The true Irish name of Naas is being hotly debated
A Eagarthóir, a chara,
Simon Tuite is to be congratulated on his interesting article on our town’s name (Remembering Nás, the forgotten goddess — Leinster Leader, July 11). Some points, however, merit elaboration.
Simon Tuite reminded us that the form of the name Nás Laighean was used in the 17th century.
In An Leabhar Brannach (Book of the O’Byrnes), a collection of verse composed between 1550 and 1630, there are five references to Naas.
In two instances, it is referred to simply as Nás. In the three other instances, it is called Nás Life.
Simon Tuite states that there is in fact no word ‘nás’ in any modern or archaic Irish language with the meaning ‘assembly’ or ‘meeting place’.
In Fr. Pádraig Ó Duinnín’s Irish-English Dictionary, nás is given, among other things as a commemorative assembly, a fair.
I have not come on Nás na Ríogh until the early twentieth century, when Seosamh Laoide compiled Postsheanchas, a directory of the names of Irish postal towns, for Conradh na Gaeilge.
Originally published as a series of booklets, Postsheanchas had to contend with no rival contemporary source for a number of decades.
As a result, its version of placenames found its way into school text-books and atlases.
This explains why some people sincerely believe that Nás na Ríogh was always the authentic name of our town.
Laoide, while a prodigious worker, was slightly eccentric, to say the least. He attended seances, at which he claims to have spoken to long-dead Irish speakers from various parts of the country who informed him, among other things, about placenames.
This meant that more conventional scholars found it very difficult to engage in a rational discussion with him.
In the 1940s, the Government established An Coimisiún Logainmneacha to research our national placenames.
Excellent work has been done and the results can be found on a website — www.logainm.ie.
While not infallible, the versions of placenames found here are the most reliable versions available. Naas is An Nás in this listing.
An interesting clue can also be found in Weston St. John Joyce’s The Neighbourhood of Dublin, first published in 1912. Our town is referred to in this work as The Naas, which would suggest to me that An Nás had been the commonly used Irish form in the 19th century.
My view is that we should adhere to this short, intelligible version and let the kings and the goddesses rest in peace.
Dónall Ó Riagáin
Bóthar Ráth Oscair,
Co. Chill Dara