Irish Balderdash: Dooneyvarden (Co. Clare)


township in West Clare formed when an English mapmaker, exhausted from his trudge up Corkscrew Hill, asked a farmer if he might repast in his barn.

The farmer, with the Irish still on his tongue and the spirit much on his breath, thought the mapmaker threatened the virtue of his prized jennet, Dooney.

“Dooney’s a virgin!” cried the farmer, but the Englishman heard “Dooneyvarden” and, after descending the Corkscrew in wake of the farmer’s scythe, marked the area as such.

The name holds fast for the Irish love of any tale wherein an Englishman makes a jennet of himself.

by Amanda Bales

Irish Balderdash, Termonfeckin (Co. Louth)

ave you heard of Termonfeckin, the town that overlooks the Irish Sea? It’s small in size, made up of modest farmers, but its history is slightly… phantasmic.

The town was raided throughout the centuries since its inception. Such war isn’t without casualties. It has been said Termonfeckin Castle is not a place to visit after dark, unless you’re meeting the ghost of Kieran Feichin, a soldier who died defending the land of his forefathers. He died a death not befitting of an honorable man. He still paces the grounds, awaiting his redemption.

And so became Tearmann Feichin, a refuge indeed.

by Jesseca Stenson

Irish Balderdash: Magheranaskeagh (Co. Offaly)


his colourful name is a neologism invented c. 1700 by an anonymous group in county Laois, as a metonymic onomatopoeic expression referring  – under multiple sophisticated rhetorical device guises – to the supposedly inferior quality of fishing rods manufactured in rival county Offaly, where Magheranaskeagh is located. (citation needed) As with many jokes – especially the ones that turn into inside jokes after a night at the local pub – it is difficult if not impossible to explain them (which would also make the joke not funny anymore). The rumour that a place called Magheranaskeagh exists persists despite modern aerial imaging technology.

by Frauke Uhlenbruch

Dr. Hurley’s Digest, Week 21

While your humble editors are up to their elbows in archival research on Dr. Hurley in his homeland and up to their noses in pints of stout in his favorite drinking establishments, this week’s content has taken us all over the place: to Thailand (almost), back in time to 19th century Paris, to a tropical locus amoenus, to mysterious Asian backalleys, backwards through a lifetime from old age to infancy, and finally to Dr. Hurley’s home and the oddly named towns of Ireland.  Anyone else’s metaphorical passport taking a beating?

Work through your metaphorical jetlag by perusing the following:




And let’s not forget this week’s entries into our Irish Balderdash contest, which continues tomorrow! So far, we’ve seen:

Irish Balderdash: The Saltee Islands (Co. Wexford)


(Note the following is an extract taken from the accounts of that Pirate and seafaring blaccard known as The Albatross)


une 7th, 1766

“…and it was at Latitude 52 degress 8′ 30” North, Longitude 6 degrees 41′ West, one league from the Quay of Kilmore that we did first encounter the turbulent shores of the Saltee Islands. The nipper of the islands we found to be impenetrable, but we did find purchase against t’other; and its shores lined with caves in which we stowed our gains for returnin’ to another day…”

by Tony Healey

Irish Balderdash: Nightfall in Ooghinneendonnellduff (Co. Mayo)


he name of this charming village means “inlet” and it sprang from the fishing industry, if you can call four boats a fleet. The fishermen go out every day at dawn and return at dusk with their catch as they’ve done for centuries. After a pint or two at the town’s only pub, they trudge home to their wives in medieval stone cottages. Now the thatched roofs sport satellite dishes so the Ooghinneendonnellduffians can enjoy five hundred channels of movies, infomercials, football, and of course ‘Paisean Faisean’.

by Siu Wai Stroshane

Irish Balderdash: Knockmealdown (Co. Waterford)


nockmealdown,  sure, a fine little town. Once and beforetimes, aaages before, a miscreant elf lad knocked on the door of the head of the leprechauns in that small town; said the elves would all leave if  he  knocked the elf down. The leprechaun swore if he couldn’t, his folk would do likewise the same, but the bet made him choke. They  brawled like great warriors a glorious day, but when the smoke cleared, the elf had held sway.

And that’s why of all of the towns in the green land of Éire, Knockmealdown’s the lone with no  leprechaun near.

by Lydia Ondrusek

Irish Balderdash: Daughter of a Poet (Ballykissangel, Co. Fictional)


aughter of a poet” (look it up) once inhabited the digital, pre HD, town of Ballykissangel. Founded in 1992 but not visited until 1996, this is Ireland’s newest and most famous berg. (Is berg even an Irish term?) It originated in the imagination and has remained in the imagination, barely changing until all changes stopped abruptly. I traveled there frequently, although it has been over two years since I visited. There is a strange nature evident here where thousands, actually millions, visit yet the streets remain unoccupied. This is the charm of this town. So popular, yet so untouched.

by Ellen Jantzen

Irish Balderdash: A Cnoc Buí (Knockboy, Co. Waterford)


ising seven-hundred-and-six meters into sky, unearthed at the base of the isle between the city of modernity and bustle, and the place where they make the Claddagh rings and speak old ways, sits a thing of majesty.  They call her Knockboy.  They call her Yellow Mountain.  Earth itself sent roving heaps of ice to polish her the right height to lookout for invaders of empires long from memory.  Travellers spring from her streams.  Plants with no purpose but beauty thrive into the strangest of soils on Éire.  But if no one tells you, you might think Knockboy only a mountain.

by Laura Hallman

Irish Balderdash: A dictionary of Irish placenames

…tionary of Irish placenames (cont’d)

Full of angry Lorena Bobbit types with philandering husbands and sharp gardening implements.
Home of the famous Annual Phlegm-Hacking Jamboree.
Memory-deficient population constantly surprised when someone raps on the door.
Like Knocknagoshel, but much more persistent visitors.
Plagued by fatal accidents involving thrill-seekers who can’t resist a dumb challenge.
Unpleasant community with collective genital fixation.
Infinitesimal hamlet inhabited by marijuana-growing twin brothers.
Where they go to mix up the dough for hash-cakes.
Where they bake up a batch.
Dictionary of Irish placenames (cont’d overleaf)
by Darragh McManus