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Q: Unknown old English or Irish word ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   9 Comments )
Subject: Unknown old English or Irish word
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: pdq2-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 02 Jan 2005 10:01 PST
Expires: 01 Feb 2005 10:01 PST
Question ID: 450461
I have a manuscript letter from Ireland dated 1696, which uses the
word "nauan" twice.  The sentence reads: "You are to go to Christopher
Jackson in ye nauan att ye signe of ye Yorkeshire Gray, and enquire
for Charles mackannary, a richman, he uses [used or uset?] every day
on market tyme in nauan to bee att ye Yorkeshire Gray, ye said
mackannary lives six miles beyond Kelly."  Does anyone know the
meaning of the word "nauan"?

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 02 Jan 2005 10:39 PST
Do you think it might be "Navan", an Irish town?

Let me know.

Clarification of Question by pdq2-ga on 02 Jan 2005 15:26 PST
I guess "nauan" might be the town "navan", but is navan anywhere near
"Kelly"?  Also, "nauan" is not capitalized - but it's also true that
capitalization is inconsistent in the letter.

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 02 Jan 2005 16:53 PST
From a quick look, I don't see a town called Kelly in Ireland (though
it certainly sounds as if there should be one!).  Do you have any idea
if such a town exists (or existed?).

By the way, is there any way for you to scan the manuscript and post
it to a website?  It would be very helpful to be able to have a look
at it (and I must admit, I'm intrigued at this point).


Clarification of Question by pdq2-ga on 02 Jan 2005 18:24 PST
Please click here</a> to see a photo of the first part of the letter.

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 02 Jan 2005 19:25 PST

The page you posted end "within two or three miles of Virginia..."

Waht are the words immediately following this?  Do you think the
reference is to Virginia in the US (was there a Virginia in 1696...?).

Is there ANY context you can give us for this letter?  Who is the
letter from? Who is it to?  How do you know its from 1696?  etc...

Any other details would help, and might provide the key.


Clarification of Question by pdq2-ga on 18 Jan 2005 17:38 PST
I believe Leli is correct, and will gladly pay the fee if they wish to claim it.
Subject: Re: Unknown old English or Irish word
Answered By: leli-ga on 20 Jan 2005 09:46 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Thank you very much for inviting me to put my thoughts in the answer space! 

After taking a look at your document, I was fairly sure it said Kells,
not Kelly. I had seen that long thin 's' shape before, and had heard
of Kells.

After finding the three towns on a map, and seeing the writer's
"euery" and "liues", the Navan-Kells-Virginia connection persuaded me
that we had found your "nauan". The road linking them seems to be an
old route along the valley of the Blackwater River.

Navan is a traditional market town with a market square, shown in the
19th century picture on this page:

I don't know if you've already seen this rather nice 1837 map of Co. Meath:
It can be useful to look at a map drawn up before modern
road-building, even if it's not from the period you're studying.

May I suggest that the Mackannery surname is probably written here
with an 'e' before the 'r'? This and some other letters seem to be
written in the old handwriting style called "secretary hand": for
example, the 'e's in "three".

You can see examples of this kind of 'e' here:

Many thanks to you again. I enjoyed looking into this.

Good luck with your research - Leli


old maps Ireland

Navan market history
pdq2-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: Unknown old English or Irish word
From: markj-ga on 02 Jan 2005 10:26 PST
I would guess that it is one of the many variant spellings of the word
"noon," although my Oxford English Dictionary doesn't refer to that
specific variation.
Subject: Re: Unknown old English or Irish word
From: archae0pteryx-ga on 04 Jan 2005 23:58 PST
Kelly could be a person's name, and the reference could be to his
residence.  "Person A lives six miles beyond person B" is a reasonable
construction.  Could Virginia be a person's name also?

If there is a town called Navan, that surely seems like a good bet,
esecially since u and v are or have been virtually interchangeable in
some contexts.  As written it seems to be more a place name than a
time.  Also, as you note, lack of initial cap is not very strong
evidence that the word is a common noun.  I suggest you compare the
middle character with the second letter in "Every" and see what you

Subject: Re: Unknown old English or Irish word
From: leli-ga on 05 Jan 2005 04:34 PST
What about Kells, not Kelly?
That seems plausible if you compare the last letter with other 's' and
'y' styles in the document.

Kells, also called Ceanannus Mór, is in County Meath roughly halfway
between Navan and Virginia.


"In the (ye) Navan" sounds slightly odd, but perhaps it's a way of
saying "in/at the Navan market"?

Subject: Re: Unknown old English or Irish word
From: archae0pteryx-ga on 05 Jan 2005 20:33 PST
Oh, excellent, Leli!  I don't know if we're going to hear anything
more from pdq2, but I am applauding.  The final character of "lives"
and "miles" (and "uses"--apparently the present-tense form of our
"used to," expressing customary action, as now) is unmistakably the
same as the ending stroke of "Kells."  I think you've solved it and
shown that the target word could only be Navan.

Subject: Re: The Answer To Your Question Is Perception & Re-Direction.
From: britbuilt-ga on 18 Jan 2005 19:25 PST
Hello Folks.

It would be great if there was a new town found, and I will keep my
mind open to it.

The Irish language in this period was completely different in accent
to the way it is today, the context is descriptive, Markj is correct.

"Nauan" means Noon and is Welsh. It also has an older Scottish cousin
"Nauna" meaning the entire afternoon or all of the middle of the day.
It is only still present in the Gaelic dialect of two welsh fishing
towns, I think it's Barmouth & Twyn (also spelt nauan) and strangely
enough is integrated into Mauritian French/Creole also meaning noon
(spelt naoone) possibly as a result of a group of 36 Irish builders &
labourers commissioned by the Dutch Navy in 1669 to build a forted
town & port for Dutch sugar exports in Mauritius.

The port I assume was completed and 3 of the Irish builders were
returned in 1677 to the Cornish town of St Just by the Dutch navy who
stayed for 3 days to rest before returning 1 of the three to
Ballycotton, Ireland. Again stopping for 3 days and reportedly having
a "merry time". The Dutch seamen then set sail returning to Mauritius.
It is generally thought that the rest of the labourers decided to
remain in Mauritius after the work was completed due to vague
references of foreign, strange speaking craftsmen marrying the locals
etc etc.

All but 1 of the Irish builders were recorded to have died during the
commission, a young man by the name of Felke Tromp (Nicknamed by a
Dutch admiral possibly relating to the Dutch admiral Marten Tromp) who
was a boy when leaving for Mauritius and was trapped underwater and
drowned whilst building a damn at the port with his father. I think
that there was a book on Felke Tromp & the port which would explain
all about it, please let me know if any of you folks know what it is
called & who it is by.

I am assuming the father to be the man returned to Ballycotton because
of a reference to a man in Kilkenny of the period who spoke of "a
distant land of beauty, and ships carrying all of the sugar in the
world," and the loss of a son. He again, spoke in a strange tongue,
perhaps from working with the Dutch.

There was a lot of pirate activity off the south coast of England
during this period and I vaguely remember reading a British naval
ships log reporting boarding a pirate vessel that had just raided and
sunk a Dutch cargo ship during the period of the Anglo-Dutch wars. The
Dutch crew returned the 3 men during peacetime so lets hope it wasn't
the same crew and that our Dutch friends returned home safely.

Further Reading:

The Mystery of Mauritius, Brochure
Celtic Ancestry, Malcolm Phelps.
Tales from the Irish Sea, Patrick O'donell.
Who Are the Cornish Anyway?, Steph Cannings.
Smugglers & Pirates of Southern England, Museum Brochure
Great Seamen, (Readers Digest, I Think)
Maurice to Mauritius, Frederick Doyle

I hope that this information is of help to you. Please let me know if
any of you get more leads on this.
Subject: Re: Cognitive Freedom, over easy suggestion.
From: britbuilt-ga on 18 Jan 2005 22:45 PST
Hey There History Fans:

The Yorkshire Gray was a public house in Yorkshire during this period,
Gray being the American/Old English Spelling of the colour grey. There
have been many pubs with the name of Yorkshire Gray/Grey in the UK
dating back prior to the 17th century and they are still in operation
today, There would more than likely have been a pub named the
Yorkshire Gray in the US at this point to make migrating workers feel
at home.

Using a pub sign as a landmark suggests that they are in the
countryside where names of the residents houses are used to navigate
more accurately and offer more familiarity than mileage from town to

E.g., Present grammar style; wait at the pub sign, not the pub itself
at noon precisely (market=mark=precisely or exact, e.g. on your marks)
he lives about 3 miles past the Holls and just round the corner from

The grammar, capitalisation etc. for the time period would have been
correct, and this person would have been considered highly educated.

During this period Holls (not Kelly, the handwriting is that bad,
relax your eyes) was a very popular name in: Scunthorpe, Yorkshire.
Virginia USA & Ireland.  And is still concentrated in these areas.

The person (lady) who wrote this letter would have been very well to
do and involved in high society, she was raised in Ireland or Wales
due to the spelling of noon and was probably connected to all of these
names & places that you will come across in some way.

I think that the Yorkshire Gray referred to in this letter is the one
in Fitzrovia London, a country pub at the turn of the 17th century
during the Anglo-Dutch Wars. There would have been a lot of British
naval servicemen & well to do officers in the ?Big Smoke? during this

This letter is from a madam to her employee instructing her to visit a
customer in war time London (see the context of the word ?user?.
Wartime letters are more commonly preserved by people because of the
emotional weight that they carry. It is possible that a relationship
ensued between the courting couple and that the letter was preserved
when the officer returned to sea never to return. Perhaps he met
pirates off the south coast!

All of these names and places are heavily linked, delve deep and you
will not be disappointed.
Subject: My Auntie shops at the Tesco in Nauan.
From: britbuilt-ga on 21 Jan 2005 13:58 PST
There is a town called Nauan in the Rebublic of Ireland.
Subject: Re: Unknown old English or Irish word
From: archae0pteryx-ga on 21 Jan 2005 23:52 PST

Ireland was in the first line of the original question.

Subject: Re: Unknown old English or Irish answers.
From: britbuilt-ga on 22 Jan 2005 02:02 PST
That's right optrex, well done, are you a genius?

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