Trees in Irish Place Names by Dr Kay Muhr

Have you ever wondered about the origin of Irish place names?

Regardless of appearances today, Ireland was well wooded before the Plantation, and even 16th and 17th century maps show large areas covered with trees. It is likely – almost certain – that during the medieval period the extent of Ireland’s woodlands was considerably greater. The current state of Ireland’s woodlands is due to centuries of tree felling over the last 1800 years or so. Most of the trees seen in Ireland today are exotic species grown in plantations for cheap, soft wood and for pulp, and it can be hard to imagine this island dressed in vast swathes of mature native woodland as found in parts of France, Germany or Poland, for example. However sad it might be, it is not surprising, then, that the high regard in which trees were held in centuries past is almost wholly absent in twentieth and twenty-first century Ireland

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Kay Muhr holds a PhD from Edinburgh University. She has been Senior Research Fellow of the Northern Ireland Place-Name Project in Irish & Celtic Studiessince its foundation in 1987 and is currently Chair of the Ulster Place-Name Society and Vice-President of the Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland.

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