Lahinch/Lehinch... What’s in a Vowel?

After a decade of bitter recriminations and middle-of-the-night road sign changes, Clare County Council is preparing to hold a plebiscite in two years on the spelling of local town names, including the holiday resort of Lahinch/Lehinch.

North Clare Fianna Fáil Councillor Shane Talty said several Clare towns will likely have the right to vote on the spelling of their names, with the first group getting their chance on the day of the local elections in 2024.

"I would expect a vote of 99% in favour of Lahinch instead of Lehinch. It's the spelling we all grew up with," he said.

News of the local plebiscite was warmly welcomed this week by Lahinch hotelier Michael Vaughan, owner of the Vaughan Lodge and a strong advocate for the Lahinch spelling. Mr Vaughan said he supported unknown local people who were changing road signs from Lehinch to Lahinch in the middle of the night.

Michael Vaughan registered his hotel under the alternative name "The Lahinch Lodge", only to later find that another hotelier registered his own business as "The Lehinch Lodge".

"It is causing confusion, and I think we need to get back to one spelling for the sake of the tourism on which we all rely," he said.

Lahinch/Lehinch is just one of several Clare towns that wants a final decision on its spelling. The list includes Ennistymon/Ennistimon; Ballyvaughan/Ballyvaghan; Miltown Malbay/Milltown Malbay; Corofin/Corrofin and Kildysart/ Kildisart, all of which have alternative spellings on road signs.

The confusion began in 2007 when the National Roads Authority took road signs throughout Ireland and asked local councils to correct any mistakes in official spellings. To get it right, Clare County Council sent it to a committee which revisited Ordnance Survey maps and official place names from the 19th century and found that some places should be changed to reflect their original spellings. 

And so, the town known for at least a century as Lahinch became Lehinch on NRA road signs.