Irish Language

Dinnseanchas agus seanfhocal: Fingal, Donegal and not sending a blacksmith to make shoes

The Bluffer on the origins of Irish placenames and a proverb to remember

Image of sun setting against a white lighthouse on a cliff beside the sea with dark clouds in the background
Sunset at Fanad Head Lighthouse Donegal (Shawn Williams/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Fingal - Fine Gall - the Danish tribe “We have at least two interesting examples of local names formed by the word Gall as applied to the Danes — Fingal and Donegal.

“A colony of these people settled in the district lying north of Dublin, between it and the Delvin river, which in consequence, is called ... Fine Gall, the territory or tribe of the Galls or Danes; and the same territory is still well known by the name of Fingal, and the inhabitants are locally called Fingallians.

“Donegal is mentioned in several of our Annals, and always in the form of Dun-na-nGall, the fortress of the foreigners. These foreigners must have been Danes, and the name was no doubt applied to an earthen dún occupied by them prior to the twelfth century for we have direct testimony that they had a settlement there at an early period, and the name is older than the Anglo-Norman invasion. PW Joyce


Níor cheart gabha a chur ag déanamh bróg - Square pegs don’t fit into round holes

Literally, the proverb translates as “it’s not right to send a blacksmith to make shoes” and indeed it is always right to get the right person for the job or chaos will ensue.

The British Conservative Party – and I respect their decision – thought it was a good idea to have Boris Johnson as their leader. Okay, we all make mistakes.

And when Johnon’s premiership became untenable, they chose Liz Truss. It didn’t take long for that folly to manifest itself. But at least they now have a safe pair of hands in, er, Rishi Sunak.

But at last, it seems that the Tories are heading for the opposition benches to be replaced by, er, Keir Starmer. Is he a blacksmith dressed up as a cobbler? Time will tell.