[From The Manx Quarterly, #15]
Paper read at the Annual Meeting
of the Manx Society on Hollantide day, 1914,
by Mr. J. J. KNEEN, of Port Erin
The Place-names of Rushen, in common with those of the rest of the Island, possess many interesting features. Almost every little glen, hill, creek, and rock has its own particular legend, some pathetic, some humorous. To instance a few Carrick ny hoaie, "the rock of the grave," situated in Giau ny geyrragh, " sheep's cove," at the Sound, marks the spot where some foreign sailors perished. "their ship was wrecked on Kitterland, and endeavouring to land in the ship's boat, at Giau ny geyrragh, their frail craft was wrecked on this rock. Their bodies being washed ashore, they were buried on the headland above. There are several rocks called Creg-y-jaghee,
" Tithe Rock." In olden times, all who fished from these rocks were compelled to give a tithe to the Meoir, which was probably sold for the benefit of the Lord of the Manor. Creg-ny-neenyn, " The Rock of the Girls" : it is said that two girls were drowned on this tidal rock in Port Erin Bay. When the tide had ebbed, they were found tied to each other by their hair. Giau-ny-spyrryd, " The Cave of the Spirit," was said to be haunted by one of the buggane species. One old Manxman never passed that way along the top of the cliff without appeasing his bugganeship by throwing him a bottle of rum, with the words: " Gow shen, y veisht " (" Take that, evil spirit "). Lhiondaig-y-phohllinagh, "the green plot of the merman," is a grassy spot between rocks, where, it is said, a merman was wont to come and bask in the sunshine.
Purtinirryding, is a corruption of Purt Inneen y Dane, " The harbour of the Dane's girl." A Danish ship was wrecked here, and the captain's daughter was saved on this rock. Skinner-bit-a-lion, is another curious rock-name. It is said than this rock was originally called "Skinner," and a ship named the Lion being wrecked on it, people said that Skinner bet or beat the Lion, which is now contracted into Skinner-bit-a-lion.
A very interesting point often brought out by the study of these place-names is that a name which is now found confined to a certain portion of a district was probably at one time the designation of a much larger area. These earlier names are usually Celtic, which were later re placed by Scandinavian. We may have an instance of this kind in the " Laagh," the miry land-a part of Surby. The Scandinavians probably translated such names into their own language, thus Surby is " Saur-byr," the Sour or Miry Farm or Village.
In Cregneish we may probably have another instance of this kind. Popular derivation has been responsible for the alteration of this mane, its ancient name being " Crokness." We are told that it means the " Rock of Age," a very pretty name, but, unfortunately, not very probable, as its ancient name, " Crok-ness," points to another derivation entirely. In pre-Norse days, the whole of this district was probably called the " Crok," from the Goidelic " Cnoc "-a hill. In later Manx this became "Cronk." When the Norsernen came, they simply added " ness." Any land jutting out from the mainland-as does that between Port St. Mary and Port Erin-was called a " naze " or " ness " ; mod. Eng. nose." It mattered not whether the Land were low, as is Langness, i.e., " long naze," or high, as that already described just below Cregneish, or "Crokness," we have the Norse " Howe" (a hill), and further towards Port St. Mary we find the Cronk, which may possibly be a remnant of what once was the designation of the whole district below the Mull Hills.
Kione y Ghoggan, usually translated " -Noggin Head," is evidently derived from Kione ny Guaggyn, " The Headland of the Clefts." Irish and Scotch " Gãg," modern Manx " Gaaig"---a cleft, rent, or fissure. " Gãgan " (pron. " gaugan") is the name of a high mountain in Donegal, with clefts or rents in its side.
A study of Manx place-names reveals many interesting facts-there is a strange termingling of the old and the new; ancient grammatical forms which are long since obsolete appear side by side with the colloquialisms of today. For instance, in nearly all languages of the Indo-European family the singular nominative is identical in form with the plural genitive; this peculiarity gives us such forms as Creg ny Mollan, "The rock of the bollans or carps" ; Croit ny grooag, "The croft of the worms" ; Gian ny birragh, " The creek of the gulls" Burroo ny nedd, " The fortified hill of the nests.
As instances of pure colloquialisms, indicating a more recent nomenclature, we have Cass ny maberyn, " The foot of the fields " ; Corneil y chione veg. " The corner of the little head "; Pairk y Ghlion. " The Park of the Glen."
Fields, crofts, etc., are often identified by the names of the owners, as:--
Bwoaillee Fayle, " Fayle's Fold "; Bivoaillee Ghoo Humman, " Taubman's Black Fold " ; Garee Caren, " Caren's Waste" ; Lhag boayl Taggart, " The hollow of Taggart's place " ; Oaie Wushel, " Bushel's Grave"; Rhenniagh y Cosher, " Cottier's Ferny Place" ; and Reoastyn Karran, " Karran's Waste Lands."
Nicknames often take the place of surnames, as:-Bwoailee Ghoo Bill Harry, " Bill Harry's Black Fold"; Croit Bil Die, "Bill Dick's Croft", Croit Vargaid, Croit Ves, and Croit Yac, " Margaret's, Bessie's, and Jack's Crofts" respectively; Croit Yuan Ves, " John Bessie's Croft " ; Magher Emmie, '` Emmie or Emily's Field."
Finally, a study of the farm names brings to light many Christian names and surnames long since obsolete, as:-Bailey Carmick, " Cormac or MacCor-mick's Farm " ; Bailey Crickard, " Richrd or MacRichard's Farm " ; Balley Kinry, " MacHenry or Harrison's Farm," etc.
From my own experience, I know that there are many of these old place-names still uncollected, and it should be our duty to gather in these waifs and strays before it is too late, and they become lost for ever.