Finding Water by Mysterious Ways

Ah NO – this is not about water-divining, but about the wealth of clues in Irish place-names to tell us about the significance of some waterway or water source in that area. It could be a clue to a search.
Meaningful Irish words often found incorporated into place names include Cora – a weir – cor, corra, curr, cur … Curach – marsh, Eas – waterfall – Mfline- low marshy ground, or land near a lake or river – Muirisc (murrisk) a sea-side marsh or Seisceann. Oilean is an island, sruth is a stream, Tobar is a well, Turlach (turlough) a lake that dries out in summer, Uaran is a cold spring. As place names they have one thing in common – all of them suggest water.
As well as villages and towns, in county Wexford for example, apart from the familiar use of Bally (baile) for a town, Kil (ci/1) for a church, or Knock (cnoc) for a hill, many common town, village and town land names derive from a water feature in the area, such as Curra (Currach) wet bog or marsh, Anna/Ana (marsh/swamp). Less common among townla·nd names of County Wexford, are the use of Curragh (curra for a wet bog/marsh), Eanach (Anna/Ana) for marsh swamp, Tobar (or Tober) well or spring. If you find some derivation of muileann in the name, you can wonder if the mill could have been a WATER mill? We know there are not many of those particular mills left, but the use of the word might indicate that once vital use of water in the area. In County Wexford you could say the water had been muddied by the use of some Viking words (Rattigan) in place names.
That great authority on names, topographer P.W. Joyce, wrote in 1869 “Let us wander around Ireland”. We could say in our time, “Let us wander around looking for clues to her waterways”. Embodied in our place-names, we can find the use of Ath (a ford), perhaps united with Bel for a ford entrance. Often there is some corruption of Uisce for waterf Bealach or Loch for lakes and springs. Uaran or oran could be a spring too, abhainn (owen) a streamlet, as well as Jeadan, a stream or brook. Then Im/each could suggest a marshy place such as land by a lake, and Miluic (Meelick) marshy ground, perhaps by a river.
Another water-related source of curiosity, or subject for research, could be some of the Holy Wells of Ireland, of which there are thought to be some. 3,000 (Logan) – surely a wealth of the history and tradition all around us associated with Ireland’s water. And sometimes stirring curiosity as to not alone the tradition of the properties (or power) of the well, but whether perhaps it might be linked to actual scientific content? Looking through the traditions and stories, has somebody done a scientific study?
So – why not add another dimension to your waterways journeys by giving some thought to the place names? Of course, there are pitfalls, and there are mistranslations, many of which the authority, Joyce, described as “inexpressibly silly”. So, one should keep a good look out – keep searching, and not always jump to conclusions in the search (especially if not an expert in the Irish language). For example ‘Easbog’, while it hints vaguely of a gentle waterfall and you might spot the sign in the area of Rathaspeck in County Wexford – keep in mind that it is also a bishop …