Wolves, Windsors and and a nod the Caribbean

Townland tales

New Antrim Street, Castlebar. Pic: John O’Callaghan

Some quirky and exotic Castlebar townland names

John O'Callaghan

When it’s raining very heavily, there’s a popular Irish saying that goes ‘it wouldn’t let a hen from a bush’. Both hens (in Irish, ‘cearc’, singular, and ‘circe’, plural or genitive case) and bushes feature in a few Mayo townland names.
For example, the Irish for Newantrim townland is Sliabh na gCearc, ‘Mountain Of The Hen(s)’. There’s also a New Antrim Street in Castlebar, and the eponymous townland, lies just north of the town. Slievenagark Lough lies at the north end of the townland.
Lisnakirka, Lios na Circe, ‘Fort of the Hens’, or Milebush, is located just over 3km or one statute mile south of Castlebar in the civil parish of Aglish, in the Barony of Ceara (Carra). The Milebush name is now most commonly used.
To get to Milebush, you must pass through another townland with two names, Lios na Gaoithe, ‘Fort of the Wind’, aka Antigua! Antigua is a Caribbean Island in British West Indies. There was once an Antigua House, home of a Mr McAdam in 1838, built by the Binghams, or the Earls of Lucan, who had close trading links with the West Indies.

Caribbean connections
There are two ringforts in this townland, both on hills 51m above sea-level. One is 100 metres to the southeast of the site of Antigua House, opposite Pat Kelly Autos on the Ballinrobe Road. The other is in the extreme southwest corner of the townland and was once known as Cruckalasse (Cnoc na Lasaidh? ‘The Hill of Fire or Lightning’?).
I found one reference connecting Mayo with Antigua, through an Alexander Arbuthnot (1768–1828) – formerly Bishop of Killaloe and Kilfenora in the (then) ‘established’ Church of Ireland. He was born in Rockfleet (Carraig an Chabhlaigh) on May 7, 1768, the son of John Arbuthnot. Among his siblings were the Right Honourable Charles Arbuthnot and Major-General Sir Thomas Arbuthnot.
Alexander’s first wife was Susanna Bingham, daughter of Mr Bingham of Antigua, West Indies. His younger brother, the Major-General, served in and commanded several regiments in succession. He fought in the (Iberian) Peninsular War (1807-1814) and served in Portugal, Ireland, England and the West Indies. He contracted cholera in 1832 and was treated and spent time recovering in Lawn House, another Bingham property in Castlebar. (‘St Audries’ was another Bingham house in nearby Cloonagh townland, already in ruins by 1838.)  
The Milebush Road takes you out to Castlebar Golf Club, situated in the townland of Lightford. That’s what it is named on the current OSi maps. The address of the Golf Club is Rocklands – after Rockland House, yet another former Bingham property, on the other side of the road.
Lightford is a ‘recent’ form of the name. It seems to have been based on an Irish nickname. The townland actually started out its life with the name Cloancarragh or Cluain Carraig – ‘Rocky Meadow’, in 1661, and this was changed to both Rockland and Lightford around 1811. Place name scholar John O’Donovan (1803-1868) translated ‘Little Ford of the Light’ to Athán Solais, and thus it remained Lightford. Rockland House was situated in the central part of the townland and Lightford Bridge is located to the south.
It is interesting that O’Donovan also suggested Athán Rua as an alternative name for Ahanroe, ‘Little Red Ford’, a mile east of the same stream, in the parish of Breaffy.

Anglicised Breaffy
‘Breaffy’ is a complete transmogrification of Breaghwy from Bréachmhaigh, meaning ‘wolf-plain’. This is not the only anglicised townland in the parish of Breaghwy. Bréandrum became Windsor in 1811, when William Bald put it on his Bogs of Mayo map, giving pride of place to Windsor House and Demesne, the residence of Col McAlpine, located in this townland.
Bréandrum may translate to ‘Stinking Ridge’ or ‘Long Hill’. There was a Windsor-Hill Trigonometric Pillar on a 57-metre-high hill nearby and this is probably the ridge from which the place takes its name.
Curiously, and somewhat confusingly, Bréandrum appears as the townland name on the current OSi map, with a ‘Windsor Lough’ also indicated, whereas the signs on the main Dublin road clearly direct you to Windsor or Bréandroim.
Mayo is not the only county with a townland named Windsor. You will also find the same name in counties Antrim, Cork and Laois. The one in Cork, near Ballincollig, is called An Ghéagánach, or ‘the gangly one’, in Irish, and in Laois it is also known as Cappaghnahoran, ‘Ceapach na hEorna’, or the ‘Top of the Oat-Field’, northeast of Borris-in-Ossory. Windsor Ward Electoral Division in Belfast city is the one in Co Antrim.

Dr John O’Callaghan is a mountain walk leader who has organised and led expeditions both at home and abroad. He has served on the board of Mountaineering Ireland and is currently on the Irish Uplands Forum board. In 2012, he wrote the winning article that secured Westport’s accolade as the Irish Times’ ‘Best Place to Live in Ireland’.