Ireland set a tourist route along its western edge between Donegal and Cork the "Wild Atlantic Way." Distinctive signs including a logo of what appeared to be something like ww — although stretched out farther like waves — marking the path. We didn’t follow the route purposely although we encountered its roadsigns often as we explored peninsulas and islands where water met land with spectacular results.
We came upon Achill Island (map) by happenstance. The runner of the family wanted to race in Ireland and discovered through some Internet sleuthing that the Achill Half Marathon would take place during our visit. Otherwise I’m sure we wouldn’t have learned about Achill. We would have missed an opportunity to experience a pretty awesome place.
It almost seems like I’m giving away a secret, and I’m feeling a little guilty simply for revealing the existence of Achill Island even to the trusty members of Twelve Mile Circle audience. The views were spectacular, as dramatic as any seacoast we saw anywhere in Ireland including those famous places featured prominently in the tourist guides. However we never felt crowded on Achill. There were a handful of B&B’s and small hotels along with summer cottages spread amongst a sparse permanent population. We drove to scenic overlooks, hiking along ridges and through historic sites, hardly ever encountering another person.
We stayed in Keel, with direct access to Keel Beach (map) literally a walk across the back yard. Just look at this Blue Flag beach! There would be high-rise condos and a hundred times more people just about anywhere else in the world with that beach and that backdrop. I hated leaving Achill Island, although grateful for encountering it by blind luck.
Don’t tell anybody. We’ll make it our little secret.
Farther south, we drove along the full extent of the southern edge of the Dingle Peninsula. I’m saving other stories from the peninsula for different installments so I won’t go into a lot of detail. The scenery was also impressive. We began to experience the tour buses, though. Getting stuck behind those buses as they slowed to a crawl on serpentine roads became frustrating and tiresome after awhile. It wasn’t a lot of fun staring at the back of a bus instead of mountains and ocean. We stopped frequently at overlooks to let the buses pull off into the distance, savored the terrain and returned to the route.
Ring of Kerry
Ladies View, Killarney National Park
Of course we made the obligatory pilgrimage to the next peninsula farther south, to the renowned Ring of Kerry. It’s famous and for well-deserved reasons, for picturesque seacoasts, hillsides and inland lakes. It also attracted an order of magnitude more tourists than Dingle, again with the buses that lumbered around the ring in a constant anticlockwise procession. We understood that situation in advance and planned around it.
We drove the northern segment from Killarney to Portmagee (map) early in the morning before any buses began their daily circuit of passengers who preferred to leave the driving to the professionals. I could sympathize with that. The roads were narrow, winding and a little scary at times when trucks passed in the opposite direction on hairpin curves. That never deterred me though. We had to catch a boat heading to the island of Skellig Michael so the plan worked out perfectly for us. We also experienced the incredible scenery of Killarney National Park on those same scary roads on a different day, going between Kenmare and Killarney (map).
I didn’t complete the loop, however, having to forgo the southern segment because of our over-packed itinerary. We saw a lot of it from the sea and figured that was good enough.
Beara was the next peninsula in line to the south. People told us the Ring of Beara rivaled the Ring of Kerry, without the crowds. That one will have to wait until the next trip though. We saw it only from the sea and only from a distance.
That gave me another good reason to return someday.
This isn’t one of those lists passed around the Intertubes. You’ve all seen them and I’m certain you know what I mean. No Monkey’s Eyebrow or Turkey Scratch here. These are placenames that I’ve encountered as I’ve conducted the daily task of keeping Twelve Mile Circle current. They came from various sources as I researched articles or as I obsessed over reader statistics. As usual, I attempted to peer behind the curtain to understand the reasons for these names.
I noticed Full through Google Analytics. Somebody from Full landed upon 12MC and left behind a little digital footprint for me. Nothing more. Sure, whatever "Full" referenced in any one of Switzerland’s four official languages, whether German, French, Italian or Romansh, probably didn’t mean the same thing as English. Nonetheless the thought of a Full town made me smile. It could spark a lot of entertaining jokes.
A little digging determined that Google Analytics shortened Full and the actual name was Full-Reuenthal. German Wikipedia mentioned that Full began as Wulna circa 1303-1307 and merged with Reuenthal in 1798 to form Full-Reuenthal. It then explained, "Dieser Ortsname ist von (ze) follinun abgeleitet, was auf Althochdeutsch «beim aufgeschütteten Boden» bedeutet." Google Translate deciphered that as, "This place name is derived from (ze) follinun, which means to Old High German ‘during backfill soil’."
During backfill soil? That didn’t make sense. I ran the identical phrase through several different translation websites and generated other possibilities.
- “with heaped upon the ground”
- “with heaped up the ground”
- “with the piled up ground”
- “at the bottom heaped-up”
- “for the deposited ground”
I think that provided sufficient context to understand to the Full meaning. Do we have any native German speakers in the 12MC audience who might be able to offer further clarity?
Cooks River Cycleway by Brian Yap, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license
This scenic cycleway is an amenity of Hurlstone Park
Once again, Google Analytics hurled an interesting placename towards my direction. A reader arrived from a spot identified as Hurlstone, in suburban Sydney, Australia. I could imagine residents dodging rocks as an unidentified malcontent hurled missiles in their direction.
The name had been truncated in the reader log just as I’d observed with Full. The complete name was Hurlstone Park (map). I found an explanation of the name in the Dictionary of Sydney.
In 1910 a new post office was approved for Fernhill, but the Postmaster General’s Department insisted that the name of the locality would need to be changed as there were already two post offices with that name, one in Victoria and one in Queensland. A local referendum was held in conjunction with a municipal election, the choice being between Hurlstone, Fernboro or Garnett Hill. Hurlstone was selected. This was the name of a college that had been founded by John Kinloch (on the site of today’s Yeo Park, south Ashfield) and given his mother’s maiden name.
The surname Hurlstone "derived from a geographical locality. ‘of Hurlston,’ a township in the parish of Acton, Cheshire," somewhere right about here. The original Hurlston placename seemed to have derived from "’fenced farm’ from the pre 7th century Olde English ‘hurdl-tun’"
Fenced farm. That was lame. It had nothing to do with hurling stones.
Tippity Wichity Island, Maryland, Maryland, USA
I found Tippity Wichity Island while researching Saint Marys River. It was right there in the river channel outside of St. Marys City in Maryland. Tippity Wichity wasn’t a large parcel so I figured I wouldn’t find any meaningful information about it, and frankly was quite satisfied simply to discover an image even if I couldn’t embed it because it was copyright protected. The island was rather modest.
Then I ran across an article in ChesapeakeBoating.net, Ghosting Past Tippity Wichity which provided an explanation for the unusual name.
There, according to noted Potomac River historian Frederick Tilp, Howgate established "a gambling, drinking, and girlie place known as Happie Land and then altered the place name to a short version of Tippling-house and Witchery-house"-Tippity-Witchity. Eventually, the island itself took on the name, accommodating a lively trade with crews from schooners and cargo vessels who would visit for a little entertainment.
Tippling houses specialized in liquor by the glass. Witchery House was an unfamiliar phrase to me although I could read between the lines, and assumed witchery probably referred to its alternate definition, "Compelling power exercised by beauty, eloquence, or other attractive or fascinating qualities." rather than the actual practice of witchcraft. There was drinking and um, not witchcraft, happening on Tippity Wichity Island. Happie Land, indeed.
Walkaway Railway Station Museum, Walkaway, Western Australia
Walkaway. Why would someone walk away? That didn’t sound like an attractive endorsement for a town. I noticed Walkaway in Western Australia while working on Make Tracks to Midland. This was a station on a line operated by the Midland Railway Company a century ago, and the station later became a museum with "railway artifacts, military relics, local history."
I couldn’t find a definitive source for its name. Every website seemed to copy directly from its Wikipedia page and that site didn’t offer attribution either. Let me join the masses and spread the same statement in an entirely irresponsible manner: "Its name is a corruption of the native ‘Wagga wah’, referring to the bend in the nearby Greenough River." It must be true because the Internet said so. Right?
I had to admit it. My odd fascination with Every County’s slow-motion serial recitation of literally every county progressed towards an obsession. I couldn’t stop checking the author’s crawling pace once every few days. He arrived vicariously at Midland County, Michigan about a week ago where he noted that it "got its name because of its proximity to the center of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The only other Midland County is in Texas."
Of course the wheels started turning as I wondered about that Texas county of Midland. Was it in the middle of Texas similar to the one in Michigan, and if not then what did its midpoint represent? What about Midlands in other parts of the United States and even internationally?
Midland, Texas, USA
Odesolate by Bo Nash, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license
I began by examining Midland County, Texas, and discovered almost immediately that it wasn’t positioned at the center of the state. It did alright on latitude. However it skewed way towards the west for longitude (map). That wasn’t the answer.
I turned to Texas State Historical Association’s ever-useful Handbook of Texas for its Midland County page. Success. "The county was named for its location halfway between Fort Worth and El Paso on the Texas and Pacific Railway."
While that provide an acceptable answer it didn’t give the complete story. Midland County wasn’t the original midland in those parts. The county took its name from the town of Midland that existed there first. From the Handbook’s town page.
In late June 1881 the Texas and Pacific Railway, which was building its line between Dallas and El Paso, established Midway Station, a section house, halfway between those two cities… Because other towns in Texas were already named Midway, the site was renamed Midland to get the post office… When Midland County was organized in March 1885, Midland became the county seat.
Not all explanations for other places would be this clear-cut, I soon discovered.
The City of Midland prospered as a transportation hub. It became an integral part of the Midland–Odessa combined statistical area that provided a home to more than a quarter-million residents.
I’d hoped to examine other Midlands in the United States. However, the US Geographic Names Information System listed hundreds of different things Midland, including 84 results just its for it Civil and Populated Places groupings. Then, I noticed a pattern. "Middle" often referred to something related to railroads just as I’d observed in Texas.
Midland, Western Australia, Australia
Old Railway Workshops, Midland, Australia by Norman Jorgensen, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license
Perth, Western Australia included a burgeoning suburb called Midland, the council seat for the City of Swan on the northeastern side of a large metropolitan region. The growing suburbs may have begun to obscure Midland’s original purpose as a vital railway hub. As the City of Swan explained,
True to its name, Midland Junction was a junction for the roads north and east (now Great Northern and Great Eastern Highways) and the railway system… Between 1902 and 1904 the Western Australian Government Railway Workshops were relocated to Midland and they had a profound and lasting influence on the town… The Midland Railway Company was bought by the Western Australian Government Railways in 1964 and their land became the site of the Rapid Transit Terminal… The ‘Junction’ part of Midland’s name was dropped in 1961.
The Railway Workshops closed in 1994.
Additional context was provided by Wikipedia. The "midland" referred back to the name of the railroad, the Midland Railway Company, of which this site served as a terminus. I never did learn why the railway was named Midland and speculated that it may have had something to do with its line that ran along the middle coastline (map) of Western Australia.
Midland, Ontario, Canada
midland, ontario by sara hattie, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license
Another Midland, another railroad, this one in Ontario (map). The town offered its early history:
In November of 1871, the Midland Railway Corporation of Port Hope, Ontario, selected Midland as its western port and terminus. Adolphe Hugel and George Cox formed the Midland Land Company and purchased most of the acreage in the area from various farming families. In 1872, they had Peter Burnett survey the new village site, complete with large lots, wide roads and big plans for the future. They named the new community “Midland City.”
The company began as the Peterborough & Port Hope Railway, then became the Port Hope Lindsay and Beaverton Railway and changed its name to Midland Railway of Canada in 1869. I found plenty of sources that documented the name change including the actual Statute of the Province of Ontario although, once again, I never found an explanation. I guess it sounded less limiting.
The Midlands, England, UK
158A 2 by Tony Hisgett, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license
Does referencing The Midlands count as cheating? It represented a broad somewhat amorphous geographic belt across central England, and the reason for the designation was obvious. It didn’t derive its name from a railroad, rather, the opposite condition was true. I included it because, well, just because. I was on a roll.
Not unexpectedly, there was once a Midland Railway and now a Midland Railway Society and a Midland Railway Study Centre. Also, let’s not forget about the Midland Railway – Butterley museum (map) "dedicated to the glory of the former Midland Railway." It houses the 158A, the oldest surviving Midland Railway locomotive, one of a type built sometime between 1866 and 1874.
The UK’s Midland Railway operated between 1844 to 1922.