BY SEÁN P. FEENY
A RECENT letter to the editor encouraged us to try and answer a question that goes through a lot of people’s minds – is one of the most famous landmarks in the county called An Earagail/Errigal or is it Mount Errigal?
Seamus O’Donnell, a native of Kincasslagh living in Ballyshannon, contacted the Donegal News after seeing the famous landmark being referred to as ‘Mount Errigal’ in an official tourism brochure promoting the county.
“All the maps/atlases of Donegal that I have ever seen give the name Errigal or Errigal Mountain as the name of our highest hill, located in the parish of Gaoth Dobhair.
“However, in the lovely brochure just released to publicise Donegal, the mountain has seemingly been renamed as Mount Errigal. Was I away for the renaming?,” Seamus asked.
Having conducted some research into the matter, Seamus discovered that the famous landmark appears as ‘Mt Errigal’ in a number of places.
He said: “govisitdonegal.com – the tourism brochure, shows Mt Errigal on the map of Donegal (Page 4). On the page with the headings Go-Do-Stay, down the right hand side of the page, is a picture of Errigal, entitled Mount Errigal.
“On the donegalcoco.ie website is the Donegal Prospectus. The introduction by Seamus Neely (CEO) and Ciaran Brogan (Cathaoirleach) is on a background of a lovely photo of Errigal with the name ‘Mount Errigal’.
“There are other Bord Fáilte maps on the govisitdonegal.com website with the name of Errigal correct. Co-ordination and double-checking and treble-checking on important issues such as place names ought to be the norm,” Seamus said.
Donncha Ó Baoill, Language and Culture Executive, Údarás na Gaeltachta, put the confusion over the name down to both the Irish and English language influencing each other.
“With the Anglicisation of Irish names some spellings have actually changed and sometimes new forms creep in. If you take the Rosses in West Donegal, for example. In Irish it’s Na Rosa, but people often spell it with the second ‘s’ now.
“Another good example are the islands. The beauty of the Irish language is that placenames are often kept to one word. Now islands like Toraí are being referred to as Oileán Thoraí (Tory Island), which again comes from the English language influence.
“Earagail has been confusing over the years relating to a different matter, as well. The name has always been both masculine and feminine, depending on which area of Donegal you hail from. In the case of Earagail, it has probably also become fashionable to refer to it as ‘Mount Errigal.’ But the fact remains that the proper name is An Earagail (Errigal).”
The official Placenames Database of Ireland (www.logainm.ie), maintained by the Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht and Dublin City University, give ‘Errigal’ or ‘An Earagail’ as the name our popular landmark – so there you have it, it’s official!