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

Miscellaneous Map Finds

A list of notable names that don’t (yet) have a place elsewhere on this site.

Sleu na Man, KCB NX 54 54

This name, which is fairly certain to be Gaelic sliabh na mBan ‘hill/moor of the women’ is only found on this map (thanks to Michael Klevenhaus and Alan James for suggesting the etymology). It is notable for adding another slaibh-name to the list collected by Simon Taylor in Sliabh in Scottish Place-names: its meaning and chronology (JNSN 1, 2007, pp. 99-136).

Gallovidiae pars media quae Deam et Cream fluvios interjacet, [vulgo], The Middle part of Galloway, which lyeth betweene the rivers Dee and Cree / auct. Timoth. Pont., 1654
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Cuddle Cosy, Crossmichael KCB NX 766 644

This is only the second Cuddle Cosy I am aware of. The other is a field in Borgue. Just down the road is Doddle Denty (NX 765 641).

Kirkcudbrightshire Sheet XLIII.NW Date revised: 1894, Date Published: 1895
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Keekafar, Leswalt WIG NW 997 595

This name is marked on the current OS, around the site of Glaik on the OS 1st ed. By the 2nd ed., Glaik had moved to its current position. Although the name here is not marked on the 1st or 2nd ed., there are two Keekafars in Ayrshire recorded on the 1st ed. in Maybole (NS 287 146) and Kirkoswald (NS 256 062). The Name Book entries are as follows:

  • Maybole: “A small cothouse one storey high slated and in good repair. John Rankin Esqr. Proprietor. Probably so called from the extensive view which this place commands.” OS1/3/46/54
  • Kirkoswald: “A small heathy-pasture hill, [it] takes its name from the distant [view] which may be had of the surrounding country from its [summit] [property of] the Marquis of Ailsa” OS1/3/40/50

Like the two Ayrshire examples, this place looks to have commanding views – in this case west down to the sea. I can’t find a record earlier than the OS app on my phone, so it’s hard to know when the name was coined. It’s also difficult to say whether this was an independent coinage or a name transferred (appropriately) from Ayrshire. Someone in the area might know the answer.

Viewy Knowe, Canonbie DMF NY 322 799

Viewy Knowe is another place with an impressive viewshed. Although described by the Name Book (see below) as a ‘small’ hill, it stands at 652 feet and commands a 360 degree view. Although completely transparent, VIEWY isn’t record as a toponymic or lexical element as far as I’m aware. The OED entry for VIEWY only has the following senses:

  • 1a) Of a person: inclined to adopt speculative or unsubstantiated views; having a tendency to be impractical, polemical, or opinionated.
  • 1b) Of a theory, piece of writing, etc.: characterized by speculative or unsubstantiated views; polemical or opinionated.
  • 2) Originally slang. Pleasant or attractive in appearance; showy.

Name Book entry: “Is a small round hill on the farm of Kerr the Surface of which is covered with heathy pasture, & on its Summit, stands a Trigl. [Trigonometrical] Station.” OS1/10/4/61

Dumfriesshire, Sheet LIII Survey date: 1857,  Publication date: 1862
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Looky Knowe, Penpont NS 794 002

Like VIEWY, this use of LOOKY is transparent but idiosyncratic. The OED records LOOKY as a verb “Chiefly in imperative. Used to draw or direct attention; ‘see’, ‘observe’, ‘take note’.”

Name Book entry: “A small rocky knoll on the southern should of Woodend Hill from which an extensive view of the surrounding country is obtained”. OS1/10/42/129

Dumfriesshire, Sheet XXI Survey date: 1856,  Publication date: 1861
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Gowk Nest Wood, Inch WIG NX 166 652

GOWK is Scots ‘cuckoo’. It occurs fairly frequently in place-names. However, cuckoos don’t build their own nests and the to build a gowk’s nest is “to make something wonderful but absurd, to produce a ‘mare’s nest'”.

There is no wood here on the OS 1st ed. Perhaps the name was some comment on the suitability of this site for a plantation. Whatever the case, the wood is going strong today.

Wigtownshire Sheet XII.NE Date revised: 1893, Date Published: 1896
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Jubilee Wood and Abdication Wood, Tynron DMF NX 760 962

These adjacent woods are marked on the 1st and 2nd ed. OS six-inch maps but are unnamed on both (the grid reference is for the mid point between the woods). Abdication Wood is surely a reference to the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936. I’d hazard a guess that Jubilee Wood was named for the Silver Jubilee of George V in 1935, though Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 and her Diamond Jubilee in 1897 (both of which occurred after the publication of the OS 2nd ed.) are also options. The 1977 Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II strikes me as too late for a pairing with Abdication Wood.

Dumfriesshire, Sheet XXI Survey date: 1856,  Publication date: 1861 [Jubille Wood is on the left; Abdication Wood is on the right.]
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Beebinklees, Lochmaben DMF NY 093 852

This is listed as Beebinks on the OS six-inch 1st ed. However, three of the four entries in the Various modes of Spelling the same Names column are Beebinklees, which is the name given on the six-inch 2nd ed. Scots BEE-BINK is ‘a bee-hive’. BINK was a new word to me; I was more familiar with BYKE, well known from Tam o’ Shanter:

As bees bizz out wi’ angry fyke,
When plundering herds assail their byke

Name Book entry: “A dwelling house offices and farm, property of Sir Wm Jardine. In the district around this is in a short way named Beebinks. Beebinks’ Leas seems to be the correct mode.” OS1/10/36/40

Dumfriesshire, Sheet XLII Survey date: 1857,  Publication date: 1861
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Estate Map Gleanings 3

Another trip down the estate map mines. You can read the earlier posts here: Estate Map Gleanings & Estate Map Gleanings 2.

‘Unhained’, Morton DMF

UNHAINED is Scots ‘unenclosed’. The DSL’s only citation is from a poem by Forbes MacGreggor, published in 1991:

“He sees the unhained Hieland glen
He brookt or he was glaikt by men.”

Older Scots HAIN is ‘to fence in, enclose; to protect in this way’. The definition from 1700- is more specific: ‘to enclose or protect a field or wood by a hedge or fence ; to preserve grassland from cattle for hay or winter pasture. Gen. found as ppl.adj. hain(e)d, of a grass crop: kept for hay, allowed to lie without being pastured; of a plantation: preserved from cutting’.

Unhained usefully fills a lexical gap and I’m surprised it isn’t used more often. It appears four times on this map. In each case it’s written in pencil so it is hard to know if it’s a later addition or from an early draft which has not been inked onto the plan, as is often the case on the Queensbury Estate Plans. Whatever the case, this map provides us with a record of unhained that’s much earlier than 1991 and used in a different context.

The Farm of Drum with the Lands taken from it & Drumshinnoch and added to Holestane, 1851
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Fairy Knowes, Durisdeer DMF

One of the attractions of studying estate plans is finding names that aren’t recorded on the OS. It’s fairly common to see traces of pencil sketches and notes that have subsequently been inked in on these plans. For whatever reason, some of the names that are pencilled in weren’t upgraded to ‘official status’. This example, at NS 864 109, is significant for adding another Fairy Knowe to the list of such sites in D&G; there are just six recorded in the region on the OS 2nd ed. six-inch maps.

These faint pencil entries are easy to miss when looking at estate plans. I’ve found a fair few but plenty will have slipped through the net. I’m sure there will be others too faint to have been picked up when the plans were scanned.

Holestane & Waulk-Mill, 1848
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

North & South Teux Holm, Dryfesdale DMF; Tukestone Braes, Kirkconnel DMF

Scots TOUK is ‘an embankment or jetty built to prevent erosion of soil on the bank of a river, side of a ditch, etc.’ The only occurrence of this word in D&G on the OS 2nd ed. six-inch maps is The Tooks in Kirkmahoe (NX 953 828), which the Name Book describes as ‘a deep pool in the River Nith.’

North Teux Holm and South Teux Holm, which sit by the old and new courses of the Annan, are well-sited for touks. Tukestone Braes sits by the Nith.

Shillahill, 1854
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Upper Cairn and McCrierick’s Cairn, 1856
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Makins Burn, Kirkconnel DMF

Scots MAUKIN ‘hare’ is surpringingly rare in place-names. There are only two occurrences of this element in D&G on the OS 2nd ed. six-inch maps: Maukinhowe (with Maukinhowe Burn) in Balmaclellan and Maukins Mire in Half Morton. This map adds a third.

Crockroy and Rigg, 1856
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Poldivan Lake, Closeburn DMF

LAKE is notable for being used as a stream-name in southern Scotland. As these are relatively minor watercourses (though some run for several miles) many aren’t recorded earlier than the 1st ed. six-inch OS maps. The estate maps digitized by DAMP have been a great resource for finding both early records and otherwise unrecorded LAKE names. This record of Poldivan Lake from 1764 is the earliest I’ve found so far.

I talked about this use of LAKE at the SNSBI Spring Conference. My slides are here: Lake as a stream-name in southern Scotland.

Plan of lands belonging to the Duke of Queensberry and Dover in the parish of Closeburn, 1764
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland  

Eeel Hole, Kirkmahoe DMF

Eel place-names are infrequent. This is only the third in D&G. It joins Eel Spring Strand, Balmaclellan and Blue Eel Pool, Tundergarth. It’s the only one spelled with three <e>s.

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

Old Wife’s Syke, Eskdalemuir DMF

This name joins the three D&G Auld Wife’s X place-names on the 1st and 2nd ed. six-inch OS maps: Auld Wife’s Kirn, Kirkpatrick-Juxta; Auld Wife’s Stank, Minnigaff; and Auld Wife’s Grave, Inch. The only other name of this type is Auld Wife’s Lift in Baldernock, STR. Neither of the burns recorded here – Old Wife’s Skye and Blanches Well – are marked on the 1st or 2nd ed. six-inch OS maps.

Plan of Craighaugh Estate in the parish of Eskdalemuir, Dumfries Shire, the property of Robert Laidlaw, 1850
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

The Lairds Cave, Eskdalemuir DMF

The Lairds Cave (NY 242 996) is marked on the map above too. The OS doesn’t mention a cave at all. The closest name is Johnston Linns, which the Name Book describes as ‘A number of small waterfalls’. It would be worth a visit.

Plan of Johnston & Burncleuch in the Parish of Eskdalemuir, Dumfriesshire. The property of Robert Laidlaw, 1850
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Roading Folds

RODDIN(G) is Scots ‘a narrow track or path, specif. one trodden out by sheep; any private unmetalled track or rough road’. There are no place-names which use this element in D&G on the 1st and 2nd ed. six-inch OS maps. There are only 12 names featuring RODDIN(G) on the 2nd ed., almost all of which are in Ayrshire.

Plan of Ecclefechan & Mein Water, 1759
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Two Cow Gangs (Kirkconnel & Durisdeer, DMF) and a Lambgang (Penpont, DMF)

GANG is Scots ‘a pasture; the right of pasturing. Specif.: the pasture on a farm allotted to cows; a certain stretch of ground on a hill-side over which a flock of sheep grazes’. None of these names is recorded on the OS.

The first Cow Gang covers either side of Needle Street in Kirkconnel. The second, like Fairy Knowes above, is a pencil entry. The OS 1st ed. six-inch map shows a field here (NS 840 000).

Lambang (which sits next to Lamb Park) is a field on the farm of Auchenbainzie, Penpont. The name made it onto the 1st ed. six-inch OS as Lambgang Plantation (NX 835 968).

Index Plan of the Lands belonging to His Grace the Duke of Buccleuch & Queensberry in the Parishes of Sanquhar & Kirkconnel in the County of Dumfries and in the Parish of Crawford-John in the County of Lanark, 1856
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Drumlanrig, 1848
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Plan of farms pertaining to the Drumlanrig estate, 1821-1822
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Fortalice Meadow

A fortalice is a ‘fort or fortress’. The Fortalice of Greenlaw is referred to in Fortalice embankment, Fortalice tunnel, and Fortalice meadow on this plan. The Tower and Fortalice of Greenlaw (remains of) is the only occurrence of fortalice on the 2nd ed. six-inch OS maps of Scotland, Wales, and England.

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

Paddock pipes Tunnel, Crossmichael

The same map also records Paddock pipes Tunnel, which has been scored out and replaced with Barony Tunnel. Paddock, more familiar as PUDDOCK, is Scots ‘frog’. Puddock pipes is ‘the marsh horse-tail, a grass of the genus Equisetum‘ or, according to the entry in Mactaggart’s Gallovidian Encylopedia, ‘a moss herb’.

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

Soft Sleechy Sands, Kirkcudbright KCB

SLEECHY is ‘slimy, muddy’. The DSL includes this and other forms under the headwork SLEEK but acknowledges the various forms and meanings ‘may have diverse origins’. OED lists SLEECHY under SLEECH, itself ‘apparently a later form of SLITCH’. The OED’s earliest record for SLEECHY is 1792; the earliest record in DSL is 1795. Both citations are from the Old Statistical Accounts of Scotland. This map provides another early record for the word.

Boreland belonging to the burgh of Kirkcudbright, April 1795
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Gold Well, Terregles KCB

This wee burn is unnamed on the 1st and 2nd ed. six-inch OS maps, though the spring is marked on the current OS. It joins Gold Wells, Dalry and Gold Cleugh, Glencairn as the third gold place-name in D&G. (Goldielea, Troqueer, Goldie Park, Dumfries, and Goldthorpe Knowe, Kells are derived from personal names.)

This is a photo from the 1810 Atlas and Admeasurement of an Estate, Situated in the Parish of Terregles in the Stewartry of Kikcudbright, the Property of Marmaduke Constable Maxwell which I got to see in person as it’s not online. I will eventually get round to posting a list of the names on its maps.

Little London, Lochrutton KCB

A New Dictionary of English Field-Names notes that Little London is a not uncommon name, often referring to ‘land on which rough dwellings had been erected’. It can also refer to ‘land beside a main road’ or to distant fields, neither of which is applicable here. It notes too that the name is ‘also associated with drovers’ camps’. There are no Little Londons recorded on the 1st or 2nd ed. six-inch OS maps.

A Plan of the Loch Rutton Estate comprending the property in Loch Rutton and Urr parishes in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright belonging to Marmaduke Constable Maxwell…1815
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Moss Glairn, Lochrutton KCB

This otherwise unrecorded name appears to be Gaelic name of the type discussed by Thomas Clancy in Gatherings about Moss. MOSS is a Scots word meaning ‘marsh bog; a bog from which peats are dug, a moorland on an estate which is allocated to the tenants for cutting fuel’. However, there are several place-names in southern Scotland – Moss Raploch, Moss Nae, Moss Feather etc. – where Moss represents a Gaelic borrowing of either Old English mos or Old Norse mosi.

The second element of Moss Glairn looks like it could be Gaelic gleadhran ‘wood sorrel; yellow rattle; cockscomb’. (Alan James has suggested that cockscomb here could be Pedicularis palustris.) If not named from a flower, Thomas Clancy suggests a possible derivation from gleadhar ‘noise, rattle’.

Another possibility is that Moss Glairn is a Scots name in inverted element order (see Drumcushat Park below). Moss is fine, but what would Glairn be? Bobby Clark suggests a derivation from GLAUR ‘soft, sticky mud; ooze, slime’. Alan James suggests glairn could be ‘an analogical adjectival form’ of GLAUR. ‘Slimy bog’ would be something of a tautology, but tautologous names are not uncommon. However, I think the balance is probably in favour of this being a Gaelic name

The moss is unnamed on the 1st ed. six-inch OS map but by the 2nd ed. the area has been planted with trees and called Moss Wood. This plan also provides a name for the burn which has its source in the moss and which is unnamed on both the 1st and 2nd ed. OS six-inch maps: Lawston’s Burn (named from the farm of Lawston which it passes).

A Plan of the Loch Rutton Estate comprending the property in Loch Rutton and Urr parishes in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright belonging to Marmaduke Constable Maxwell…1815
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Watercraw Thorn, Durisdeer DMF

Scots WATER-CRAW is the dipper, Cinclus aquaticus. This plan is the only place this tree is named and, as far as I’m aware, the only use of water-craw in a (Scottish) place-name.

Plan of Townhead of Durisdeer, 1830
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Hangman Tree, Durisdeer DMF

Another named tree. There are only 9 Scottish place-names which feature the element hangman on the OS 2nd ed. six-inch maps, including Hangman Hill in Kirkbean. References to gallows and hangings are fairly common in tree-names. There are plenty of examples here: Trees with Names in Dumfries and Galloway.

Drumlanrig, 1848
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Surfaceman’s Cottage, Kirkconnel DMF

A surfaceman, according to the OED, is either a miner who works at the surface or, as is almost certainly the case here: “Originally and chiefly Scottish. A worker responsible for keeping the railway in good repair”. The railway passes the cottage. This is the only surfaceman place-name I am aware of, though others might be preserved in house-names.

Glenwharrie, 1856
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Valleyfield & Lochhill Onsteads, Tongland KCB

ONSTEAD is Scots ‘the houses and buildings forming a farm-stead; a cluster of farm-workers’ houses or the like’. For whatever reason it almost never appears in place-names. The only occurrence on the OS 1st ed. six-inch maps (there are none on the 2nd) is Hill Onstead in Crailing, Roxburghshire.

Plan of the estate of Valleyfield in the parish of Tongland and Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. Comprising the farms of Lochhill, Valleyfield & Sandybrae, Mansion House &c., 1873
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Plan of the estate of Valleyfield in the parish of Tongland and Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. Comprising the farms of Lochhill, Valleyfield & Sandybrae, Mansion House &c., 1873
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Upper & Nether Laverocks, Keir DMF; Lirickstone Fold, Middle DMF

LAVEROCK is Scots ‘skylark’. Laverock is not uncommon in place-names, but it is unusual to see it as a generic element. It may be that Upper and Nether Laverocks began as one field called *Laverock Park which were subsequently split. This needn’t be the case, though. A name like *Laverocks, with field, park etc implied wouldn’t be an aberrant formation. the field are also marked on Porterstown and Beuchan, 1845 and Plan of the farms of Porterstown, Penmurtie and Beuchan in the Parish of Keir, 1825 where the lower field is Under Laverocks.

Lirick is a reduced form of LAVEROCK. The DSL entry notes that a laverrock cairn is “a heap of stones frequented by larks; hence any insignificant place”, though I don’t think that’s necessarily significant here. Incidentally, the DSL entry includes the forms “lairi(c)k, -ock, laerock, ler(r)i(c)k, -uck; larrik, lari(c)k; laerag, lairag, layrag” but not lirick.

Sketch of the farm of Porterstown in the Parish of Keir, c.1820
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Broadlee, 1857
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Drumchushat Park, Kirkconnel DMF

Another Scots bird place-name. CUSHAT is ‘ring-dove or woodpigeon’. Drum is borrowed into Scots from Gaelic druim ‘ridge; back’. Drumcushat is interesting for being in Gaelic element order rather than the order expected in Scots: *Cushatdrum. There are three possibilities behind this. 1 Drumcushat is a Gaelic name where the second element has been reanalysed as Scots cushat. 2 This is a Gaelic name using a word borrowed from Scots. Names of this type are found in Wigtownshire – Balyett is an example (Gaelic baile ‘farm’ + Scots yett ‘gate’). 3 Drumcushat is an ‘inverted’ Scots name. Names with inverted element order are not infrequent where the generic element is a borrowing from Gaelic. A potential analogy is Knockmowdie in Kells, though this might also be a case where a Gaelic element has been reanalysed as Scots. Whatever the case, we only know about Drumcushat because it is preserved in this field name.

Glenmuckloch Hall, 1856
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

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.

Place-Name Wordles

I’ve put together a couple of place-name versions of Wordle: one covering the whole of Scotland (SPNle) and the other covering Dumfries and Galloway (DnG-le).

An (entirely unhelpful) answer map for DnG-le, showing the location of the 132 place-names in the game’s correct-answer list.

There’s plenty of linguistic interest to be found in the databases behind these games: patterns in the length (letters, syllables, elements) of place-names; how letter frequency and distribution differs between the lexicon and toponymicon; Anglicisation of Gaelic names; what counts as a place-name, and so on. However, what struck me most in putting together these games is how generous people have been been with their skills and knowledge.

I say ‘putting together’ because I actually did very little other than filtering the GB1900 Gazetteer down to 5 letter entries and then a wee bit of tidying up. This database is largely the work of over 1000 volunteers who transcribed the text on the OS 2nd edition six-inch maps. The Wordle clone was built by Hannah Park and subsequently developed as React Wordle. Once I’d forked this and edited it as SPNle, I had no idea how to get it running on the web. After a Twitter-plea, Heikki Vesanto put the game up on his site. You can still play SPNle there: maps.gisforthought.com:3000. A wee bit later, Martin Carlin let me know about Vercel, which can host the game in a couple of clicks. Steven Kay solved a frustrating bit of formatting for me.

I’ve never met any of these folk and I’m very grateful that they’ve freely shared their time and expertise. It’s been a positive reminder of the collaborative, open-source ethos that characterises the best of the internet.

This map, unlike the one above, shows all five-letter, one word entries in the GB1900 Gazetteer, including entries like ‘Cairn’ and ‘Stone’ which more often than not won’t be place-names. SPNle uses just under 1300 of the places marked on the map.

Estate Map Gleanings 2

The estate maps digitised by the Dumfries Archival Mapping Project are the gift that keeps on giving. My first post on names found on these maps was getting pretty long, so I’ve started another. Like the names on the previous post, we wouldn’t know about most of these were it not for the maps.
Update 14/05/2022: Estate Map Gleanings 3

Skirlnacket, Kirkmichael DMF

SKIRL-NAKED is Scots for ‘completely or stark-naked’. This was presumably a bare and perhaps unproductive piece of land. Derogatory names for fields are not uncommon but Skirlnacket is, so far, unique. The word itself is rare too; it only has one associated quotation in the DSL, where it is listed under SKIRL- adv.

Incidentally, the form nacket ‘naked’ isn’t recorded in the DSL, though almost every other imaginable spelling is: Nakit, Naikit, Nakkit. Also: nakitt, -yt(t, -yit, -eit, -et, -id, -yd(e, -ed; naikyt, -et, naykit, -yt, -et, naickit, -et, naikid, -ed, naicked; neakit; nacked.

Kirkland and Bents, 1854
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Barturk, Keir DMF

Barturk Walls, Barturk Dyke and Barturk Holm all appear on this map. None make it onto the OS. There is, however, a Barturk in Ochiltree AYR. Barturk is Gaelic bàrr ‘summit’ + torc ‘boar’, meaning roughly ‘boar hill’. It’s always nice to find an otherwise unrecorded Gaelic name. This one is notable as Celtic ‘boar’ names are rare in southern Scotland. Aside from Barturk in Ayrshire, there are also Glenturk and Mindork in Wigtownshire.

Sketch’d Eyedraught of Keir commonty exhibiting the several different marches thereof shown to the commissioners and dominant tenements conforms to proof taken May 16th 1763
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Auchensleo, Keir DMF

Michael Ansell spotted this name which, like Barturk, hasn’t made it onto the OS. Auchen- is typically from Gaelic achadh + na ‘field of the…’. However, Michael suggests that in this case it may represent a reanalysis of àth ‘ford’. The OS has the farm of Ford just south of here. It may be that Auchensleo (or-fleo) was an earlier name for this farm.

Sketch’d Eyedraught of Keir commonty exhibiting the several different marches thereof shown to the commissioners and dominant tenements conforms to proof taken May 16th 1763
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Come-in-time Park, Kirkconnel DMF

I don’t know what this name refers to, but it’s a good example of the unusual syntax you find in field-names. It could perhaps be a reanalysis of some former name that has become opaque, but there’s no reason for it not to be come-in-time, whatever that meant in a field-name context.

Sketch of the lands of Knockinstob, 1818
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Stellan Tree, Keir DMF

The name Stellan Tree could refer a particular tree in the field. However, Scots TREE can also be ‘a rod, stick; long wooden bar, post, pole’. Tree is used in this sense in axle-tree, which appears in Axle-Tree-Well, a farm in Hoddom. Stellan, which is also spelled Stelland in this 1825 map, looks like the -and (English -ing) form of STELL ‘to place in position; to set up, fix, plant. prop, mount’ and numerous other related senses. A stellan tree might be a ‘fixing beam’.

However, if Stellan Tree refers to a type of beam or pole analogous to an axle-tree it would be unusual to find it used as a name on its own. In Axle-Tree-Well, axle-tree is specifying the generic element well. It may be that in this case TREE is indeed ‘a tree’ and that stellan is describing it. If stellan is a form of STELL, I’m not sure what its precise sense is here. However, Older Scots has stelling place ‘a place of refuge or shelter’ and it may be that the tree was used for shelter.

Sketch of the farm of Porterstown in the Parish of Keir, c. 1820
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Spreach Park, Kirkconnel DMF

Scots SPREATH, which has spreach as one of its many variants, has a range of meanings:

  • Cattle, specif. a herd of cattle stolen and driven off in a raid, esp. by Highlanders from the Lowlands.
  • A foray to steal cattle, a cattle-raid.
  • Booty, plunder in gen., prey. Also fig. a source of profit.
  • Driftwood, wreckage from ships, flotsam and jetsam.
  • A great many, a crowd, collection, large number.

I’m not aware of this being used as a place-name element elsewhere and I’m not sure what the reference is. The park raided cattle were taken to? The park cattle were once raided from?

Plan of the lands of Carcoside, 1855
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Shed Park, Penpont DMF & Nowt Shed Morton, DMF

Scots SHED is ‘to separate out, divide, sort, esp. lambs from ewes, or calves from cows’ and as a noun ‘the act of sorting out sheep, the dividing of a flock’. It can also mean, among other things, ‘a strip of land plainly marked off from its surroundings, a distinct or separate piece of ground’. (Shed in the sense ‘building’ is a separate word related to shade.)

Shed Park was presumably where animals were sorted out, perhaps in the tear-drop shaped enclosure shown on the map. NOWT is Scots for ‘cattle’ and it may be that Nowt Shed was a marked off portion of land for cattle. However, it could equally be the place where cattle were separated.

Plan of Auchennaight, 1835
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Whitefauld or Burn, 1851
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Sonsy Homle, Tundergarth DMF

Scots SONSY means ‘lucky’. (It’s use in Burns’ To a Haggis – “Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face” – is in the extended sense of ‘good-looking’.) It’s a rare element in place-names. It joins Sonsy Neb in Kirkmaiden, Wigtownshire: “A point of rocks covered at high water and is used at low water as a fishing seat by fishermen while angling, takes its name from being considered a lucky place in taking fish.” The only other example appears to be Sonsiquoy in Canisbay, Caithness. (See p. 309 of Doreen Waugh’s PhD thesis The Place-Names of Six Parishes in Caithnes, Scotland 1985.) Althoughthis appears on the plan as Sonsy Hole, the ‘summary’ gives it as Sonsy Holme which is much more appropriate.

Map of Scroggs and Moss Head estates in the parish of Tundergarth…belonging to William Frederick Powell.
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland  

Mount Pisgah, Tundergarth DMF

(Mount) Pisgah is a biblical name, mentioned in Deuteronomy 34 and Numbers 23. It is found across Scotland; the GB1900 Gazetteer records 14 Pisga(h) names. The OS records this as Pisgah Hill.

Map of Scroggs and Moss Head estates in the parish of Tundergarth…belonging to William Frederick Powell, 1851.
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Gean Brae, Tynron DMF

Scots GEAN is ‘the wild cherry tree, and its fruit’. This name isn’t on the OS and is so far the only Dumfries and Galloway gean place-name.

Stenhouse, 1853
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Mean Hill, Tinwald DMF

Scots MEAN is an adjective meaning ‘common to two or more persons or things, possessed jointly’. The DSL gives the examples mean-barn-farm-gavel-rig-yaird.

[Plan of] the estate of Amisfield the property of Charles Charteris Esqr, 1778
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Marriage Stone, Dalry KCB

A ‘marriage stone’ is , according to Wikipedia, “usually a stone, rarely wood, lintel carved with the initials, coat of arms, etc. of a newly married couple, usually displaying the date of the marriage. They were very popular until Victorian times, but fell out of general use in the 20th century.” This doesn’t appear to be the case here, where the Marriage Stone looks to be a standing stone. Perhaps it was the place where ceremonies took place. There may be some connection with it and the name Chapple Rig.

A Plan of Lochrainy, 1801
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Vocum’s Knowe & Vocum’s Cleugh, Closeburn DMF

Vocum appears to be a personal name but it’s not one I’ve come across before.

Locherben, 1854
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Mantua Rigg & Mantua Holm, Dryfesdale DMF

Mantua is a city in northern Italy. It appears in the DSL as the name of a type of bonnet or hose ‘made or as made in Mantua’. I can’t see how this would fit here. Names of foreign places were often given to distant fields, which may be the case here.

Roberthill, 1854
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Angertown, Middlebie DMF

Scots ANGER is ‘a cause of grief or vexation; grief or vexation’. This might be a derogatory name for an unproductive field. Another possibility is Old English *anger ‘meadow’. This word is frequently used in the dative plural form angrum giving names like Angrim, Angram and Angron. However, it appears as Anger- in Anger Holme, Cumbria and Angerholme, Westmorland.

Middlebie Hill and Purdomstone with Blackgill and lands near Middlebie Kirk, 1857
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Ridge of clinking stones, Dalry KCB

A wonderfully evocative name. It would be worth a visit to see (and hear) why it was so called.

Plans of the Property of William Forbes Esq. of Callendar: Principal Plan of the Property of William Forbes Esqre. Of Callendar Situate in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright and County of Dumfries, 1817
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Doddies Crue, Kirkconnel DMF

Scots DODDIE is ‘a hornless bull or cow’. However, we would expect to find the form *Doddie Crue if the reference were to animals. Genitive -s tends to be used with personal names. Doddie, a form of the name George, seems to be a better fit for this place-name. CRUE is ‘an enclosure for sheep, pigs, hens or cows’. It is ultimately from Gaelic crò ‘sheep cot, pen’ via Old Norse.

Plan of the arable farms on the north side of Nith, 19th century
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Three Brothers, Closeburn DMF

This oak tree, more commonly known as the Three Brethren, was destroyed by the great storm of 7 June 1839. The tree was formed of three trunks assumed to be joined underground. You can read more about it here: Trees with Names in Dumfries and Galloway.

A Plan of the lands of Clauchries, Cairn and Auld Girths, the property of W. Copland Esq. of Colliston, 1804
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Toop Park and Heifer Park, Glencairn DMF

Scots TUIP is ‘a ram’. Tup Park is a fairly common field-name, particularly on older estate maps but this is the only occasion where I’ve seen the word spelled Toop. It sits above Heifer [‘a young cow’] Park, which is the only example of this name I have seen.

Plan of Craiglearin, Parish of Glencairn and County of Dumfries. The Property of Robert Kirk, Esq., 1835
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Swaugh Park, Hoddom DMF & Jock’s Swaugh Moss, Dryfesdale DMF

Swaughpark is recorded on the OS, where it is the only place-name in Scotland to contain the element swaugh. Jock’s Swaugh Moss adds another. It’s not immediately clear what this word is, but I think the best match is Scots SOUCH, SWOUCH ‘a rushing, rustling, whistling or murmuring sound, as if of wind, fire, etc.’. Swaugh isn’t recorded as a spelling of this word, but swoche and swogh are. Perhaps these were places where the wind whistled though or, in the case of Jock’s Swaugh Moss, where the ground murmured.

Plan of the farms of Kirkconnel-Hall, Swaughpark and Greenfield in the parish of Hoddom the property of F.S.Arnott, 1857
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Sketch of lands belonging to His Grace the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry Lying in the parish of Dryfesdale
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Dub-o-hass, Keir DMF

The Dub o’ Hass in Dalbeattie was the furthest point large craft could sail up the Urr. Scots DUB is ‘a pool’; HASS is ‘a neck’ but in place-names ‘a defile, a narrow passage between hills, the head of a pass’. There’s no obvious dub here and I suspect the name has been transferred from Dalbeattie.

Plan of the farms of Barndinnoch, Fardingjames, Kirkbride and Breco in the Parish of Keir, 1825
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

30 Day Map Challenge 2021

This was my second #30DayMapChallenge (link to 2020’s maps). I started this November planning to only do a few maps; then I decided I’d do them all, but limit myself to 30 minutes a day…then an hour; then I decided I could get to my other things in December. Here’s all 30.

The title of each day links to where I posted the map on Twitter. The tweets have more information about the maps.

Day 1. Points

I also looked at knowes in the #30DayChartChallenge in Distribution of Scots hill-name elements in Dumfries and Galloway by height.

Day 2. Lines

This is made from all 259,217 Dumfries and Galloway entries on the 2nd edition, six inch Ordnance Survey joined horizontally and then vertically. I did a similar thing here: Burnside: The most common place-name in Scotland.

Day 3. Polygons

The first transport map of the challenge. I only realised after posting that I’d cut parts of the Machars and Kirkcudbrightshire off. Those places are more than 60 km from a train station – I hadn’t thought to factor that distance into the map.

Day 4. Hexagons

From Maxwell’s entry for Honey Pig, Old Luce in his The Place Names of Galloway (1930): “This should be written and pronounced L. Sc. Hinnie Pig, a jar of honey. It is a modern name, dating from a former bee-keeper’s establishment.”

Day 5. Data challenge 1: OpenStreetMap

The grey for Other looked clearer when I was making this. It’s pretty hard to see on my phone. The elements are listed by frequency, based on the entries in Open Street Map. However, as sections of road get their own entry, ‘road’ itself is unlikely to actually top the list in terms of frequency.

Day 6. Red

Post Office Knowe is the only Scottish place-name with ‘Post Office’ as its specifying element. I previously tweeted about the name here. There are plenty of post offices still to be added to Open Street Map. I’ve added a few recently, so this map would look different if made today.

Day 7. Green

A Delaunay triangulation of GREEN in Scottish place-names, 1817 in total. here is a version with a background map of Scotland: Green over background map.

Day 8. Blue

These poles are based on distance as the corbie flies. It would be interesting to see what they would look like if height was taken into account, but I don’t know how to do that yet.

Day 9. Monochrome

BLACK outnumbers WHITE 459 to 395. I posted a map of Scots and English colours in D&G place-names here and a chart of those colours for the #30DayChartChallenge, here.

Day 10. Raster

Day 11. 3D

A hand-drawn map over elevation data from the Ordnance Survey. Hand-drawn map here.

Day 12. Population

Made with Aerialod using the Kontur population dataset. I made a couple of other maps with this dataset here.

Day 13. Data challenge 2: Natural Earth

Day 14. Map with a new tool

I’d wanted to make a joy plot/ridgeline plot since seeing them in last year’s challenge. Thankfully, Helen McKenzie (@helenmakesmaps) posted this tutorial a few days before Day 14’s challenge.

Day 15. Map made without using a computer

My most popular tweet ever.

Day 16. Urban/rural

My notes on the field-names of Killymingan, Kirkgunzeon are here.

Day 17. Land

Day 18. Water

1140 names in total.

Day 19. Island(s)

Day 20. Movement

Day 21. Elevation

Day 22. Boundaries

Day 23. Data challenge 3: GHSL

Day 24. Historical map

Gars ye greet.

Day 25. Interactive map

The subject of this map was decided by a Twitter poll. I wanted to make one about Deil/Devil place-names but foolishly put ‘cat place-names’ in as an option, forgetting momentarily that the internet likes cats. I wrote a note about the name Cat Stran(d) here.

Day 26. Choropleth map

Ansgar Wolsing (@_ansgar) took this idea and applied it to the names of Cologne’s districts, which was a highlight of the challenge.

Day 27. Heatmap

Day 28. The Earth is not flat

After posting this map, I was told about some Dumfries names in Canada. I might get round to remaking it.

Day 29. NULL

The OS records no names in grid square NX8656. However, the information supplied by Alistair Clark has added 10 names to this grid square and there’s still space for more to be uncovered by future field-names surveys.

Day 30. Metamapping day

I made a 10, 20 and 30 minute version of this map here.

The Packman’s Grave, Kirwaugh

Ninety nine times out of a hundred, there is a grizzly story behind place-names which contain CHAPMAN ‘pedlar’ or PACKMAN ‘a man who carries wares or merchandise in a pack; chiefly, an itinerant packman, chapman or pedlar’. The entry for Chapman’s Thorn, Tongland KCB gives an impression of what you’ll find written for other Packman and Chapman place-names in the Ordnance Survey Name Books: “A thorn which points out the spot where a packman was murdered & subsequently interred.” OS1/20/109/18

The Packman’s Grave, Kirkinner didn’t make it onto the OS. Fortunately, the name and the story behind it were recorded in Fraser Gordon’s 1877 Wigtown and Whithorn: Historical and Descriptive Sketches, Stories and Anecdotes, Illustrative of the Racy Wit & Pawky Humour of the District. True to form, the packman dies. But this tale is more eldritch than the others:

“On the farm of Kirwaugh, near the village of Bladnoch, is what is called “The Packman’s Grave.” Tradition has it that an enterprising packman lived in or near Wigtown long ago. He had a consignment of cloth on board a vessel which put into a local port. The ship was plague-stricken, and the people in the district, fearing that the infection might be spread by means of the packman and his cloth, caught both the merchant and his wares, and taking them to Kirwaugh, digged a deep grave, in which they were deposited – the packman alive. There is a small elevation of the place, which is near the farm-house door, and people, dreading the spot, prefer taking a round-about course rather than approach it. Even until lately, people imagined they saw lights and heard knocks at the spot, which gets the name of “The Packman’s Grave” to this day.” (1877, p. 208-209)

A horrifying tale for Hallowe’en. More horrifying still is the thought of the countless places passed over by the OS whose stories have been lost forever.

Detail from Wigtownshire, Sheet 25 Survey date: 1848, Publication date: 1850
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Haunted Place-Names in Wigtownshire

Here’s the article I wrote for the Stranraer and Wigtownshire Free Press. It appeared on October 28, 2021. I’ve added a notes section below with links to each name’s entry in the OS Name Books and links to the photos used.

Wigtownshire’s place-names are a portal into a landscape haunted by witches, warlocks, ghaists and deils. As the Ordnance Survey was compiling the first edition of its map, its surveyors took notes on the places they visited in volumes known as Original Object Name Books. These notes have left us a valuable record of what the people who lived here before us thought was lurking around the corner.

For example, we learn that Conjured Knowe in Kirkmaiden was said to be the meeting place of witches and warlocks, as well as where the Laird of Drummore Castle punished his prisoners. We are left to imagine the tales behind Witch Rock, Portpatrick and Witches’ Howe and Witches’ House, both in Inch.

Ghosts were said to frequent Ghost Plantation, Mochrum and Ghost Knowe, Penninghame. The surveyors surmised that the locals made a link between the apparitions at Ghost Knowe and the spirts of those executed at nearby Gallows Hill. Just east of Gallows Hill is Ghost Howe Well but, like the Ghost Stone in New Luce, we are not told anything about the story behind its name.

However, at Ghaist Ha’ or Ghost Hall in Old Luce, we are treated to a much more detailed account. Here, in around 1655, the family of Gilbert Campbell were tormented by the Deil o’ Glenluce. This deil was the ghost of Alexander Agnew, a man out for revenge after the Campbells refused him help. At the nearby Deil’s Well, the story gets a bit muddled. The surveyors recorded that the well was said to take its name either from the ghost threatening to throw Gilbert’s wife into it, or that Deil o’ Glenluce himself was drowned there. As it happens, Andrew Alexander Agnew met his end in Dumfries, where he was hanged for blasphemy. [Actually, it was me that got muddled here. I misread the entry – there’s no implication that Agnew drowned here.]

Deils crop up in several other place-names around Scotland. Rather than referring to a direct connection with ghosts or Auld Sandie himself, ‘deil’ and ‘devil’ are often used to signal something’s great size or the danger surrounding a place. For example, the Devil’s Flesh Barrel is a whirlpool in Glensellie Burn where cattle frequently drowned; the Devil’s Meal Chest is a large sandy hill at Low Torrs; and the Devil’s Elbow was the name given to a sharp bend in the road between Bladnoch and Kirwaugh. The bend has been straightened out now, but the surveyors note that it was meant to be haunted too, so it’s worth being careful there nonetheless.

Another haunted part of the road is the junction at Barwhirran Croft. Somewhere in the triangle of land where the road forks is the Foul Hole. According to the surveyors this was “notorious among the ignorant and superstitious as a place much frequented by spectres, witches, warlocks etc.” The horrifying goings-on here apparently caused passersby to tremble with fear, which is given as an explanation for one of Wigtownshire’s oddest names: Shakeabodie Rock, a craggy outcrop just east of the junction. It’s worth a visit – if you dare.

Notes

  • Conjured Knowe “A large knoll the surface of which is rocks heather & furze. Tradition says that it formerly was the resort of witches & warlocks etc. – also that the Laird of Drumore Castle punished his prisoners on it.” OS1/35/86/47 & OS1/35/86/124 There is a Conjure Cairn in Rothiemay, Banffshire OS1/4/27/11.
  • Witch Rock “A larger rock entirely surrounded by water part of which stands perpendicular & is about 40 ft high Situate to the south of Tulig” OS1/35/53/36 & OS1/35/53/51 [where it says that the rock is south of Isle-nagarroch]
  • Witches’ Howe “A hollow in a wood in Culhorn Demesne N.W. side of Culhorn House” OS1/35/35/77
  • Witches’ House “The hollow part of the wood about 12 chains N. of Culhorn house. The wood is compose of Ash Oaks Beech and a few firs.” OS1/35/35/220 This is evidently the same place as Witches’ Howe, which is the name which is printed on the map.
  • Ghost Plantation “A small portion of Plantation close to the North end of Cubi’s Hill [Cupid Hill on the map]. It is said that a Ghost frequented [it] hence its name” OS1/35/75/34 Ghaist Plantation has been scored out in the ‘Orthography, as recommend to be used in the new Plans’ column.
  • Ghost Knowe “A very small hill on the farm of Knockbrex so called from weak minded people supposing it to be frequented by Ghosts etc from its contiguity to Gallows Hill.” OS1/35/32/34 “A very small hill on Knockbrex farm has taken the name by some foolish persons agreeing that ghosts appeared there being in the same field with Gallows Hill” OS1/35/32/40
  • Gallows Hill “A small hill on the D[emesne] of Merton Hall, also the name of a part of ornamental plantation of the same Demesne.” OS1/35/32/30 “A small hill on Merton Land running N to S with an old mixed wood of ash oak beech sycamore spruce and larch on it of the same name Supposed to have taken the name about the year 1688” OS1/35/32/42
  • Ghost Howe Well “A large well or pool of stagnant water. It has no visible outlet except after heavy rains and is seldom known to change its level.” OS1/35/32/28 & (with slightly different wording) OS1/35/32/46
  • The Ghost Stone “A rock of Grauwacke on the edge of a precipitous bank & upon the farm of Barlure.” OS1/35/21/6 & OS1/35/21/78
  • Ghaist Ha’ “A small farm consisting of 4 or 5 fields. In one of these fields stood the house wherin Gilbert Gambell & his wife Jennet Campbell used to be visited by the Deil of Glenluce or the ghost of Agnew the Begger Man.” OS1/35/40/31 A small farm consisting of 5 fields. In the field marked letter ‘a’ on the trace. The ho[use] formerly stood. When Gilbert Campbell & his family lived some time in the year 1654 or 5. At that time. He Gilbert Campbell was very much troubled by the Devil of Glenluce or the host of Alexander Agnew a bold and sturdy beggar, who was afterwards hanged at Dumfries for blasphemy, had threatened mort to the family, because he had not gotten such an alms as he required. This small farm is ever since called Gaistha’ or Ghosthall” OS1/35/42/40
  • Deil’s Well ” An Old Well of little utility, being chiefly dried up. It is situated in an adjoining field to where formerly stood an old [house] in which lived Gilbert Campbell, a weaver, the wife of whom it is […] was threatened by the Devil of Glenluce or [the] Ghost of a beggar Man to be thrown into this Well-” OS1/35/42/8 “An old well now nearly drained dry. In the next field to where the old House of Gaistha’ formerly stood marked Letter ‘a’a on the trace And some time about the year 1655 occupied by one Gilbert Campbell by profession a waver. The Devil of Glenluce or the Ghost of a begger man threaten’d to throw Janet Campbell the wife of Gilbert Campbell into this well.” OS1/35/42/39
  • Devil’s Flesh Barrel “A whirlpool on Glensellie burn. Caused by a water fall of about 6 or 7 feet in height and 6 feet in breadth. It is so called from the frequent occurrence of cattle being drowned in it.” OS1/35/39/3
  • Devil’s Meal Chest “A large sand hill in the farm of Low Torrs on which is a trig. station. It is so called from the great mass of sand comprising the hill.” OS1/35/58/7
  • Devil’s Elbow “The name applies to a very abrupt turn of the road leading from Wigtown to Glenluce by way of the Cock Inn. Tradition says it has been haunted hence the name.” OS1/35/64/14 Deil’s Elbuck, Closeburn DMF is likewise a dangerous bend in the road. OS1/10/6/176
  • Foul Hole “A portion of waste land or common at the intersection of two roads viz. Whithorn or Glasgow and Glenluce to Carty Port.” OS1/35/32/13 “A portion of waste land or common on the intersection of the roads Whithorn to Glasgow Glenluce to Carty Port. It was a marsh is now R[ough] pasture on Barwhirran Farm” OS1/35/32/76
  • Shakeabodie Rock “The name of this Rock is supposed to have derived its name from a legend connected with a place called the ‘Foul Hole’. It appears that the Foul Hole has been notorious among the ignorant and superstitious as a place much frequent by spectres, witches, warlocks etc which caused passers by to shake or tremble and from the proximity of the road to the above place it is supposed to have derived its name.” OS1/35/32/13 “A large on the left of road from Glenluce to Carty Port it gives name to the 2 adjoining fields on the Barr Farm” OS1/35/32/76

North Witch Rock: cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Derek Menzies – geograph.org.uk/photo/925150

Ghaist Plantation: cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Jon Alexander – geograph.org.uk/photo/5628442