Copeland Island, County Down
Copeland (surname) + Eng. island; perhaps earlier Ir. Oileáin Árann 'islands of the ridge' (as name of group of islands)
Off N Down coast, 8km ENE of Bangor
par: Bangor bar: Ards Lower
In a chart of Belfast Lough dating from 1570 the name of the group of islands known to Goghe in 1567 as Copland yles is marked as Helaine Harr[o]n[e] which appears to represent Irish Oileáin Árann. Árainn is used as the group-name for the Aran islands in Galway Bay, and for Aranmore island off the Donegal coast. Árainn is also to be found in other place-names in Ireland, e.g. Tiobraid Árann, Tipperary. Árainn is an old dative sg. form of ára, ‘kidney’. In place-names, however, its meaning has been extended to a more general sense of 'back' (Ó Máille 1957; cf. Coates 2009, Tempan 2011).
The earliest spelling of the Copeland Islands is Norse Kaupmanna-eyjar in 1230 A.D. and it is of interest as it occurs in Sturla Thordarson’s Hákonar Saga Gamla, ‘The Saga of Hákon the Old’. The identification of Kaupmanna-eyjar with the Copeland Islands is based on the occurrence of the name on the route of King Hákon of Norway during a military expedition to Scotland. Hákon visits these islands after Sátiri (Kintyre) and before heading south to Man (Hákonar Saga Gamla iii 194). Kaupmanna (nom. sing. kaupmaðr) is Norse for ‘merchants’, and eyjar is the plural form of ey, Norse for ‘island’. This has led to the suggestion that the Copeland Islands were at one time used as a Viking merchant store.
However, although this Norse form based on is echoed by several forms from historical maps (e.g. Copmans Iles, Nowel's Ireland 1575), it is not corroborated in any local documents and it is more likely that the name Copeland Islands stems from the de Coupland family who arrived in the Ards in Norman times (O’Laverty ii 35; Savages Ards 121). Although there is no documentation to link them specifically to the islands, it is known that William and Henry de Couplan "were among John de Courcy's most prominent sub-tenants in Ulster" in the late 12th century, several decades before the writing of Hákonar Saga Gamla (Duffy 1995, 20). Named as Willelmo and Henrico de Couplan, they acted as witnesses for two de Courcy charters, including one for the priory of St. Andrew in Ards or Black Abbey (Cartae Dun. §§4, 5, 7, 420-1, 1183 AD). They also left their mark on the opposite coastline in the townland of Ballycopeland in the parish of Donaghadee. Seán Duffy suggests that their seat may have been "the massive motte that overlooks the harbour at Donaghadee" (loc. cit.). There is also a Copeland Water near Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim.
The surname is a "habitation name from Copeland in [Cumberland] or Coupland in [Northumberland], both so called from ON kaupland 'bought land', a feature worthy of note during the early Middle Ages, when land was rarely sold, but rather held by feudal tenure and handed down from one generation to the next" (Hanks & Hodges 1988, 122). Since the members of this family who came to East Ulster with de Courcy are known to be of nobility from Cumberland, it is most likely that the surname originates in this case from the barony of Copeland in Cumberland.
Our name has been rendered Oileán Chóplainn in Irish (Éire Thuaidh; GÉ).
ReferencesMcKay, P. (2007): A Dictionary of Ulster Place-Names, p. 47; Hannan R. J. (1992): Place-Names of Northern Ireland vol. 2 p. 171; revised PT and MOM 2012.
Historical name form
|Old Form||Ref. Date||Reference|
|Kaupmanneyjar||1230||Hákonar Saga Gamla 194|
|Copland ylles||1567||Goghe's Map|
|1570c||Early Chart B'fast Lough|
|Conplande Island||1570c||Early Chart B'fast Lough|
|Copmans Iles||1570c||Nowel's Ire. (1)|
|Coplands Iles||1580c||SE Ulster Map|
|Copman Ilands||1590||Dartmouth Map 5|
|Copman Iles||1590||Dartmouth Map 6|
|Copland [isl?]es||1590c||Jobson's Ulster (TCD)|
|Copland yles||1591||Hondius Map|
|Copland iles||1595||Mercator's Ulst.|
|Helayne harrons||1595||Mercator's Ulst.|
|Copland ylles||1597||Goghe's Map|
|Copman Iles||1599||Boazio's Map (BM)|
|1603||Ex. Inq. (Dn) $2 Jac. I|
|Coylend Iles||1603||Bartlett Maps (Esch. Co. Maps) 1|
|Copland islands||1605||CPR Jas I 72b|
|Copman Iles||1609c||Boazio's Map (NG)|
|Copland Iles||1610||Speed's Ireland|
|Copland Iles||1610||Speed's Ulster|
|Copland Isles||1610||Speed's Antrim & Down|
|Copland lles||1610||Speed's Ulster|
|Hellayne Harrons||1610||Speed's Antrim & Down|
|Hellayne Harrons||1610||Speed's Ulster|
|Copland Islands||1620||Ham. Patent  xx|
|Copland Isles||1627||CPR Chas I 228|
|Copeland Islands||1630||Ham. Patent  xi|
|Copeland-isles||1645||Inq. Ult. (Down) $104 Car. I|
|Coplan Iles||1659c||Census 1659 93|
|Copeland Isles||1661||BSD 89|
|Copeland-islands||1662||Inq. Ult. (Down) $23 Car. II|
Copland Isles, ye
|1683||Descr. Ards 38|
|Copland Isle||1693||Collins B'fast Lough|
|Big-Island||1774||Harris Hist. 130|
|Copeland Island||1810||Wm. Map (OSNB) No. 54|
|Copeland Island||1830c||Bnd. Sur. (OSNB) No. 54|
|1837||OSM vii 21-22|
Oileáin Árann "islands of the back or ridge"
|1999||Dict. Ulst. PN 47|
ON Kaupmanneyjar "merchant islands"
|1999||Dict. Ulst. PN 47|
- Ards Lower
- Parish in 1851
- Place name ID
- Place name type