Origins of the placename Minaun

Recently I was asked for the origins of the placename Minaun. 

The Minaun as we wrote about recently is not alone the highest piece of ground in the area, its the highest in the Barony of Gaultier.  For many years it has been a walking attraction and from its height can be seen the counties of the South East.  It also boasts a commanding view of the harbour, the meeting of the three sisters and as far a the Saltee Islands on the Wexford coast.

Saltee Islands off Wexford coast

However, despite it’s popularity, when you seek written verification into the placename, there is confusion.  According to google, who could argue with google??, its a “mountain meadow by a river” or perhaps a “hill of the kids” (goats??).  The mountain meadow might refer to the Parcín where generations played hurling and football and is now the residence of the Kelly’s.  However, given that the Parcín was below the summit and not as obvious a geographical feature as the pudding stone on top, it seems a fanciful speculation.  The reference to goats also has some merit, Anthony Rogers told me recently that there were feral goats running freely  around it in the past, but again, I’d imagine that was a more recent (in geographical terms) occurrence and again a fanciful origin.

Canon Power in his Placenames of the Decies calls it Meannán Féatlóg or directly translated something akin to the crown shaped hill of Faithlegg.  He speculates that the Féatlóg may originate in the Irish for Woodbine – hence the Crown Shaped Hill of Woodbine, or less grandly, the peak of woodbine.  Again a bit of a reach.  Woodbine is certainly to be found on the Minaun (particularly the eastern side), as it is throughout the area, but you would imagine it would have to be a significant occurrence to deserve such a name.

Several years back, I noticed that Minaun is a name shared with another hill, this time facing the Atlantic on Achill Island in Co Mayo.  Some reading and googling again proved elusive.  One site claimed that it meant a pinnacle (a relationship there with peak).  There were also variations on the spelling of the name with Menawn (an attempt at a phonetic explanation surely) and An Mionnán coming up. 

Only this week, Michael Farrell, who’s a member of the Barony of Gaultier Historical Society, shared a link on facebook about the celtic god of the sea Manannán.  Now I know this is a massive leap and totally without foundation, but none the less, I found it intriguing.  Manannán was the sea god of the Tuatha dé Danann who offered protection for sea farers, was lord of the weather and of storms and was considered a friend of dreamers.  When attacked he would wrap himself in mist to protect his possessions.   He travelled on his horse Aonbarr, which crossed the waves as if they were solid ground, and upon which he could travel back and forth to Tir na nÓg.

Accessed from http://mists-of-manannan.blogspot.ie/2012/07/manannan-mac-lir-son-of-sea.html

Could it be possible that a much earlier name associated with the celts could have come down the ages?  It would be hard to imagine that Viking, Norman and English would not have had some impact, but again, even so, very often fragments of an earlier origin remain.  I’m also struck by the similarity between Canon Powers spelling and that of Manannán.  I suppose against this is that he would have surely spotted such an obvious link if there was one? It’s also pronounced much differently.

Whatever the origins, I’ve always been struck by the significance of the location of the Minaun.  It stands at not just the meeting of the Three Sisters, but also the gateway in Celtic times to the hinterland of the country, the Suir to the Devils Bit in Northern Tipperary, the Barrow to the Sliabh Bloom Mountains.  Vital arteries no doubt at a time when transport was by water rather than land.  It also has the commanding view of the harbour entrance and, as stated already, offers views of the entire South East.  It’s surely possible that the Minaun had a greater role in the lives of others in the distant past, and such a role would surely bring a matching placename?

Ariel shot of the meeting of Three Sisters, Cheekpoint in Centre

Either way, anytime I stand on the Minaun, I can’t but be taken away by the natural beauty of the place, the magic of being so close to the clouds, the majesty of the view of the harbour, the calm and peace brought by the sound of the breeze through the trees.

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