IreGaz:  Spelling

Is there a correct spelling ?

The short answer is that the formalising of townland boundaries and names in the 1830s also formalised the official spelling of townland names.

There were many problems involved in this formalising, often because Irish names were being recorded by non-speakers of the language:

 1. some transcriptions became conventional:
Irish "buidhe" had first been transcribed as English "boy" in an age when the two words sounded the same: "bwee";
"gh" was used to transcribe the guttural Irish "ch" as in "Connacht", to distinguish it from the palatal/dental English "ch" as in "check".

 2. some Irish words sounded quite different in different parts of Ireland:
Donegal Irish-speakers pronounced (and still pronounce) "knock" as "crock";
Irish "carraig" sometimes had a hard final sound "carrick" in the north, rarely in the south.

 3. some Irish-speakers appear to have confused the transcribers:
official townland-name "Ballyruddelly" seems to transcribe the Irish for "something-else town"!

In this sort of situation, multiple spellings can arise from a single word. For example, it seems well accepted that the town Swords derives its name from Irish "sord" meaning pure, referring to a spring (dedicated in Christian times to Colmcille). Probably from exactly the same Irish word, the local river gained its name "Ward", and a nearby townland the first part of its name "Broadmeadow".

You don't even need two languages for such changes of spelling. A quiet English hamlet includes the attractively-named house "Upany Barn", whose owner said the name was taken from a nearby field. Research into documents of the early 1800s showed that the name given to the field when it was enclosed was "Upper New Field" - in a period of about 150 years, in a village of mostly literate people speaking the same language, prosaic "Upper New" had become poetic "Upany". Elsewhere in the same parish, the 1800s field-name "Shilpit Haines" (Scottish-English for "scalped (ie poor) enclosure") had become "Sherberdeans".

So don't be confused or purist about the spelling of names. Keep trying variations until you have as comprehensive a list of possibilities as your imagination can create. And keep a record of spellings you have tried, so that you don't have to start over if you return to the same name.