May 11, 2010
Colonel Walter O'Hara was an early settler who owned the tract of land comprising our neighbourhood. In 1813 he fought in Spain at the Battle of Roncesvalles, taking an active part against Napoleon's army. After 1850 O'Hara divided up his land and was responsible for naming the streets. He named the main artery "Roncesvalles" after the battle he had been in. Parallel Sorauren Avenue was also named after a battle in which O'Hara was present. Constance, Geoffrey and Marion were named after family members. Fern Avenue used to be called Ruth after his daughter and Grenadier was once called Walter Street after his son.
When I moved into the neighbourhood I wondered if one should just call it Roncesvalles or throw in the Spanish "TH" and the fricative Y-sound and pronounce it "Ron-theth-vayes". I had a polyglot Czech friend who couldn't cope with the Canadian pronunciation so he called it "Ronces-val" and let it tail off at the end. My mother-in-law always threw in an extra N just to spice it up. A lot of people call it by its nickname "Roncey". Google Translate and Forvo.com pronounce it Ron-sis-VAY-es. But no one would know what I was talking about if I pronounced it correctly which led me to wonder if the 19th-Century inhabitants pronounced it en español.
Now if only the neighbourhood could come to a consensus on how Geoffrey and MacDonnell are supposed to be pronounced. Really - why would a Scotsman pronounce his name MacDon-Elle - I ask you?
Top picture - a mural on Roncesvalles found on travelpod.com
Bottom picture - a mural in my neighbourhood by Joey Devilla on Flickr