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House Names hereabouts

In Ireland, once you leave the main cities, many roads have no name, and many houses have no number. If those who live in a house have an unusual family name, the postman will know where to deliver the letters, but if they have a common names like Kavanagh or Tobin (as most do) then the only way to know which house is which is to give the house a name. It’s very common around here. My address has no numerical information at all: I live in an unnumbered house on an unnamed road, so, like many others, I gave my house a name. Here are a few house names I’ve seen in the neighbourhood.

House names can tell you a lot about the inhabitants. You just need to know how to interpret them. Read on!

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  1. I had no idea. Very cool and interesting. Not sure I would love being a post master there, but this is so unusual. I just figured it was all done the same worldwide, and I don’t know why. Seems a bit odd that I thought this, now that I think about it.

    • Well, it is changing, though slowly. Since last year, every house of other building has an Eircode (like a zip), but for some reason the post office doesn’t use them, so putting one on the front of a letter doesn’t help. But I can use it to find a place on my SatNav, which is invaluable 🙂

  2. That is fascinating! Although most houses in the UK do have numbers, people still like to give them names. I grew up in a house called Rokeby – it had originally been bought by my grandfather, who had fond memories of walking in Rokeby Park, near his boyhood home in Barnard Castle, County Durham. Near where I live now is a memory of the TV show Dallas, which featured the Southfork Ranch – our local equivalent is called Southshovel!

      • You’re quite right – place names ending in “by” or “thorpe” are almost all in what was originally the Danelaw – the eastern side of England that was settled by Danes. I live in a village that was on the border of the Danelaw, so within a few miles of here are Ratby, Groby and Cadeby, but also Nailstone and Osbaston – the “ton/tone” ending is Anglo-Saxon. My own village – Barlestone – is another one.

        • Oh, I’m surprised about -thorpe; I assumed it was West Germanic as we have it in Dutch dorp as well as German Dorf. Do you happen to know of the origin of the placename suffixes -leigh and -low? We seem to have a lot of them in the east here (Farmleigh, Wicklow), which was heavily settled by the Norsemen.

          • Thorpe is from Old Scandinavian, so it could easily have found its way into the Germanic languages – it meaning an outlying farmstead or settlement.

            Leigh is Old English, meaning a woodland clearing. Low is Old Scandinavian for meadow – Wicklow is Viking’s meadow. As you say, those pesky Danes arrived in Ireland as well as England!

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