[From Surnames & Place-names of Isle of Man, A.W.Moore, 1890]




THERE are divisions of land for administrative purposes, the names of which appear on our maps, but are not apparent as topographical features. The largest of these, the Sheading, is undoubtedly of Scandinavian origin (see post).

The name of the next division in point of size, skeerey, ' a parish,’ when regarded merely as a civil division— and the civil divisions are certainly older than the ecclesiastical—is also probably of Scandinavian origin ; but, when regarded as an ecclesiastical division, its name, skeeylley, may possibly be a corruption of the Scandinavian skeerey, and the Manx keeilley (gen. of keeill), as in SKEEYLEY1 CHARMANE, ' German’s Church Division ' (or Parish), though in this case also a purely Scandinavian derivation appears more probable (see post). Skeeley forms the prefix to fifteen out of the seventeen parish churches in the island.

1 Kelly writes this SKEEYL-Y-CHANNANE, which cannot be correct. SKEEYLEY is pronounced as one word by Manx people. II

About the next division, the treen, there has been considerable controversy, which, however, has not been successful in elucidating its meaning. Kelly does not mention it in the Triglott Dictionary. Gill has: ' Treein, " an ecclesiastical division of the country . . being a third part." ' Cregeen : ' Treen (F), " a town-ship that divides tithe into three." ' If it ever was a third part, the division of which it was a third has disappeared. Dr. Joyce remarks that ' Trian (treen) denotes the third part of anything ; it was formerly a territorial designation in frequent use . . . it generally takes the forms of trean and trien, which constitute or begin the names of about seventy townlands in the four provinces.’1 There are, on an average, ten treens in a parish in the Isle of Man, and as in all the sheadings except one there are three parishes, the sheadings contains about thirty treens. Now in Ireland the baile, Manx balla(see below),wasthe thirtieth part ofa barony, and, assuming that the Irish barony and the Manx sheading are equivalent divisions, it may be conjectured that the treen and the balla were originally identical. From the Ballaugh Register, AD. 1600, we learn that the owners of the treens were obliged to keep their portion of the churchyard and its fence in order, which portions were ' marked out as followeth in order by the most ancient men of the parish ;'2 and there is a further note in the register to the effect that there were twenty yards allotted to each treen, there being eight and a half treens, so that the circumference of the churchyard was one hundred and seventy yards. The treen owners had also to keep the parish pinfolds in order. The treens include both cultivated and uncultivated land, i.e., quarterlands and intacks.

1 Joyce, 4th Ed., p. 242.

2 Manx Note Book, No. 2, p. 57.

Balley, Balla (M), ' a town, an estate, a farm, a village.’ As in BALLAGLASS, ' Green Farm.’ Balla is the modern form, balley or bally being almost universal before the seventeenth century. It receives the gloss locus in Cormac’s glossary and the Book of Armagh. Cormac also gives baile as the equivalent ofrath, and it is frequently found in this sense in the Irish annals. Its primary meaning seems to have been an enclosure, a place fenced round, where it is identical with the Irish and Gaelic balla, and the Manx boayl. All these words are possibly derived from the late Latin ballivum. When St. Mochna founded his monastery, in the seventh century, he is said to have enclosed it with a balla. The following relating to the balla is from a tract printed in the appendix to ' The Tribes and Customs of the Hy Fiach-raich ' : ' These countries were sub-divided into townlands, which were called ballys . . . and each townland was divided into quarters . . . and now the lands are generally set and let, not by the measure of acres, but by the name of quarters . . . a quarter being the fourth part of a townland. . . . I have been sometimes perplexed to know how many acres a quarter contains, but I have learned it is an uncertain measure, and anciently proportioned only by guess, or according to the bigness of the townlands where-of it was a parcel.’* Balla has quite lost its meaning of a definite division corresponding with being, as a rule, from sixty to eighty acres, except in the parish of Lonan, where they are somewhat larger. The original size of the kerroo-valley was probably from fifty to sixty acres, which is about the extent of land which one plough could turn up in the course of a year. The treens or ballas there-fore vary from 240 to 320 acres, though there are some exceptional ones either much larger or much smaller. There are in the Island 639½ quarterlands of Lord’s lands and 169 treens, making rather less than four quarterlands to a treen. There are also 99½ quarterlands which belonged to the dissolved Monastery at Rushen, called Thalloo-ab, or ' Abbey-land,’ and 32½ quarterlands belonging to the various baronies. The abbey and barons’ lands were not divided into treens. [(I) CARROW-KEEL, (G) CARRUCHAN.] the treen, and is now prefixed to the name of nearly every farm in the island, without regard to its size. It is therefore by far the commonest local term in the Isle of Man, as it is in Ireland. It should be mentioned that in three treen names in the parish of Braddan it seems to have entered into composition with the (O. N.) dalr, as BALDALL BREW (Balla Dalr Vriew or Brew), ' Judge’s Dale Farm,’ or ' Brew’s Dale Farm,’ and BALDALL CHRISTE, in 1511, BALDAL CHRISTORY, ' Christory’s Dale Farm.’ In the same district there is a farm called BALDALREGNYLT, ' Reginald’s Dale Farm,’ in 1511, but now BALLAREGNILT, ' Reginald’s Farm.’ [(I) BALLYBANE, (G) BALLYMELLAN.]

* Miscellany of Celtic Society, p. 49.

Boayl (M), ' a place.’ As in BOAL-NA-MUCK, ' Place of the Pig.’ This word is cognate with balla (see above).

Liek (M), ' a half.’ As in LEAKERROO, ' Half Quarter.’ In the Isle of Man it is only found as a prefix in connection with kerroo. [(I) LAHARRAN.]

Kerroo (M), ' a quarter.’ As in KERROO-GARROO, ' Rough Quarter.’ In land measurement in the Isle of Man the kerroo is invariably used for the fourth part of a balla or treen, and includes the cultivated land only within it. Thus the Manx speak of a kerroo-valley, or, in English, a quarter-land, which is a further proof of the identity of the treen and balla ; but, when an epithet is affixed to kerroo, valley is dropped. The size of the kerroo of course varies with that of the treen, though quarter-lands in the same treen are also of different sizes;



Back index next

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2000