I have long had a fascination with interesting place names — especially those with odd and/or humorous connotations, such as the libidinously-named Intercourse, Pennsylvania, or the differently-torrid town of Hell, Michigan.

Ireland, as you might imagine, has its share of “Far-away places with strange sounding names” (as the old hit song put it), so it doesn’t seem far-fetched to devote my third St. Patrick’s Day piece to strange-sounding places in the Emerald Isle….and I can think of no more fitting place to start than the first name on the list:

FAIRYHOUSE, northwest of Dublin, isn’t a town but a racecourse, and not an obscure one either. It is the venue of the renowned Irish Grand National Steeplechase and the Irish Gold Cup. And would you believe the jockeys are leprechauns?

BALLYBUNION, County Kerry, is known as the Town of the Sapling, not the Bunion. Apparently the saplings have no bunions until they grow enough feet to become trees able to have bunions, but that may be just a tall story.

KNOCK, a village in County Mayo, is the site of a church and shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose apparition (with Saint Joseph and John the Evangelist) reputedly appeared there in 1879.  It was not long before KNOCKLONG, a village in County Limerick, got jealous and claimed that Jesus had appeared at their church. Unfortunately, the door was locked and Jesus didn’t KNOCK LONG enough for anyone to hear — or see — him.

LOOP HEAD, is the western-most point of County Clare, where a cliff overlooks a channel of the Atlantic Ocean called the Lover’s Leap. I don’t know how many Loop Heads have leapt off Lover’s Leap, but it’s probably the only place in Ireland where more lovers have drowned their sorrows in water than in liquor.

RECESS, County Galway, is a fishing resort situated in a valley separating the Twelve Bens from the Maamturk Mountains. Why the Twelve Bens need separating from the Maamturk Mountains I don’t know, and since I’m on Recess, I have no intention of checking it out.

If I’m not back by tomorrow evenin’, ye will know I’m still doin’ research for Part Four at the local….library. But never fear — like St.Patrick hisself, I shall return.