Names of roads and places arise through both use and misuse. In Castletown, Arbory Street and Malew Street were originally known as West Street and North Street and would gradually change to indicate the Parishes towards which they led. Bowling Green Road is an anglicisation of the Manx "Boayl-yn-Grien" - place of the sun or "sunny place". The Bowling Green Estate, once owned by the famous Goldie-Taubman family, extended from Bridge Street along the Silverburn and as far as Ballasalla, and the road and district leading to King William's College, was known as College Green and included what is now called the Castletown Promenade. An old saw asked the question 'why is Castletown like a geranium'? and the answer was 'because its Green on one side and Scarlett the other'.
Hope Street was renamed in honour of Governor Hope; at one time, and still to a certain extent, it was subject to inundation at every tide and naturally was known as 'Water Street'. At one time, there was a 'Pot Shop' in every other house in Queen Street where the Lady of the House made her own particular brew of ale and one establishment is reputed to have been nicknamed 'the Bee Hive' and its landlady 'Queenie' hence Queen Street.
In Norman times the Castle would have been known by its Norman name "Castella de1'Ruissyn" or Castle of the wooded promontory; according to the late Canon Stenning the wood, probably of bog oak, part of Castletown is still known as "the Bog", extended from Derbyhaven right around the town. The area, now developed with houses and known as "Farrants Flatt" was called in my youth "The Flatt" or the "Irish Free State" - the latter consequent upon unemployed men being granted allotments on which to grow food, free of rent. In ancient times this piece of flat land extending as far as Knock Rushen would have been known as "the Castle Lawn".
Incidentally there was at one time a pagan temple to Jupiter on the site on which St. Mary's Church was subsequently erected and during extensions to the Church workmen came upon the ancient altar stone. I understand that for many years this relic was kept on Governor Lorne's property but what has happened to it now is anyone's business.
Mill Street, prior to the construction of Alexandra Road, led directly to the Lord's Mill in the Golden Meadow, a name probably deriving from the fact that the Mill lay on part of the Great Abbey Meadow, a name now shortened to "Great Meadow".
Red Gap is a pollution of the Manx "Raad-ny-Cabbil', or Road of the Packhorse and as you will see there is a great deal of history stored in names and name-places. Ballalough indicates 'place of the lake' and this lake would have been drained by the Monks when they constructed the "Dumb River" in order to farm the Great Abbey Meadows.
"The Crofts"derives from an ancient era when Castletown was a collection of small thatched cottages, huddled on the seaward side of the Castle, and to the north were a number of small crofts and "Hazelcroft" more than probably the oldest house in the .town, dating back many, many, hundreds of years, was a Farm well outside what is now Castletown.
And to come to more recent times "School Hill", now a Housing Estate, was so named in the days when English newspapers were first being delivered to the Island, at week-ends, and the men of 'Keone-y-Valla' (top end of the town), most of whom were illiterate, would repair to a comfortable nook at the top of the Hill where one who had 'the reading' would read to them the latest dispatches from England, and when enquiries were made of their wives as to where the husbands were the invariable answer was 'oh they be at school'.
A nice little story is told as to the origin of "the Apostles Bridge". It would appear that the local chemist, when he saw the work in commencement enquired as to the number of piers and on being advised came back with the quick reply 'ah I see the Apostles Bridge leading on to Paradise'. "Paradise" is that part of the town lying between Malew Street and Mill Street and obtained its name when houses were first erected to form Malew Street and one of the houses was occupied by a Baker and his wife of the name of "Saint". Of a Sunday morning they would stroll, band-in-hand, down through what was then a meadow and along the banks of the Lord's tall race and their neighbours would smile and say 'the Saints are walking in Paradise'.
True or not legend has it that the "Silverburn" derived its name from an heroic rescue by a monk from the Abbey of the name of 'da Silva'-who in a time of high flood rescued a farmer's baby and was himself drowned and it was said that the farmer who always swore that in gratitude he would raise a church to the glory of God but was never able to do so set aside a piece of ground and marked out the choir and nave by the planting of trees and that until comparatively recent times it was still possible to trace the outline of the proposed church by the manner in which the trees had been planted.
There were many rights-of-way in and around the town and most,of these have disappeared with the need for them. Recently the Royal Life Insurance Company built splendid new premises at Red Gap and I doubt if they are aware of a little bit of local history concerning the boundary of their property with that of the adjoining housing estate but in the days before the construction of the Bye Pass people from the top end of the town anxious to make their way, on foot, to Port Erin and Port St. Mary would use a short cut along the right-of-way through School Hill and then along the hedge which forms boundary with the Royal Life's property and which was known to all and sundry as 'the scuttle'. The 'scuttle' no longer exists and I doubt if many of the locals know even of its name never mind its existence.
Castletown could, some one hundred odd years ago, boast of nail makers, sail makers and rope makers. All of these trades have long since ceased to exist but an echo remains of the three or four rope makers in the "Polrope" (originally pullrope) a lane which connects Hope Street to Mill Street. There is a tiny footbridge, over the Tail Race, connecting Hope Street to the Claddaghs, bearing the rather grand name of "Fiddler's Bridge". Few of the town's present inhabitants are aware of the origins of the name. An English gentleman retired to the Island and brought with him his yacht. The yacht was quite a sizeable vessel and he decided to use it as a house-boat anchoring it in the inner harbour. He lived quietly in the vessel for several years until the authorities decided that in addition to harbour dues he should pay rates. This he considered rather unfair but found a way round the problem by taking the vessel to sea for several days each year, thus breaking his period of residency. He was an accomplished violinist and as his yacht was normally anchored almost adjacent to the little footbridge he would come ashore on warm summer evenings and leaning his back against the rails of the bridge would entertain the inhabitants of Hope Street and the customers of the Ship Inn, then the Railway Inn, and accordingly it came to be known as 'the Fidlers Bridge'.
Thinking of Inns, the first Inn to be erected adjacent to the Castletown Railway Station, when the Railway first came to town, was a small wooden structure hosted by an elderly gentleman. The boys of King William's soon came to know him and found a fatherly figure in whom they could confide. It was not long before boys, as young as twelve years of age, would climb out of their dorms and make their way to this particular tavern and mine host got into the habit of referring to them as 'my little ducklings' and, of course, it only took very little time for the place to be referred to as "the Ducks Nest". A name it still proudly bears.
With the introduction of Radio and Television language add particularly pronounciation is tending to become tied and many of the echoes of the past are dying away into distant time. I well remember men of my father's generation slipping back into the old dialect and pronouncing English with echoes of our celtic past 'white' would be pronounced 'quite' and 'wheel' 'queel'. Pole would be 'Powl' and water would become 'warrer' not unlike the old german 'warser'. There would be remnants too of old anglo-saxon - 'door' would be 'duer' - old high german was in fact 'dhur' although modern german is 'Tur'. Our language is immensely rich; anglo-saxon, norman-french, latin, greek, scandinavian, celtic, all form part of the rich tapestry, and much of our history is hidden within 'words'. To conclude my musings I would mention the word 'window' - a scandinavian word having nothing to do with an open space filled with glass but of most romantic origin 'vindauge' or eye of the wind. The only place in which you will now find a true 'window' is in a stone built barn and is the slot, narrow outside and wide inside, permitting the wind to enter the barn and dry the straw and hay.
by Teddy Blackburn