Craughwell National School

Craughwell NS, SN Chreachmhaoil,

Where did Craughwell get its name?

The Origin and Meaning of the name Craughwell

Topographica Hibernica printed in 1795, by William Wenman Seward quotes ”Craghwell bridge sit. in bar. Dunkellin, Co Galway….. it is otherwise written Cragwell bridge”

This reference supports the view that the origin of the name Craughwell is Creag (or Creig) Maoil. “Creag” means a rocky outcrop or raised rock hill and “maol” meaning bare or bald. In past centuries the Irish countryside was covered in forest. An area that was clear of trees was referred to as “maol”. So Creachmhaoil under this origin means a bare rocky hill. A look at the village from the bridge shows Craughwell to have a raised hill and it is easy to imagine that this rocky hill was not forested, making it Creachmhaoil.

Patrick Weston Joyce produced The Origin and History of Irish Names of Places (3 volumes, 1869, 1875, 1913) and the 1913 volume states:

“Craughwell in Galway: This would at first sight appear to be Creamh-Choill, wild garlic wood; but it is not; for all the best local authorities agree in making it Creach-mhaoil, which they correctly interpret “place of plunders” or plunder hill (creach, plunder; maoil, a hill): a place where plundered or lifted cattle were placed and kept.”

In a submission to the Irish language magazine “Feasta” in January 1962, Seán Ó Ruadháin argues that the meaning of Craughwell is actually Creamh-choill or garlic wood. His argument is based on the pronunciation of Craughwell or Creachmhaoil where the emphasis is placed on the first syllable of the word by the local people, thus pronounced CRAUGHwell. He gives the examples of Dún Mór (pronounced DunMORE) and Ros Muc (pronounced RosMUC) where the emphasis is on the second syllable. He argues that the rules of pronunciation dictate that the emphasis should be on the adjective or the noun in the genitive case. In Creag Maol, he argues that the adjective maol should have the emphasis and therefore be pronounced as CraughWELL, something that was never heard in the area. In Creach Maoil, he argues that the maoil is a noun in the genitive case (tuiseal ginideach) and in this case the emphasis has to be there also. This would again make it CraughWELL. Ó Ruadháin followed these place name pronunciation rules to argue that Creamh Choill (garlic wood) is the correct origin for Craughwell as the emphasis should be on the Creamh (as the adjective in “wood of garlic”) and therefore matched the local pronunciation of CRAUGHwell.

The Principal of Craughwell NS at the time, Seán Ó Ceallaigh wrote a series of letters to Feasta countering Ó Ruadháin’s argument. He first argued that a look at Craughwell showed that the geographical features of the village fitted perfectly the Creag Mhaoil placename described in Topographica Hibernica, mentioned above. His second argument focussed on the word coill (wood). He reminded the reader that, in this part of Galway, coill is pronounced as “kyle” as in the local place names Lisín Coill (Lisheenkyle), Gearrachoill and Doire Choill. Therefore, if Ó Ruadháin was correct, Craughwell would actually be pronounced “Crock-kyle”! The grammatical argument was further played out with Seán Ó Ceallaigh quoting William Wenman Seward and Patrick Weston Joyce (mentioned above) inferring that whichever was correct in relation to the origin of the place name Craughwell, it certainly was not Creamh Choill as Ó Ruadháin was arguing.

Ó Ceallaigh also finished one of his letters saying that an old Gaeilgeoir from the area had told him that he regularly heard Creigmhaoil as the pronunciation for the place name used by the local old people. Ó Ceallaigh preferred Creag Mhaoil as the true origin of Craughwell.

Local historian Gerry Cloonan agrees with Seán Ó Ceallaigh on this and believes the origin of the name Creachmhaoil is Creag Mhaoil. He acknowledges that in later times plundered cattle were kept in a place called Callanan’s pound in the village and that this has given rise to the “hill of plunder” translation. However, this was predated by the Creag Mhaoil name and therefore is not the original source of the name.