Extract From Letter About Placenames

Below an extract from correspondence to Coleraine Borough Council in 2008 on Consultation regarding Street Names.

Dear Sir

EQIA – Consultation Document – Street Naming & Numbering Policy

Our great poet laureate Seamus Heaney wrote: ‘Every layer they strip/Seems camped on before’.

The danger for us all is that if we choose to disregard history and namings of the landscape we inhabit, that there will be nothing there for future generations that might wish to ‘strip away’ in an attempt to understand where they live and why a placename has a particular significance. Any attempt to frustrate bi-lingual signage, masquerading as consultation but in reality driven by an ulterior motive, is a disservice to the wonderfully rich, expressive and lyrical names which we have the privilege to read and hear day in and day out. Every time the word Coleraine is used it is an expression of an Irish placename – the articulation of the word itself is fundamentally and inextricably bi-lingual.

Heaney has a philosophical and poetic concentration on the ‘sense of place’ that serves to celebrate and understand the countryside around us and the rich landscape where we live. There is a temptation in obstructing or diverting efforts to provide the original Irish placenames as part of a signage programme to divert the argument down the side street of political debate. This is inappropriate and demonstrates a breathtaking level of ignorance on the part of those that would do it.

The fact of the matter is that the area in which we live and breathe itself is a landscape alive with names from the traditional Irish. When someone first described this town as Port na Binne Uaine –  The port of the verdant green rock cliff – they were not making a political point. They were describing a small settlement beside the sea so that would –be visitors would know exactly where they were going.

Likewise the traditional name of the town of Coleraine – the pronunciation of which by the local population with their Ulster Scots inflexion is almost identical to the original Irish –  Cúil Raithin Ferny Corner – related to a story concerning St Patrick.

It is the responsibility of this generation to retain and respect each others’ traditions  – especially now that we have a semblance of peace after thirty years of disrespect and abuse. However, the placenames from which our street names and roads originate do not belong to one tradition or another – they belong to all of us and we use them in everyday speech whether we appreciate it and understand it or not.

I am submitting the views below as a contribution to the above consultation. I would appreciate confirmation of receipt as before the deadline of 13 June 2008 and its inclusion in the EQIA process.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *