Irish language

Dinnseanchas agus seanfhocal - an Irish place-name and a proverb

Pic: Kenneth Allen 

Tempo - An tIompú Deiseal - the right-hand turn

The Tempo River in Co. Fermanagh has its origins in the element iompú ‘turn’.

When employing the definite article an (‘the’) in Irish, [t] is prefixed to the initial vowel of a masculine noun (i.e. an t-iompú ‘the turn’), and this sound is retained in the anglicised form, Tempo.

The name appears as Tempodessell in a survey dating to 1622; this indicates that the original form is An tIompú Deiseal ‘the right-hand turn’, possibly referring to a bend onthe river a short distance south of the village which bears the same name.

According to a local legend, St Patrick left a manuscript here on his way to Enniskillen and instructed his servant to ‘turn right’ to go back and retrieve it. The village of Tempo is in the townland of Edenmore (Éadan Mór ‘great hill brow’), the eastern boundary of which is marked by the Tempo River.


Go dtéidh grian go grinneall, ni raghaidh fial go hifreann.

Until the sun goes to the bottom of the sea, a generous person will not go to hell.

This is a proverb from Co. Galway which extols people to be generous if they don’t want to meet up with Lucifer in the after-life.

To be honest, I think entry into hell is based on a wider set of criteria based on the ten commandments but I’m not sure what the pass mark is – Ten out of ten? Or would seven out of ten suffice? Or like Brexit, 50% +1?

Anyway, in a poor, rural country such as Ireland in the last couple of pre-Celtic Tiger centuries, people often depended on the generosity of others to get them through hard time so a high premium was put on individuals who helped out in times of need.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access



Irish language