Abbeyleix Bog by any other name?

Abbeyleix Bog

We call it Abbeyleix Bog. That is the name on the map of bogs in Queen’s County in 1814. The map was part of the Third report of the Commissioners on the Nature and Extent of Bogs in Ireland.

Over the years, however, the bog to the south of Abbeyleix town was referred to by, or associated with, different names: Killamuck Bog, Granafallow Bog, Ballymullen Bog and/or Collins Bog. All these names depended on ‘where you were coming from’ – which townland you lived in.

Which of these names are most likely to be correct, or provide the best description? For that one has to go back to the Irish form. The bilingual website on place names www.logainm.ie helped me out.

Abbeyleix is the Anglicised form of Mainistir Laoise, ‘the monastery of Laois’. The wider area of Abbeyleix, according to the Cotton Map of 1563, was called Franamanagh (Fearann na Manach) – ‘the land of the monks’.

Ballymullen, or Baile an Mhuilinn, is on the eastern side of the bog and literally means ‘town of the mill’. On the western side lies Killamuck (Coill na Muc), meaning ‘wood of the swine’. South of the bog is the townland of Granafallow (Garrán na Faille) – ‘cliff grove’. Clonkeen (Cluain Caoin) is on the south eastern side of the bog and means ‘pleasant or fair meadow/pasture’.

Although the above names indicate a variety of habitats in the vicinity, none of them refer to bogs, peatlands or wetlands.

Curiously though, another name keeps cropping up – Grallagh or Grallow. There is Grallow Wood on the Abbeyleix Estate; the housing estate Grallow Woods to the east of the Manor Hotel and adjacent to the Abbeyleix Bog; as well as the bog butter find in Grallagh Bog near Abbeyleix.

A map in the De Vesci collection in the National Library of Ireland is also titled ‘Killamuck and Grallagh Bog’, with no clear indication of where it is.

The primary purpose of the Down Survey Maps (1656-8) was to record the boundaries of each townland and to calculate their areas with great precision. It is the map of the Barony of Cullenagh that provides the answer – Abbeyleix Bog is referred to as Grealaght Bog.

Just ‘to be sure to be sure’ I checked the meaning of Grealaght, Grallow or Grallagh on Logainm.ie. They are all a variations of An Ghreallach – ‘the miry ground’. Now that makes sense!

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