Irish language

Dinnseanchas agus Seanfhocail - An Irish place-name and a proverb


Ballywalter - Baile Bháltair - Walter’s townland

Ballywalter in the Ards peninsula in Co. Down derives from Baile Bháltair ‘Walter’s townland’, and there is another Ballywalter near Downpatrick.

However, the original form of both these names was probably ‘Walterstun’ with reference to one of the Anglo-Normans (or their descendants) who settled in the east of Ireland after the English conquest in the 12th century. This is clear from other townland names in the Ards, including one elsewhere in Ballywalter parish, Ballyferis, which is recorded as ‘Perestoun’ in a document dating to 1333.

‘Peres’ is a variant of the Old French name ‘Piers’. Both Ballywalter and Ballyferes (in their original forms) exhibit the Anglo-Norman naming practice: combining the name of the owner or occupier with the Old English element tun (later ‘town’) meaning a ‘fenced area or enclosure’.

Above is a picture of the popular Ballywalter Beach.

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Déanann leanbh ciallmhar gasta athair subhach sólásach. Gidh eadh, déanann leanbh baoth beagchiallmhar máthair dhubhach dhólásach.

A quick, sensible child makes a father glad and joyful. However, a foolish child makes a mother melancholic and disconsolate.

Although this has come to us in Irish, it is actually a translation of Proverbs 10:1, The proverbs of Solomon: “A wise son maketh the father glad; but a foolish son is the sorrow of his mother.”

The Irish version uses leanbh - a child but it is more than likely that it referred mainly to sons.

In these times of the “new man”, fathers can be as melancholic about their sons as mothers can but I suppose the proverb is alluding to women’s greater ability to deal with familial emotional shortcomings.

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Irish language