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Foughill Etra/Otra

Foughil Etra & Foughil Otra  - Eochoill Íochtarach & Eochoill Uachtarach – The Lower Yew Wood & The Upper Yew Wood


When I was taught Irish at school it was invariably by some Christian brother from Waterford or Wicklow, who taught you your surname was Ó Murchú (the southern version and not the south Armagh Mac Murchaidh) and our pronunciation of placenames was often the result of similar teaching.


Take the placename Ballybot in Newry. The name came from the Irish ‘An Baile Bocht – The Poor Town’, and we would have been taught to pronounce the Irish ‘an Balyeh Bockt’. Years later when studying Irish language phonetics you found out that ‘baile’ was most often pronounced ‘balleh’ in Ulster Irish and more importantly with words such as ‘uachtar’, ‘íochtar’, ‘bocht’ etc the ‘ch’ was dropped in pronunciation completely – leaving ‘bocht’ to be pronounced as ‘bot’ – ‘balleh bot’ - just as it is still pronounced in Newry to this day.


And so with Foughil Etra &  Otra. If you can pronounce the English version – a job in itself – you are pronouncing the Irish version. The first ‘ch’ of ‘íochtarach’ (lower) and ‘uachtarach’(upper) are silent . The F- bit at the start of the name is the problem however. There is no record of the name ‘Foughil’ beginning with an ‘F’ in Irish, and Eochoill is the accepted version. However the same thing happens with another placename in Creggan – Finiskin – Fineasclann (from Ineasclainn – The Swift-Flowing Stream). The F- has developed over time  - whether to aid pronunciation or.. who knows? Always remember that lower = north in Irish and upper = South. But as with all rules….



There are no traces of yew left in either upper or lower parts – the yew being as poisonous to cattle 2,000 years ago as it is now (although a single Yew tree has been found in Foughil, down the 'pad', at John 'the Conna' Morgan's - perhaps a remnant of this ancient forest?). You will find it in graveyards where things are already dead. ‘Eochoill’ is made up of two Irish words – ‘Eo – Yew’ (as in Maigh Eo  - Mayo – The Plain of the Yew) and ‘Coill’ – the Irish for wood. Youghal in Cork comes from the same Irish form.


Foughill Etra is dominated by Foughill Mountain. The Dublin /Belfast railway runs just below the western side of the mountain while the new Dublin/Belfast motorway/dual carriageway runs directly east of it.


The village of Jonesboro - Baile an Chláir – the Townland of the Plain/Level  Place straddles Foughil Etra and Edenappa townlands and was founded by Roth Jones, who inherited all the townlands given for the upkeep of Moyry Castle. As far back as 1600 its is referred to as ‘Bollenclare)’. It sat at the highest point of the road that came out of the Moyry Pass before the road descended into the plain of Killeavy. In 1795 Jonathan Seaver - ‘Seaver of the Bog’(after whom Seaver's Road in Killeavy is named) and the Killeavy Yeomanry burnt the village down believing it to be a hotbed of United Irishmen - which it wasn't.