Colloquial place names

Vol. 11 No. 2 - 2022

‘From the Canyon to the Half Moon’

The colloquial place names of Lurgan

by Weir David

The study of local place names tends to concentrate on two principal categories: townland names, as exemplified in the excellent book Lough Neagh Places: Their Names and Origins by Dr Patrick McKay and Dr Kay Muhr; or street names as reflected in articles published in our own journal Review by our former chairman, Miss Rosalind Hadden: ‘Street Names in Lurgan and Brownlow’ (Review Vol. 9: No. 2, 2008-2009, pp. 60-64) and ‘Street names of Portadown’ (Review Vol. 9: No. 3, 2010-2011, pp. 59-62). However, another set of place names that receive significantly less attention, which can mystify newcomers to the town and are rarely written down on paper or up on walls are the many informal place names, best categorised as colloquial or slang place names.

Like townland and street names, colloquial place names can provide us with colourful insights into how people perceived their locality at a particular point in time. Their localised informal nature, combined with their lack of official status; existing as they do on the tip of the tongue; means that such place names are perpetually at risk of being lost between generations.

Therefore, in February 2021 I began a project to collect and record the location and meanings of the colloquial place names of the Craigavon area to ensure such names are preserved for posterity, beginning firstly with the town of Lurgan.

Why Lurgan?

While living in Lurgan for the past few years, I have been struck by the many colloquial names which are used locally in everyday conversation.

The first Lurgan colloquial place name I recall hearing was ‘The Canyon’, in reference to a play area frequented by fellow Craigavon Historical Society member Jim Conway. Jim soon introduced me to more such names, and over time as I have got to know more people throughout the town, I accumulated further examples.

Lurgan was therefore a natural starting point to begin a project that would record the colloquial place names of the Craigavon area. Since commencing the project I have now collected over 50 examples of colloquial Lurgan place names. Some of the names are universally known throughout the town, while others are more localised in nature. Humorous, bawdy, inventive and sometimes dark, the names are a tribute to the down to earth character of the people of Lurgan.


What follows in the remainder of this article is a list of the colloquial place names of Lurgan, which I have collected to date, along with their locations and their meanings. To qualify for inclusion on the list the names had to have no official status, meaning that for example they did not appear (to the best of my knowledge) in maps, street directories, street signage or valuation books. As a result the names of the many courts and alleyways that once formed an intrinsic part of Lurgan’s streetscape were not included, qualifying now more as lost street names.

The majority of the colloquial names listed were collected between February and October 2021 during a series of online Zoom panel discussion events, or through conversations with groups and individuals from across the town.

I especially wish to acknowledge the assistance given by Jim Conway, David Martin, Heather Girvan, Mark Dickson, Garry O’Carroll, Jonny Kerr, Tracy Pryce, Donagh McKeown, Jamie Guiney and Clive Higginson.

Additional names have been taken from publications, including most notably Memories of Old Lurgan (self published in 1987) by Alfie Tallon, and from online sources, in particular Old Lurgan Photos ( and Old Lurgan Photographs (


The explanation of the majority of the place names is self-evident, but there are a few examples in which the origins are unclear; in these instances a suggestion has been made as to a possible meaning.

Alternative explanations for the meanings of the listed place names would be welcome, as would further examples of colloquial place names which are not included in the list below. If you can assist please get in touch with me via email at:

Map of Lurgan
Map illustrating the approximate locations of the colloquial place names of Lurgan with numbers reflecting the key below. Map image taken from the Department for Communities: Historic Environment Division’s Historic Map Viewer (

  1. The Head of the Plain/The Long Plain/The Plain: Previously the name for the Francis Street area of Lurgan, which referred to the high point of a plain of undeveloped land that sloped down towards the Lough shore. The street running through the area was named Francis Street in c.1860, but the area is still commonly referred to today as ‘the plain’. A related colloquial name is ‘The Heights’, which refers to the highest point of the plain, where the McDonald’s fast food restaurant is currently sited.
  2. Celtic Park/Racecourse: Formerly the name given to the field now occupied by St. Pauls Parish Church on Francis Street. Celtic Park was used as a greyhound racetrack, a football pitch, a meeting place and a playground. In the late 19th century it was known as ‘Harte’s Field’ after its owner James Harte of Shankill. The church was consecrated in 1963.
  3. The Honeypot: Refers to a stretch of the old Portadown to Dublin coach road, which now runs alongside the Lurgan to Portadown railway line, situated near the Silverwood railway bridge at Francis Street. The name, in use since at least the 1930s, possibly derives from the Honeypot Farm, occupied by the Hewitt Family, which was located at the Taghnevan end of the coach road; although it is possible the reverse is true and that the farm took its name from the road. ‘The Honeypot’ was a popular lover’s walk and this may provide an alternative explanation for the origin of the name, inspired by ‘the bees and the birds’ story. Today access to ‘The Honeypot’ is barred by a closed gate.
  4. White Row
    The White Row of Silverwood, formerly situated on Francis Street. A knackers yard was located to the right of these houses.. The photograph taken in 1957 by William Gracey. Image courtesy of Craigavon Museum Services.

  5. The White Row: Refers to a row of houses, erected between the early to mid-1800s, which were located beside the Silverwood railway bridge on Francis Street (on the Silverwood side of the bridge). The name comes from the whitewashed exterior of the houses. The White Row was demolished in the early 1970s.
  6. The Half-Moon: A meeting place in Silverwood, whose name derives from a half-mooned shaped grove of trees found near the site of the now demolished Silverwood House, ancestral home of the Cuppage family. Some locals recollect seeing witchcraft symbols carved into the bark of the trees. The half-moon name has been in use since at least the 1960s.
  7. Paradise: Refers to a marshy area of undeveloped land that is a haven to a variety of wild animal and plant life. It is found near Cuppage’s railway bridge, straddling the townlands of Taghnevan and Silverwood. Paradise has been in use as name since at least the 1980s.
  8. The Red Row: Name given to a row of red bricked houses built in the late 1800s at the bottom of Francis Street/beginning of the Silverwood Road. The houses were for the employees of James Livingstone’s nearby handkerchief manufactory. The row was demolished in the early 1970s, although a part of the housing row wall still remains.
  9. The Stinker: A descriptive reference used from at least the 1960s to describe the state of the polluted Pound River in the Shankill and Silverwood areas of Lurgan. The term has also been used to describe the Woodville River flowing through Lord Lurgan Memorial Park.
  10. Ink Pot/Ink Bottle: An old name, in use since at least the early 1900s, given to a field located near Bullay's Hill on the Annesborough Road, where the housing development of Hunter's Lodge has recently been built. The name origin may relate to the past use of the field for septic drainage.
  11. Vatican City: A tongue-in-cheek expression referring to the Woodville area of Lurgan, which described the aspirational, mostly Catholic population of the housing areas that were erected here from the late 1960s onwards. Woodville is also commonly referred to as ‘Greers’, after the landowning family who have resided at Woodville House since the mid-18th century.
  12. Wounded Knee: A darkly comic reference to the car park outside the Woodville Arms in Lake Street, where punishment attacks were carried out during ‘The Troubles’. Sometimes also referred to as ‘The Kneecappers’.
  13. The Stones/The Stonetex: ‘The Stones’ referred to a meeting place near Greer’s Estate at Woodville, which took its name from a group of stones that acted as bollards. The stones were located near the present entrance to Allenhill Park. ‘The Stonetex’ was also used to describe the same area, with the name originating from a product manufactured by the South Western Stone Company (N.I.) Ltd., which operated in the area during the 1960s and 1970s.
  14. McLaughlin’s Park: Alternative name used locally for Lord Lurgan Memorial Park, in tribute to the long-time park ranger Kevin McLaughlin, who has looked after the park for over 40 years. The park is also known as 'Over the Hill' and 'Duffy's Hill'.
  15. The Wimpey: Refers to housing estates erected in the Lurgantarry area of Lurgan from the late 1960s. The name comes from the George Wimpey Company, which built the housing.
  16. The Muck Mountains: Nickname used in the 1970s/1980s for muck piles at the bottom of Lavery Avenue which were used as a play area by local children.
  17. Down the Tarry/From the Tarry: An expression which relates to going down towards the northern end of the town that takes its name from Tarry Lane located in the townland of Lurgantarry. Also an old way of saying what end of the town you are from. Related is the term ‘A Tarry Man’.
  18. Bellsy: Refers to the land formerly associated with Bellevue House, adjacent to the Kilmore Road. Bellevue House was built in the 1850s for Samuel Alexander Bell, a director of the nearby Thomas Bell & Company handkerchief manufactory. The house, known locally as ‘The White House’ or ‘Whitey’, was burned down in the 1970s. The abandoned grounds of the ruined house were subsequently used as a playground and meeting place known as ‘Bellsy’ during the 1970s and 1980s. Within the grounds was a jagged tree nicknamed ‘The Devil Tree’, which having been struck by lightning never grew leaves again; and an area known as ‘Battle Cat’, which referred to a patch of overgrown bush land. Today the Belvedere Manor housing area occupies the site.
  19. The Back of the Wall: Dating back to at least the 19th century, this colloquialism refers to the Kilmore Road and derives from the road’s location to the rear of the Brownlow demesne boundary wall. A universal phrase known throughout Lurgan is “meet you around the back of the wall”. This area was another popular lover’s walk in the past, encapsulated in a poem by the Magheralin poet James Malcolmson, entitled ‘The Back of the Wall’, published in the book Maralin and Other Poems by James Malcomson (Lurgan Mail Press: 1949).
  20. Barley Field/Frenchie Field: A field which was commonly visited by courting couples from at least the 1950s. The ‘Frenchie Field’ name derives from the slang term ‘a French letter’, which refers to a condom. The Forest Glade housing area has since been built over the field.
  21. Distillery Hill: A name commonly used to refer to Lower North Street due to the presence of the old distillery, now known as Soyes Mill, which is the oldest industrial building in Lurgan dating back to at least the early 18th century.
  22. The Canyon: Referred to an area of ground in North Street in which children played games of ‘Cowboys and Indians’ and World War 2 themed soldier games through the 1930s to 1980s. The area is now occupied by the St. Peters GAA Club.
  23. Freecrow: In use since the mid-19th century, the term ‘Freecrow’ originally described the field bounded by Lower North Street, Grattan Street, Kilmaine Street and Brownlow Terrace. The origins of the name are unclear. One suggestion is that ‘Freecrow’ was a past vernacular term for untitled, unused or grazing land. Another explanation is that the crows were free to fly and feed here, unlike in the Brownlow demesne opposite and the adjacent corn mill (Soye’s Mill), where wild bird and game shooting took place regularly. ‘Freecrow’ continues to be used widely today, although it is sometimes now used to refer to all of North Street.
  24. Aerial view postcard
    Postcard image providing an overview of the North Street (Back Lane) area of Lurgan. The field of 'Freecrow' can be seen centrally, next to St. Peters Parish Church, c.1930s. Image courtesy of Craigavon Museum Services.

  25. The Big Green Chapel: An affectionate name given to the Irish National Forester’s (INF) social club premises on North Street. Although home to the Lurgan branch of the INF since 1930, the building was only painted green in the 1990s. This, combined with its proximity to St. Peter’s Parish Church and the club’s perceived clientele, led to the creation of this tongue-in-cheek name.
  26. The Back Lane: The name of North Street until c.1860, when the present name was adopted. The term ‘The Back Lane’ derives from the access the street provided to the back of the Brownlow demesne via the west demesne gate lodge, which was located where the current entrance to the St. Peter’s GAA Club is.
  27. Brownlow House
    Brownlow House otherwise known as Lurgan Castle.

  28. Lurgan Castle: Affectionate name for Brownlow House; the home of the Brownlow family who were the founders and landlords of Lurgan town from 1610 through to the 1890s. Although a defensive castle and bawn were built on this site when the Brownlows first arrived in the area, the majority of the impressive building which we see today was constructed in the 1830s as a residence.
  29. Belgian Row: A nickname given to the terraces of houses on either side of Wellington Street, from No. 30 upwards, which the Lurgan District Council had offered up to house Belgian refugees during the First World War (1914-1919). The refugees never came, but the name has stuck.
  30. The Glue Pot: Comic reference to The Windsor Club; a social club that was founded in 1904 and continues to operate from a clubhouse situated in Windsor Avenue. The name derives from the joke that once you sit down at the bar it is difficult to free yourself from it.
  31. The Valley: Referred to a wooded area to the rear of the Tennis Courts and Bowling Pavilion in Lurgan Park in which children played games of ‘Cowboys and Indians’ during the 1950s and 1960s.
  32. The Bowery: A name which was given to Castle Lane by Signalman William (Bill) Kerley; an English soldier stationed in the town during World War 2 (1939-1945); to conjure up the rough living conditions of the Lane. In his diary entry of Thursday 29 May 1941 he writes: ‘Castle road, the Bowery of Lurgan, what an environment to be brought up in. Little kiddies dressed in the most wonderful woollies I have ever seen. The men sit on the pavement and play cards. The women stand around and talk, the girls play ball and the boys do all sorts of things’. Bill Kerley’s diary is part of the Craigavon Museum Services collection.
  33. The Swinging Diddy: A coarse slang name for the Terence McKeown & Sons public house, which was situated at the top of Castle Lane during the 1950s and 1960s. The name was a reference to the lascivious conduct of some of the clientele.
  34. Child Dears: Affectionate nickname for The Imperial Bar, formerly located on Queen Street. The term was inspired by an expression often uttered by the publican Jimmy McCann, who used to warn his customers ‘to mind the step child dear’. He ran the pub from the 1940s through to the early 1970s, at which point it was taken over by Ralph Hewitt. The bar has since been demolished.
  35. The Halfpenny Hole: Tongue-in-cheek name for Lily Lavery’s corner sweet shop at the junction of Queen Street and the Avenue Road, which opened in the early 1950s. One memory regarding the origin of the name relates it to the pokey nature of the shop combined with the presence of an old halfpenny that was stuck onto the door latch to help it open. Another view is that the name came from the fact that even if you were a halfpenny short in whatever you wanted to buy, the exacting Lily would never let you owe her it. The shop was demolished in the late 1980s to allow for the extension of Wesley Turkington’s car showroom.
  36. Turkington’s Corner/Turk’s Corner: A name given to the corner at the junction of Queen Street and Avenue Road, where Wesley Turkington had a car showroom from the 1950s through to 1998.
  37. Up the Blough/From the Blough: An expression which relates to going ‘up the town’ to the Queen Street/Flush Place south east end of the town located in the townland of Ballyblagh. Also an old way of saying what end of the town you are from. Related is the term ‘A Blagh Man’. ‘Blough’ is the Lurgan pronunciation of ‘blagh’.
  38. Fa Jo's
    Sketch of Fa’ Joe’s from Lurgan Town Trail (1990)

  39. Fa’ Joe’s: The name by which The Central Bar located at the corner of Carnegie Street and Market Street is best known by. The name may be a reference to the publican Joseph McAreavey listed as the occupier in the 1959 Lurgan Street Directory.
  40. The Pillars
    The Pillars – 48 Church Place
  41. The Pillars: The name given to the slimline, polychrome brick building at number 48 Church Place, which housed the town’s first cinema; known as the ‘Hippodrome’ or ‘Grand’; which operated from 1914 through to the early 1930s. ‘The Pillars’ tag comes from the columns which form part of the building’s façade.
  42. Shankill Parish Church, Lurgan
    The Big Church
  43. The Big Church: The common local name used for Shankill Parish Church, which stands at the head of the town in Church Place. The church, dedicated to Christ the Redeemer, was first built in 1725, was substantially reconstructed and expanded in the midddle of the 19th century and reconsecrated in 1863 - the alterations resulted in it becoming one of the largest parish churches in Ireland.
  44. The Pluck-Ins: A name given to two rows of terraced housing, which were formerly located behind William Street. The origin of the name ‘Pluck-Ins’ is unclear, but it is possibly linked to linen manufacture, with the name perhaps deriving from the ‘plucking stick’ used to fire a shuttle across the loom. It could also be a term related to handkerchief manufacture undertaken by outworkers in their houses. That the houses were occupied by linen workers has been confirmed by living memory. Now demolished, the site of the ‘Pluck-Ins’ is currently occupied by Campbell’s Pharmacy at 11 William Street.
  45. Over the Railway: An old expression recorded by Alfie Tallon which was used to refer to the area of Lurgan that lay beyond the railway on the Lough Road side.
  46. The Hole in the Wall: Referred to a gap in the now demolished boundary wall at Wesley Place, which provided access to the field at the rear of the Lurgan Technical College (now the Oznam Centre) of William Street. During the 1960s the field was used as a playground, a meeting place and for Friday night games of Pitch and Toss.
  47. The Brigitt: A name given to a row of terraced housing, which was built in the late 1800s and comprised Shankill Street Place. The origin of the ‘Brigitt’ name is not conclusively known. One possibility is that the name relates to the Celtic Irish river deity Brigit/Brigid/Brig (sometimes also identified with the Christian Saint Brigid), with the Brigitt perhaps being the ancient name for the Pound River which streamed behind the terraces. Another suggestion is that the term derives from ‘brig’, the Scots word for ‘bridge’, indicating a crossing point. ‘The Brigitt’ was demolished in the 1970s, with the Thornleigh housing estate built over it.
  48. The Pound/Head of the Pound River: Historic name for the Edward Street area of Lurgan, under which the Pound River flows. The old animal/cattle pound of Lurgan was also located in the area, standing either at Waring Street (where Reid’s Bar is currently sited) or where the Manor Court Housing area is situated.
  49. The Marrowbone: Colloquial name for the area sandwiched between Sloan Street (formerly known as John Street) and Hill Street, which encompasses Anne Street, George Street, Mark Street, James Street and New Street. The origin of the name is unclear, but it may indicate the historic presence of an abattoir, butchery or shambles; or perhaps it relates to the general shape of the area.
  50. Honeymoon cottage
    Honeymoon Cottage undergoing renovation.

  51. Honeymoon Cottage: Situated at 94 Hill Street and reputedly the smallest house in Lurgan with one room downstairs and one bedroom upstairs. Its name derives from its use in the early 1900s as a honeymoon residence in which the newly-wed employees of the cottage’s owners where offered a stay.
  52. Mickey Dee's/Micky D’s: Popular nickname for the McDonald’s fast food restaurant on Edward Street, which has been serving ‘Big Macs’ to the people of Lurgan for over 20 years.
  53. Minister’s Turn: A nickname for the Old Portadown Road, dating back to the 1870s when a Presbyterian manse was erected at the bend in the road. Although the manse is now in private ownership, the ‘Minister’s Turn' has endured as a local name for the street.
  54. Counterpunch/Knifepoint: Darkly comic name for Centrepoint, a cinema and bowling alley complex on the Portadown Road, which derived the name from the frequency of fights that occurred outside the venue. First opened in 1989, the cinema closed in 2005 and the bowling alley in 2022.
  55. Wylie’s Loanin/Will’s Lane: A lane that led to fields and private dwellings, which was formerly located between the Old Portadown Road and Tandragee Road (the lane opening was roughly opposite the New Line Cemetery). The name presumably referred to the residents of the area. The Lane was a popular lover’s walk up until the mid-1960s, when the area was transformed during the development of the ‘new city’ of Craigavon.
  56. Gaza Strip: Darkly comic name used to describe the interface along the Tandragee Road, where the Collingwood and Mourneview Housing Estates face each other. Flashpoint violence was a frequent occurrence here during ‘The Troubles’
  57. Monkey Land: Playful name given to at least two different areas in Lurgan. Firstly it was used from the 1960s to 1980s to refer to an area of overgrown wasteland to the rear of Trasna Way and Connolly Place, which extended up towards where the Millennium Way is now. The name ‘Monkey Land’ may relate to the nickname of a vagrant who resided in the area known as ‘Monkey Gates’; or perhaps the name simply comes from the many happy hours that local children spent swinging from the trees that once stood here. ‘Monkey Land’ was also the slang name given to a row of sapling trees located which were frequently climbed by local children near what is now ‘The Hollows’ housing development.
  58. Colditz: Tongue-in-cheek name used by students for the Lurgan Technical College, which was located in William Street (in the building now occupied by the Oznam Centre) between 1929 and 1961, before the College moved to Kitchen Hill. The slang name was inspired by the infamous War 2 prisoner-of-war camp at Colditz Castle, near Leipzig in Germany.
  59. Edward Street
    Old postcard of Edward Street, Lurgan circa 1930
  60. Barrack Row: Name used to describe a row of terraced housing along Edward Street, just before the entrance to Hill Street, which from the 1870s through to c.1920 contained a Royal Irish Constabulary barracks. Despite the closure of the station the name stuck until the row’s demolition in the 1970s.
  61. Mechanics' Institute
    Mechanics' Institute
  62. The Big Blue Church: Affectionate name used by its members for the Mechanic’s Institute, located in the sky-blue building on the corner of Market Street and Union Street. The Institute originally opened in 1858 to offer adult education to working men, but today it operates as a social club with bar and restaurant facilities.