Locals’ chance to put Moyvane on the map

by Donal Nolan — The Kerryman Newspaper

There can be few places in the Republic today where legacies from colonial times still prove contentious. Placenames, family names and architecture, that all hark back to a time when the landed gentry presided over a feudal system, still exist of course, amid the more common and far older Gaelic names, but they rarely carry the same weight they once did.

Moyvane, however is certainly different in this regard from her neighbouring parishes. Offically she is still known as Newtownsandes – in ordinance, politics and legislation. It’s a name that was imposed arrogantly on the area in the days of the Sandes landlords, who ruled this particular North Kerry roost. It’s a name that is still proving contentious. so much so that the people of the parish will be asked within a matter of months to vote on its future – retain it as the official name or scrap it from the records completely? This will be the question in the forthcoming plebiscite – a repeat of the 2000 vote which, locals say, would have carried had enough people cast their ballot.

Needless to say the majority of local sympathies lie with the commonly used name of the area – ‘Moyvane’. First brought into usage in 1939 when local priest Fr. Daniel O’Sullivan suggested revering back to the Gaelic name by which all know the area – bar the odd confused driver looking for the place while reading ‘Newtownsandes’ on a map. The only real evidence of the name ‘Newtownsandes’ to be found is in the local creamery – Newtownsandes Co-op.

In an effort to better understand the issue, The Kerryman asked people on the streets of Moyvane their opinions on the matter on Thursday. To a person they called for ‘Moyvane’ to be made official and the old, gentrified name to be done away with once and for all. “We never referred to it as Newtown or Newtownsandes, we’ve always known it is Moyvane. I’d say there will be no one looking to keep the old name officially.” Eugene Sweeney told us in the warmth of Brosnan’s Bar on the cross.

The Newtown name carried bad connotations for Jim Fitzgerald as he brought to mind the historical figure of George Sandes, who imposed the name: “He was a bad landlord but it’s long forgotten now. I’ll be voting for the name to be changed to Moyvane officially.” Publican Gerry Brosnan will be voting similarly – he knew the place as Newtown growing up but Moyvane thereafter. “Some of the people from Moyvane didn’t get to vote on it the last time at all though and a lot were angry over that,” he explained. Only those from the Moyvane electoral area from which a part of the area is excluded were able to make their voices heard when signatures were collected in 2000.

“We’re all supportive of it,” were the words of John O’Flaherty. “It’s silly to still have Newtownsandes and it makes for a lot of confusion. I’d have truck drivers stopping me looking for Moyvane, as it’s still Newtownsandes on some of the maps,” he explained. His mother. Eily Mai, sill remembers the last member of the Sanes family to have lived in the area: Bridgeen Sandes. “She was a small, gobby kind of a lady, I remember her well,” she said. “But what good is it bringing the Sandes name back? I’ll be voting for Moyvane. It’s very confusing for people.”

I will of course be voting for Moyvane,” Billy Moloney said. “George Sandes changed it to suit himself, I think it should be changed back officially. It will be very important though for those organising the vote to explain it right, unlike the last time. If they do it right there will be no problem,” he said. “There’s no sense in keeping onto it,” his wife Joan agreed. As did their friend Margaret Shine: “It’s been known now as Moyvane for years and years and we’ll all be voting to finally make it official.”

And one man who understands the argument more than most, given his involvement in campaigning for the official change for years and years is local poet and folklorist, Dan Keane. “there is no sense making a hullaballoo out of the name change, the only thing is that Moyvane is not the official name, apart from Diocesan considerations in which it is. It could go another 100 years and it would still make no difference to the life of the area only that it’s not official. It’s like a couple getting married in church. They go into the sacristy afterwards to sign the register and the only difference is that they’re then officially married,” he said. Mr Keane also emphasised the fact that the name change would have no bearing on the local creamery which is known as Newtownsandes Co-Op: “One thing I would like to say is that the creamery has nothing to do with the issue and vice versa – that’s a trading name and it’s neither here nor there on how the vote is carried.” he said.