The townlands


Aghadavoyle – Achadh an Dá Mhaol


Some phonetics first – ‘achadh’ is an old Irish word for field which is nearly obsolete now in Ireland (‘páirc’ and ‘gort’ – amongst others -  being the usual names used here) but is still quite common in Scotland in Scots Gaelic – as ‘Auch-‘ at the beginning of placenames. There is a theory that the predominance of ‘augh’ placenames in the west of Ulster (Aughnacloy etc) is due to the influence of Scots planters.

In Irish, ‘h’  ( for want of the correct grammatical term)  ‘does away with’ the letter it follows,  so’ achadh’ basically becomes ‘ahah’.


In the Ulster Irish dialect ‘mh’ in Irish is usually pronounced as a ‘w’ sound if followed or preceded with a broad vowel and as a ‘v’ sound if followed or preceded with a slender vowel (though as with all things to do with Irish this rule is often thrown out the window!). The ‘mhaol’ part of the placename – from ‘maol’: a hornless cow (molly)’ is a case in point – in theory it should be pronounced 'weel' but the Anglicisation (how it was written down as sounded in English) suggests ‘veel’ (Maol would be pronounced ‘mweel’)


‘Dá’ in Irish means two. ‘An’ (‘the’) in Irish is usually reduced to just ‘a’ in a lot of placename  pronunciation’,


Aghadavoyle – Achadh an Dá Mhaol – pronounced Ahah a da veel (say it quickly and you have Aghadavoyle – though if you aren’t from Aghadavoyle you probably won’t know what I’m talking about!)


So, to the meaning. John O’Donnovan, a Kilkenny Irish scholar recruited to work for the Ordinance Survey in the 1800’s, has a lot to answer for. He was the man tasked with researching Irish townland placenames. Quite often – after someone wheeling out the local ‘oul character’ who professed to know what the placename meant - he would end up with maybe a list of 5 of 6 different meanings for the one townland and basically he paid his money and took his choice of the one that sounded most poetic and interesting!


Achadh an Dá Mhaol – The Field of the Two Hornless Cows.

One wonders how long either the two hornless cows had to stand still or the fella that named the field had to stand looking at them so that it got its name. The meaning is accepted, even by the NI Placenames Project, and I myself have included this version in a placenames booklet.


There is another closely related word ‘maoil’ though. It means a ‘rounded summit, hillock or knoll’. If one goes up the Slieve Gullion Forest Park at Chambré’s and looks back over at Aghadavoyle, two rounded, circular hillocks are plainly visible. These are natural features accentuated by the remains of two stone ringforts which were built on the two rounded hills, just behind from what is known as the ‘Spellig’ in Aghadavoyle – a steep rocky cliff face which provided defence against attack. Therefore, a more probable meaning is:


Achadh an Dá Mhaoil – The Field of the Two Rounded Summits.

Kieran Murphy