Bothar & The Gearan Ban



The locations of old roads in the county can be traced through material remains, through the oral tradition, and through place names. Bohermeen is the fine road or the smooth road, and Boherallian is almost certainly the beautiful road. Where the name of the road was written down in English at an earlier time the 't' in the written Irish form was sounded and the word became bother, later batter. There are four townlands and one village named Batterstown, the town of the road. There are also such place names as Yellowbatter, Greenbatter and Batterjohn. There are at least two places named Butterstream, the original name being bothar an tsrutha.

In North Meath the sound of bothar softens into a sound closer to the English bore or bawr. In the place name Boreen na hAtha, the last word should be spelled hAitinne, which makes the meaning of the place name the little road of the furze.

Another Irish word for road is bealach. The earliest recorded name for the district where St. Ciaran's monastic settlement is sited, extending for a few miles along the valley of the Blackwater, was Bealach Dún, meaning the road of the fort or the road of the dún. The meaning of Moyvalley, on the Meath-Kildare border, is the plain of the road and not, as is often thought, the plain of the valley.

A tóchar is a special kind of road which dates back to a time before drainage was carried out extensively throughout Ireland, and land that was susceptible to flooding made road construction difficult. Roads would have to turn and twist to keep to the high ground, but sometimes the low ground could be made passable with branches, stones and earth. This causeway was called a tóchar, and the sound survives in the Togherstown in Meath and the many places named Togher in the country.

The Gearán Bán


Bán, for white or fair, is also common in placenames, as Loughbawn, and when applied to persons it is a term of endearment, as in Cailín Bán, or the commonly translated appellation the white-haired boy. In parts of Meath there is a memory of the Gearan Bán or fairy horse, as in the expression: "You would need the Gearan Bán to do that", in reference to a very fast journey to be made or a high ditch to be jumped on horseback.

This creature had as prominent a place in local stories in Meath as the Glas-Gaibhneac, the fairy cow of Munster legend that filled milking vessels with the richest milk. Such tales were told at wakes down almost to the present. However, they have been quickly forgotten, perhaps because they were told by professional storytellers rather than by parents to their children.

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