AYR Ayrshire


Additional to bibliography (November 2014):
For Carrick district of Ayrshire, see Galloway.
Ansell, Michael, 2008, ‘Carsphairn and Dalmellington Re-visited’, Journal of Scottish Name Studies 2, 1–10.
Clancy, Thomas Owen, 2008, Two Ayrshire Place-names, Journal of Scottish Name Studies 2, 99–114 [Pulprestwic and Trearne]
Clancy, Thomas Owen, 2011, 'At St Meddan's Convenience: Names of Troon and Environs', Scottish Place-Name News 31 (Autumn), 11-14.
Close, Rob, 2001, The Street Names of Ayr (Ayr: Ayrshire Archaeological and Natural History Society).
Grant, Alison, 2005, ‘The Origin of the Ayrshire Names’, in Cultural Contacts in the North Atlantic Region: The Evidence of Names, edd. Peder Gammeltoft, Carole Hough and Doreen Waugh [Shetland], 127–40.
Márkus, Gilbert, 2009, ‘Balinclog: A Lost Parish in Ayrshire’ Journal of Scottish Name Studies 3, 47–64.
Nicolaisen, W. F. H., 1963, ‘Notes and Comments on Scottish Place-Names: 21 Kilwinning’, Scottish Studies 7, 198-201.
Taylor, Simon, 2004, ‘Scandinavians in central Scotland: -place-names and their context’, in Sagas, Saints and Settlements, edd. Gareth Williams and Paul Bibire (Leiden, Netherlands), 125-45.
Taylor, Simon, 2009, ‘Ayrshire Place-Names: a rich seam still to mine’, Ayrshire Notes 38 (Autumn 2009), 4–18 [with an attempt at a complete bibliography of articles on individual Ayrshire place-names].

Taylor 2009 can be downloaded free on http://www.ayrshirehistory.org.uk/Bibliography/pdfs/AN38-online.pdf

(from SPNS Newsletter 22, Spring 2007)

Mapping a pair of Ayrshire twins

During a recent work trip in Ayrshire, on a country road some 9km ESE of central Ayr and 2½km WSW of Drongan, the names of two adjacent farms demanded attention. They were Sandhill, at National Grid reference NS412175, and Bargenoch, at NS415714. These farms, on a small ridge between burns about 1km east of Martnaham Loch, are in an area with a wonderful linguistic mix of place-names. Besides the mass-produced Burnside, Hillhead and Mossend there are the hand-crafted Chipper-lagan, Cloquhairnan and Millmannoch. As well as the predominant Scots and the ubiquitous Gaelic, a Cumbric presence declares itself in the large village of Ochiltree, 9km ENE of the twins. Somewhat more distant place-names like Prestwick and Maybole recall the period of Northumbrian overlordship.

Genoch is a name that occurs just inland from the Heads of Ayr and again at the head of Luce Bay in Galloway, where Genoch Mains is beside the vast expanse of sand of the Torrs Warren. It is a reasonable supposition that it records a south-western pronunciation of Gaelic gainmheach (fem.), ‘fine sand’. Hence the pairing of Sandhill and a name which appears to mean the same in Gaelic (with bàrr, ‘top’, extremely common in names of places on hills in the South West, as the generic), is so striking. Maps available online through the National Library of Scotland are the most accessible way of checking whether the pairing may have coexisted for centuries. (Thanks to NLS for making the following maps freely available.)

From Johan Blaeu: Coila Provincia 1654

Unfortunately there is no surviving Timothy Pont manuscript map of the area. The first published map of the area is Johan Blaeu’s mid 17th century map based on Pont’s. This has Bargannoch where we should expect it. It also has a San, between Bargannoch and Martnaham Loch. But does this represent a simplex Sand, with <d> assimilated to <n>? Or was it a case of a longer name of which only the first three letters were readable on a worn manuscript?

Andrew Armstrong’s New Map of Ayrshire (1775) has Bargannoch again, unfortunately close to the edge of a sheet. There is no sign of Sandhill on this sheet or its neighbour.

From Andrew Armstrong: New Map of Ayrshire 1775

However, from Thomson’s map of 1820 onwards, the pair of names is always side by side, though Thomson’s Gaelic twin is Bargonoch. Whether that <o> is deliberate or a transcription error for Bargenoch one cannot tell.

From John Thomson’s maps of Ayrshire 1820

Since the Ordnance Survey First Edition 1859-60 that name has remained Bargenoch and the twins have been inseparable. Recourse to a few maps has not satisfied curiosity as to whether Sandhill is a conscious translation name or an independent naming from the same geomorphological circumstances. But it has been a pleasant reminder of the artistic quality of work by the early surveyors and mapmakers, in a toponymically fascinating area.
William Patterson

(from SPNS Newsletter 9, Autumn 2000)

Place-Names of the Parish of New Cumnock
In 1650 the parish of Cumnock was sub-divided into the two new parishes of Old Cumnock and New Cumnock. The existing parish church of Cumnock served the parish of Old Cumnock whilst a new parish church was built for New Cumnock some five miles to the southeast on the site of Cumnock Castle, the ancient seat of the Barons of Cumnock. The element 'new' in New Cumnock is simply a reference to this new church (c. 1659).
Most attempts to explain the name Cumnock have concentrated on the geography and history of Old Cumnock with the similar attributes of New Cumnock largely being ignored. Although James B Johnston did suggest that the name was a diminutive form of O.G. cuman 'a shrine' on the strength the presence of a St. Bride's Bank nearby to Cumnock Castle (New Cumnock) - Pont gives this as Brydsbank.
Another offering put forward by Cumnock historians is cumar 'confluence' and oich 'water', giving Cumnock as 'the confluence of the waters'. My own research suggests that this may well be the meaning of the name Cumnock but with a different derivation and location.
The inspiration came from the Gaelic form of the Scottish Place-Name Society, i.e., comann 'society'. W J Watson provides examples of comunn being found in the context of confluence and therefore I believe Cumnock is comunn ach 'the place of the confluence', where the confluence is the meeting of the Afton Water with the mighty River Nith - less than half-a-mile from the site of Cumnock Castle in the heart of the parish of New Cumnock.
I am in the process of developing a web-site where I give some old and some new ideas to the meanings of some of my favourite names in the parish. I have also documented all the names given by Timothy Pont along with their modern day equivalents. I would be pleased to hear from any member of the SPNSociety that may have some alternative suggestions.
Bob Guthrie.

see also Bob Guthrie's website.

(from SPNS Newsletter 6, Spring 1999)
James Brown, a recent member of the Society, writes of his work in Carrick, Ayrshire:
I have become entranced by Project Pont through the enthusiasm and research of Professor McKean and my restoration proposals for Baltersan Tower-house, Kirkoswald parish, AYR. The original manuscripts by Pont of this area, sadly, do not seem to exist, so I am researching the origins and meanings of place-names on the North Carrick map in Blaeu's Atlas Novus of 1654. There are over 530 names to investigate including the delightfully enigmatic "Poggyrodd"! My working title is "One drew over the Cuckoo's Nest" from the glorious name of Net Whowaig or Geik's Seit (Gowk's Seat), which is mentioned in Watson's Celtic Place-Names.
The last native Gaelic speaker here reputedly died when Robert Burns was 2 years old. Carrick was once part of the Lordship of Galloway, so there is a long period of Gaelic-speaking, possibly in 2 directions, from Galloway northwards and Argyll southwards.
There is a fair sprinkling of Welsh from the kingdom of Strathclyde of course, and Northumbrian influences too. Ayrshire Scots still flourishes in everyday speech here, so capturing the sounds of these ancient names is that bit easier. I will be consulting local residents, including a 92-year-old in Girvan !
This place-name work coincides with my research on the Kennedies of Baltersan and their immediate contacts.

More details of Project Pont can be obtained from Map Library, NLS, 33 Salisbury Place, Edinburgh EH9 1SL <maps@nls.uk>

Bibliography (to see the full bibliography, click here)

Survey in Watson, CPNS

Ansell, Michael, 2008, ‘Carsphairn and Dalmellington Re-visited’, JSNS 2, 1–10.
Brooke, D. 1983 'Kirk-Compound Place-Names in Galloway and Carrick', Transactions of the Dumfries and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society 58, 56-71.
Brooke, D., 1991, 'The Northumbrian settlements in Galloway and Carrick: an historical assessment', PSAS 121, 295-327.
Clancy, Thomas Owen, 2008, Two Ayrshire Place-names, JSNS 2, 99–114 [Pulprestwic and Trearne]
Grant, Alison, 2005, ‘The Origin of the Ayrshire Bý Names’, in Cultural Contacts in the North Atlantic Region: The Evidence of Names, edd. Peder Gammeltoft, Carole Hough and Doreen Waugh [Shetland], 127–40.
MacQueen, J., 1973, 'The Gaelic Speakers of Galloway and Carrick', Scottish Studies 17, 17-33. [saints names in place-names]