Wish You Were Where?

Donegal Democrat, 8 July 2004

English placenames in the Gaeltacht will no longer have legal standing, if a draft order published by Gaeltacht Minister Éamon Ó Cuiv on Thursday 1 July is accepted.

As a native of a Donegal Gaeltacht, this comes as a great relief to me. Not because I have any strong feeling one way or the other about which languages signposts should appear in, but because it will finally mean I know the definitive spelling of my home.

Any alert visitor approaching the westernmost peninsula in Donegal will notice something unusual is going on. A few kilometres before Killybegs, the signposts inform the traveller that GLENCOLUMBKILLE is another 30km away. However, after driving through the fishing post, the sign on the far side states confidently that GLENCOLUMKILLE is now 26km away. Somewhere between those two signs, the letter ‘B’ has mysteriously disappeared from the signpost.

A little further up the road, yet another sign informs the reader that GLENCOLUMCILLE is 28km away. Somehow, in less than 100m, Glen has moved 2km further west, and the ‘K’ has transmogrified into a ‘C’.

By the time the visitor reaches Kilcar, we find the signmakers have resorted to Irish only signage, pointing to GLEANN CHOLM CILLE. Officially of course, this is because Kilcar, like Glen, is in the Gaeltacht, but the more suspicious of us might wonder if the signwriters just got thoroughly confused an decided to play it safe.

Perhaps not though. At the top of Cashel Hill, a sign pointing to the valley indicates that this is GLEANN COLM CILLE. Somehow, that ‘H’ in Cholm has run off, no doubt to join his friends K and B.

Maybe they went beach and rock fishing in GLENCOLMCILLE, as suggested by the sign in front of the national school. No doubt our old friend U from GLENCOLUMCILLE knows all the best spots.

It seems the thrill of catching your own dinner wore off pretty quickly though, for above the Post Office in the valley, we find B and K have returned to GLENCOLMBKILLE. Possibly they just stopped by to send a “Wish You Were Here” postcard to the relatives.

If they can ever figure out what “Here” is actually called, of course.