Some Galloway Glens Place-Names

The Place-Names of the Galloway Glens (PNGG) makes available the data which will be included in the first volume of The Place-Names of Kirkcudbrightshire.

The following notes offer some alternative derivations for Cat Strand, Donaldbuie and Wally Stane, as well as an earlier record of the The Score and two additional Monk place-names to add to the cluster in Crossmichael.

Cat Strand, Kells

PNGG derives Cat Strand from SSE cat + SSE strand. Another possibility is offered by John Mactaggart’s Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia (1824, p. 128) which defines CATSTRAN’ as ‘a very small stream’. There is a Catstrand in Dumfries and a Cats’ Strand in Ruthwell. I’ve written about these names here: Catstran’.

Donaldbuie, Kells

PNGG notes that Gaelic Dòmhmall buidhe ‘Golden-haired Donald’ is a possible, but unusual, derivation for Donaldbuie. I think ‘Donald’ here likely a reanalysis of dùn + allt, with Dolandbuie (along with Dunaldboys WIG and Donald Bowie AYR) formed from the Gaelic elements dùn + allt + buidhe. This could mean either ‘fort of the yellow burn’ or ‘fort of the cliff/side of a steep glen’.

Both Dunaldboys WIG and Donald Bowie AYR sit on cliffs by the sea. Donald Bowie is also near a cluster of short steep sided glens whose names begin with Alt-. The location and character of Dolandbuie is somewhat different. Aside from being inland it’s not particularly near a burn or steep-side glen. It’s a large, oval rocky outcrop which may be the referent of the allt part of the name. I’m going to visit the three ‘Yellow Donalds’ shortly and am currently looking at other allt names in southern Scotland so hopefully I’ll have more to say about these names in the not too distant future.

The Monks Loch and Monks Mount, Crossmichael

PNGG records three Monk names in Crossmichael: Monks Muir Smithy, Monks Muir Mil,l and the inferred *Monks Muir. The 1829 Plan of the Estate of Greenlaw adds another two Monk names to the list: The Monks Loch and Monks Mount. Notably, neither are derived from *Monks Muir.

Untitled [Plan of the Estate of Greenlaw in the Parish of Crossmichael], c. 1829
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

The Score, Kells

In Lowran Castle, or the Wild Boar of Curridoo: with other tales, illustrative of the superstitions, manners, and customs of Galloway (1822, p. 111), in the final paragraph of ‘Forester the Dauntless’, The Score is referred to as The Witch Score:

“The witch score drawn by young Knocksheen, is seen to the present day on Waterside hill, in the parish of Kells; and for many a year Captain Newall, of Waterside, and his brother Charles, cleaned it every Halloween morning with their own hands, and drank a cup of the best claret in their cellar, to the memory of FORESTER THE DAUNTLESS.”

This is the only reference I’ve found to the name Witch Score. In Trotter’s Galloway Gossip (1901) the tales ‘Forrester’s Circle‘ and ‘Commemoration‘ refer to the site as The Score.

Wally Stane, Kells

PNGG offers Scots WALLIE ‘fine, pleasant; big and strong; large, imposing’ as the first element in Wally Stane. Another option is Scots WALL-EE (‘well-eye’) ‘a water-logged place in a bog from which a spring rises; a spring, a well’. This element appears elsewhere in PNGG in the entry for Rig of Wellees. The OS 25-inch map shows a well and a reservoir (though this might not be as relevant) not far from the Wally Stane.

It’s worth noting too that the Name Book entry for Wellgate in Hawick, ROX [OS1/29/15/71] lists Walligate as spelling variant. Wally Cleuch ‘a ravine or hollow on the farm of Fairnly through which flows a small stream’ [OS1/15/16/40] in East Lothian might also be relevant. Wallyford, Inveresk probably isn’t. Dixon’s The Place Names of Midlothian (1933, p. 135) cites very early forms of the name and provides the following definition: ‘Ford over the river (Esk)’ v. OE wælle-ford’.

Kirkcudbrightshire XIII.13 Revised: 1894, Published: 1895
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

An Orthographic Shibboleth in Drummore

The sign for the house FINTRY in Drummore (Wigtownshire) approaches the limit for how small a segment of name can be and still index a relationship with a place. Here it’s not the spelling of the name or even the font it’s written in, but a single allograph – the individual realisation of a particular letter – which links the name of the house to the village it’s part of.

Fintry’s house sign, 21 July 2020

The N of Fintry is written back-to-front. Anywhere else this might be interpreted as an idiosyncrasy (perhaps signalling some Cyrillic association) or simply as a mistake. However, in Drummore the backwards N is instantly familiar from KIИG’S HALL on Mill Street. How King’s Hall ended up with its N reversed is a mystery (I suspect here it was a mistake, and a fairly galling one at that) but it’s been a recognisable feature of the village for the approximately 100 years the building has been there. Carving – not just painting – Fintry as FIИTRY seems like it must have been a reference to the conspicuous И on Drummore’s main street.

King’s Hall, 11 April 2022

Scripts, fonts and individual letters index relationships with places. You can make a reasonable assumption about where in the world a signpost written in Cyrillic is from; and the appearance of just the letter thorn <þ> in a (modern) place-name identifies it as Icelandic. Drummore’s И is special because this orthographic variant is associated not with a region or a country but a village of 310 people.

The sign has been repainted since I took the photo above and the И has been altered to N, though you can still make out the И carved into the wood beneath the paint. It’s a shame it’s gone. It would be nice if Drummore leaned into its orthographic distinctiveness and started swapping N for И on its signs.

Fintry’s house sign, 10 April 2022

Of course, Fintry’s И could be completely coincidental but Roland Barthes has dealt with that.