The Names and Places of 'My Mother and Other Strangers'

Daniel Hautzinger
My Mother and Other Strangers. Photo: Steffan Hill/BBC 2016 for MASTERPIECE
Photo: Steffan Hill/BBC 2016 for MASTERPIECE

My Mother and Other Strangers, which airs its finale this Sunday, July 16, at 7:00 pm, takes place in Northern Ireland in the fictional town of Moybeg. While the remote community may be made up, some of the places and names it references are grounded in reality. Take a mini tour of the windswept landscape of Northern Ireland and explore the legends and origins of the locations and names of My Mother and Other Strangers. (Recap the most recent episode here.)

Lough Neagh

Moybeg is situated on Lough Neagh, the British Isles’ largest lake by area and the source of the locals’ beloved (and contested) eels. Its name derives from the Irish Loch nEachach, which translates to Eachaidh’s lake. According to legend, it was formed when Eachaidh, the son of a king, eloped with his stepmother Ébhlinne. After their horses are killed, they are given a colossal horse that later creates a spring when it stops to relieve itself. Eachaidh builds a house there, capping the powerful spring every evening. One night, he forgets to replace the capstone, and the spring floods the area, drowning Eachaidh and creating Lough Neagh.

Lough Neagh.Lough Neagh. One other story claims the lake was formed when the Irish giant Finn McCool hurled a chunk of earth at a Scottish giant. The crater left by the missing boulder of earth filled with water, becoming Lough Neagh, while the hurled chunk landed in the Irish Sea and became the Isle of Man.

Moybeg

While the town in My Mother and Other Strangers is fictional, there is a townland – the smallest official division of land – in Northern Ireland called Moybeg Kirley. The name roughly means “prominent townland on the little plain.” Unlike the Moybeg of the show, it is not on Lough Neagh, though it is relatively near it.

Kearney

The show was filmed in the historic village of Kearney, a remote hamlet conserved by the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, an organization similar to the United States’ National Parks. Kearney was a thriving fishing community in the nineteenth century, given its location on the Ards Peninsula on the east coast of Northern Ireland, but it has been in the care of the National Trust since 1965. Legend has it that Kearney was home to a “she-cruiser” – a fishing boat crewed entirely by women.

The village of Kearney during the filming of My Mother and Other Strangers.The village of Kearney during the filming of My Mother and Other Strangers.

Ards Peninsula

Not a location in the show, but the setting of Kearney, where it was filmed, its name means “peninsula of the Ulstermen” (Ulster is the province in which it is located). During World War II it did contain some military airfields. Unlike in the show, these were Royal Air Force bases, not American ones.

The coast of the Ards Peninsula, outside the village of Kearney.The coast of the Ards Peninsula, outside the village of Kearney.

Coyne

The last name of Michael, Rose, Emma, and Francis is an anglicized version of the Gaelic Ó Cadhain, which means “descendant of Cadhan.”
masterpiece
My Mother and Other Strangers