The Vikings in Islay
GWS Barrow
The Thomas Marcus Huser Fieldwork Fund
Gaelic thesaurus of the Historical environment launched
Scottish Toponymy in Transition: Progressing County Surveys.
Tobar an Dualchais

Westray place-names study now on-line
Peter Drummond's PhD thesis now on-line at http://theses.gla.ac.uk/5270
Peter McNiven's PhD thesis now online
In the Beginning was the Name
Cultural Contacts Fund
Gaelic place-names research continues with support from Bòrd na Gàidhlig
Conference Announcements
From 'Scottish Place-Name News' No. 36 (Spring 2014) two articles about Stirling
New Publications (Spring 2013)
The Journal of Scottish Name Studies

Book Launch: Alan Macniven, The Vikings in Islay, Wednesday 25 November, 2015.
The Inner Hebridean island of Islay is well known for its whisky, its wildlife and its association with the MacDonald Lords of the Isles. There would seem little reason to dwell on its fate at the hands of marauding Northmen during the Viking Age. Despite a pivotal location on the ‘searoad’ from Norway to  Ireland, there are no convincing accounts of the Vikings ever having been there. Theirs is a story which must be read from another type of source  material, the silent witness of the local names of places.
The Vikings in Islay presents a systematic review of around 300 of the island’s farm and nature names. The conclusions drawn turn traditional historical assumptions on  their head. The ‘romance’ of Islay’s names, it seems, masks a harrowing tale of invasion, apartheid and ethnic cleansing.
Scottish Place-Name Society Committee member Dr Alan Macniven will give a talk to celebrate the launch of his new book, The Vikings in Islay: The Place of Names in Hebridean Settlement History on Wednesday 25 November at 5.10pm at Scandinavian Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Dr Macniven’s talk will be followed by a drinks reception and the opportunity to buy a copy of the book with a £5 discount.

The Dumfries Archival Mapping Project has been set up in order to digitise as many pre-Ordnance Survey maps and estate plans of south-west Scotland as possible, starting with the Nithsdale area and concentrating on eighteenth-century hand-drawn cartography.  There are several hundred of these still extant, offering in their fine detail a totally novel look at the history, geography and society of the area. Placing these maps in the public domain will allow in depth study on a large number of fronts and help residents and school children develop a deeper sense of place. The maps are a rich source of early-modern micronyms.

G. W. S. BARROW, Honorary Preses of SPNS.
A toponymic tribute by Simon Taylor

On 14th December 2013 the death occurred of Professor Geoffrey Barrow at his home in Edinburgh at the age of 89. His qualities and achievements as one of the greatest of all Scottish medieval historians have been justly praised and enumerated by David Torrance in an obituary, which appeared in the Herald on 20th December, and by Dauvit Broun in a warm appreciation, which appeared in the same paper on 30th January last. Neither mentions specifically Geoffrey’s remarkable contribution to the study and understanding of Scottish place-names, nor to the fact that he was Honorary preses of the Scottish Place-Name Society.

Geoffrey (often referred to affectionately as GWSB, the initials of his full name, Geoffrey Wallis Steuart Barrow) and the other great Scottish place-name scholar, W. F. H. (Bill) Nicolaisen, each generously agreed to take on the important titular role of preses when the Society was launched in 1996. Preses (plural presides), a Scots loan-word from Latin præses, means ‘chief, president’, chosen because it was less Clan-like than the first and less formal than the second, the cognate ‘president’. That both Geoffrey and Bill enthusiastically accepted this role was an important vote of confidence from the academic establishment in the Society in its still very uncertain infancy. Geoffrey spoke at the conference ‘Uses of Place-Names’, which was held in St Andrews in 1995, at which the decision to found SPNS was taken, and his paper ‘The Uses of Place-names and Scottish History - Pointers and Pitfalls’ went on to be published as one of the most important chapters in the edited proceedings of that conference in 1998 (see Bibliography, below, for full details). Over the years Geoffrey attended many of the SPNS conferences, both as part of the audience and as a speaker. His benign presence and apposite, informed and perceptive contributions enriched both formal and informal discussion. One of his last papers of all was on the lost place-names of Moray, which he delivered at the SPNS conference in Elgin in May 2008, and which appeared with this title in the Journal of Scottish Name Studies in the same year. He declared it his last published article, which it was.

His engagement with Scottish place-names went back much further than the 1990s, however. Early on in his long career he came to realise how important place-names were in understanding the pre-documentary and early documentary period of Scottish history. Place-names were an integral part of one of his most important and influential pieces of writing, the first chapter of The Kingdom of the Scots, first published in 1973, ‘pre-feudal Scotland: shires and thanes’, singled out by Dauvit Broun as ‘not only a tour de force of early medieval scholarship, but ... hugely influential on the way historical geographers and archaeologists as well as social historians have thought about early British society’ (Herald ‘Appreciation’ 30 Jan. 2014). In this chapter the evidence of place-names, some of it presented in the form of place-name maps, was marshalled to great effect to throw light on early administration and administrative units, and may be seen as one of the game-changers in Scottish toponymics. GWSB ‘Popular Courts in Early Medieval Scotland: Some Suggested Place-Name Evidence’, 1981 and 1992); the pre-documentary history of Christianity in Scotland (‘The Childhood of Scottish Christianity: a Note on Some Place-Name Evidence’, 1983, and ‘Religion in Scotland on the eve of Christianity’, 1998); ‘Land Routes: The Medieval Evidence’ 1984, 1992) and fine-grained socio-linguistic history (‘The Lost Gàidhealtachd of medieval Scotland’, 1989, 1992). Each one of these may be regarded as the bedrock of all future scholarly investigation of these different aspects of toponymics, with each standing as eloquent and inspirational testimony for how much the careful study of place-names can bring to the wider disciplines of social, political and linguistic history.

My own personal scholarly debt to GWSB is immense. He co-supervised my PhD, which was on aspects of the place-names of Fife (1995). As part of the supervision process he provided me with a swathe of his unpublished charter transcriptions, which not only informed my thesis but also went on to enrich in multifarious ways all the volumes of Place-Names of Fife. He took a lively and encouraging interest in these volumes as they emerged over the period between 2006 and 2012, and I would regularly receive hand-written letters, with their hall-mark Scottish lion-rampant stamps, containing expressions of appreciation along with acute observations and difficult questions. I received the last one of these letters only two months before his death.

I will end this short tribute with a select bibliography of Geoffrey’s more important toponymic works. This list is not in any way exhaustive, either absolutely or even in toponymic terms, and does not take into consideration his fundamentally important editions of royal charters (David I, Malcolm IV and William I), as well as other edited collections, relating mainly to Fife. All these provide early forms of place-names, reliably transcribed, edited and located. A complete bibliography of his work up until the end of 1992 can be found in his Festschrift Medieval Scotland, Crown, Lordship and Community, edited by Alexander Grant and Keith J. Stringer (Edinburgh 1993), the bibliography itself compiled by his daughter, Julia Barrow. According to the Bibliography of British and Irish History (BBIH) another 32 items were written by him between 1993 and 2008.

Barrow, G. W. S., 1959, ‘Treverlen, Duddingston and Arthur’s Seat’, Book of the Old Edinburgh Club 30, 1-9.
Barrow, G. W. S., 1980, The Anglo-Norman Era in Scottish History (Oxford) [important discussions of personal names in place-names, especially in Scotland south of the Forth-Clyde line; also a useful list of the earliest Scots (‘Middle English’) words, several embedded in place-names, from Scottish charters before c.1250, chiefly from ‘non-English-speaking districts’ (Appendix C)]
Barrow, G. W. S., 1981, ‘Popular Courts in Early Medieval Scotland: Some Suggested Place-Name Evidence’, Scottish Studies 25, 1-23 [see also Barrow 1983a and 1992]
Barrow, G.W.S., 1983, ‘The Childhood of Scottish Christianity: a Note on Some Place-Name Evidence’, Scottish Studies 27, 1-15.
Barrow, G. W. S., 1983a, ‘Popular Courts in Early Medieval Scotland: Some Suggested Place-Name Evidence – Additional Note’, Scottish Studies 27, 67–8 [see also Barrow 1992].
Barrow, G. W. S., 1984, ‘Land Routes: The Medieval Evidence’, in Loads and Roads in Scotland and Beyond, edd. A. Fenton and G. Stell (Edinburgh), 49-66 [also in Barrow 1992, 201-16, entitled simply ‘Land Routes’].
Barrow, G. W. S., 1988, ‘Tannochbrae and all that: “Tamhnach” (Tannoch etc.) in Scottish placenames as an indicator of early Gaelic-speaking settlement’, in A Sense of Place: Studies in Scottish Local History (A Tribute to Eric Forbes), ed. G. Cruickshank (Edinburgh: Scotland’s Cultural Heritage), 1-4.
Barrow, G. W. S., 1989, ‘The Lost Gàidhealtachd of medieval Scotland’, in Gaelic and Scotland/Alba agus a’ Ghàidhlig, ed. W. Gillies (Edinburgh), 67-88 [also in Barrow 1992, 105-26].
Barrow, G. W.S., 1992, Scotland and its Neighbours in the Middle Ages (London) [Chapter ‘Popular Courts’ (217-45) amalgamates Barrow 1981 and 1983a; contains also Barrow 1984 and 1989]
Barrow, G.W.S., 1993, ‘The Anglo-Scottish Border: Growth and Structure in the Middle Ages’, in Grenzen und Grenzregionen; Frontières et régions frontalières; Borders and Border Regions, edd. W. Haubrichs and R. Schneider (Saarbrücken), 197-212. [210-12 for discussion of close correlation between distribution of Ingliston and mottes, with distribution map p. 212]
Barrow, G.W.S. 1998, ‘The Uses of Place-names and Scottish History - Pointers and Pitfalls’, in The Uses of Place-Names, ed. S. Taylor (Edinburgh), 54–74.
Barrow, G. W. S. 1998a, ‘Religion in Scotland on the eve of Christianity’ in Forschungen zur Reichs-, Papst- und Landesgeschichte, ed. K. Borchardt and E. Bünz, Part 1 (Stuttgart), 25-32 [nemeton-names; discussed in detail also in Barrow 1998]
Barrow, G. W. S., 1999, ‘French after the Style of Petithachengon’, in Church, Chronicle and Learning in Medieval and Early Renaissance Scotland: Essays Presented to Donald Watt on the Occasion of the Completion of the Publication of Bower’s Scotichronicon, ed. Barbara E. Crawford (Edinburgh), 187-93.
Barrow, G. W. S., 2008, ‘The Lost Place-names of Moray’, JSNS 2, 11–18.

Simon Taylor.

Gaelic thesaurus of the Historical environment launched
Gaelic speakers and learners can now access specialised Gaelic terminology relating to the historical environment, via an online thesaurus which has been launched as a joint project by Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission for the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, with financial support from Bòrd na Gàidhlig. The thesaurus contains more than 4,000 terms and is aimed at Gaelic speakers, learners and schools, as well as the general public. It provides terminology relating to areas such as architecture, archaeology and history as well as place-names for many historical sites. As a thesaurus, it not only functions as an English-Gaelic, Gaelic-English dictionary of terminology but also provides the meaning of each term in both languages.
Alasdair MacCaluim, Historic Scotland Gaelic Language and Policy Officer said: “The thesaurus is an invaluable aid for translators or anybody with an interest in reading or writing about Scotland’s historical environment in Gaelic. By providing consistent and standardised terminology for this specialist area, it will add to the development of the language’s corpus”.
 Peter McKeague, Database and GIS Projects manager at RCAHMS said: “Scotland leads the way in multi-lingual Linked Data thesauri. Until now our vocabularies and thesauri have acted as informal standards on the Internet.  Publication of the Scottish Monument terms as Linked Data will improve data quality and allow our terms to act as vocabulary hubs on the Internet.”
Through the SENESCHAL project, which is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Gaelic monument terms are available in machine readable format as part of the Scottish Monument type Thesaurus published on the www.heritagedata.org website; the home of Linked Data Vocabularies for Cultural Heritage.
Head of Gaelic Usage at Bòrd na Gàidhlig, David Boag said: "The National Gaelic Language Plan highlights the requirement for projects which add strength and consistency to Gaelic language corpus development.  It is vital that Gaelic is able to be used in the growing range of contexts in which it features on a daily basis, within Scotland and beyond.  Bòrd na Gàidhlig cannot achieve this without partners and we fully acknowledge the work that Historic Scotland and RCHAMS have undertaken in support of this aim and we welcome the creation of this high quality, valuable resource."
The thesaurus is available on the Historic Scotland website at:


Scottish Toponymy in Transition (STIT) was an AHRC-funded research project at the University of Glasgow, running from May 2011 to June 2014. The aim is to advance the long-term goal of surveying all of Scotland’s place-names, by publishing survey volumes for three historical counties and initiating research on two others. STIT continues the momentum of Simon Taylor’s The Place-Names of Fife, produced during the course of a previous AHRC-funded project (Gaelic in Medieval Scotland: The Onomastic Evidence, 2006–2010), and aims to establish a firm foundation for future surveys. The team comprises Thomas Clancy (Principal Investigator), Carole Hough (Co-Investigator), Simon Taylor (Chief Researcher), Peter McNiven (Research Associate) and Eila Williamson (Research Associate). There is also a PhD student, Leonie Dunlop, whose role is vital not only in contributing to the research itself, but in ensuring that the project does indeed lay a foundation for the future by bringing new young scholars into the discipline.

The project will produce two full county surveys, for the historical counties of Clackmannanshire and Kinross-shire. Both are small in terms of geographical area, but have complex administrative and parish histories. These surveys will include a full toponymic analysis of all place-names on the Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 (Explorer) maps, and of all obsolete settlement names recorded before 1560. The research methods are those developed for The Place-Names of Fife, and the volumes will be produced to the same high standard.

During the first year of the project, work on Kinross-shire has reached an advanced stage, with name collection and analysis completed for four of the five parishes (Cleish, Kinross, Orwell and Portmoak). Fossoway too is in draft, but remains to be finished. Alongside this, preliminary work has been carried out on Clackmannanshire, including the laying out of head-names and grid references, collection of data from early printed sources, and transcription of Ordnance Survey Name Book entries. The Name Books are among our key sources, and we are working with the National Records of Scotland to make them available for both toponymic and genealogical research.
The other three counties will not be fully surveyed during the course of the project, but will be progressed to different stages. Building on his PhD thesis on the Gaelic settlement-names of Menteith (now under Stirling Council, but historically part of Perthshire), Peter McNiven will complete a survey of Menteith, intended as the first step towards a survey of the whole of Perthshire. Research on Cunninghame initiated by Thomas Clancy will similarly point ahead to a future survey of Ayrshire. Leonie Dunlop has begun work on north-east Berwickshire, focusing particularly on the charters of Coldingham preserved in Durham cathedral. Her PhD thesis has the working title “Breaking old and new ground: an analysis of Anglo-Saxon lexis in the assertion and redistribution of land in four Berwickshire parishes”. The parishes in question are Abbey St Bathans, Bunkle and Preston, Cockburnspath and Coldingham, providing a mix of coastal and inland names. In another part of the same county, Carole Hough and Eila Williamson are undertaking a pilot study of four parishes along the border with England: Coldstream, Hutton, Ladykirk and Mordington.

So much for the toponymy; what about the transition? Each of the study areas presents a different mix of linguistic strata, alongside transition of various kinds. In Clackmannanshire and Kinross-shire, the early Brittonic language is generally taken to move from British to Pictish (a view that may be challenged by the current research), and there is also transition between areas where Gaelic survived as a living language later than in others. In Menteith, Peter McNiven has identified the late fifteenth century as the transitional period when Gaelic began to be superseded by Scots for naming purposes. The toponymy of Cunninghame is predominantly Scots, but here too there is a Gaelic core, as well as names from British, Old English and Old Norse.

Berwickshire reflects yet another type of transition. Bordering on northern England and historically forming part of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria, its place-names have more in common linguistically with those of England than with those of other parts of Scotland. However, since the English Place-Name Survey (EPNS) stops short at the present-day border with Scotland, traditional scholarship has treated the border counties with the Scottish rather than the English onomasticon. Recent years have seen a paradigm shift towards treating the toponymicon of southern Scotland and northern England as a continuum (see e.g. Hough 2003, 2009; Scott 2004, 2008), and now that the survey for County Durham is in progress, and Diana Whaley has been appointed as EPNS editor for Northumberland, there is a real opportunity for comparative analysis and collaboration. With names from Old English as well as from Cumbrian and Gaelic, Berwickshire raises questions not only about the diachronic transition from Old English to Older Scots, but also about the synchronic transition from Middle English to Middle Scots, and from Modern English to Modern Scots.

It will be clear from the above that STIT is an exciting and challenging project requiring a wide range of expertise. We are most grateful for the active involvement and support of our Academic Advisory Board, comprising Dauvit Broun (University of Glasgow), Peder Gammeltoft (University of Copenhagen), Kay Muhr (Ulster Place-Name Society, Belfast), Kevin Murray (University College, Cork) and David Parsons (Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, Aberystwyth). We are also fortunate to be able to draw on our Knowledge Exchange Liaison Group (KELG), comprising two members of the Academic Advisory Board (Dauvit Broun and Kay Muhr) alongside others based within the study areas themselves. They are Janet Carolan (Dollar Museum), Rob Close (Ayrshire Federation of Historical Societies), Mark Hall (Perth Museums and Art Gallery), Susan Mills (Clackmannanshire Council Museums and Heritage Service), David Munro (Kinross Museum) and David Strachan (Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust).

Knowledge Exchange is, indeed, a key aspect of the project. In order to progress the academic research, it is crucial to have input from local informants. And in order to disseminate that research, it is equally crucial to establish and to maintain links with local history societies, museums and other interested parties. We have a strong commitment to activities such as exhibitions, seminars and talks to local organisations, and we are in contact with – amongst others – Education Scotland, the Living Lomonds Landscape Partnership and the Ochils Landscape Partnership. Events that SPNS members were invited to attend included the BBC’s Great British Story roadshow in Glasgow on Saturday 9 June, where both STIT and SPNS were represented, and a place-name walk from Tillicoultry to Alva on Tuesday 19 June and Saturday 23 June organised by STIT as part of the Ochils Festival.

Further information on the project is available at: http://www.gla.ac.uk/departments/celtic/projects/stit.

(Based on the talk given by Carole Hough, University of Glasgow, at the Oban Conference)


Hough, Carole (2003), ‘Larkhall in Lanarkshire and related place-names’, Notes and Queries 50, 1–3.

Hough, Carole (2009), ‘“Find the lady”: the term lady in English and Scottish place-names’, in Names in Multi-Lingual, Multi-Cultural and Multi-Ethnic Contact: Proceedings of the 23rd International Congress of Onomastic Sciences, August 17–22, 2008, York University, Toronto, Canada, ed. Wolfgang Ahrens, Sheila Embleton and André Lapierre with the assistance of Grant Smith and Maria Figueredo (Toronto: York University), 511–18.

McNiven, Peter Edward (2011), Gaelic Place-Names and the Social History of Gaelic Speakers in Medieval Menteith. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Scott, Margaret (2004), ‘Uses of Scottish place-names as evidence in historical dictionaries’, in New Perspectives on English Historical Linguistics: Selected Papers from 12 ICEHL, Glasgow, 21–26 August 2002 Vol. 2: Lexis and Transmission, ed. Christian J. Kay, Carole Hough and Irené Wotherspoon (Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins), 213–24.

Scott, Maggie (2008), ‘Unsung etymologies: lexical and onomastic evidence for the influence of Scots on English’, in Yesterday’s Words: Contemporary, Current and Future Lexicography, ed. Marijke Mooijaart and Marijke van der Wal (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars), 187–98.

Taylor, Simon, with Gilbert Márkus (2006– ), The Place-Names of Fife, 4 vols of 5 so far published (Donington: Shaun Tyas).

Watts, Victor (2007), The Place-Names of County Durham Part One. Stockton Ward, EPNS 83 (Nottingham: English Place-Name Society).

Onomastics.org : Dr Peder Gammeltoft, known for his work on Scandinavian place-names in the British Isles has created this website which seeks to show how one can publish onomastic data on the internet, in the form of search engines and mapped/geo-referenced data. Dr Gammeltoft writes:

Website for inspiration and debate

After having advocated a digital future for name research, I have now decided to ‘put my money where my mouth is’. Thus, I have created this website showing the various types of online – and often free – resources one may use in order to display onomastic data online on the internet. The name of the website is: www.onomastics.org. It is divided into a number of sections, the most important of which are ‘Search Engines’ and ‘Geo-Coded Data’. The former explores how it is possible to upload various kinds of name data and display it on the internet by means of a search engine. The latter, on the other hand, explores how it is possible to upload and display geo-coded data on online maps – and in some cases also with search facilities.

Several online resources are tried out and briefly explained for each example. Most of the examples have a clear Danish or Scandinavian focus – this is owing to the fact that much of my work effort has been concentrated on Denmark and the Nordic onomastic cooperation the last couple of years.

For those of you who are interested Danish place-names, there is also a link under ‘Search Engines’ where a search engine provides access to the electronic version of the Place-Names of Denmark (Danmarks Stednavne). It is a very preliminary and unfinished search engine: http://danmarksstednavne.navneforskning.ku.dk/. The search engine comprises all 25 volumes of the series Place-names of Denmark with head form, historical forms as well as an interpretation in many cases. For the third of the country not yet covered by this series, we have supplied the search engine with head form and historical forms. A geo-referenced version will appear in June (on another site).

Tobar an Dualchais ('Kist o Riches') website contains over 24,000 oral recordings in Scots and Gaelic recorded in Scotland and further afield, from the 1930s onwards.  Items include stories, songs, music, poetry and information about place-names.

Guy Puzey has pointed us to the late Thomas Huser's dissertation on Westray place-names:
Huser, Thomas Marcus (2008): Fra 'Færevåg' til 'Pier of Wall'?
This is in Norwegian, but a detailed English summary is provided on pp. 110-116 of the second volume (first PDF link on the web page). There is also a good write-up here:

McNiven, Peter Edward (2011) Gaelic place-names and the social history of Gaelic speakers in medieval Menteith. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

In the Beginning was the Name: Selected Essays by Prof. W.F.H. Nicolaisen
click here for details and order form

Nicolaisen: a partial index to In the Beginning was the Name

Cultural Contacts Fund

The proceedings of a conference held in Shetland in April 2003 by the Nordic Cooperative Committee for Onomastic Research (NORNA), the Scottish Place-Name Society (SPNS) and the Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland (SNSBI) were published as:

Cultural Contacts in the North Atlantic Region: The Evidence of Names, edited by Peder Gammeltoft, Carole Hough and Doreen Waugh (Lerwick, 2005; ISBN 0-9551838-0-4)

The volume is available at £10.00 per copy, plus £2.50 postage and packing (UK only). Please send a cheque payable to SCOTTISH PLACE-NAME SOCIETY to:
Professor Carole Hough, English Language, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ

Profits from the sale of the volume are used to fund grants of up to £125 to enable students of onomastics to attend conferences. The grants are administered by a small steering committee representing the three societies. Students who wish to apply should contact the convener of the committee at the above address, or by email at carole.hough@glasgow.ac.uk.

Applications should be made at least two months before the conference is scheduled to take place, and should include the following information:

•    Student’s name, contact details, institution and degree programme
•    Name and contact details of Supervisor or Director of Studies
•    Conference title, organising body, date and location
•    Title of paper or poster to be presented
•    Approximate costs (travel, registration, accommodation etc.)

A decision will normally be made within six weeks.

Gaelic place-names research continues with support from Bòrd na Gàidhlig

Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba ~ Gaelic Place-names of Scotland, the national advisory board for researching Gaelic forms of place-names in Scotland is delighted to announce that its work will continue to be funded by Bòrd na Gàidhlig over 2011 and 2012. Highland and Argyll and Bute Councils will also continue their contributions to the project.
AÀA evolved from the Gaelic Names Liaison Committee in 2006 to meet the growing demand for Gaelic place-name research. Since then the project has researched over 3,200 Gaelic place-names throughout Scotland including names for trunk roads, settlements, core paths networks for the Highland Council and the Forestry Commission, SNH’s National Nature Reserves, ScotRail’s stations, bus and ferry depots,  street names in Inverness, Fort William and Glasgow and the Gaelic names for Scotland’s electoral constituencies. Alongside on-going work for clients and partners, AÀA is also preparing a book on the Gaelic place-names of Islay and Jura in partnership with SNH, with funding from SOILLSE and Iomairt Ghàidhlig Ìle agus Diùra. The publication is due out later this year.
AÀA’s research is being uploaded to the National Gazetteer of Gaelic Place-names, a free online database available on www.ainmean-aite.org. There are over 1,000 entries at present, with links to digital maps and sound files to aid pronunciation. With funding secured for another year, AÀA can confirm that they will continue to expand and develop this invaluable resource for Scotland’s cultural and linguistic heritage.
Chair of AÀA, Donald Morris welcomed the continuing support from Bòrd na Gàidhlig and the other partners of AÀA adding that he was delighted to be able to welcome new clients to the organisation each year.  "Place-names are of great importance to Scotland and demonstrate the value of Gaelic to the nation.  It can only be good that more Gaelic is made available to all and the high standard of work is testament to the exceptional team we have."
Head of Gaelic Usage at Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Daibhaidh Boag said:  “Bòrd na Gàidhlig works in partnership with a wide range of public bodies across the spectrum of Scottish life in implementing their Gaelic language plans.  The service which AÀA provides to these bodies plays a vital part in ensuring that the visibility of Gaelic, through signage in particular, is increasing in communities and routes across Scotland.  Over and above this, we know that there is significant interest amongst the wider public in finding out more about the Gaelic forms of the places in their locality and further afield.   We are delighted with the success of the project to date and look forward to growing the service in the years to come, assisting in our efforts to re-vitalise Gaelic.”

(Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba is responsible for researching and recommending the correct and appropriate Gaelic forms of place-names for maps, signage and general use. The project, which employs two full-time staff, is run by a partnership of organisations including Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Argyll and Bute Council, Highland Council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Comunn na Gàidhlig, the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament, Ordnance Survey, Scottish Natural Heritage, the University of the Highlands and Islands, the Scottish Place-Name Society and  Highlands and Islands Enterprise. )

For more information please contact:
(Dr.) Michelle Cotter, Project Manager
Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba
Fàs, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig
Isle of Skye
IV44 8RQ
+44 (0) 1471 888 120
+44 (0) 7511 541 687

Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba ~ Gaelic Place-names of Scotland is delighted to announce the launch of the National Gazetteer of Gaelic Place-names.

Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba, the national advisory partnership to research and establish Gaelic place-names has been developing the National Gazetteer of Gaelic Place-names since 2000. This Gazetteer is referred to in the National Plan for Gaelic (date) and to date there has been a growing demand for accurate and reliable information about Gaelic place-names.
The National Gazetteer is a database freely available to the public. It will provide a single source of authoritative information on Gaelic forms of place-names, including the research by which names have been determined, links to bibliographical information and a six figure grid reference which links to a map to locate each name. At present there are 1,000 entries covering places throughout Scotland. Work will continue to add further research and sound files to assist with pronunciation, and to expand the number of entries.
AÀA is proud to announce that the Gazetteer is now available at www.ainmean-aite.org. It is hoped that this database will be an invaluable educational tool and a treasure trove for Scotland’s historical, environmental and linguistic heritage. AÀA is very grateful for the support, advice and funding from Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the Highland Council, Argyll and Bute Council and all of our partners, associates and clients in making this possible.

John Reid: Material for a place-name survey of East Stirlingshire download
now available (zipped .doc file 1.7MB. Covers the parishes of Airth AIH, Denny DNY, Dunipace DPC, Falkirk FAL, Grangemouth GRM including Bothkennar BKX, Kilsyth KSY, Larbet

The Shetland ForWirds web site is now online. The Shetland ForWirds group promotes and celebrates Shetland dialect.

Conference Announcements

The Scottish Place-Name Society Spring 2016 conference will be held at Rothesay, Bute.


The Historical Thesaurus of English project at the University of Glasgow presents the vocabulary of English from Old English to the present arranged in semantic categories. It will be published in two volumes as the Historical Thesaurus of the OED by Oxford University Press on October 22, 2009. Further details (including a special introductory price) are available at http://www.oup.com/online/ht/

from 'Scottish Place-name News', Spring 2014

Two articles about Stirling:


The year 2014 will mark the seven hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn. Sixteen years earlier, and some ten miles to the south, the Battle of Falkirk was fought. Given their significance, it is remarkable that the locations of both are unknown. Bannockburn has been given the greater attention of historians, many of whom have spent a considerable amount of energy in trying to establish where it took place. In the process of doing so many seized upon details written by the chroniclers in Latin or Norman-French and then applied misleading interpretations to these. Where they have most frequently erred is in their perception of the tract of land known as the Carse which they portray as a place of wetlands interrupted only by bogs and marshes all overlain with peat moss. My recent presentation to the SPNS conference was not an attempt to locate the site of either battle; the intention was to try to create a picture of the Carse of Stirling as it was in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

The Carse of Stirling is an expanse of alluvial land skirting the upper reaches of the Firth of Forth. At a period prior to the thirteenth century much of that area had been Crownland. From the twelfth century onwards several monastic institutions received gifts from the crown and individual possessors of lands in the tract in question. Most prominent among these were the Abbeys of Cambuskenneth, Holyrood, Dunfermline and Newbattle. They, along with the abbeys of Arbroath, Jedburgh and Kelso as well as the Temple of Ballentrodoch, were also gifted saltpans at the southern end of the tract. This situation poses questions: why did the Scottish monarchy possess a huge tract of what, allegedly, was extremely low quality land as a source of revenue; why did several members of the nobility, landed gentry and persons of prominence choose to possess property there; why did many of them, including all of the kings from at least David I, make gifts of this supposedly grossly inferior land to the monastic institutions?

Gifts to Cambuskenneth Abbey (the two northern areas)
and Holyrood Abbey (the two southern areas)

One of the tools used in this reconstruction was the study of place-names and two groups of places were identified: all of the Celtic names on record there on the assumption that they were coined prior to 1298 and place-names in English on record up to the end of the fourteenth century. These were located on a distribution map and it became evident that the pattern was uneven with some apparently unoccupied areas. The location and extent of mid-eighteenth century peat-mosses delineated on the Military Survey were inserted and these proved to correspond to the deserted areas. Even the most cursory look at any existing peat moss, such as Flanders Moss, shows that place-names do not occur within their extent.
Included within the lands of Skeoch which lies contiguous with the village of Bannockburn was a peat-moss. It was still in existence in the eighteenth century and appears on General Roy’s Military Survey. There are a number of place-names on its periphery: Moss-side, Moss Neuk and two places called Risk and each of these is an indicator of the moss having been more extensive on its northern perimeter at an earlier period. We can push the utilisation of this moss back to before the Battle of Bannockburn as, in 1317, Robert the Bruce reconfirmed to the burgesses if Stirling an ancient privilege of cutting peat there. It would seem logical to assume that the nearest peatery to Stirling would be allocated. If we take the distance from Stirling to the moss and use this length as the radius to describe a containing circle it is apparent that there are no overt indications of other mosses situated upon the lands within its compass.

There is a paucity of baile and achadh names within the tract despite the presence of a conspicuous number of Gaelic and pre-Gaelic place-names. The absence should not be taken to indicate an insignificant quantity of Gaelic speaking people but what may be inferred is that the area was already settled and occupied at the time when Gaelic began to have an influence on the naming of places there.

The Carse of Stirling with surviving areas of moss (yellow-green)
and other areas of moss on the mid 18th century military survey by
General Roy (orange). Red dots Celtic place-names; blue dots Scots/English

The existence of the Mains and Grange of Kerse in the middle of the fourteenth century is an unequivocal indication that grain was being produced in Abbotskerse at that time. Within an enclave in the adjoining estate of West Kerse were the Temple Lands of Dalderse granted about 1200. Later charters reveal that a privilege pertaining to this entity was pasturage for 12 cattle, 60 sheep and two horses; had the Temple lands been uncultivated with only pastoral farming being practised then there would have been no necessity for this concession. Similarly, within the lands of Bothkennar was a place called Cold Kitchen, the second element of name having originated from Gaelic coitchionn, ‘a common pasture’. The necessity for a discreet area to herd animals implies that arable farming was being practised in the immediate vicinity at the time Gaelic was spoken there. Certainly, by the time of the battles, we find accounts within the Exchequer Rolls that show large quantities of wheat and other grains being grown at Bothkennar. Tiends paid in kind from the produce of the land also indicate arable activity on a substantial scale in most of the holdings on the carse. In 1215, the monks of Dunfermline agreed to make an annual payment to the nuns of North Berwick of 3 chalders of oatmeal from the tiend of Cornton and the same monks were receiving corn tiends from Polmaise Weland, Polmaise Elwyn, Craigforth, Shiphauch, Balquhidderock and Skeoch. The abbot of Cambuskenneth received oatmeal from the tiend of Polmaise Regis. Records also exist for payments of cash from properties on the carselands and these provide a picture of a community operating well above the level of subsistence farming.

This summary is a reduced account of an article following on from the presentation and published in Calatria No. 30
(Falkirk Local History Society – http://www.falkirklocalhistorysociety.co.uk/).

Nevertheless, even within the present constraints, it is possible to recognise that the long held view of the mediaeval Carse of Stirling being a morass is a myth and, in view of that, the parameters in the search for the battlefields should be reviewed.

John Reid (from his talk at the autumn 2013 conference in Stirling)

SOCA DE STRUELIN: place-names in the medieval soke or shire of Stirling

This study of the area around Stirling grew out of the Scottish Toponymy in Transition project at the University of Glasgow. Part of this project involves looking at the place-names of Clackmannanshire, as well as Kinross-shire and Menteith. The problem with studying a county like Clackmannanshire is that the modern day county does not match the medieval or early modern definition of Clackmannanshire. The parish of Alva, although almost completely surrounded by Clackmannanshire, was historically in Stirlingshire and only came into Clackmannanshire as part of the 1891 reorganisation of Scottish local authorities. Much more complex is the parish of Logie, just over the River Forth to the north of Stirling. Here the parish was divided between the counties of Clackmannanshire, Perthshire and Stirlingshire, although before 1600 the vast majority of Logie can be shown to have been in Stirlingshire. The soke of Stirling, mentioned in the reign of Alexander I (1107-24), was a fairly large unit of lordship, which was probably part of the king’s demesne lands that stretched across both sides of the River Forth near Stirling. This is later said in the reign of Malcolm IV (1153-1165), to have been the Castrensis Provincia ‘the castle province’. The parishes of Logie and Alva were probably a northern extension of this castrensis provincia, indeed it may have also included Clackmannanshire too before it became a separate sheriffdom sometime between 1141 and 1150. The evidence is not merely secular: the church of St Ninians – originally called Eccles – had a substantial parochia, which was basically the lands north of the River Carron, including the modern parishes of Dunipace, Larbert, Gargunnock and probably Airth and Bothkennar. Cambuskenneth Abbey was granted the kirk of Eccles in the thirteenth century and it is notable that the kirks of Alva, Tullibody, Tillicoultry and Clackmannan were all granted to Cambuskenneth. This may mean that they, too, were originally chapels of Eccles. If so, then it is likely the parochia of Eccles was equivalent to the soca de Striuelin and the castrensis provincia.

One name that encapsulates the longevity of the time-frame from British to Scots is Bannockburn. The second element is clearly Scots burn ‘stream’ and its Gaelic form may have been Allt Bannoch or similar; all over Scotland a great many allts have become burns. The town of Bannockburn takes its name either from the burn or perhaps from the battle of 1314 fought in the carse just to the north. But what of the bannock element? Deriving from a British word meaning ‘horn or peak’, the word is mentioned in a medieval life of the Welsh saint St Cadoc, the saint behind Kilmadock at Doune, where it is mentioned that Cadoc on returning from a pilgrimage to St Andrews ‘had come to a certain city, which is near the mountain Bannawc, and said to be situated in the middle of Scotland’. In the Latin it is called the Montem Bannauc. Looking south from the Menteith Hills, there is, in the middle of the Gargunnock-Campsie Range, Meikle Bin, a very prominent and pointed 570 metre hill. This hill is visible from other parts of the lowlands, including Glasgow and the surrounding area – precisely the area that was British speaking for longest. The Bannock Burn is the most prominent burn coming from the Stirling side of these hills.

The medieval church has generated a great number of place-names in Scotland and the Stirling area in no exception to this phenomenon. The earliest seems to be St Ninians or rather its former name Eccles. Eccles is a British word borrowed from Latin ecclesia meaning ‘church’. Eccles seems to have been the main church that served what are now the parishes of St Ninians, Stirling, Airth, Bothkennar, Dunipace, Larbert, Gargunnock, Logie, and Alva. We know for sure that Dunipace, Larbert and Gargunnock were originally chapels of St Ninians, while Alva and Logie were both originally in Stirlingshire. Eccles may have been a minster-type church, of the kind found in Anglo-Saxon England, that served this area until the formation of a more formal network of parish churches usually attributed to the reign of David I. The dedication to St Ninian occurs by 1242, but need not necessarily indicate that it was founded by Ninian, a 5th century holy man apparently based in Whithorn. The lateness of the dedication may mean it is actually of the 13th century.

Another early church term can be found in Logie STL. This is usually found in medieval texts as Login Atheran, i.e. Logie Airthrey. Logie is also found all over eastern Scotland. It was originally thought to have been a word derived from Gaelic lag, ‘a hollow’, developing from Old Gaelic loc ‘a hollow, ditch’. In most instances, Logie is sometimes assumed to be a Scots version of a Gaelic diminutive form, either from G lagan, OG locán, or sometimes from G lagaidh, which was perhaps a locative form of lagach, meaning ‘place by or in a hollow’. However, it has recently been put forward that Logie derives from Latin locus ‘place, consecrated place, ecclesiastical site’. Because Latin locus had been borrowed into all the Celtic languages as loc it is not at all clear whether we are dealing here with a Pictish or Gaelic origin for Logie Airthrey. Two hogback-type stones testify to its antiquity.

On the flat carselands of eastern Logie parish there are a group of at least two, possibly three, British-names – Menstrie, Gogar, and Manor. If we can accept that Gaelic was the main language of this area from say 900 AD or so, then these names are very old indeed. Menstrie first comes on record in 1178-79 when a Macbeth of Menstrie witnessed a charter of Cambuskenneth. The name appears to contain the British elements maes + tref meaning ‘hamlet on the plain’, which more than adequately describes its situation. Gogar does not come on record until about 1538 when it is listed among the lands belonging to Culross Abbey. It seems to contain Brit. gwo and cor meaning ultimately a ‘spur’. Manor, on record from about 1479, may contain Brit. maenor, meaning ‘the stone built residence of the chief of a district’.

There are two pit-names in Logie parish – Pendreich and a now lost place-name called Pitveys. Pendreich is first known as Petendreich from 1393 to 1472 leave no doubt that it is a pit-name; the second element is Gaelic dreach ‘face, aspect’. Watson notes that all the places in Scotland containing this name appear on sun-facing slopes. Pendreich in Logie parish has fantastic views across the valley of Menteith over to Ben Lomond and the south-western Highlands. Pitveys is much more problematic. We know from charters and such documents that it lay somewhere just to the north of Logie Kirk, near the house of Broomhill. Gaelic uamh ‘cave’ for the second element has been suggested, but this is not an area where one would expect to find natural caves, the bedrock being lava. I showed that the place-names around Stirling are complex, and my bias towards Logie parish demonstrated that more research is need into Stirling and its district south of the Forth. While much has been done on Stirlingshire, especially by John Reid, there remain ten parishes still to complete…!

Peter McNiven (based on his talk at the autumn 2013 SPNS Conference in Stirling)

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New Publications

(Spring 2013)

Compiled by Simon Taylor, with a little help from his friends. For more extensive bibliographies of name-studies in Britain and Ireland, and, less comprehensively, other parts of northern Europe, see the bibliographic sections in the relevant issues of Nomina, the journal of the Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland: most recently ‘Bibliography for 2009’, compiled by Carole Hough, (Nomina 33 (2010), 193–208). The material in the Nomina Bibliographies is set out thematically, and includes reviews which have appeared in the given year. There is also now an onomastic bibliography for Scotland 2006-2009 in Journal of Scottish Name Studies (JSNS) 4, 173-86; for 2010 in JSNS 5, 183-8; and for 2011 in JSNS 6, 97-9 (compiled by Simon Taylor). The following bibliography also includes all the articles in the latest JSNS 6 (2012). (Available free on line.)

Ahlqvist, Anders, 2012, ‘Three Otago Place-Names of Celtic (?) Origin’, Australian Celtic Journal 10, 85–105 [notes on the derivation of Balclutha, Dunedin and Mavora Lakes, New Zealand, with important new insights into the derivation of Edinburgh].
Baldwin, John, and Drummond, Peter, 2011, Pentland Place-Names: An introductory guide (The Friends of the Pentlands, Edinburgh).
Crook, Alice, 2012, ‘Personal Names in 18th- Century Scotland: a case study of the parish of Beith (North Ayrshire)’, JSNS 6, 1-10.
Fraser, Kenneth, 2012, ‘What’s in a name?’, Clyde Steamers: magazine of the Clyde River Steamer Club 48, Summer 2012, 18–22.
Hammond, Matthew H., 2012, ‘The Use of the Name Scot in the Central Middle Ages. Part 2: Scot as a surname, north of the Firth of Forth’, JSNS 6, 11-50.
Hough, Carole, 2012, ‘Celts in Scandinavian Scotland and Anglo-Saxon England: Placenames and language contact reconsidered’, in Language Contact and Development around the North Sea, ed. Merja Stenroos, Martti Mäkinen and Inge Særheim (John Benjamins Publishing Company, Amsterdam).
McNiven, Peter, 2012, ‘Place-names and the medieval church in Menteith’ (Part 1), History Scotland 12, No. 6 (Nov/Dec), 36-43.
McNiven, Peter, 2013, ‘Place-names of Menteith’ (Part 2), History Scotland 13, No. 1 (Jan/Feb), 36-41.
Macquarrie, Alan, with Rachel Butter (and contributions from Simon Taylor and Gilbert Márkus), 2012, Legends of Scottish Saints: Readings,
Hymns and Prayers for the Commemorations of Scottish Saints in the Aberdeen Breviary (Dublin) [includes the makings of a Dictionary of Scottish Saints by Rachel Butter].
Márkus, Gilbert, 2012, Place-Names of Bute (Donington).
Márkus, Gilbert, 2012a, ‘From Goill to Gall- Ghàidheil: place-names and Scandinavian settlement in Bute’, in Historic Bute: Land and People, ed. Anna Ritchie (Society of Northern Studies, Edinburgh).
Martin, Angus, 2013, Kintyre Places and Place- Names (The Grimsay Press, Kilkerran).
Nurminen, Terhi, 2012, ‘Hill-Terms and the Place-Names of Northumberland and County Durham’, unpublished PhD, University of Newcastle.
Parker, Michael, 2012, ‘An Eighth-century Reference to the Monastery at Hoddom’, JSNS 6, 51-80.
Taylor, Simon, 2012, ‘Alba: Scottish Place- Names’, in Logainmneacha: Place-Names, ed. Marion Gunn, advisory ed. An tAthair Pádraig Ó Cuill, Ian Mac Consaidín (proceedings of Comhdháil Cheilteach/Celtic Congress, Sligo 2009), 2-44 (Dublin) [also contains chapters on the place-names of Brittany (Jean-Yves Le Moing), Wales (Hywel Wyn Owen), Ireland (Art Ó Maolfabhail), Cornwall (Craig Weatherhill) and Isle of Man (George Broderick), as well as a Common Celtic Glossary of Place-Names by Jean-Yves Le Moing, in consultation with S. Taylor and A. Ó Maolfabhail, and reports on workshops held at the Congress]
Taylor, Simon, 2012, ‘Bibliography of Scottish Name Studies for 2011’, Journal of Scottish Name Studies, 97-9.
Taylor, Simon, with Gilbert Márkus, 2012, The Place-Names of Fife Vol. 5 (Discussion, Glossaries and Edited Texts, with Addenda and Corrigenda of Volumes 1-4) (Donington) [volume 5 of a five-volume series].

The Journal of Scottish Name Studies.

(This is now a free publication, available in digital form only)

Volume 6

Personal Names in 18th-Century Scotland: a case study of the parish of Beith (North Ayrshire)
Alice Crook

The Use of the Name Scot in the Central Middle Ages. Part 2: Scot as a surname, north of the Firth of Forth
Matthew H. Hammond

An Eighth-century Reference to the Monastery at Hoddom
Michael Parker


Gilbert Márkus Stephen T. Driscoll, Jane Geddes and Mark A. Hall, Pictish Progress: New Studies on Northern Britain in the Early Middle Ages

Thomas Owen Clancy John MacQueen, Place-Names in the Rhinns of Galloway and Luce Valley and Place-Names of the Wigtownshire Moors and Machars

Bibliography of Scottish Name Studies for 2011
Simon Taylor

Contributions to future issues should be forwarded in paper and electronic (WORD or .rtf) formats to the publisher, Clann Tuirc, at fios@clanntuirc.co.uk or at the above address; see Notes for Contributers online at www.clanntuirc.co.uk/JSNS/notes_for_contributers.html , also available from the publisher.