New Pont Place Name Gazeteers
Gaelic thesaurus of the Historical environment launched
Scottish Toponymy in Transition: Progressing County Surveys.
Tobar an Dualchais
The Thomas Marcus Huser Fieldwork Fund
Cultural Contacts Fund
Gaelic place-names research continues with support from Bòrd na Gàidhlig
From 'Scottish Place-Name News' No. 36 (Spring 2014) two articles about Stirling
From the Cruach to the Caledonii: the place-names of Rannoch.
In the Beginning was the Name
The Historical Thesaurus of English
New Publications (Spring 2016)
The Journal of Scottish Name Studies
Peter Drummond's PhD thesis now on-line
Peter McNiven's PhD thesis now online
Thomas Huser's study of Westray place-names now on-line
John Reid's Material for a place-name survey of East Stirlingshire now online
Professor 'Bill' Nicolaisen: obituary.
GWS Barrow: a toponymic tribute.
John Kerr: an appreciation.
The Scottish Place-Name Society Spring 2016 conference will be held at Rothesay, Bute.
A joint SPNS / SSNS conference to celebrate the work of Doreen Waugh will be held in Edinburgh on Saturday 1st October. Details to follow on societies’ websites.
The SPNS autumn conference will be themed on special interests of Bill Nicolaisen; details TBC with the autumn newsletter.
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.
New Pont Place Name Gazetteers
The Pont manuscript maps are well-known cartographic treasures - the earliest detailed maps of Scotland from four centuries ago. We are very grateful to Dr Bob Henery for compiling detailed gazetteers of all the names recorded on the Pont manuscripts - over 11,000 names. The place-names have been recorded in their original form by Pont and in their modern form along with feature type and grid reference (where possible). Both the Pont and modern gazetteer lists can be easily searched, and clicking on the place-name takes you directly to the specific name on the relevant Pont manuscript map. So as well as being useful for seeing the context of the name, it has also made searching the Pont maps much easier. For most of these names, this is their earliest known depiction on a map and so the new gazetteers have great historical value.View the Pont gazetteers at: http://maps.nls.uk/pont/
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).
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: PROGRESSING COUNTY SURVEYS OF THE PLACE-NAMES OF SCOTLAND
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).
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 email@example.com.
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
+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.
Two articles about Stirling:
THE CARSE OF STIRLING IN THE THIRTEENTH AND FOURTEENTH
The Carse of Stirling with
surviving areas of moss (yellow-green)
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
SOCA DE STRUELIN: place-names in the medieval soke
or shire of Stirling
(To receive a copy of the Society's Scottish Place-Name News, published twice a year, become a member of the Society:
Annual membership (April-March) still only £6 (£7 for overseas members because of higher postage costs),
or £15 for a three-year subscription, to be sent to:-
Peter Drummond, Apt 8 Gartsherrie Academy, Academy Place, Coatbridge ML5 3AX.
If you want to check your membership status, email firstname.lastname@example.org)
One of the first tasks I had to set myself was to delineate the boundaries of Rannoch, for Rannoch, unlike many other areas was neither historically under the control of one great family nor was it an ecclesiastical parish. Rannoch Moor was the epicentre of the Ice Age in Scotland and Rannoch follows a similar pattern to the other great West Perthshire glens and straths, such as Loch Tay and Strath Earn. It is the most north westerly glen in Perthshire, being bounded by Glen Coe to the west, Laggan and Badenoch to the north, Atholl to the east and Strathtay, Breadalbane and Glen Lyon to the south. From Tummel Bridge to the Cruach on Rannoch Moor is about twenty four miles long. Being in Perthshire, Rannoch was therefore excluded from the boundaries of the Napier Commission and subsequent crofting legislation, which, like the rest of rural north and west Perthshire, had a dire effect on depopulation.
Loch Rannoch looking west from Kinloch Rannoch
The most noticeable feature has to be the loch, Loch Raineach, which is the centrepiece of the area, and all reference is in relation to it. People talk of going up or down the loch, rather than the glen. This is a translation of the Gaelic, suas agus sìos, which in Perthshire invariably meant westwards or eastwards respectively, as the watershed is effectively the boundary with Argyll, with all the Perthshire rivers flowing eastwards. The subsequent Tay-Tummel hydro-electric schemes recognised this flow pattern. Houses tended to be built facing south, which meant the kitchen end was in the east to catch the morning sun and the sitting room in the west and older people will still talk of the west room, a translation of an seòmar shuas.
The Cruach on the Moor of Rannoch
The origin of the word seems quite obvious as raineach is the Gaelic word for bracken or fern. Professor Watson, mentions that Stagnum Crog reth is one of five lochs mentioned by Adomnan in his Life of St. Columba. However, he states ‘ Thus Stagnum Crog reth would mean’ the loch of bracken hill,’ and the absence of declension indicates that the term is not Gaelic. The hill in question can only be Cruach Raithneach, the range of hills marked on the maps as a’ Chruach, some distance to the west of Loch Rannoch and forming part of the boundary of the district of Rannoch.’ His inference therefore is that it is Brythonic rather than Goidelic in origin. There was historically a distinct dialect line between west and east Perthshire Gaelic, and while East Perthshire Gaelic is well served by the book of that name, no similar detailed study has been undertaken of west Perthshire Gaelic. It seems to me that there is little evidence of Pictish place-names west of this line, but this does not invalidate Watson’s point about earlier times. Much of west Perthshire had subsequent population, and hence linguistic, influxes from further west such as Cameron Lochaber influence in Rannoch and Campbell Argyll influence in Breadalbane. I have yet to see convincing evidence for the reason behind the east/ west dialect split, which of course runs right up through Inverness and Ross to Sutherland, but Pictish influence would seem to be one obvious factor. Another could be that the eastern Gaelic was not wholly of Dalriadic provenance. There are other cruach names of course, for example in Ayrshire, Knoydart and the famous pilgrimage in Ireland, Cruach Phádruig.
Most passers-by and contemporary Gaelic speakers in particular, travel by Rannoch to the west via Glencoe and know Rannoch through the moor, which is in fact the western extremity of Rannoch and is largely uninhabitable. The Rev. John Sinclair, parish minister of Rannoch in the early 20th. century states clearly, ‘In Gaelic it (the Moor of Rannoch) is called Madagan na Mòine, and certainly it contains a vast mass of peaty substance.’ An explanation of this unusual word is in the vocabulary of Carmina Gadelica, Vol. VI, where madagan is explained as ‘A raised tableland in a valley, top, ridge, crown; madagan a’ mhunaidh, the crest of the hill; Madagan na Mòine, the Moor of Rannoch’. In Cothrom, Doch Do Camshron, a local seanchaidh, gives the saying ‘Madaigean (sic) na Mòin’, treas Gearastan na h-Alba’, ‘the third fortress of Scotland’, the other two being given as Dunkeld and Dumbarton. Thus the moor is the western boundary and remains so, despite having been surveyed by army engineers in the 1960s, with the intention of building a road. To the south-west about halfway down the south side of Loch Laidon is the aptly named Allt Crìche, Boundary Burn, which marks the county boundary.
Sìdh Chailleann with the sgrìob visible in snow
The other prominent feature is the well-known mountain Schiehallion, which marks the south-east limit. Sìdh Chailleann is the mountain of the Caledonians and the name of the Caledonii of the Romans is to be found in two other place-names, Dùn Chailleann, Dunkeld, the hillfort of the Caledonians and Ràth Chailleann, Rohallion, the earthen mound fort of the Caledonians, a few miles from Dunkeld. Sìdh Chailleann’s great claim to fame is that it is where Dr. Maskelyne worked out the weight of the world in 1774.
The road runs through Srath Fionan, as marked on maps, but I cannot recall ever hearing it being referred to as such. Once at the east end, you enter Strath Tummel at Braes of Foss, Bràigh Fasaidh, the high ground of the cattle stance. Shortly after that is reached Tom a’ Phubaill, the hillock of the hunting or herding hut, site of the skirmish between the Earraghaidhealaich and the Athallaich, the Argyll and the Atholl men and the subject of Iain Lom’s poem, Blàr Tom a’ Phubaill. There is an old belief in Scotland and Ireland that mountains are inhabited by a cailleach or hag, which is reckoned to be the freezing spirit of winter and infertility. Sidh Chailleann had its own cailleach and she left a sgrìob or furrow in the mountain.
The river which flows from Loch Rannoch is erroneously called the Tummel, which in itself should be a clue as rivers are always named after the loch they exit not the one they enter. Its proper Gaelic name is an Dubhag, the little black one, and is bridged at Ceann Loch, Kinloch Rannoch, and again at Drochaid Chaoineachain, Tummel Bridge. The bridge in Kinloch was built in 1764 with money raised from the annexed estates, that in Kynachan by John Stewart for General Wade in 1730.
Tummel Bridge or more properly Kyneachan Bridge
The final border to the north-east is by Trinafour, Trian a’ Phùir, the Pasture Third, and Glen Errochty, Gleann Eireachdaidh, Glen of the Assembly/Council/Court, This direction is less of a border and more of an access as it was all Robertson territory of old. This north-east route is overlooked by Beinn a’ Chuallaich, the Herding Mountain.
North and south of Loch Rannoch are ranges of hills although with various passes through them, but clear enough to form the rest of the boundary. The two sides of the loch are known as an Slios Mìn and an Slios Garbh, the smooth side and the rough side, north and south respectively. These descriptions are quite apt as the north, i.e. south facing, side is the more fertile. The west end of an Slios Garbh is known as Bràigh Raineach, the Braes of Rannoch or upper part of Rannoch. This is a well-known faux ami, where ‘bràigh’ doesn’t mean a brae, but the upper part of a district, such as Bràigh Loch Abair, the upper part of Lochaber, or Bràigh Mhàrr, Braemar, the upper part of Mar. Further illustrating the ‘shuas is shìos’ or ‘up and down’ aspect of the country is the name Bun Raineach, Bunrannoch, bottom or lower part of Rannoch, which refers to the east end of the loch on the Slios Garbh. Much of the Slios Garbh is made up of the Coille Dhubh or Black Wood, which can be seen in the first illustration. The Blackwood is one of the still extant remains of the Caledonian forest and was famous for its supply of timber, being ferried down the river Dubhag and eventually into the Tay.
From a historian’s point of view, one of the most interesting studies is where human settlement was to be found and which townships were the most important as regards population. The Rev. Duncan MacAra, minister of the Parish of Fortingall, which included Rannoch, states in the Old Statistical Account 1790-91 ‘In Ranoch, there are 32 villages in the parish, and 3 belonging to the parish of Logierait.’ Village, I imagine to be his translation of the Gaelic baile which would be nearer a ‘fermtoun’ in size. The parish anomaly will be dealt with later in this paper. In the present time by far and away the most important settlement is Kinloch Rannoch, Ceann Loch Raineach, which can be seen in the first illustration.
It now spans both sides of the river Dubhag on account of the bridge mentioned above but the original settlement was on the north side. It was a planted village founded by the Commissioners of the Forfeited Estates and designed for ex-soldiers, presumably in the belief that they would be loyal to the Hanoverian settlement. There were to be two such settlements, Kinloch Rannoch at the east end of the loch and the more obviously imported Georgetown at the west end. T. C. Smout states that while a similar settlement in Callander had flourished, Kinloch Rannoch ‘was on the other hand a moral disaster – the Commissioners found that their soldiers, ‘honest and industrious’ though they were meant to be, had brought venereal disease to north Perthshire.’
Pont's map of Rannoch.
The place-name evidence on maps only becomes available fairly late on historically. Timothy Pont was the first of the Scottish mapmakers but doesn’t seem to have penetrated Rannoch though he stravaiged much of the country on foot. He mentions three of the local castles, Blair, Menzies and Garth though outwith Rannoch but does show an island in Loch Rannoch, marked ylen, the Gaelic eilean.
Then and now - Eilean nam Faoileag, the Island of Gulls.
I continued by discussing the various settlement names, followed by the religious ones, which lack of space prohibits here but see the reference at the end of this article. Finally I analysed the hill and water names and types by frequency, and also the height range of the hills. By far and above the most common names are meall which has 44 examples, closely followed by creag with 39 and trailing with 23 is tom. The rest are all in single figures with tòrr and càrn having 8 mentions each, sròn and cnoc 7, sìdh and sìdhean 6, druim also with six but 8 if we count low-lying Drumchastle and Drumchaoin, beinn with only 5, stob with 4 and leac/leacann and dùn/an with 3, leathad and tulach with a possible 3. Single examples are names such as stùc and sgùrran which, of course are commoner further north and west in more rugged country. Meall essentially refers to a rounded lump of a hill, and they average between 400 to a 1000 feet. Peter Drummond in his Scottish Hill and Mountain Names writes ‘There are nearly as many mealls in Scotland as there are beinns – approximately a thousand – yet beinns outnumber them nearly three to one among the higher peaks as listed in the Munro and Corbett tables.’ and ‘ Outside of its Perthshire heartland most mealls are lowly hills…’. Creag is a rock-face and most seem to be between 300 and 850 feet. Tom is often considered to be quite small but in Rannoch the height ranges from just over 200 to around 600 feet. Càrn rises from 350 to 1050 feet and Peter Drummond in his Scottish Hill and Mountain Names suggests they are not all that rocky. Tòrr is between 200 and 550 feet so is more or less the same size as the tom names. Height, of course, cannot tell you the shape of the hill and my inclination would be that the tom ones are more pointed than the tòrr ones. Sròn is surprisingly common given that they are not points going into water but slopes out on the hill. Cnoc is restricted to hills between 300 and 650 feet in height, more or less the same range as tom and tòrr. Sìdhean is quite common, including Sìdh Chailleann and perhaps the influence of the bigger neighbour encouraged the use of the term, but as we know the belief in the little people was wide-spread until recent times. Stob is between 500 and 750 feet but refers to peaks of mountains. The absence of ben is puzzling but as Professor Watson reminds us “The primary meaning of benn is horn, hence peak, and in Ireland the bens are peaked hills.” Given the rounded nature of the Rannoch hills it is maybe not so surprising, then. There are only two, perhaps three, examples of tulach, which are far more common further east, but again usually refer to gentler and grassier hills. Druim is quite low being in the 300 feet range.
As I stated at the start, most of Rannoch is water, namely Loch Rannoch, but I did a quick analysis of the water terms to be found also. Not unsurprisingly most of the names contain allt, to the number of 63. One of the strangest though is Allt Mòr, ostensibly big burn, which when observed on a normal day is not particularly big. However, the original meaning of allt, and the one it still has in Ireland, is not stream, but precipice, which makes perfect sense. This would appear to be the meaning also of Leth-allt, as the example in Staffin in Skye, as a one-sided cliff is feasible whereas it would be impossible to get half a burn. Every year on the third Saturday of August, Rannoch Games are held – so pencil it in in your diaries. One of the events is a race up alongside the Allt Mòr to the hill beside it called Creag Varr, the Rock of the Summit. It takes me all morning to ascend and descend it, but the record is 21 minutes or so. Now the reason I mention this is that there is a fascinating sketch which shows the hill while the area was being surveyed by Redcoats post-Culloden.
‘A Surveying Party in the Field at Kinloch Rannoch , 1749’
In the background you can see Creag Varr and to the west, what existed of Kinloch Rannoch at the time and below is the fruit of their labour: on the right hand side the ‘field copy, as they called it and on the left, ‘the fair copy’.
There are 28 lochans and seven full blown lochs: Loch Rannoch, Loch Laidoch, Loch Èigheach, Loch na Cailliche, Loch Finnart [Fionn Àird], Loch Monaghan [Mòineachain?] and Loch Mheugaidh. Loch Eìgheach as any Gaelic speaker recognises is the shouting loch, and the latter four respectively the lochs of the old woman, the white point, the peat and the whey, presumably from its murkiness. Loch Laidon a major contributor to this whole water system has varied from Laidoch to Laidon on maps over the centuries. Is it related to laogh, in the sense of deer calves as Beinn Laoghail, Ben Loyal, is in Dùthaich MhicAoidh?
Next there are seven examples of caochan. Dwelly’s Dictionary describes caochan as a streamlet and a purling rill, so the essence of the meaning is that it bubbles up like the wash in whisky-making, which is its other meaning. There are three eas, waterfall names, four fèiths, bog channels, surprisingly only two inbhirs, burn or river mouths, a comraidh, confluence, an abhainn, river and a tiobairt, well or spring. Historically tiobairt was the genitive case of the word tipra, a form of tobar and it is not uncommon in Scotland, such as Tibbermore near Perth or, indeed, Tipperary, in Ireland. Finally, there is an English water, Dunalastair Water. This is man-made as a result of the hydro-electric schemes and the nearby road was prone to flooding because of it. Prior to this it was, at least in part, Lòn Mòr Las an Tulaich, the big meadow of Lassintulloch.
To conclude, I will cast a swift glance over the fauna and flora of the area. The following creatures are mentioned: losgann – toad, biorach – heifer or colt, clamhan – buzzard, boc – billy-goat, torc – wild boar, iolaire – eagle, fiadh – deer, mucarach – pigplace, each – horse, meann – kid, fitheach – raven, faoileag – gull, tonnag – duck, aighean – young hinds, crodh – cattle, madadh - fox or wolf, earban – roe deer, bò – cow, sligean – shells, breac – trout, iasg mòr – big fish, meanbh-chrodh – sheep and goats mixed together, calmag – possibly pigeon, cuileag – fly, còrr – possibly heron, gobhar – goat, sionnach – fox, damh – stag, feadag – plover, tàrmachan – ptarmigan. In addition to the creatures themselves, there are also brachlach – badger’s den and saobhaidh – lair and two fishing terms cairidh – a stone fish trap or weir and cliabhan – a creel trap. I cannot explain the shells which appear in Lochan Ruighe nan Sligean, the little loch of the shell sheiling. There is also the strange case of Leacann nan Giomach steep shelving ground of the lobsters, which I can only take to be a shortened form of gìomanach, excellent hunter.
The flowers, trees and plants mentioned are iubhar – yew, caorann – rowan, gormag –the dictionary suggests colt’s foot, but it is a yellow flower, feàrn – alder, giuthas – pine, riasg – sedgegrass, fiantag – heathberry, critheann – aspen, conasg – whin, beithe – birch, seileach – willow, samhnach – sorrel, raineach – bracken, bealaidh – broom, darach – oak, biora – prickle, fraoch – heather, dearcag – berry, and cluaran – thistle. In addition there are the words craobh – tree, bad – clump, doire – copse, coille – wood, gad – withy, and connadh – fuel.
There is an idiom which says cho Albannach ri Siorramachd Pheairt, ‘as Scottish as Perthshire’. I hope this article has given you some idea of the Gaelic heritage as preserved in place-names in the district of Rannoch.
*A fuller article can be found in the latest volume of The Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, Vol. LXVI, PP. 47 – 103, including detailed appendices of every name to be found in Rannoch.
Iain MacIlleChiar (from his talk at the Inverness conference, May 2015).
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
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/
Compiled by Simon Taylor, with input from Richard Cox, Carole Hough, Alan James, Arne Kruse, Alan Macniven and Bill Patterson, this is the first bibliography of recent Scottish place-name related publications to appear in SPNNews since issue 37 (Autumn 2014). 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, the most recently available being ‘Bibliography for 2012’ (Nomina 36 (2013), 141–50), published 2015. 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 (2010), 173-86, then in each issue from JSNS 5 (2011) for the year preceding publication. Note that from JSNS 6 (2012) onwards, all editions are online only. An extensive, though by no means exhaustive, bibliography of Scottish toponymics, set out thematically and regionally, can be found at
Atkinson, Dan, and Brown, Graeme, 2015, with contributions from Morag Cross, Simon Taylor and Julie Franklin, ‘A late medieval farmstead at Corsankell, near Stevenston, North Ayrshire’, Scottish Archaeological Journal 36–7, 197–215.
Braithwaite, Michael E., 2016, Howes and Knowes: an introduction to Berwickshire place-names (The Berwickshire Naturalists’ Club).
Breeze, Andrew, 2013, ‘Northumbria and the Family of Rhun’, Northern History 50, 170-9.
Broderick, George, 2015, ‘*Pixti/*Pexti, Picti? The Name ‘Picti’ Revisited’, Journal of Scottish Name Studies 9, 9–42.
Broun, Dauvit, 2015, ‘Statehood and lordship in ‘Scotland’ before the mid-twelfth century’, Innes Review 66 (1), 1–71 [important discussion of pett and baile names pp. 53-5].
Carroll, Jayne, and Parsons, David N., ed., 2013, Perceptions of Place: Twenty-First-Century Interpretations of English Place-Name Studies, ed. Jayne Carroll and David N. Parsons (English Place-Name Society, Nottingham) [many important chapters relating to English place-names and place-name studies with high relevance to Scotland; for one chapter specifically on Scotland, see Clancy 2013; there are also chapters on English place-names in Ireland (Kay Muhr) and in Wales (Hywel Wyn Owen), as well as Brittonic place-names in England (Oliver Padel)]
Clancy, Thomas Owen, 2014, ‘Saints in the Scottish landscape’, in Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium 2013, ed. L. A. Brannelly, G. Henley and K. O’Neill, Series no. 33 (Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts), 1-34.
Clancy, Thomas Owen, 2015, ‘St Donnan of Eigg: Context and Cult’, e-publication through Eigg History Society available on: http://www.spanglefish.com/eigghistorysociety/index.asp?pageid=616291.
Dunlop, Leonie, and Hough, Carole, 2014, ‘Colour terms in the names of coastal and inland features: A study of four Berwickshire parishes’, in Colour Studies: A broad spectrum, ed. Wendy Anderson, Carole P. Biggam, Carole Hough and Christian Kay, 307–22 (Glasgow)
Edmonds, Fiona, 2015, ‘Norse Influence in North-West England: Jocelin of Furness’s Interpretation of the Name Waltheof’, Journal of Scottish Name Studies 9, 43–62.
James, Alan G., 2014, ‘Cumbric trev in Kyle, Carrick, Galloway and Dumfriesshire’, Transactions of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society 88, 21-42.
James, Alan G., 2014, ‘Elements of Latin Origin in P-Celtic Place-names between the Walls’, Journal of Scottish Name Studies 8, 1–50.
King, Jacob, 2014, ‘Aberlady and Abersuainie’, Journal of Scottish Name Studies 8, 158-66.
King, Jacob, and Clyne, Heather, nd , Gaelic in the Landscape: The Rough Bounds of Lochaber / A’ Ghàidhlig air Aghaidh na Tìre: Garbh-Crìochan Loch Abar (Scottish Natural Heritage/Dualchas Nàdair na h-Alba and Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba/Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland) [available free online on http://www.snh.gov.uk/publications-data-and-research/publications/search-the-catalogue/publication-detail/?id=2064 ]
King, Jacob, with Eilidh Scammell, nd , Gaelic in the Landscape: Place-names of Strath, Isle of Skye / A’ Ghàidhlig air Aghaidh na Tìre: Ainmean-Àite an t-Sratha, An t-Eilean Sgitheanach (Scottish Natural Heritage/Dualchas Nàdair na h-Alba and Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba/Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland) [available free online on http://www.snh.gov.uk/publications-data-and-research/publications/search-the-catalogue/publication-detail/?id=2374 ]
Livingston, Alistair, 2012, ‘Gaelic in Galloway: Part Two – Contraction’, Transactions of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society 86, 63-76.
MacFarlane, John, 2014, ‘Some Traditions, Tales and Sayings in the Placenames of Muckairn [Argyll]’, Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness 66 (2010-2013), 174-83 [paper read April 2011].
MacIlleChiar, Iain, 2014, ‘The Place-names of Rannoch’, Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness 66 (2010-2013), 47-103 [paper read January 2007].
MacKay, Rebecca S., 2014, Gach cùil is cèal: Eilean Ratharsair, Eilean Rònaigh, Eilean Fhladaigh is Eilean Taighe: ainmeannan àite: fìrinn is faoin-sgeul, Earann 2/ Every nook and cranny: Raasay, Rona, Fladda and Eilean Taighe: placenames: fact and fiction, Part 2 (Raasay Heritage Trust).
Macniven, Alan, 2015, The Vikings in Islay: the Place of Names in Hebridean Settlement History (Edinburgh).
McNiven, Peter, 2013, ‘Place-names of Menteith’ (Part 2), History Scotland 13, No. 1 (Jan/Feb), 36-41.
McNiven, Peter, 2014, ‘Place-names and the Medieval Church in Menteith’, Journal of Scottish Name Studies 8, 51-92.
McNiven, Peter, 2014, ‘The Lake of Menteith: Why a lake amongst lochs?’, Journal of Scottish Name Studies 8, 153-58.
Márkus, Gilbert, 2015, Brilliant Flame: St Munnu in medieval literature and his church at Kilmun in Cowal (Kilmartin Museum Trust, Kilmartin, Argyll) [with sections on the saint’s name in place-names and personal names].
Martin, Angus, 2013, Kintyre Places and Place-Names (The Grimsay Press, Kilkerran).
O’Grady, Oliver J. T., 2014, ‘Judicial Assembly Sites in Scotland: Archaeological and Place-Name Evidence of the Scottish Court Hill’ Medieval Archaeology 58, 104-35.
O’Neill, Pamela, 2013, ‘The Meaning of Muirbolc: a Gaelic Toponymic Mystery’, in Celts and their Cultures at Home and Abroad: A Festschrift for Malcolm Broun, ed. Pamela O’Neill and Anders Ahlqvist (Sydney Series in Celtic Studies 15, University of Sydney), 227-51.
Puzey, Guy and Kostanski Laura (eds), 2016, ‘Names and Naming: People, Places, Perceptions and Power’ (Bristol)
Taylor, Simon, 2014 ‘The Medieval Parish in Scotland’, Journal of Scottish Name Studies 8, 93–114.
Taylor, Simon, 2015, “ ‘StronPatnaHachalas or the Oxterhill’: place-names and language-contact in the Beauly area, Inverness-shire”, Journal of Scottish Name Studies 9, 63–82.
Whyte, Alasdair C., 2014 ‘Gruline, Mull, and Other Inner Hebridean Things’, Journal of Scottish Name Studies 8, 115-52.
Williamson, Eila, 2015, ‘hence the name’: Berwickshire parishes along the Anglo-Scottish Border as described in the Ordnance Survey Name Books, Journal of Scottish Name Studies 9, 83-96.
‘Names and Naming: People, Places, Perceptions and Power’ (edited by Guy Puzey and Laura Kostanski) is available for half of the usual price of £39.95 until 31st May 2016. Use discount code PREORDER 50 at checkout, through www.multilingual-matters.com.
free publication, available in digital form only)
Eighth-century Reference to the Monastery at Hoddom
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
of Scottish Name Studies for 2011
Contributions to future issues should be forwarded in paper and electronic (WORD or .rtf) formats to the publisher, Clann Tuirc, at email@example.com 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.
McNiven, Peter Edward (2011) Gaelic place-names and the social history of Gaelic speakers in medieval Menteith. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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:
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
Professor W. F. H. Nicolaisen
It is with great sadness that we must convey the passing of Professor W. F. H. Nicolaisen.
'Bill' Nicolaisen, as he was known to his friends, was a scholar
of international renown. He was head of the Scottish Place-Name
Survey at the University of Edinburgh from 1956-69, before
commencing a long tenure as a professor at the State University
of New York, and in later years at the University of Aberdeen.
His contribution to the study of Scottish Place-Names is
unparalleled, with dozens of articles on all aspects of the
toponymy of Scotland written over his long and productive
academic career, in addition to his benchmark textbook Scottish
Place-Names (1976, 2001). He will be very greatly missed.
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.
John Kerr: an appreciation.
It is with sadness that I have to intimate the death of John Kerr of Old Struan on 25th July 2015 at the age of 83. John had devoted much of his later life to researching and disseminating every aspect of Atholl history, social, legal, agrarian, toponymic. Along with his wife, Patricia, he was a stalwart member and supporter of the Scottish Place-Name Society from its early days, giving a paper to an SPNS Conference in May 1999 entitled 'Along an Atholl Boundary' . He was also a Fellow of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries, and an honorary research fellow at the Centre for Celtic and Scottish Studies, University of Glasgow.
John, a Londoner by birth, was a regular holiday visitor to Applecross in the 1960s but interest in that area was superseded through a chance encounter with Alec MacRae, then the proprietor of the Blair Atholl garage, when he stopped in passing to buy petrol. They quickly discovered a mutual interest in old roads and local history, which led to a lifelong friendship. Through Alec, John became a member of the Gaelic Society of Inverness in 1972 and gave eight papers on various aspects of Atholl history over the following years. What was initially a holiday interest became a lifetime passion and after renting summer accommodation every year from 1984, he lived full time in Old Struan from 1990.
John’s study-area was north Atholl, roughly defined by the medieval parishes of Blair, Kilmaveonaig, Lude and Struan, later combined as the civil parish of Blair Atholl. Over time John familiarised himself not only with every corner of this large Highland parish, but also with its rich documentary archive, in both public and private hands, above all that held at Blair Castle. It was his intimate knowledge of both landscape and archival material that made him such an outstanding local historian, combined with the fact that he was an excellent communicator, both through the spoken and written word. He gave lectures around the country, and published on a wide range of Atholl history, as his bibliography, set out below, eloquently testifies.
However, he took local history to a new level through The Atholl Experience. In collaboration with his wife, Patricia, also a local historian, he brought together in a systematic, comprehensive and user-friendly way all the documentation, sources and images which they had collected and researched for his books, articles and lectures over a period of more than 40 years.
The Atholl Experience consists of 42 Volumes in 93 archival boxes. Officially launched at Old Blair on 1st August 2007, it was presented to the A. K. Bell Library in Perth. It is digitised, and the intention is to make it available on the web.
John’s passion for Atholl history was deeply rooted in the landscape. Upland Atholl is full of the founds and names of deserted shielings, and I think it is safe to say that John had visited every one, and knew each one by name. Atholl is also crisscrossed with old estate boundaries, all of which were marked and carefully observed. Boundary stones with initials such as R for Robertson of Lude or A for Atholl were once found even on the most remote moors, but are now largely lost under the heather. However, by careful study of estate plans, as well as by days of walking, John managed to locate literally dozens of these.
As a millennium project in conjunction with the Blair Charitable Trust and Fealar Estate, he also located all the 19th-century milestones which once marked the miles on five of the estate tracks leading out from Blair Castle, including those in Glen Tilt as far as the county boundary with Aberdeenshire, where there were 13 in Atholl and two across the Falls of Tarf on the Fealar side. In all, seven new stones were set up and carved with the relevant numbers to replace the missing ones, while those that had tumbled were reset upright.
In his later years, when he was unable to walk the long, rough ways to shielings and along boundaries, he organised a series of walks for a small, enthusiastic group of Athollites and Fifers, myself among the latter. He would brief us carefully on everything we might see along the way, supplying us with the relevant extracts from the 25-inch Ordnance Survey maps. With generous cooperation from the Atholl Estate, which included the use of a state-of-the-art Discovery to access the furthest-flung corners of Atholl, John and Patricia would drive us to the starting point, make sure we were going in the right direction, then at the end of the day meet us with tea and cakes and drive us back to Old Struan or Blair for an evening meal.
Our side of the bargain was, apart from not getting lost, giving a full illustrated report of all shielings visited and boundary stones located. In this way we were able to cover in a day what could otherwise easily have been a several-day hike, such as the Minigaig Pass and Comyn’s Road from Atholl to Speyside, Glen Tilt to Linn of Dee, and Glen Tilt via Fealar Lodge to Strathardle.
The first of our Atholl walks was in 2002, and, with the occasional lapse, they became treasured annual events until the last one in 2012.
 A summary of this can be found in SPNNews 7 (Autumn 1999), 3-4 (http://www.spns.org.uk/CtPerth.html). A more detailed study of this boundary appeared in his article with the same title in Nomina 13 (1990), 73-89.
 The event received prominent coverage in The Times of 2 August 2007, under the head-line in broadest journalese: ‘Meet John Kerr, Scotland’s walking Doomsday Book’! An account of the launch can also be found on http://www.spns.org.uk/CtPerth.html.
 To try to help understand the meaning of the local place-names he studied Gaelic at the City Lit in London for three years but never claimed to be fluent!