To get the "official" anglicized place names you need to look at the Townland Index which was first published with the 1851 censuses. There were revised editions in one or more of the subsequent censuses, and there is (or was until recently) a reprint of the 1851 Townland Index in print from a geneological publishing house in Baltimore.
The Post Office of the Republic of Ireland publishes a postal directory which lists both the Irish and English names for all post offices in the Republic. Unfortunately it (at least the version I bought in Dublin about 1970) does not list post offices in Northern Ireland.
The townland is a very small geographic unit (usually between about 100 and 1000 acres) so there are many more placenames in the Townland Index than in the Postal Directory. To make sense of what the original Irish placename was you need (only) a little Irish. The army actually employed some fairly sophisticated scholarly talent (like the character in the play) though there were no doubt errors.
Somewhere some years ago I ran across a reference, which I have lost, to a catalogue of (I think) 17th century Irish place names, and if anyone can come up with the reference I will be grateful myself.
David W. Miller
Professor of History
Carnegie Mellon University
A source used by Friel for "translations" was the history of the Ordnance Survey in nineteenth century Ireland, "A Paper Landscape" by J.H. Andrews published by Clarendon in 1975. I saw an article in a recent _Irish Review_ arguing that Friel portrays the Survey unfairly - that on the whole they recorded what they found. Certainly my own rather limited experience of looking through the O.S. Memoirs (some of which have been published by the Institute of Irish Studies here in Belfast) didn't include "renaming Gaelic places with English equivalents" as such - Anglicised spellings of Gaelic names, yes, but that's a different matter from translating into English.
I see from a bibliography search that there is a discussion of the issue between Friel and Andrews in "The Crane bag", vol. 7 p. 118-124 (1983). Must have a look at it myself!
Queen's University of Belfast
For what it's worth, the two books that I use are:
Gasaite/ar na hE/ireann : Gazetteer of Ireland. prepared by The Placenames Branch of the Ordnance Survey. Dublin?: 1989 ISBN 0707600766 A Dictionary of Irish Place-Names. by Adrian Room. Appletree Press, Belfast: 1986, 1988. ISBN 086281202X
I bought them both a couple years ago in Dublin. The former in the government publications office (or something like that) for #5.00 and the latter in Eason's for #5.95.
The Gazetteer is subtitled "Names of centres of population and physical features" and lists all population centres that have or have had a post office in the past 20 years, and most major physical features of the land. The names appear in both English and Irish, with pronunciations for the latter, and the National Grid coordinates for each place (which was the selling feature for me).
The Dictionary gives the names of many places with their translation, and a brief description of the location and/or literal translation of the name. Two brief appendices list elements of placenames in the Irish languages (prefixes and suffixes) and a decent bibliography listing twenty-odd works for further research.
Best of luck with your searches.
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