I made a rare visit west of the Bann for today’s townland. I drove all the way to Bellaghy.
My destination was the townland of Old Town Downing. This townland used to be called Bellaghy – same as the village. Then it was renamed “Old Town”, and later divided into Old Town Deerpark and Old Town Downing.
Compared to the signs I’ve photographed so far, this one gives more information. The names appear in Irish as well as English. And I like the way the word “townland” is printed in full in the English version, instead of being abbreviated to “TD” .
Gulladuff, the name of the road in the photograph, is also a townland, located a few miles away. The English name comes from the Irish Guala Dhuibh, which you can see on the sign, meaning “black hill-shoulder”.
I had one particular reason for visiting Old Town Downing, as you can see from the brown sign below.
Seamus Heaney HomePlace, which opened in September 2016, is an arts centre. HomePlace has a performance space called “The Helicon” and an exhibition celebrating the life and work of the late poet and Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney.
HomePlace has an excellent exhibition, photographs, a film, a re-creation of the poet’s study, an old school desk, a shop and a café, but most importantly there are plenty of chances to read the poems and listen to recordings of Heaney reading his own work.
Somewhere in that thicket of words is “dailigone”. The idea that “daylight is gone” becomes dailigone, a word meaning “dusk”.
My companion on this visit was my mother, who remembers one visitor to her childhood home in Maghera announcing his departure every time by saying “dailigone”. Only a few miles away the same word was part of Seamus Heaney’s language, ready to find its way into the poem “Fosterling”:
“I can’t remember not ever having known
The immanent hydraulics of a land
Of glar and glit and floods at dailigone.
My silting hope. My lowlands of the mind.”
Which county is Old Town Downing in? County Derry/Londonderry
Which civil parish is Old Town Downing in? Ballyscullion
Which townlands border Old Town Downing? To the north, Mullaghboy. To the east, Old Town Deerpark. To the south, Ballydermot. To the west, Killyberry Boyd.