Eel Place-Names

Eels were an important part of the medieval and early modern economy, so it’s surprising that we don’t see more of them in place-names. There are only two Dumfries and Galloway eel place-names recorded on the first edition Ordnance Survey six-inch to the mile maps: Blue Eel Pool, Dryfesdale/Tundergarth DMF and Eel Spring Strand, Balmaclellan KCB.

The Ordnance Survey is a fantastic record of place-names, but it isn’t the only one. There are plenty of place-names which didn’t make onto this map, including those that mention eels. So far I’ve found three in D&G. There are probably more out there to be found.

Eelburn, Troqueer KCB NX 963 694

Eelburn is marked as two buildings – no doubt named from the burn – on Ainslie’s 1797 map of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. Neither the buildings nor the name make it to the OS. The burn itself isn’t given a name either.

Stewartry of Kirkcudbright [south east section], John Ainslie 1797
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Eeel Hole, Kirkmahoe DMF NX 957 897

Eeel Hole is now buried under forestry. It’s not on a watercourse but the 1779 estate map – the only record of the name – shows that it was located at the south west end of a moss [a (peat) bog]. It holds the record for most consecutive <e>s in a Scottish place-name. (If we’re ignoring spaces, Little Eela Water, Wee Eldrick, Blue Eel Pool, and Bee Edge would tie it.)

The Farm of Auchengieth [Kirkmahoe], the Property of Robt Brown Esq, 1779
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Eelholes, Tongland KCB NX 714 589

This name is recorded in the OS Name Books as Eelhole, but for whatever reason doesn’t appear on the map. The Name Book description is as follows: “A small cottage in indiffer[ent] repair on the farm of H[igh] Barncrosh & the prope[rty] of Jas. Carrickmoore of Corswall Wigtown Shir[e]” OS1/20/130/28.

Stewartry of Kirkcudbright [South east section], John Ainslie 1797
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

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