Tallaght: A plague o’ both your houses! I am sped

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Plague Doctor [Image: maderjanet / flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

For anyone unfamiliar with Dublin, the city has a light rail transport system called Luas –  which is Irish for ‘fast’, ‘speed’, ‘velocity’.  All the main signposts in Ireland are bilingual, usually giving the Irish name first in slightly smaller text, which is then followed by the English name. The Luas (tram) station signs are no different.

The suburb/town of Tallaght is at the end of one of the main tram lines from the city centre. It’s a pretty big place, almost a mini city in itself. Tallaght itself is very ancient. It is mentioned in the 12th century Lebor Gabála Érenn (the Book Of Invasions) which contains story’s of several successive mythical invasions of Ireland by various races and supernatural beings. It’s also the location of an important early medieval church site that was founded in and around the eight century AD (of which I will write further one of these days).

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Tallaght Luas (Tram) Station Sign

The placename Tallaght is an anglicised version of Irish Tamhleacht, which means ‘Plague Grave’, or ‘Plague Burial Place’. The name is attested in several other locations around the country and has been very plausibly argued as being among some of the earliest strata of Irish placenames – possibly even reflecting a series of sixth century plagues known to have ravaged Europe. Tallaght was also the location of several Bronze Age cist burials, most of which were dug up, or quarried away in the 19th century.

The fact that there were probably visible traces of other such prehistoric burials in the medieval period (the hills which surround the area have several neolithic tombs & cairns on their slopes and summits) – coupled with the ‘ready made name’ is probably one of the reasons why the location was deemed suitable for inclusion in the Lebor Gabála (the Book Of Invasions). In the text, Tallaght is portrayed as the final resting place of thousands of Greeks led by a certain Partholon who apparently died from a plague after winning a great battle.

As you do.

luas tall

Back on track (sorry!) – have a quick look again at the picture of the main tram station in Tallaght. You can see the name clearly written in Irish and English. So far, so good.

The following tram stop, which is only a few hundred meters around the corner from the one above, is located at Tallaght Hospital. And here is the station sign for it:

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Tallaght Hospital Luas (Tram) Station Sign

Notice anything different? The name is given in full in Irish, but funnily enough, they just leave it as ‘hospital’ in English.

Of course, if the sign above was fully translated, it would probably read something like: ‘Hospital of the Plague Grave‘, or ‘Plague Burial Hospital‘.

I wonder how that station name planning meeting went? A ‘plague’ on both those Tallaght Signs? Erm. Lets ‘speed’ on to the next item…

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Bibliography

Haley, G. C. (2002) ‘Tamlachta: The Map of Plague Burials and Some Implications for Early Irish History’, Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium, Vol. 22, 96-140.

Plunkett, G.T. (1901) ‘On a Cist and Urns Found at Greenhills, Tallaght, County Dublin’, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy (1889-1901), Vol. 5, 338-347.

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2 thoughts on “Tallaght: A plague o’ both your houses! I am sped

  1. I always thought they left it as “Hospital” on the Luas sign because they didn’t have enough space for the full name “The Adelaide and Meath Hospital, Dublin, Incorporating The National Children’s Hospital” (informally known as the Tallaght Hospital)…

    Liked by 1 person

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