Placenames – a sense of history

We have a rich cultural heritage in our placenames in Northern Ireland, but sadly there are far too few times when we see the original language (Gaeilge) in use on public signs.

This is probably due to the language being seen to be “Nationalist” and therefore not of interest to the rest of the population. However, I would contend that it is of interest to both those who live here – and those that visit this small part of the world. Why should we just give the names of our towns in English? Often they make more sense when given in Irish.

…in the transport system

I have often thought that Translink (Northern Ireland’s main public transport provider is missing a trick on this. Translink is in the middle of station improvements, but they seem not to be making much move on using Irish as a means of communication.

Certainly, I have seen Metro timetables in both languages but only on the Falls Road opposite the Royal Hospitals. I’m sure that this occurs in other parts of the city as well, I have just not seen it.

So why not have bilingual signs at least at the railway stations.

suggested bilingual sign for Doire/Londonderry station
A suggestion for Translink to consider for bilingual station signs.

… in our street signs

Why could we not have a standard template for streetsigns in Northern Ireland? Each district/borough/city council could adapt the template by using their own corporate colours. We could have additional information added to the signs: Postcode, Townland, District/Borough/City council area.

An example of one for a road in Newtownabbey is shown below.

Suggestion for Roadsign in Newtownabbey District
Possible Roadsign giving more information that currently is used.

And another for a street in Ballymena…
suggested template for street sign for Ballymena
Apologies if my Irish is not up to scratch – will change if notified of errors.

4 thoughts on “Placenames – a sense of history

  1. Aontaím leat a Mhícheáil, go huile agus go hiomlán…

    I agree with you Mícheál 110%, maith thú


  2. Hi Michael

    Excellent point.

    To get a little nitpicky, if the Irish-language versions are not going to be a modern sans serif font, I guess readability will be a key consideration with the typeface used. They must be readable by railgoers from some distance.

    The ones in your examples are a little thin and weedy, with a bit too much space between some characters (the “o” and the “i” in “Chnoic” for example). The one used in older Irish street signs in the Republic have a little bit more weight and readability to them.

    Sorry, didn’t mean to detract from your main point!

  3. is moaner gairmiúil mé.

    great post. nice images. the Gaeilge and Béarla versions would need to be same size/font/visibility.

    the cód poist couldn’t really be used as most of the time there’s numurous postcodes on one street and sometimes houses on more than one street share a common postcode.
    though I wouldn’t mind something like Ormeau Road BT7 (like in London) or Cregagh Road 6 (akin to Dublin). it’s all opinion.

    townlands are lovely. the coucil area name is perhaps too much information. plus ppl tend to have more of an affinity with their county than their city/borough/district council area, from all walks of life here.

    loving the dathanna fosta, but i’m guessing that’d probably be rejected too for reasons of uniformity.

    le meas 7 ádh mór ort!

  4. Personally, I like the way it’s done in the Republic. Irish is written in a sans-serif italicised font, with the A written as a miniscule handwritten a and no dot on the i.


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