TOWNLAND OR NON-MUNICIPAL TOWN.
The names of townlands have various origins but by the early nineteenth century had, in general, been fixed by the Grand Juries. In addition the Poor Law Commissioners under Act of 1839 had power to declare any place to be a townland. When the Ordnance Survey began in the 1820s the names of townlands were to be supplied by Richard Griffith of the boundary department (set up in 1824-5 to determine the boundaries of parishes and townlands and where necessary to mark out these boundaries on the ground). Griffith during his work amalgamated a number of the smaller townlands while dividing the larger ones. In the case of the latter he added 'east', 'west', 'upper'. 'lower' etc. to the existing name. The names of these townlands as finally settled by the Ordnance Survey officers were included on ordnance survey maps and became together with the townland index of the 1851 census the legal version of the names of these places.
Non-municipal towns are towns designated in the census of population not being a city or town (i.e. not having a legally defined boundary). The last census of 2002 distinguished between towns with legally defined boundaries and those without legally defined boundaries. The former are
5 boroughs (this would include Drogheda in County Louth) and
75 named towns (this would include Dundalk and Ardee in County Louth).
and the latter refers to the other towns defined in the census as 'a cluster of fifty or more occupied dwellings, not having a legally defined boundary, in which within a distance of 800 metres there is a nucleus of either thirty occupied houses on both sides of the road or twenty occupied houses on one side of the road.' In County Louth these latter non municipal towns are:
Under S.190 of the Local Government Act, 2001 the Council of a city or county where townland or non-municipal town situated may by resolution, adopted by at least one-half of the members, make a proposal to change the name.
This proposal, after been notified to prescribed persons and published inviting submissions within two months and after the submissions have been considered (reserved function), may be adopted or amended by the Council provided at least one-half of the members again consent.
Where a proposal is accepted or amended the Council must then seek the consent of the majority of the qualified electors (i.e. registered voters and certain occupiers of rated hereditaments) in the non-municipal town or townland. Once the proposal is confirmed by a majority of the electors the Cathaoirleach (Chairman) of the Council shall declare such new name and the date it comes into operation being the 1st January next following the expiration of at least three months from the date of the declaration. Each declaration must be published, including in Iris Oifigiuil, and sent to prescribed persons.
A previous provision under an Act of 1946 as amended in 1955 required the County Council to apply to the Government to change the name after obtaining consent of four-sevenths of the ratepayers of the non-municipal town or townland and after consultation with prescribed authorities
Among the place names changed under this 1946 provision were:
'Scrabby' townland, in County Cavan, to 'Loch Gowna' (1950);
'Newtownbarry' town, in County Wexford, to 'Bunclody' (1950);
'King Williamstown' town, in County Cork, to 'Ballydesmond' (1951);
'Newtown' town, in County Cork, to 'Newtownshandrum' (1971);
'Ballycarra' townland, in County Mayo, to 'Belcarra' (1971);
'Mostrim', in County Longford, to 'Edgeworthstown' (1974).
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© MP McConnon, MC Research Service, Seabank, Castlebellingham, Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland
Last update 29 August 2011.