Rooskey (also Roosky and Ruskey): Rúscaigh
The River Shannon runs the length of County Roscommon and on its eastern border, the river divides several villages, towns, and counties. One such place is Rooskey, which is partially in Roscommon and partially in County Leitrim.
The original Gaelic name is Rúscaigh, which translates as ‘marshy’ or ‘a marshy place’. It can also refer to a ‘swamp’ or ‘bog’, and is yet another place name derived from its topographical features. The ‘rú’ at the beginning of the word could possibly be from ‘rua’, meaning a ‘browny red’, a colour prominent in boggy or marshy areas. The marshy land was along the banks of the river. Rooskey and its hinterland grew up with the dominance of the Shannon ever present, and it is understandable that this would be reflected in its place name.
It was recorded that St Patrick visited the Rooskey area between 438 and 440 AD. Nearer the present times, local rebels defeated General Lake’s army on the shores of Lough Bofin during the 1798 rebellion.
Rooskey’s earliest GAA club was called the ‘Ruskey Pat Molloys’ and its first recorded meeting was held on January 3rd, 1889. The infamous ‘Black and Tans’ left their mark on Rooskey during the War for Independence, terrorising the village in October 1920.
The County Leitrim side of Rooskey was formerly known as Georgia Village (‘Gorteen Oran’, as Gaeilge – meaning the small (tilled) field of the spring). In 1925, it contained 5 houses and 3 public houses. Also, on the Leitrim side, the Shannon Key West hotel closed its doors in October 2011. This site had previously housed ‘The Beeches’, and when that was demolished it was replaced by ‘The Shalamar’ and then ‘The Marina’.
One of Rooskey’s most famous sons was former Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, who was born here on the Roscommon side, as was his father with his mother coming from Cloone in Leitrim. Does anybody remember ‘Hanley’s of Rooskey’ first annual staff dance? It was held in the Cloudland Ballroom on January 9th, 1958 and admission was an extravagant 6/- (shillings -35cents approx.)
Rooskey or Ruskey is also the name of townlands in counties Donegal, Monaghan, Cavan, Mayo, and Fermanagh, and there is a Ruskey townland near Frenchpark.
As well as the attraction of the River Shannon, the region is famous for its lakes and its fishing, and a visit to the Rooskey Heritage Festival (usually in July) is well worthwhile. The lakes in the area are as scenic as any in Ireland.
Cúpla Focal 4 – le Dc
English Gaeilge Pronounced as
How are you? Cén chaoi a bhfuil tú? Kay hee will too?
Please Le do thoil Leh duh hull
I’m well Tá mé go maith Taw may guh mawh
I’m not well Níl mé go maith Neel may guh mawh
I’m reasonably well Tá mé réasúnta maith Taw may ray-zoonta mawh
Good morning Maith duit ar maidin Mawh ditt err mojj-in
Good night Oíche Mhaith Ee-haa whah
Sleep well Codladh sámh Kullah sawve
Well done! Maith thú Mawh hoo.
As we move around the county of Roscommon, it is now time that we looked at the county town itself, Roscommon.
The Gaelic original name, is Ros Comáin, ‘Ros’ meaning wood (or grove) and hence St Comáin’s wood. Comáin was the founder, abbot and bishop of Roscommon. The Dominican friary here was believed to stand on the site of the original foundation of St Comáin in the 8th century. However, modern historians claim that the present site of St Coman’s church is where St Comáin established his church, and not the Dominican Abbey. The woods near the monastery became known as Ros Comáin. This is another fine example of a topographic feature being linked with an event from the past, as seen with place like Elphin.
The town is first mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters in 777 AD, recording the death of Aedhan, ‘Abbot of Ros Comáin’. In 1837, Samuel Lewis wrote that ‘The town is principally built on the eastern and southern sides of a hill, at the base of which are the remains of its ancient and venerable religious buildings, and its once stately castle … The total number of houses is 581, of which 400 are merely cabins’.
Notable sites in the town are Roscommon Abbey, founded in 1253 by Felim O’Conor, King of Connacht, which was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and Roscommon Castle, built in 1268 by the Norman, Robert de Ufford. The castle changed hands several times before being burned down in 1690. The Old Gaol was erected in the 18th century, in what is the present town square, and it was here that its most famous occupant, ‘Lady Betty’, the last hangwoman in Ireland, executed her duties.
The sad news is that in 1894 there were 27 Public Houses in the Roscommon town area – where are they now?
In other parts of Ireland, ‘Ros’ can mean a point of land or headland, as in Ros Láir (Rosslare), meaning ‘Middle Promontory’.
Tulsk - Tuilsce
Languages evolve over time, and the Irish language is no exception. When the meaning of a word changes, or that word is no longer in common use, it can be difficult to find an accurate meaning for the original, Gaelic version, before it was translated/corrupted into the English language. We may also have a good idea of the meaning of one part of the place name, but not of all of it.
‘Tulsk’ comes to mind here.
Its Gaelic version is ‘Tuilsce’, we know ‘uisce’, meaning ‘water’ is involved at the end of the word. The beginning throws up two possibilities: ‘tulach’, meaning ‘hill’ (plural, tulaigh), or ‘tuile’, meaning ‘flood’.
So, ‘Tulsk’ comes from the joining together of either ‘tulach uisce’, meaning the ‘wet hill’ (literally ‘the hill of water’), or ‘tuile uisce’, meaning the ‘flooded place’ (literally the ‘flood of water’). Take your pick!
Of course, Tulsk has strong connections with water, especially ‘holy’ water. The well or shrine at Ogulla (just outside the village) is a renowned pilgrimage site. It was said that St Patrick baptised the two daughters of High King Laoghaire there, while on his conversion crusade around Ireland in the 5th century, and if you’ve ever wondered why the names Eithne and Fidelma were so popular in the region, it so happens that Laoghaire’s daughters were called by those names.
Tulsk parish church also takes its name from the Princesses Eithne (the fair) and Fidelma (the auburn haired). This piece of information also solved the mystery for the writer as to why two of his aunts were called Eithne and Fidelma.
Other ‘holy’ wells in the area include ‘Barry’s Well’ in Kilcooley, ‘Tobereilbhe’, Tobarín Dubh (‘tobar’ is a well) in Carrowkeel/Castleruby, St Patrick’s wells in Corracreigh and Clooneybeirne, and St Colmcille’s well in Carrowbawn, to name but a handful.
We cannot leave Tulsk without mentioning the historic and archaeologically enriched region known as Rathcroghan or Cruachan Aí. There are well over a hundred monuments here and a visit to the sites and/or the Cruachan Aí Centre in the village, is a must for any person interested in local history and our past. Daithí’s Mound, or Stone, is the reputed burial place of the last pagan High King of Ireland, Daithí or Nathí. Rathcroghan Mound was burned in a ceremonial ritual of huge archaeological significance, and Oweynagat (cave of the cats) is the reputed entrance to the ‘Otherworld’.
The vast majority of place names in Ireland come from the Irish or Gaelic language.
Most of today’s English forms of these place names are corrupted and often badly translated versions of the original Gaelic name. The English also called the names as they heard them on their travels, or as they were written down for them by the native Irish. They were unable to understand or pronounce many Gaelic sounds, and this also led to difficulties in tracing the original meaning of a name.
Let us begin this week with one such case: Strokestown
The modern translation of this name is Béal Átha na mBuillí, and even this has recently been shortened to Béal na mBuillí.
Béal Átha na mBuillí literally means ‘the mouth of the ford of the strokes. The ‘strokes’ refer to a battle or faction fights which took place in the area, possibly down by the stream which now runs in front of Strokestown Park House or The Demesne (this was before the foundation of the GAA, when factions or teams could hit one another legally on a parish v parish basis). A ford was situated in this place.
The name could also come from the townland of Bellanamullia, located 3 km east of Strokestown. This place was recorded in the Annals of Connacht as early as 1411. Gaelic versions vary and change over time - Bél na Muilnedh changed to Béal na Muilleadh, which in time appeared as Béal Áth Maille. There is an argument that the ‘béal áth’ could, in fact, be ‘baile’, or town, and that ‘muilleadh’ translated as ‘a mill’, could lead us to the conclusion that the English version of the name should be Milltown and not Strokestown. There is evidence of mills in the area.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, versions such as Belawhnamhully (an English attempt at pronouncing the Gaelic), Beúl na mBuilligh and Béal Átha na mBuille were used, but grammatically speaking, ‘Béal Átha na mBuillí’ is the correct modern version of the place simply known to most people nowadays as ‘The Town’.
The modern town of Strokestown was designed by the Mahon family, later Pakenham-Mahon, in the 17th century. Their base was the Demesne or ‘Big House’, now called Strokestown Park House, and they modelled the town’s main street on Vienna’s Ringstrasse, except that they wanted it to be wider. The National Famine Museum, situated on the site of the old stables at the house, is well worth a visit, on its own merits, and also for the irony of having such a memorial in the same buildings which housed the infamous ‘coffin-ship’ landlord, Major Denis Mahon, who was assassinated for his deeds in 1847.
Cúpla Focal (Words and phrases which can be used in everyday conversation) – le DC
It’s our language, so let’s use it!
Dia dhuit – dee aah ghit – hello
Conas atá tú?– kunnas ataw too – how are you?
Cé chaoi a bhfuil tú – kay hee will too – howaya?
Tá mé go maith – Taw may guh mah – I am well
Slán – slawn – ‘bye
Sláinte – slawn che – your good health
Go raibh maith agat – guh rev mah agut – thanks
Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam – teer gone changa, teer gone on-im – A country without its language, is a country without a soul.