Journal Volume 1 1992

Old Greystones and Ancient Rathdown (continued/1)

So this evening's address, then, is largely 'the mixture as before' - largely, I say, for I've had to make several corrections since the paper got its first airing at the first La Touche Legacy Seminar in 1989. The paper as read at the Blackrock Teachers' Centre Seminar in St Brigid's National Schoolhouse, Greystones, on 2 July 1990 carried some corrections and was fully annotated. I had to make some further corrections before reading the paper to the Probus Club of Greystones in the bridge-room of the Burnaby on 16 October 1990. And there are more corrections still in this, the fourth reading of the paper, thanks largely to research done and discoveries made by the Grove Residents' Association, whose efforts to save St Crispin's Cell and its environs deserve the highest commendation and the staunchest support. That the paper still contains mistakes I have no doubt. These mistakes are of course my sole responsibility; but I'll be most grateful to any of you who may be able to help me correct them.

The Grey Stones

The original place-name, 'The Grey (sometimes Gray) Stones', as it is marked on old maps and charts applied only to the reef or rocks jutting out into the sea, little more than a couple of minutes' walk from where we're gathered at this moment. Nearly all the other local place-names are Gaelic in origin or derivation and one local writer thinks it probable that 'The Grey Stones' was a name given by English-speaking sailors to this landmark on the coast (1).

'The Grey Stones' are Cambrian, a term defined as the geological system, well represented in Wales, next to the Archaean. These rocks date from remote antiquity. It's all explained in the very first chapter of the Stones of Bray by George Digby Scott, MA (1865-1950). Canon Scott regarded the application of the term to these rocks of ours, at Bray and Greystones alike, as 'another injustice to Ireland' (2), for the word Cambrian in its primary meaning relates, not to Ireland, but to Wales and the Welsh. Those interested in the geological aspect should also consult the Book of Bray (index, s.v. Geology of Wicklow region), published by Blackrock Teachers' Centre in 1989.

At what stage of the place's growth the definite article was dropped and the two words 'grey' and 'stones' joined together we don't know. We do know, however, that The Black Rock in County Dublin, The Glenties in County Donegal and The Moy in County Tyrone are other place-names which lost their definite article, in their official Anglicised form at any rate. The late-lamented Noel Kennedy, MA (1913-1987), lecturing to the Greystones Literary Society twelve years ago, said that about the first decade of this century there lived in Bray an old man who always referred to Greystones as 'The Stones' (3). Some older native Greystones to my acquaintance pronounce the name, not Grey-stones (equal stress) but Gry-stow-ens, laying rather more stress on the second part of the name, which they make disyllabic. I mention this, not from any desire to draw attention to the peculiarities of local speech (which anyway is a separate study), but because it's a pronunciation which like many another local one may, I'm greatly afraid, be lost by the end of the century.


Back to list of contents   Back to previous page   Move to next page