The Last of the Names? Urris Place-Names Project

Ian Wright

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Approaching people

It is best to explain what you are doing in as much detail as you think is necessary. Emphasise that without people's help the project won't work.

Explain that they are helping with a important conservation of a special sort. Reassure them that to help us they don't have to be great students of Irish; just have to think back and recollect simple names that their parents or grandparents used.

Encourage them to chat. You never know what small and interesting stories may emerge. Prompt them gently. You will always find they will remember many more things than they think they know. Try and show people the bit of land about which you are asking. it jogs their memories.

Another good notion is to get two older people together and ask them questions. Nearly always, one will prompt the memory of the other. Such sessions can be very fruitful. You may need far more than one session. Particularly with older people, look out for signs of their tiredness. Do not exhaust them, arrange to come back on another occasion.

Most people will talk best in their own homes. Later, if the weather is suitable, try and take them outside to identify the places they have named. The chances are they will remember extra names when they see the landscape and their memories are jogged.

At an early stage, but not right away, ask their permission to use your tape recorder. Assure them that the tapes will never be played in public. The recording is only for research notes.

The paper-work

In the Urris pilot project we tried to keep paper work to the minimum.

There are just two forms, both of which are reproduced here. These, like the tape recordings, are important because we want our research to be useful to future generations. We would also like it to be taken seriously by Irish place-name scholars. Wherever possible we tried to adhere to certain standards and conventions of name collection.

Place Names Form 1

The first form (DETAILS OF INTERVIEWEE) is probably best filled in at the end of an interview. By then the person giving information will be more accustomed to the interviewer.

The questions are simple but important. If there is any embarrassment, the age need only be approximate. The question about knowledge of Irish is to make a distinction between people who only learned Irish at school and others who went on to develop their knowledge later.

McGlinchey Summer School

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