For discussion and queries about Scottish place-names, visit the Scotplace discussion group

discussion lists
geographical and mapping resources
institutions / academia
other place-name societies


    is the window into the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) database. It brings together the results of the survey and collections material into one place and combines location information, site details and images on more than 300,000 archaeological, architectural, maritime and industrial sites throughout Scotland.
  • The BIAB web pages
    have been re-designed and considerably expanded. They now contain everything you ever wanted to know about bibliographic data for Britain and Ireland. This includes information on the scope, aims, background and history of the BIAB project, along with extensive details of archaeological serial publications, and contact details of archaeology publishers and/or editors.(The BIAB Web pages are hosted by the British Academy)
    is now available. Containing nearly 100,000 references to material published between AD 1695 and June 1991, this unparalleled body of information is made available in the first instance in a free-text search only format.
  • CADW:
    Welsh Historic Monuments has recently launched a web site.
  • The Archaeology Data Service (ADS,)in conjunction with Environment and Heritage Service (part of Department of the Enviroment Northern Ireland), is delighted to announce that an on-line version of the Northern Ireland Sites and Monuments Record is now available. The SMR contains over 14,000 references to the archaeology of Northern Ireland and will have particular relevance to researchers interested in the Irish Sea zone (Ireland, Isle of Man, NW England, Scotland and Wales). As examples, there is a wealth of data about crannogs, souterrains and early monastic sites.
  • Also on the ADS site,
    the Sites and Monuments Record for Northumberland (over 11,000 records). Full contact details for the Conservation Team at Northumberland County Council are included to facilitate further enquiries.
  • Irish Archaeology Discussion lists
    at the Heritage Council's bulletin board system or through the homepage.
  • The Official Lascaux Cave site
    is on the web server of the French Ministry of Culture and Communication. « Lascaux » is the 5th volume of the electronic collection « Grands sites archéologiques » produced by the « Mission de la Recherche et de la Technologie (Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication) » and made accessible to all publics on the web server of the Ministry.
  • Celtic Improvisations:
    the first time that a Celtic iconographic study has been done for a series of items that are both localized in time and in space.
  • The Botel Bailey Dig/The Stewartry Archaeological Trust
    although it is limited in information. More at
  • The Glasgow Archaeological Society
    is now online.
  • University of Glasgow Department of Archaeology:
    includes links to 'MapMaker' and free GIS software.
  • Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society:
    inlcudes index to recent publication, programme of events, contacts, etc.
  • The West of Scotland Archaeology Service
    web site is now on-line. The site is fairly basic, but it includes the 'SMR Search' system - a prototype for on-line access to information in the Sites and Monuments Record. The content and style of 'SMR Search' is documented on the site. The site also includes a "Report a Discovery" page, allowing users to provide information about new or known sites to the SMR on a structured data entry form.



  • Royal Geographical Society of Scotland.
  • The Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names.
    "An important and promising start in efforts to create a unified source for geographic name information around the globe". If you are interested in becoming a contributor to the TGN, please contact the Getty Information Institute's Vocabulary Program
    at (310) 440 6364 or send e-mail to Comments and questions about the TGN may be sent to
  • Multimap:
    map resource providing search and locate for UK Ordnance Survey mapping.
  • MapPad
    is a free downloadable program developed by the NOAA Palaeoclimatology Program for plotting geographical distributions. It comes with a map of North America, but additional outline maps can be downloaded for use with it, including maps for Scotland, Scotland South, Wales, Britain, and Ireland.
  • GridConverter
    s a facility (particularly useful with MapPad) converting National Grid References (for Britain and Ireland) into Longitude and Latitude. Requires Microsoft Access (part of the Microsoft Office 97 suite).
  • MapMaker
    s free for 21 days as an evaluation download.
  • Ordnance Survey County maps from mid to late 19th century,
    black and white. Nice to look at, no modern urban clutter. Upgrades promised that will make the maps seamless, zoomable, and searchable by place-name.
  • The GIS Portal
    is excellent for anyone interested in or working with maps or the GIS industry. It has links to lots of other GIS sites and resources.








The International Council of Onomastic Sciences (ICOS)
The International Council of Onomastic Sciences (ICOS) is the international organization for all scholars who have a special interest in the study of names (place-names, personal names, and proper names of all other kinds). The aim of the Council is the advancement, representation and co-ordination of name-research on an international level and in an interdisciplinary context. ICOS produces the journal Onoma, and organises a World Congress every three years.

Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland (SNSBI).
The Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland (SNSBI) has a British Isles-wide membership with an interest in both place-names and personal names. It produces an excellent annual journal called Nomina, and holds a lively and varied Annual Conference over a weekend in Spring.

English Place-Name Society.
The English Place-Name Society was founded in 1923 to carry out the Survey of English Place-Names. In return for the annual subscription members receive free of charge the current issue of the Journal of the English Place-Name Society, as well as the volume of the Survey allocated to that year's subscription. For full details contact the Hon. Director, English Place-Name Society, Department of English Studies, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG72RD.

Ulster Place-name Society.
The Ulster Place-Name Society publish a bulletin Ainm (formerly Bulletin of Uster Place-Name Society), which over the years has carried much important material of both direct and indirect relevance to Scotland. Chairperson Dr Kay Muhr, Treasurer Mrs Rhian Andrews, Secretary Dr Patrick McKay, c/o Irish & Celtic Studies, School of Languages, Literatures & Arts, Queen's University Belfast, BT7 1NN. tel. 028 9097 3689, fax 028 9097 5298. Editor of journal AINM Dr Nollaig O Muraíle.

Visit the Northern Ireland Place-Name Project website <> and see also link to <> Northern Ireland Place-Name Project: townland survey online. From Nov.1st 2004 researchers Pat McKay and Kay Muhr (UPNS c/o Celtic, SLLA, QUB, BT7 1NN, have been employed on 2 years work explaining the the origin and meaning of townland names for Mosaic, the new official Geographic Information Strategy for NI. In return for part-ownership of the data, Ordnance Survey NI is reshaping the Northern Ireland Place-Name Project database and providing web access to it. As well as matching townland names to addresses, as announced last year (tab: Search & Mapping), some information on individual townlands went online in spring 2005, through the Pointer web site: under the tab: Townlands.

The Third Spalding Club and the Rev. Walter Gregor (1825-1897)
see below

Royal Scottish Geographical Society and Place-Names.
see below


Prof. Bill Nicolaisen, in his varied and informative column on place-names in the Leopard Magazine (November 1997), drew attention to a figure who deserves to be better known amongst SPNSociety members: Rev. Walter Gregor (1825-97). Although his primary interest was the folk-lore of his native North-East, he was also deeply interested in place-names, both in their own right and as a bearer of local traditions. As the Convenor of the Committee on Topography and Archaeology of the New Spalding Club, the prestigious historical society of the North-East, he was the author of a report presented in 1887 in which the connection between topography and folk-lore was emphasised. "The main object of Topography is a collection of the names of all places [in the North-East]... Connected with many of these are legends and rhymes which should be carefully chronicled'. In the September 1887 issue of Scottish Notes and Queries he sets out his blue-print for place-name collection: ‘To carry out the work it will take a very great deal of labour, and will require many volunteers - in collecting the present names with such traditions and rhymes as still linger around them, and to read and make extracts from both printed and MS. sources, with exact references..... What form the work will take, whether that of a Gazetteer, with all the words arranged alphabetically, or under parishes, must be a matter for future and careful deliberation. Readers .. will see how much is to be done. We want workers, and many of them too, and unless we get them the proposed work will come to very little. Who will volunteer? I may state that I had in contemplation the formation of a Topographical Society for Scotland, when the Geographical Society was formed, one part of whose work is understood to be the Topography of Scotland. Will the members of that Society come forward.'
As you will see from the following item on the Royal Geographical Society, members did step forward, but never enough of them to put into effect Gregor's vision, the realisation of which, more than 100 years later, has still scarcely begun, with the founding in 1996 of the Scottish Place-Name Society, and the plans for a Scottish Place-Name Database. And as Prof. Nicolaisen points out in his article, it was not until 1952 that William Alexander's Place-Names of Aberdeenshire, using Gregor's methodology as set out above, was published (by the Third Spalding Club), an excellent and very comprehensive publication, which divides Aberdeenshire (somewhat confusingly) into East and West, and under each section lists all the place-names alphabetically


Dr David Munro, Director of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, takes up the story where the Rev. Walter Gregor's story left off. Here he describes the work of the Place-Names Committee of the RSGS 1891-1960, and lists the many place-name related articles which have appeared in the RSGS's journal the Scottish Geographical Magazine.

Geographers as well as historians have a special interest in place-names and it is not surprising that shortly after it was founded in 1884, the Royal Scottish Geographical Society should become closely involved in place-name studies. Between 1891 and 1899 a small committee chaired by James Burgess worked with the Ordnance Survey on the revision of place-names of Gaelic origin appearing on OS maps. This committee was revived for a brief period in 1913 on the suggestion of Col. Charles Close, Director-General of the Ordnance Survey, and again in 1938 when it met under the convenership of John Mathieson.
In 1949 the Society once more set about the study of Scottish place-names, working closely with the Ordnance Survey. It proved difficult to sustain the network of voluntary local informants and specialists and it was finally decided to wind up the Place-Names Committee in 1960 in view of the systematic work in this field being developed by the School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University.

The following papers and research notes on Scottish place-names have appeared in the Scottish Geographical Magazine which was first published as the journal of the RSGS in 1885:

Anon. (1913) 'Scottish Place Names: Revision of Ordnance Survey Maps', Vol 29:6:322-23

Alexander Carmichael (1886) 'The Place-Names of Iona' (I), Vol 2:8:461-74
(1887) 'The Place-Names of Iona' (II), Vol 3:2:80-87
(1887) 'The Place-Names of Iona' (III), Vol 3:5:242-47

Mrs Carnegie of Stronvar (1896) 'Place-Names of Balquhidder', Vol 12:12:609-16

J.J. Egli (1885) 'The Present Position of Geographical Onomatology', Vol 1:9:422-28

W.J.N. Liddall (1885) 'Notes on the Place-Names of Kinross-shire and Vicinity' (I), Vol 1:7:286-90
(1886) 'Notes on the Place-Names of Kinross-shire and Vicinity' (II), Vol 2:5:262-68

L. McBean (1903) 'Ancient Fife: Seen through its Place-Names', Vol 19:1:27-37

John Mackay (1894) 'Place-Names of Sutherlandshire' (Geographical Notes), Vol 10:9:484-85

W.C. Mackenzie (1938) 'Some Oddities in Scottish Place-Names', Vol 54;3:143-48

Donald Maclean (1896) 'Some Place-Names between Loch Lomond and Loch Long' Geographical Notes), Vol 12:6:313-14

Hector Maclean (1887) 'Notes on Place-Names of Iona', Vol 3:1:35-38

John Mathieson (1913) 'Place-Names in Scotland' (Geographical Notes), Vol 29:5:268-69
(1938) 'Work of the New Committee on the Place-Names of Scotland', Vol 54:3:148-50

Ian M. Matley (1990) 'Topographic Terms of Southern Scotland: Their Distribution and Significance' (Research Note), Vol 106:2:108-12

James Meikle (1941) 'Old Glasgow Place-Names and Others', Vol 56:3:112-15

Professor Meiklejohn (1886) 'History, Poetry, Etc, in Geographical Names', Vol 2:9:513-27

James A. Ramsay (1913) 'The Use of Place-Names in the Teaching of Geography', Vol 29:8:429-32

Ralph Richardson (1905) ‘Scottish Place-Names and Scottish Saints', Vol 21:7:352-60

Ruth Richens (1992) 'Ancient land divisions in the parish of Lesmahagow', Vol. 108: 184-189.

J. G. Robb (1996) 'Toponymy in Lowland Scotland: Depictions of Linguistic Heritage', Vol 112:3:169-176

Rev. William Taylor (1886) 'Names and Places in Easter Ross', Vol 2:1:1-20

Graeme Whittington and J.A. Soulsby (1968) 'A Preliminary Report on an Investigation into Pit Place-Names', Vol 84:2:117-25

In addition to the above items published in SGM, the Royal Scottish Geographical Society published in 1940 The Place-names of Berwickshire by James B. Johnston (52pp). This was intended to be the first in 'The Place-Names of Scotland Series'.

Back numbers of most of the journals are also available at the special discount rate for SPNSociety Members of £5 including p & p.
Anyone interested in becoming a member, please contact
Royal Scottish Geographical Society, Lord John Murray House, 15-19 North Port, Perth PH1 5LU, Scotland UK. Tel: 01738 455050