Placenames of County Longford


Placenames are a rich source of information on the physical features of a place and also in many cases on the inhabitants who lived there. As well as being an important research tool for local historians, teachers, students, geneologists, Longford placenames are an important local history resource for the Longford diaspora spread around the globe. The Ordnance Survey Field Name Books for County Longford are one of the most important primary resources available on Local Placenames. The 'field name books' for County Longford were compiled in 1836-'37. Longford County Library has a collection of typescript copies and the originals are now in the National Archives.

Background to Ordnance Survey field Name Books

In 1824, a British parliamentary committee recommended that the scientific mapping of Ireland should be undertaken to determine exact townland boundaries. Such a project would allow for an accurate valuation to be done in order to calculate rates payable on all properties. The Ordnance Survey had already been established in Britain in 1791, so it was decided to extend it to Ireland. The survey was placed under the jurisdiction of the army, as in Britain. Major Thomas Colby was the director in London and Lieutenant Thomas Larcom was appointed as his deputy with responsibility for Ireland.

The preparation of the survey involved fieldwork in every townland in Ireland. The survey was done by soldiers and included the measuring of boundaries, preparing of sketch maps and compiling of topographical descriptions. It was decided that the scale should be six inches to one mile to allow for the required level of detail.

A major aspect of the project was the collection of information on place-names, archaeological and historical sites, topography and local folklore. This was the responsibility of a team of antiquarians including John O'Donovan, Eugene O'Curry and George Petrie, who comprised the Topographical Department. The 'field name books' were submitted to that department and details such as the meaning of place-names were checked using various sources and the findings noted.

O'Donovan himself did fieldwork in each county and his letters, written to Ordnance Survey headquarters in the Phoenix Park, are an invaluable source in themselves.

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