Irish Language Blog

“An Fada Leat Uait Í, Uait Í?” Iníon Uí Chuileannáin agus a Cohórt Posted by on Jun 11, 2012 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Before wrapping up our discussion of the Cullinans of diamond fame, it might be interesting to look at the name itself. Not only does it have several spellings in Irish, but it also has several anglicizations. And some noteworthy bearers of the name, in real life and in song.

The main variations in the Irish spelling of this name concern the letters “l” and “n,” either appearing singly or double. The name is based on “cuileann” (holly tree) so according to that basis, one would think there would be one “l” and two “n’s,” but it doesn’t happen to be that way. Here are the four main variations, in order of frequency that I find on the Internet:

Ó Cuilleanáin, 70,900 hits
Ó Cuileannáin 10,600
Ó Cuileanáin 1,570 hits
Ó Cuilleannáin, 614 hits

I haven’t attempted to plough through these for duplicates or to include limited forms in the search, since I think these four results give the basics.

And here some additional ways the name has been anglicized: Cullinane, O Cullanayne, Quillinan, Culnane, and Quilnan. It is sometimes translated as Hollywood, since “cuileann” does mean “holly-tree.”

Who bears this name? Among those connected to the Irish language is Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, an Irish poet born in Cork City and an associate professor of English at Trinity College Dublin. Her research and teaching include Irish myth, folklore and literature and her translations of poetry from Irish, Romanian, and Italian, have been published in various books, magazines and anthologies. Eiléan’s father was an Irish language scholar and her mother was an Irish lagange writer and also the niece of the Irish patriot, Joseph Mary Plunkett (1887-1916). Eiléan’s brother Cormac Ó Cuilleanáin is associate professor of Italian at Trinity and the author of several mystery novels, writing as Cormac Millar. Cormac’s two daughters Órla and Léan have both published writings in the Irish language

In addition to the South Africa Cullinans, discussed in the previous blog, and in a completely different but also very prosperous walk of life, we have Joseph Stephen Cullinan (1860-1937). He was the son of John Francis and Mary Considine Cullinan, immigrants from Co. Clare, and an oil magnate (Texaco). As one might guess, his story is far too involved to be told here but he puts one more marker in the Clare/Cullinan diaspora. There are various Cullinan landmarks in the Texas landscape.

The Cullinan lineage is also celebrated in song, as we see in “Molly na gCuach Ní Chuilleanáin” aka “Mál Bhán Ní Chuilleanáin,” recorded by artists such as Altan, Danu, Colcannon, Lá Lugh, and in a Manhattan Transfer-esque rendition, Acabella ( Perhaps you recognize it by the memorable chorus: Is fada liom uaim í, uaim í. Translation? I think it packs several layers of meaning together, basically, “I have missed her for a long time/she’s very distant from me,” very literally, “It’s far/long with me from me her, from me her.” I said “literal” and you got it!

Geographically speaking, we have Cullinan places around the world, starting with Baile Uí Chuileannáin (Ballycullinan, Co. Clare) and Doire Chuileannáin (Derrycullinan, Co. Leitrim). It seems beagán aisteach to me that one Cullinan town would have the “” in it and the other not, but, as Tevye would say, if he spoke Gaeilge instead of Giúdais, “Traidisiún!”

And jumping a little farther afield, in fact about 6000 míle, we have “The Cullinan,” in Hong Kong, a luxury apartment/hotel complex. Intriguingly, its name is available in Chinese, 天璽, which I copy from Wikipedia (níl Sínis agam). It would be interesting to know what those characters literally mean and how they are pronounced. How luxury is luxury in the architectural marvel, inspired by Cullinan Diamond? The prices I found were approximately $6100 per month to rent, $3,225,000 to buy. Does seem like a stretch from the rural County Clare roots of the name, but then that’s via several generations of diamond mine activity.

Slightly farther afield still, when spelled with the final “-e,” we have Cullinane, Queensland, Australia, and Cullinane College Wanganui in New Zealand. The latter is named after four Cullinanes (whereby must hang a tale!): Sister Vincent Cullinane RSJ, Sister Cuthbert Cullinane RSJ, Father John Cullinane SM, and Bishop Peter James Cullinane.

Keep traveling east, since we’re heading soir, and you’ll find a few more Cullinan places in the US: Cullinan Trail and the Andrew Jackson and Margaret Cullinan Wray House in Harris Co., TX. Then there’s the short-lived Cullinan Post Office in Arthur, NE, which opened in 1916, was renamed a few months later as “Bucktail” and closed by 1959. Sic transit oifigí poist beaga bídeacha! Continue farther east and you’ve got Cullinane Hall on the Northeastern University Campus (the plot is thickening with interesting Cullinan(e)s, but I’ll have to leave that link for the Cullinan(e) genealogists. Continue east from Massachusetts, and I guess you’re, well, ar ais i gContae an Chláir.

A final note on the Cullinans, especially in Co. Clare. If you have Cullinan or other Clare relatives or ancestors, and if you haven’t already done so, you might want to check out Dorothea Lange’s 1954 photos of Co. Clare, which include a photo of “Halo” Cullinan [sic – anyone know his real name?], who would have been born around 1880. In fact, the book is a gem for everyone, Clare-connected or not, and some its photos are available at

Sin agaibh a bhfuil agam le rá, SGF, Róislín

P.S. Cad is ciall go díreach le teideal an bhlag seo (“An Fada Leat Uait Í, Uait Í?” Iníon Uí Chuileannáin agus a Cohórt): Do you really really miss her? Miss Cullinan and her Cohort. Oh, right, focal ar fhocal: Is she far with you from you, from you?

P.P.S. And how do those Hong Kong Cullinan prices compare to other high-end rents?  Bhuel, an gnáthchíos i Manhattan? According to an April 4, 2012 New York Times article, “The City of Sky-High Rent,” the average rent is $3,418, but many of those apartments are probably not actually luxury ( Agus ar fud an domhain, an t-árasán is daoire ar domhan? De réir Twisted Sifter, tá an t-árasán seomra leapa amháin is daoire ar domhan i dTóiceo, sa cheantar eisiachMin ami-Azabu. Costaíonn sé thart fá US$21.8 milliún/€17.3 milliún ( Ironically, a caisleán (le 140 acra) was offered for sale in Ireland two years ago for about the same price, and in 2011, its asking price was reduced to €6 milliún. Cén caisleán? Kilkea. Ní raibh mé ábalta a fháil amach ar díoladh fós é.  Suim agatsa ann?

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