The origins of Faithlegg

It is reputed that one of the earliest of the parishes to be founded under the Norman system was at Faithlegg.  The lands (some 4000 acres [including 199 at Cheekpoint and 353 at Faithlegg]) were granted by Henry II to Aleward Juevinis.  Henry had landed at Passage East in 1171.  Aylward was a merchant from Bristol who had apparently donated a number of ships towards Henry’s imposing entrance to Waterford harbour.  Aylward built a Motte and Baily to secure his position and it became the centre of Faithlegg Parish, which existed until amalgamated with Crooke & Killea in the mid 18th Century.

old gates to Faithlegg House 1969.  Brendan Grogan
The name has featured widely down the ages, probably because of its strategic importance and the presence of Aylward and latterly his Bolton and Power successors.  Frustratingly however, each time it featured it seems to have had either variations of its present name, or widely different names.

These are very helpfully gathered on the Logainm website for your perusal,  Initially it seems to have been spelled as Fathelig and this name has had several corruptions.  But it has also been called BalyFalyng, Whalyng and even Thatlegg.

In equal measure with the spelling, there seems to be as many variations with the origins of the name. For  example I came across this account many years back online.  As far as I can recall it comes from the Journal of the Waterford & South East Archaeological Society.  Full account here.  The excerpt below: 

Faithlegg.-In your January number, Miss Hickson’s interesting paper on (( Danish Names in Waterford and Cork” discusses the probable derivation of the name ‘( Faithlegg.” I think she
rightly assigns it to be of Gaelic and not Scandinavian origin. Dr.Joyce ((‘ Place Names,” Vol. I., p. 494)  Fethard (Fioth-ard) signifies (I High-wood.” In the County Donegal there is a wellknown mountain called (I Slieve-league,” which signifies (( The Mountain of Slates.” Following these two clues, we make Faithlegg (Fioth-league)--” The Wood of the Slates.” Anyone who has
observed the geological stratum of the wooded hill of Faithlegg will at once perceive that this name, as Miss Hickson says of Gaelic place-names generally, gives a perfect word picture of the physical
features of the place, the hill being composed of layers of thick slates or flags. It is not necessary, I think, to go further for an explanation of the name.

I think that this account is a bit wide of the mark.  From a desk you might think it makes sense, but knowing the geography of the area and the amount of pudding stone found on the summit, would challenge it.  The slate mentioned is found on the Northside, but down towards the river on the Glazing wood side.  I'd imagine it's related to the quarrying that went on to build the marsh embankments, than anything older.


Pudding stone, old volcanic rock on the summit of the Minaun

Br Lawrence O’Toole (responsible for the creation of the secondary school in De La Salle College) in his  "The Faithlegg Story" agrees.  He goes on to consider that Minan Fheilinn may be an origin.  The Minaun obviously which he equates with height,  but who or what is Fheilinn.  A person perhaps?  Br O'Toole also considers that it might be a Gaelic term for Woodbine or Honeysuckle.  Woodbine does grow on the Minaun presently but I don't think anyone would say that it grows to such an extent that you would name the area after it.  Perhaps in the past?
View from the Deerpark of Faithlegg and the river

Canon Power tends towards the woodbine theory, but interestingly he also thinks that the name may not be gaelic at all!  His Place Names of the Decies here.  So is it an old danish name or the tongue of some other tribe, who settled the area in the past and left a name to posterity.

None other that John ODonovan of the original ordnance survey, and noted Irish placename scholar was of a similar opinion.  But he felt that the anglicised spelling of the placename as he found it, was closest to the original meaning, whatever it was, as listed in the older documents that he had access to.

So for now we might leave it to Canon Power who noted that "The name...has long been a puzzle, which we can only hope future investigations may solve"


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