March 27, 2015

The true waters of Chapelizod

Over at Facebook, Olaf Errwigge of Copenhagen has revealed some interesting facts about Phoenix Park and the ‘home street’ of Séipéil Iosóid, both of them out west from Dublin.

Regarding Phoenix Park, a correspondent had asked: How did it get its name?

And Errwigge replied:

Phoenix is said to be from fionn uisce, meaning clear water. But what clear water that would have referred to is not so clear. Instead it seems that it was originally fíor uisce, true water, referring to the distill’ry est’d there at the Liffey by Holy St Patrick to compete with the domestic ales.

The name Chapelizod also is a curiosity. Patrick est’d a house to purvey his distill’ry’s products to the public, which he called An Capall’s an Ógh, The Horse and the Virgin. It became a popular gathering place for the young people after their hurling matches in the nearby fields, and was soon known as the Capall’s Óg, Horse ’n Youth. In time it was simply referred to as ‘The Chapel’, along with the village that had grown up around it. When King Mark (Eachmharcach) of Dublin sent out his tax assessors, it was found that this village was not named in their records. His men asked in at Patrick’s house what it was called, this village out there from this famous ‘Chapel’. Patrick’s man, thinking they were asking about ownership, not wanting to be liable for the taxes on the distill’ry toward which they seemed to be gesturing, replied in what he thought was good official Norse, ‘I sold it’. The taxmen dutifully wrote it down, and as Chapel-Isolde, later Chapelizod, the place was known thenceforth!

That story may be spurious, however, as the name would seem more likely to have been simply corrupted from Capall’s Óg.