrises and they lived in Kilpatrick. There’s some of them buried in Kildemock.

Tobacco workers on the Taaffe Estate in Smarmore. Courtesy of County Museum, Dundalk.

Tobacco workers on the Taaffe Estate in Smarmore. Courtesy of County Museum, Dundalk.

Buy The Field Names of County Louth online at Kennys!

Out book is now available online from Kennys.

Out book is now available online from Kennys.

The Field Names of County Louth is now available to purchase online from well-known book store, Kennys. You can order the book (20 euro – free postage) from Kennys by simply emailing or phoning +353 91 709350.

They are also available by post from: Seamus Bellew, 27 Stamanaran, Blackrock, Dundalk, Co Louth or email at: at a cost of €20 + €9.25 p &p,  (Ireland ), €20 + €12.55 p&p (UK).

The book is also available from Hodges Figgis in Dublin. As well as from a wide list of outlets in Co. Louth including:

  • Annagassan:             O’Neill’s / Annagassan P.O.
  • Ardee:                        Ardee Bookshop
  • Carlingford:                O’Hanlon’s / Carlingford PO
  • Drogheda:                  A.B.C., West Street
  • Drogheda:                  Waterstones, Scotch Hall
  • Drogheda:                  FBD Office, Donore Road
  • Dundalk:                     Carroll’s Bookshop, Park Street
  • Dundalk:                     DkIT College Shop
  • Dundalk:                     Teagasc Office, Dublin Road
  • Dunleer:                      Torris’s, Pat’s Gift Shop
  • Grange:                      Barrys Shop / Grange PO
  • Jenkinstown:              McCrystals
  • Omeath:                     Mulligan’s Shop
  • Ravensdale:               Crilly’s
  • Riverstown:                Sheelans Shop / Riverstown PO