Battle for historic townland name
Residents of an electoral ward in Newry are campaigning to preserve its historic name. The Boundaries Commissioner has proposed to change the name of Ballybot to the Quays, which is also the name of a local shopping centre. Ballybot means poor town in Irish, and council official Gearoid MagUibhrin says the name goes back a long way.
"The name is mentioned in the 1578 rent roll book, and as the town of Newry began to grow, so Ballybot grew, with people coming in from the neighbouring countryside," he says. "It created its own particular ethos and identity.
It would be a painful change for dentist Morna Baxter, who proudly calls her business Ballybot Dental Surgery. "A lot of my older patients are concerned. They liked the fact that I used Ballybot in the surgery's name, and they feel they've got a connection with the townland name," she says.
Around the corner, Jim Doherty has lived in Ballybot for 70 years and he says he does not want to live anywhere else. "If you lose the name Ballybot, it would be like losing your wife - it's as simple as that," he says.
The new name suggested is The Quays, but objectors say this carries no historical resonance and merely shares its name with a shopping centre which opened in 1999.
Community worker Mickey Brady is spearheading a campaign to save the name. "When I am asked in Newry where I come from, I say I am from Ballybot," he says. "A lot of people say they come from Ballybot first and Newry second."
Boundaries Commissioner Dick Mackenzie, who has the job of getting rid of 162 electoral wards across Northern Ireland, has invited local residents to write to him outlining their concerns.
"Give me the reasons why they think those names are not appropriate and they will be put before a public hearing in January and February which those people are welcome to attend," he says.
People who have strong feelings about the name of their council ward have until Friday to put forward their objections.
Written submissions can be made to the secretary, Local Government Boundaries Commissioner, Forestview, Purdy's Lane, Belfast BT8 7AR.