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. It joins Skirlnaked Quarry (NJ 688 516) and Skirlnaked Wood (NJ 688 514) in Banffshire, and the property of John Chisholm recorded in 1797 horse tax rolls (E326/10/5/95 & E326/10/12/31) as only the fourth example of Skirlnaked used in Scottish place-names that I am aware of. 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.


  • 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 –

Ghaist Plantation: cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Jon Alexander –

Chinney Field

Chinney Field is an open area in Mabie Forest, Troqueer KCB. The name was a bit of a mystery. An old information board, if remember correctly, suggested that there was a china works on the site of the field. I’m not sure if china or chimney was the implied root of Chinney. In any case, there doesn’t seem to have been a china works or chimneys here at any point in the past and neither word is a particularly good fit for Chinney. That said, I couldn’t think of anything better.

The Chinney Field oak, Mabie Forest

Fortuantely, @euroak tweeted me to say that they’d spotted Dal cheny on a 1790 estate map of Mabie. This is surely the root of Chinney Field. The Chinney Field sits next to Dalshinnie Glen, where a burn flows down from Dalshinnie Loch. Neither of these names are in the the Ordnance Survey Name Books, but Dalshinnie Wood is. The entries read:

“A plantation the wood of which consists of ash, oak & fir. It takes its name from a house which formerly stood in an adjoining field called Ditchiney. The property of W. Howet of Mabie.” OS1/20/70/41

“A considerable plantation the wood consists of ash oak & fir. The property of R. Howit Esq. of Mabie.” OS1/20/93/3

The form Ditchiney (given by Samuel Carson) in the first entry is odd, particularly as the other forms in the spelling column all begin Dal-. As well as the estate map from 1790, spellings with -ch- appear in the 1819 Land Tax Rolls (E106/20/5/59, E106/20/6/93 & E106/20/6/141) and Maxwell’s The Place Names of Galloway records Dalchynnie from 1604.

Despite walking past up the Dalshinnie Glen countless times, I never made the connection between Dalshinnie and Chinney. Dalshinnie is from Gaelic dail ‘haugh, water meadow’ and sionnach ‘fox’, so we can can think of Chinney Field as Fox Field (though really it’s ‘field of a farm whose name is from the Gaelic for fox-haugh’ – but that’s a bit of a mouthful.)

A plan of part of the Estate of Mabie, James Wells (1790)
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

[It’s worth noting that the Louth Field Names Project Catalogue November 2015 includes Chinney’s Garden and Chinney’s Field.]

Annan History Town Festival Posts

I wrote these posts for the Annan History Town Festival. I’ll add references and notes shortly.

Detail from Joan Blaeu (1654) Annandiae praefectura, Vulgo, The Stewartrie of Annandail / auct. Timotheo Pont
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

The River Annan: A Rich History

The name Annan has a long, meandering history that flows in and out of languages. 1300 years ago, in northern Italy, an anonymous cleric compiled a list of 5000 places from Ireland through to India. This sprawling collection of names is known as the Ravenna Cosmography, after the city it was written in. In the British section of the text, among a list of rivers, we find the name ANAVA. This is almost certainly an early form of Annan.

Although written in c. 700 CE, the Ravenna Cosmography used sources from the Roman period, and it is to this time that we can date the name ANAVA. Similar forms of the name appear elsewhere in the Roman world – on a tablet from Vindolanda and a tombstone in Foligno, Italy which commemorates a prefect of the ‘Anavionensian Britons’. At this time, the people around the River Annan were speaking an early Celtic language, in which Anawa was the name of a goddess associated with riches and prosperity.

Rivers named after goddesses are common in Celtic speaking regions. We only need to travel as far as the River Dee in Kirkcudbrightshire to find a parallel. This river takes its name from the goddess Deva. However, it is possible that rather than being named directly after a deity, the Annan originally meant something like ‘the one that enriches’, formed from the same root as the name of the goddess. Either way, it is an ancient name.

Major landscape features like large rivers tend to keep the same name for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years. Newcomers to an area adopt the local name and adapt it to the sounds of their language, rather than coining something new. As it has flowed down to the Solway, the Annan has collected many of the languages that have been spoken by its banks. Over a thousand years ago, a Celtic language closely related to Welsh was spoken here. Its word for valley (almost the same as Welsh ystrad) is found in Estrahanent‘Annan valley’, recorded in 1124. The Gaelic form of this word, srath, appears in Stratanant. The early Scandinavian settlers swapped out these Celtic ‘valley’ words for their word dalr, which survives in Annandale. In Scots, rivers are ‘waters’. The Ordnance Survey chose ‘river’ rather than ‘water’ for their maps but Annan Water appears elsewhere. And in 500 years’ time, despite what else has changed, this stretch of water will more likely than still be called something like Annan.

Quarter Cake and Crazy Hill

Part of the appeal of studying place-names is seeing how people in the past have viewed and interacted with the landscape. Finding out a name’s meaning often involves consulting dictionaries of languages no longer spoken in the area and can be hampered by non-standard spellings and incomplete records. Sometimes a name’s meaning is perfectly clear, it’s just hard to know what to make of it. Quarter Cake, a patch of ground next the River Annan in Galabank Park, is a case in point.

However, a look at the 1st edition of the Ordnance Survey clears things up. Although Quarter Cake is now open ground, 160 years ago it was marked out on two sides by a line of trees, enclosing a triangular area that looks just like…a quarter of a cake! What’s more, when the surveyors were compiling their list of entries for the map, they took notes in their Name Books. Here’s what they wrote for Quarter Cake:

“A small patch of arable land at the south end of Ever Holm. It is bounded on the north and west by a row of forest trees, and on the south & east by a wall that forms part of the southern boundary of Ever Holm. It owes its name to its shape; being shaped like the quarter of a cake.”

Unfortunately, not all place-name puzzles are solved as easily as that. Another, more obscure ‘shape name’ might be Crazy Hill, at Barnkirk Point. Here the Name Book only tells us that Crazy Hill is “A small eminence on the farm of Waterfoot.” Crazy sometimes appears in place-names is the sense of ‘irregular’, like crazy paving, but that doesn’t seem to apply here. However, crazy is a Scots word for a sunbonnet (‘the old-fashioned scoop-like kind’) named after its resemblance to a type of lamp, also called a crazy. The outline of the hill on the map might, with a bit of squinting, look like a sunbonnet, but it really depends what it looks like from the ground. I’ve not visited it yet, and I think for now they jury is out on the meaning behind Crazy Hill.

Although not much help for interpreting Crazy Hill, the Ordnance Survey Name Books are a treasure trove of information. They include a note on every entry on the first edition of the map. You can search them here: It’s worth searching for where you live to see what was written about it over 150 years ago.

Dornock: Stones and Stanes

Dornock, like Dornoch in Sutherland, means ‘pebbly place’. However, the stones referred to are bigger and potentially more violent than ‘pebble’ implies. Dorn in Celtic languages means a fist. These pebbles were fist-sized stones, or stones which fitted in the hand. Fighting with hand stones is well attested in medieval sources and it might be the case that stones were collected at Dornock to be used as projectiles. However, we can’t be certain of their purpose. They might have been used peacefully as cobbles or the area might have just struck its settlers as stonier than the surrounding area.

Stones of a different type are found at either end of the parish. The Altar Stone on Whan Scar in the Solway marks the boundary between Annan and Dornock and is visited each year during the Riding of the Marches. Although sometimes hidden by the shifting sands, it has been an important boundary marker for hundreds of years: ‘The Altarstane in Sulway’ is recorded in a charter from 1539.

Following the Municipal and Burgh Boundary from the Altar Stone up past Woodhead, you find a scattering of boulders, one of which is named the Three Piked Stane. In the 18th century it was thought that these were the remains of a stone circle (or ‘druidical temple’ as they called them back then). Sadly, it has not been possible to determine if there really was a stone circle here or even to identify which one of the stones was the Three Piked Stane.

Brydekirk: -kirks and ‘Kirks’

Brydekirk is an unusual name. The first part, Bryde-, refers to St Brigit of Kildare, one of the patron saints of Ireland, commemorated on the 1st of February. Just north of the village is the site of St Bryde’s Kirk where the road takes you up to St Bryde’s Well. There is nothing out of the ordinary about this; Brigit appears in place-names across Dumfries and Galloway.

What sets it apart is that here, -kirk at the end of the name actually means kirk. On either side of the Solway, kirk ‘church’ almost always comes at the start of a name: Kirkmichael, Kirkpatrick, Kirkconnel etc. In those names where ‘kirk’ does appear at the end, it usually means something completely different. Barnkirk, Westerkirk and Stoneykirk have nothing to do with churches. Barnkirk is from Gaelic bàrr na circe ‘height of the hen’; Westerkirk is Old Norse ‘Styrkarr’s ford’ – recorded as Wadsterker in 1249; and Stoneykirk is Old English ‘stony land’ from stān + æcer.

Kirk is originally an Old Norse word. In Old Norse, like other Germanic languages, the generic part of a name is almost always placed at the end and the specific part goes at the start, so we would expect to find names like Patrick’s Kirk rather than Kirkpatrick. Instead, the Solway ‘kirk’ names follow the word order seen in Celtic languages where the generic part of a name comes first and the specific part second, as in Kilbride ‘Brigit’s church’.

Why should this be the case? The answer appears to be connected to the Gall-Ghàidheil ‘the foreign Gaels’ who gave their name to Galloway. These Gaels were considered ‘foreign’ because of their Norse heritage; they were people with their roots in the Viking colonies in Ireland and Scotland. Although speaking Gaelic, these people adopted some Scandinavian words, including ‘kirk’, into their language. Names like Kirkcudbright ‘Cuthbert’s church’ and Kirkbryde ‘Bridgit’s church’ are Gaelic names using a word borrowed into that language from Old Norse. It is a complicated situation, but gives an idea of the diverse linguistic landscape of the Solway Firth in the middle ages.

Brydekirk itself is relatively recent name compared to these Kirk- names. It was first recorded as Bridkyrk in 1517; before that it was Bridechapell.

Cummertrees: Troubled Waters

This name looks like it should have something to do with trees and perhaps a witch, which is one of the meanings of the Scots word cummer. In fact, Cummertrees is a Celtic name, recorded in 1204 as Cumbertres. As is frequently the case, it could be either Gaelic or Cumbric (a language related to Welsh spoken here 1000 years ago) though there are reasons for thinking it more likely to be the latter. The second part of the name, tres, has various senses covering ‘conflict, strife, and tumult’ and is often used to describe rivers. The first element is most probably cumber, a confluence or meeting of waters. Taken together, these two words mean something like ‘confluence of turbulent water’. Although this is the likely interpretation of the name, it doesn’t appear to be a particularly good description of the Pow Water that slowly passes the village of Cummertrees today. However, water courses and levels have changed in the last thousand years and names can move around. It might be that what was once a turbulent confluence has slowed to a more gentle pace.

If you are looking for trees associated with witches, there’s a gnarled tree in the woods at Woodcock Air, sometimes festooned with animal skulls that I’ve heard called the Witch’s Tree.

Peoples in Places-Names

Many languages have been spoken in our area in the last two thousand years, and it is often place-names that provide the best evidence for their use and distribution. We know Cumbric (a language closely related to Welsh), Gaelic, Old English, Old Norse and Scots were spoken here because people who used these languages named the landscape around us. Occasionally, the people themselves are referred to directly in place-names.

‘Britons’ appear in Drumbretton near Annan and Glenbertle (earlier Glenberten) near Langholm. These are most likely Gaelic names: druim Breatann ‘Britons’ ridge’ and gleann Breatann ‘Britons’ glen’, though they might just have been coined by Cumbric speakers. Cumbric names referring to ‘Saxons’ are found at Pennersaughs ‘headland of the Saxon’ near Ecclefechan and Glensaxon ‘Saxon valley’ near Westerkirk.

‘Danes’ are the first part of the name Denbie, outside of Carrutherstown. Bý is an Old Norse word for ‘farm’ which appears in place-names either side of the Solway and throughout the Danelaw area of England. Newbie, Middlebie, Lockerbie and plenty others use this element. (Not all of them were coined by Scandinavian speakers though; -bie carried on being used as a place-name element after the period of Scandinavian settlement.)

A more recent parallel for these names can be found at the Ukrainian Chapel, outside of Lockerbie. You can read the story behind its name here. The stories behind ‘Saxon Valley’ and ‘Danish Farm’ are long gone, but the names give us an insight into the connections between the various peoples who have made this area their home.

Echoes of Battle

The lands around Annan have been the site of many pitched battles throughout the years, as well as countless cross-border skirmishes. The Battle of Annan in 1332 and the Battle of Dornock in 1333 were fought as part of the Second War of Scottish Independence. Two hundred years later, on the other side of the border, the Scots were defeated by English forces in the Battle of Solway Moss in 1542. In 1593 the Johnstones defeated the Maxwells at the Battle of Dryfe Sands near Lockerbie, the culmination of centuries of feuding between the two. The last major conflict in the area was in 1645, when the Battle of Annan Moor was fought as part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.

Place-names connected with vague traditions about battles fought nearby are dotted around Annan. These are recorded in the 19th century Ordnance Survey Name Books, where the surveyors for the map’s first edition took notes on the names they were collecting. For example, in the entry for Swordwell we are told that it is “supposed to be the place where the Scotch had washed their swords after the carnage with the English.” Nearby, Battlefield is said to have been the place where “a fearful conflict took place between the Scotch & English.” At Bruce’s Acre, on the coast between Powfoot and Annan, the Name Books notes that “here it is said there was a battle fought between the English and Scotch, the latter being under the command of Robert Bruce.”

These names seem to reflect the general idea that battles were fought in the area, rather than preserving a record of specific conflicts. What they all have in common is that weapons were said to be found at these sites, and it is likely that these discoveries prompted the stories behind the names and perhaps the names themselves. Although the conflicts mentioned above haven’t left any definite record in our place-names, the Battle of Dryfe Sands made its way into a local saying. In the 19th century, it was still common to call a face wound a ‘Lockerbie Lick’, referring to the wounds the Johnstones gave the Maxwells.

The Solway: Wading through History

The shortest path from Annan to Cumbria is across the Solway Firth. People have walked this route for thousands of years, wading through the pools of water left by the receding tide. The second part of the name Solway, earlier Sulwath, refers to just that – vath is the Old Norse word for a ford or wading-place. Vath survives in Scots and Northern English as wath and appears in Booness Wath, an 18th century name for the Firth (Booness being Bowness, just across the water from Annan) and in Sandywathe, the crossing from Dornock to Drumburgh. The Old Norse word is also found in Westerkirk, which despite its modern form was originally Wadsterker – Styrkarr’s wath.

The first part of Solway is less clear – words meaning ‘muddy’, ‘swilling’, and ‘solan goose’ are all possibilities. However, a strong contender is Old Norse súl ‘pillar’. This ‘pillar’ might have been the Lochmaben Stane, the lone survivor of a stone circle which stands on the banks of the Solway just outside of Gretna.

The name of this stone has its own story to tell. It was recorded in 1398 as ‘Clochmabenstane’, showing that it has nothing to do with lochs or Lochmaben – ‘cloch’ represents a Celtic word for stone. However, it and Lochmaben do share the same second element. This is the name Mabon, the ‘divine son’ of Celtic mythology, who the Romans called Maponus and equated with their god Apollo.

The Lochmaben Stane gives a sense of scale to the region’s history. It was positioned in its great ring of stones over 5000 years ago. Millenia later speakers of a Celtic language associated it with one of their divine figures, or perhaps an important leader who bore his name. Centuries afterwards Old Norse speakers might have used the stone as a way marker when crossing the Solway. The waters of history are often murky and there is a lot we don’t and can’t know. However, place-names allow us a glimpse beneath the surface at stories that would otherwise remain hidden.

Scots Place-Names in Wigtownshire

Here’s an article I wrote for the Stranraer and Wigtownshire Free Press. It appeared as Scots place names give us a glimpse into region’s past on July 15, 2021. I managed to squeeze 26 names into 500 words. I’ve added a notes section below with links to each name’s entry in the OS Name Books.

The place-names of Wigtownshire chart the ebb and flow of languages that have been spoken here over the last two millennia. The name of every hill, burn, farm and stone records how people have viewed and interacted with the landscape. Often overlooked is the rich contribution the Scots language has made to this tapestry of names. Scots replaced Gaelic here as the majority language in the 15th century and has left a unique mark on the map.

The distinctive vocabulary of Scots is perhaps best seen in its words for animals that appear in our place-names. Whaup, the curlew, occurs in place-names across Scotland, but only at Whauphill has it made its way into the name of a village. The Scots name for the cormorant appears in Scart Craig, Scart Cave and Scart Islands. The cuckoo visited Gowk Hill, the oyster catcher was seen at Pyot Hole, and the recently reintroduced red kite had its legacy preserved at Glede’s Nest and Gled Knowes. Flounder were found at Fleuk Hole near Port William and lythe ‘pollack’ were caught off Lythe Mead on the Mull of Galloway.

Elsewhere, Scots words are hidden as ‘false friends’ – words with different meanings in Scots and English. The hog in Hog Hill, Stoneykirk isn’t a pig but a young sheep. The gate in Red Gate and Gate Craig is a road, a meaning with its root in Old Norse. The Scots word for a gate (and a passage between hills) is yett, as in Yett Hill near Torhouse and a self-closing gate is a liggat, which appears in Liggat Cheek Cottage, Baltersan. ‘Several’, which occurs as a place-name across Wigtownshire, means land that is privately owned. Its opposite is a ‘strife-rigg’, a patch of common ground; this meaning of strife might lie behind Strife Hill and Strife Knowes.

Much of the Scots in Wigtownshire is hidden by how it is spelled. Many Scots words were silently changed to their English equivalents when the Ordnance Survey was compiling the first edition of its map. The Owse Rocks in Kirkcolm became Ox Rocks and Selch Co on the Mull became Seals Cave. Co, the local word for a cave, became ‘cove’ or ‘cave’ throughout the county. The same fate befell stane which is now printed as stone; it survives in a few places, including The Craigs of the Stane Fauld, New Luce and the Craw Stane, Inch. Similarly, the High and Low farm names dotted across the map almost all began their life as Scots heigh and laigh. Laigh hung on at Laigh Sinniness and Laigh Clugston but heigh has been completely erased.

Much has been lost this way, sometimes surviving in local pronunciation but hidden from visitors reading the map. However, there’s plenty left to celebrate, including the following names that are unique to Wigtownshire. ‘Orloge’, Scots for the face of a clock or sundial, makes its only appearance in a place-name at Orloge Knowe, Kirkcolm. And the only place in the world called Sonsy Neb (‘lucky nose’) is a point of rocks south of Port Logan.


  • Whaup Hill [village] “A few houses at the intersection of two Roads; consisting of a Public House, Smithy and Wheelwrights shop.” OS1/35/66/14
  • Whaup Hill [hill] “A moderate sized hill the ba[se] of which is of an oval shape the soil of which is arable. On the summit is a plantation. It is [the] property of R. V. Agnew Esqr.” OS1/35/66/14
  • Scart Craig [Leswalt] “A rocky point south of Captain’s Cave noted for the resort of a species of bird known to the country people by the name Scart (the cormorant)” OS1/35/33/7
  • Scart Craig [Kirkmaiden] “A rock used as a seat by fishermen when angling.” OS1/35/87/9
  • Scart Cave “A cave of small extent the entrance of which is below high water mark & is constantly inundated. It affords refuge to birds called Scarts, hence the name.” OS1/35/87/69
  • Scart Islands “Two small rocks in Mochrum Loch where cormotants resor[t] in order to brood hence the nam[e.] Cormorants are commonly calle[d] Scarts in this country.” OS1/35/61/26
  • Gowk Hill “A small arable hill upon the farm of Bailiewhir it takes its name from a bird called the cuckoo which is known to build its nest here every seasons without exception” OS1/35/84/19 & OS1/35/84/95
  • Pyot Hole “A small indent in the Bay of Whithorn & situated between Ringan & Dummie [Dumbie] Point.” OS1/35/78/23 W. A. D Riach’s A Galloway Glossary (1988) lists piet, sea-piet & sand-piet as names for the oyster-catcher.
  • Glede’s Nest “A steep part of a precipice on the Fell of Carleton wher[e] birds called Gleads build their nest hence the name” OS1/35/83/32
  • Gled Knowes “Two smalls hills with a few rocks on their summit Supposed to have derived its name from the circumstance of the “Gled” building its nest here.” OS1/35/8/19
  • Fleuk Hole “A considerable salt water Pool on the sea beach situated between high & low water mark, in it are a small fish called Flounder caught by the fishermen. (Flounder is called Fluke in this locality)” OS1/35/75/7
  • Lythe Mead “A small projection which is the most South Western point of the Mull of Galloway. It takes [its] name from the quantities of Lythe (fish) that are caught here.” OS1/35/87/71 Mead is a form of Scots MEITH, sense 3 in the DSL ” A landmark or prominent feature of the landscape by which a traveller sets his course (Sc. 1808 Jam.); specif. a landmark used by fishermen to steer by (Sh. 1866 Edm. Gl.; Mry. 1914 Trans. Bnff. Field Club 26; Arg. 1930; Abd. 1931 Press and Jnl. (25 March)), in gen. fishing usage; a fishing ground marked out with reference to the landmarks visible from it.” The same word, though close to sense 1 “A distinguishing feature by which the boundary of a piece of land is determined, a boundary mark or line” is the first element of Miefield, whose field-names I’ve written about HERE.
  • Hog Hill “A small hill on the lands of Kildonnan the surface of which is arable land” OS1/35/56/27 I mapped HOG/G place-names in Dufmries and Galloway for Day 18 of the 30 Day Map Challenge 2020.
  • Red Gate “A precipitous point on the shore of Knock and convenient to Callies Port is surface near the bottom is rocky and on its top is clay which has a red appearance.” OS1/35/83/20 This name, like Gate Craig, below could contain GATE in the sense ‘gate, passage’. Passages between hills are often called DOORS in Wigtownshire and the fact the YETT appears in local place-names swayed me me towards interpreting GATE as ‘road’. However, I’ve not visited either site an I was wanting to include Scots GATE in the article, so these aren’t exactly objective judgements.
  • Gate Craig “A small Rocky Hill on the Farm of Balterson.” OS1/35/32/13 & OS1/35/32/72
  • Yett Hill “A small cultivated hill in […] farm of Torhouse mains adjoin[ing] the River Bladnoch” OS1/35/50/10
  • Liggat Cheek “A small thatched farm house with suitable off[ice] houses attached, and about 25 Acres of Arabl[e] land. The property of J. C, Moorse Esqr. Corsewall” OS1/35/15/26
  • Several There are several of these names, and I’m going to leave collecting them for another day. However, the one I was thinking of when writing this was Several, Kirkmaiden: “A thatched house one story high it was formerly the farm house of the farm called Several the house and a portion of the farm of Several is held by the farmer oh High Drumore now & the remainder of the land is divided into several small holdings or farms. The property of the Earl of Stair – this house is now occupied by a Labourer” OS1/35/86/20 & “A thatched house one story high, it has been the original but is now a cottage house. and added to the form of High Drumore, and a portion of the land, the remaining part given to several other tenants, and is the property of Earl of Stair.” OS1/35/86/86 In the entry for Cairn Top, Old Luce it is written that “Mr Guthries the Factor in his address calls it Dergoals Several” OS1/35/43/81
  • Strife Hill [Leswalt] “A small hill on the farm of Low Glenstockad[a]le. Tehre is a tradition in the country that this hill was at some former period the scene of fighting or skirmishing hence the name” OS1/35/33/37
  • Strife Hill [Wigtown] “A small hill on the farm of “Cair[n] House”” OS1/35/50/16
  • Strife Knowes “A small hill on the far[m of] Craigenlee the surface of which [is] studded with small hillocks [or] knows” OS1/35/34/40
  • The Ox Rocks “Two rocks or small rock […] in the sea a short distance from […] shore near Barrock Point on […] of which is a Trig. station call[ed] by Trig. Party Orrest Rock.” OS1/35/2/8 This entry has Owse Rocks scored out and replaced by The Ox Rocks. Owse and Ouse are listed in Other modes of Spelling the same Name column. There is a similar entry which also includes these forms here OS1/35/2/66
  • Seals Cave “A small cave in the precipice immediately above Lythe Mead It is inaccessible at all times” OS1/35/87/71 William Todd’s statistical account of Kirkmaiden (1854 [2010], p. 31) records that the cave is “much frequented by seals and hence called Selk-Co.” I called this Seal Cave in the article. One typo’s not so bad.
  • The Craigs of the Stane Fauld “A few ledges of Rock about 10 chains east of Park Hill and about the same distance S.W. of Mid Hill” OS1/35/5/8 & OS1/35/5/28
  • Craw Stane “A large rock about 10 chains North of the Fairy Knowes. The property of Sir Alexr. Wallace” OS1/35/4/14 & OS1/35/4/49
  • Heigh: The entry for The High Bank, New Luce has The Heich Bank scored out. The Other modes of Spelling the same Name column has The Heigh Bank, Ditto, The High Bank, The Heich Bank, Ditto. OS1/35/21/16
  • Laigh Sinniness Only Sinniness appears in the Name Book OS1/35/60/16. Laigh Sinniness is on the current OS map.
  • Laigh Clugston “A small farm house with Offices and about 100 acres of land attached the property of Col. Stopford Blain of Penninghame House” OS1/35/49/9
  • Orloge Knowe “A small arable Hill or eminence on the farm of Barnhill, on which is erected a weather cock uses as Trig Station called by Trig. Party “Barrow hill weather cock” A “Sun Dial” at one time stood on this hill hence the name” OS1/35/2/11
  • Sonsy Neb “A point of rocks covered at high water and is used at low water as a fishing seat by fishermen which angling. – takes its name from being considered a lucky place in taking fish.”


The village of Beeswing is remarkable for taking its name, by way of a public house, from a nineteenth-century racehorse. There are numerous inns named after racehorses [1] and a handful of villages named from the public houses around which they grew,[2] but Beeswing appears to be the only example of a name making the transition from racehorse to settlement.

Beeswing was the most successful racehorse of her day, winning an unprecedented fifty-one of the sixty-four races she ran between 1835 and 1842.[3] Her popularity was such that several inns were named, or renamed, in her honour.[4] One of these was opened in a row of roadside houses in the parish of New Abbey, Kirkcudbrightshire, in the 1840s.[5]

The association between racehorse and settlement has been known for as long as it’s been called Beeswing.[6] The entry in the Ordnance Survey Object Name Book, written in 1847, states:

“A row of houses in good repair having a garden attached to each. The property of Jas. McLeod of Drumjohn. The name originates from one of the houses being used as a public house and having for its sign board the likeness of a famed racehorse called the Beeswing.”[7]

In 2007 the Scotsman newspaper declared Beeswing as Scotland’s ‘best place name’ [8] and since then the story of the name has featured in popular publications by Clive Aslet and Justin Pollard.[9] However, the story told in each of these is different from the account in the OS Name Book. Instead of the row of houses taking on the name Beeswing from the pub, it is said that the village was originally called Lochend and renamed in honour of the racehorse. This has become the standard derivation of the name and is repeated in books about place-names and the local area.[10] The story goes something like this:

Beeswing was originally called Lochend, the name of the village church. One of its residents, down on his luck and with next to nothing to his name, takes what little money he has and backs the famed racehorse Beeswing. The horse, true to form, wins by a country mile and our local uses his considerable winnings to build a pub in the village, which he names after his winning horse. The jubilant villagers decide that not just the pub but Lochend itself should take on the name Beeswing. It’s only the dour Kirk elders, aghast at the twin evils of drink and gambling being celebrated in the name of their village, who object. They can’t stop the village changing its name but they make a point of ensuring that the church goes by the original name Lochend.

This is a good story, but a glance at the map shows it can’t be true. A row of houses called Beeswing appears on the first edition of the six inch to the mile Ordnance Survey published in 1854; the spot where the church stands is blank. It’s not until the second edition of 1895 that Free Church appears on the map, a few hundred meters down the road from Beeswing.[11] The Annals of the Free Church of Scotland record that the first church built in Beeswing was completed in 1857.[12] This is ten years after Beeswing is recorded in the Ordnance Survey Object Name Book.

Ordnance Survey, Six-inch to the mile, Kirkcudbrightshire, sheet 33, Survey date: 1850-51, Publication date: 1854
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

But if the village wasn’t originally called Lochend, why should the church have this name? The Annals of the Free Church answer the question. It tells us that “Public worship was held in a barn at Lochend Farm, until the church was built at the east end of the village of Beeswing”.[13] It may well be that the elders of the Kirk didn’t want the name of their new church building associated with drinking and gambling, but the reason Lochend was chosen was because this is where the church began its life as a home mission station, not because it was the village’s original name.

Ordnance Survey, Six-inch to the mile, Kirkcudbrightshire sheet XXXVII.NW, Date revised: 1893, Publication date: 1895
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Although Beeswing wasn’t originally called Lochend,[15] we do know that the row of houses that became the village went by others name before Beeswing appeared on the sign outside the pub. In 1892 the Rev. James Christie made a trip from Dumfries to Dalbeattie by tricycle, which he recounts in A Minister’s Easter Mondays.[15] When passing through Beeswing he stops to enquire about the history of the name. After drawing several blanks an ‘auld body’ tells him:

“I ought to know, for my father built the first house here, and he was the black-smith. The right name is the West Park of Loch Arthur, but an auld wife used to call it Sclate Raw.”[16]

West Park is the name of the land on which the houses were built, and they are referred to by this name in the 1841 and 1851 censuses. Sclate Raw – ‘row of houses with slate roofs’ – [17] is an apt description of the line of old whitewashed houses in the middle of Beeswing, where the inn once was. As for the name Beeswing itself, Christie is informed that:

“a man cam’ here and built a public hoose, an’ put a galloping horse ower the door for a sign, and ca’ad it Beeswing, an’ then the Post Office cam,’ an’ they put Beeswing on the stamp, an’ sae its Beeswing now.”[18]

Although Beeswing wasn’t originally called Lochend, the popularity of that version of the village’s history still tells us something about the stories we like to hear. And the chain of events which led to us knowing that it was once referred to as Sclate Raw is a good example of the serendipity which often accompanies place-names research.


[1] J. Larwood and J. C. Hotter, English Inn Signs (London 1951), 113-15.

[2] K. Cameron, English Place Names (London 1996), 214.

[3] W. D. Lawson, Lawson’s Tyneside Celebrities: Sketches of the Lives and Labours of Famous Men of the North (Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1873); E. Martiniak, Beeswing <>, accessed 24/08/2021.

[4] Larwood and Hotter, English Inn Signs, at 114 note that it has been suggested that some of these inns were named after the ‘beeswing’ which forms on port. While this is not the case for Beeswing, the mare herself was named after this beeswing, J. Fairfax-Blakeborough, ‘Bee’swing’, Notes and Queries, 157 (1929) [link], 115;  A. G. Moffat, ‘Bees’wing’, Notes and Queries, 157 (1929), 158. [link]

[5] The inn’s proprietor was Nathanial Caven, born in the neighbouring Parish of Kirkgunzeon. Local tradition has it that he won money betting on Beeswing but there is no historical record of this (M. Bryson, ‘‘Bee’s Wing’ and Beeswing’, Dumfries and Galloway Family History Society Newsletter, 1999, 36, 9-10, at 10).  Recent accounts of the place-name make a much stronger connection between the horse and the village. A. Room, A Concise Dictionary of Modern Place-names in Great Britain and Ireland (Oxford 1983), 8, states that the inn was built or owned by Beeswing’s owner William Orde, while C. Aslet, Villages of Britain (London 2010), 534 and J. Pollard, Secret Britain (London 2009), 247 claim that the owner of the inn was William’s brother Robert.

[6] A. MacDonald, ‘Review of History in the Open Air’, Antiquity, 11, (1937), 243-244, [link] at 244 claims that the name ‘was tortured into every shape by philologists, till it was discovered that […] the hamlet was called after an inn […]’ but I can’t find any evidence that this was the case. Early discussion of the place-name had no such trouble: P. Dudgeon, ‘Some Curious Place Names’, Transactions of the Dumfries and Galloway Antiquarian and Natural History Society, 8 (1891-2), 70-72, at 72; J. B. Johnston Place-names of Scotland (Edinburgh 1903), xcv-xcvi, 37.

[7] Kirkcudbrightshire OS Name Books, 1848-1851, volume 90 OS1/20/90/49.

[8] ‘Best Place Name’, The Scotsman, (Tuesday 18 December 2007) Unfortunately, this page is dead and hasn’t been preserved on; I see from my notes that I last accessed it on 05/03/2012.

[9] C. Aslet, Villages of Britain (London 2010), 533-4; J. Pollard, Secret Britain (London 2009), 247.

[10] For example, A. Room, A Concise Dictionary of Modern Place-names in Great Britain and Ireland, (Oxford 1983), 8; F. McDonald & J. Cresswell The Guinness Book of British Place Names (Middlesex 1993), 127; H. Gordon, The Kirkcudbrightshire Companion, (Kirkcudbright 2008). The earliest mention of this tradition I can find is I. A. Fraser, ‘Words and Places’, The Scots Magazine, 101, (1974) but the story must have been circulating for some years beforehand.

[11] The first church building is what is shown as Lochend School on the 2nd edition map. The Free Kirk shown was built in 1868, after which the original building was transferred to the School Board, W. Holland ‘Additional Information on the Churches at Lochend and Beeswing’, Transactions of the Dumfries and Galloway Antiquarian and Natural History Society, 81 (2007), 124. [link]

[12] W. Ewing, Annals of the Free Church of Scotland 1843-1900 (Edinburgh 1914), vol. 2, 45-6.

[13] W. Ewing, Annals of the Free Church of Scotland 1843-1900 (Edinburgh 1914), vol. 2, 45-46. See also W. Holland ‘Additional Information on the Churches at Lochend and Beeswing’, Transactions of the Dumfries and Galloway Antiquarian and Natural History Society, 81 (2007), 124. [link]

[14] The relevant is excerpted in J. Christie, Northumberland: its History, its Features and its People (Carlisle, Newcastle, London 1904), 247-249. [link]

[15] Lochend and Beeswing get separate entries in F. H. Groome, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical, and Hisotrical (Edinburgh 1884) at vol V 534 and Vol I 137 respectively. Lochend is described as follows: “a place in Kirkgunzeon parish, Kirkcudbrightshire, ½ SE of Killywhan station, and 7 miles SW of Dumfries. Here is the Free church f Lochend and Newabbey.” As the 2nd edition OS map shows, at this time there was still some distance between Beeswing itself and the location of the Church; it took several decades for the gap between the two to be bridged by housing.

[16] J. Christie, Northumberland: its History, its Features and its People (Carlisle, Newcastle, London 1904), 249. [link]

[17] Dictionary of the Scots Language, s.v. sclate; s.v. raw, <;. There is a Slate Row in Kirkbean. The Name Book entry describes it as, “A row of houses in good repair. They were the first slated houses in the neighbourhood, hene the name Slate Row.” Kirkcudbrightshire OS Name Books, 1848-1851, Volume 122 OS1/20/122/30. There is another is Reerick, Kirkcudbrightshire OS Name Books, 1848-1851 Kirkcudbrightshire, Volume 136 OS1/20/136/49.

[18] J. Christie, Northumberland: its History, its Features and its People (Carlisle, Newcastle, London 1904), 249. [link]

Estate Map Gleanings

The estate maps digitised by the Dumfries Archival Mapping Project are a treasure trove of place-names, many of which aren’t recorded elsewhere. Here are a few that caught my eye.

Update 19/12/2021: As this list was getting pretty long, I’ve started another here: Estate Map Gleanings 2.
Update 14/05/2022: Estate Map Gleanings 3

Tumbling Cloddach Bay, Borgue KCB

This name isn’t on the OS. CLODDACH is a Scots word, borrowed from Gaelic (as in Claddiochdow below), and refers to ‘the gravelly bed or margin of a river; a shingly beach’.

In The Place-Names of Galloway (1930), in the entry for Claddiochdow, Maxwell notes:

‘The term cladach is still in colloquial use among the people of Galloway. One day I was playing a salmon in the river Luce, while standing on a gravelly beach. My gillie, ready with the gaff, exclaimed “Bring him in to the cladach till I get the cleik intil him.”’

Maxwell also sees this word in Clady House, Inch. It doesn’t appear in Riach’s A Galloway Glossary (1988).

The Warlds End, Borgue KCB

Not on the OS. (The) World’s End is a fairly common name for ‘a remote piece of land’. However, given the saying ‘Oot o the world an itae Brogue’ it’s worth considering which side of the shore this name refers to!

A Plan of the foot of the river Fleet exhibiting the several fords & roads leading thereto with the adjacent shore & houses / engraved from Mr. Tait’s original survey by A. Bell. 1934
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Pousance Island, Dumfries DMF

This island appears on the Roy Military Survey of Scotland (1747-1755) but is only named on this plan. The island was lost when the Nith was redirected and is now the site of Troqueer Water Works. The old and new course can be seen on Copy of Part of the Plan of the Nith by W Newall in 1811 & 1812 [titled in pencil]. Scots PUIS(S)ANCE means ‘power’ in various senses, including ‘physical strength or might’. I’m not sure why the island has this name; I don’t think ‘puisance’ appears as a place-name element elsewhere. It may have something to do with the strength of the river. The text of the plan notes that just above the island (a & c) are, “A stone wall and earthen bank created by the Town of Dumfries for the protection of the Kingholm, the water being strongly impelled towards the left bank of the River, by weirs judiciously place on the opposite side.”

Plan of the River Nith by John Lewars (flat map), 1808
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Hurchin Hill, Hurchinhill Houses & Hurchinhill Park, Twynholm KCB

Scots HURCHEON ‘hedgehog’ is a rare place-name element. There are only three on the OS, including Hurcheon Cleugh, Penpont. Had these names in Twynholm survived, we would have double that number.

Estate of Barwhinnock lying in the Parish of Twynhame, 1799
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Foot Ball Knows, Lochrutton KCB

Not on the OS. This is one of only two ‘football’ place-names in Scotland I’m aware of, and the earliest one on record. The other is Football Field, West Calder [NT019639] (thanks to John Wilkinson for bringing that one to my attention).

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

Chapple Yard & Eccles Park, Kirkgunzeon KCB

Not on the OS. Eccles, in Eccles Park, could be a surname. However, the fact that it is next to Chapple Yard is suggestive as Eccles is also an early ecclesiastic place-name element, representing either Brittonic eglẹ:s or this word borrowed into Old English as *eclēs. As Gilbert Markus notes, Kirkgunzeon was a chapel in 1296, only later becoming a parish church. For now these names are just hints towards some ecclesiastical connection but are nonetheless a good example of the kind of historical information that can be preserved in field-names.

Plan of Breken-Side in the parish of Kirkgunzeon & Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, belonging to John Wightman Esqr, 1808
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Gar Pow, New Abbey KCB

This burn is unnamed on the OS. The estate map not only gives us a name, but adds to the number of Gaelic place-names in New Abbey. Gar Pow is surely *garbh poll ‘rough stream’. It also appears on Farm of Glen belonging to Charles Stewart of Shambelly Esq, 1759 & SHAMBELLIE ESTATE (PLAN No 4): Map of Shambellie Estate.  

Plan of the farms of Shambelly, Townhead, Wanfoord, Clachrumheads and Barsay, belonging to Charles Stewart, Esqr, 1759?
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Half Darg Meadow, New Abbey KCB

Not on the OS. Scots DARG is ‘a day’s work’, ultimately from Old English dægweorc.

Farm of Glen belonging to Charles Stewart of Shambelly Esq, 1759
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Clock-lee Stone, New Abbey KCB

This doesn’t appear on the OS. It is, however, mentioned in three 17th century records:

  • 40 solidatas terrarium antiqui extentus de Kinhervie et Clokcloy 1612 RMS 7 728
  • 40 solidat. terrarium antiqui extentus de Kynhervy et Clokloy, in baronia de Lochkendero 1617 RMS 7 1740
  • 40 sol. terrarium de Clockloy et Kinhervie 1633 RMS 8 2225

The first element is presumably Gaelic clach, cloch ‘stone’ or potentially its Brittonic cognate clog. The second could be Gaelic liath ‘grey’ or laogh ‘calf’.

Plan of the Lands of Kinharvie lying in the parish of Newabbey and County of Galloway belonging to Robert Riddel…1793
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

The Monks Loch, Crossmichael KCB

Not on the OS. The Place-Names of the Galloway Glens database has three ‘monk’ place-names in Crossmichael: Monks Muir Mill, Monks Muir Smithy and the inferred *Monks Muir. The Monks Loch is significant for adding another ‘monk’ name, and one not derived from *Monks Muir. Here’s what the Galloway Glens database says about these ‘monk’ names:
“The notion of there being land belonging to ‘monks’ here may arise from the (mistaken) idea that appeared in the eighteenth century of there having been on abbey at Abbey Yard (q.v.); or there may have been some genuine tenurial connection between this part of the parish and some monastery, before lands in this parish were granted to Lincluden Collegiate Church.” [link]

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

Sandy Foard, New Abbey KCB

There is nothing particularly revelatory about this name, though the spelling foard is not one of the variants listed in the DSL entry for FUIRD (they have foordfourdfeuardförd). It appears on the OS as Sandyford. What caught my attention was that this spelling of ‘ford’ makes sense of the rhyme in Tam o’ Shanter where Burns writes:

By this time he was cross the ford,
Whare, in the snaw, the chapman smoor’d;

I’d always read this assuming it was an eye-rhyme. Old news to fans of 18th century Scots phonology but new to me.

Incidentally, Scots SMUIR ‘to be choked, stifled, suffocated, to suffer or die from want of air, esp. to perish by being buried in a snowdrift’ appears in Smuring Syke, Westerkirk: “A small stream having its rise on the south side of “Ewe Hill” and running in a S.E. direction into Logan Water. A considerable number of sheep having been smothered in a snow drift hence the name.”

Farm of Glen belonging to Charles Stewart of Shambelly Esq, 1759
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Aboue Brae / Aboon the Brae, Lochrutton KCB

Abune the Brae, Lochrutton appears in the Name Book as Upper Brae. I thought this was a recent (and rare) case of a name getting more Scots rather than less. However, as the maps below show, the name has been in flux for a long time.

A Plan of the Barony of Lochrutton, 1774-1775
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
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

Grandmother’s Knowe, Tynron

This name isn’t on the Ordnance Survey and is, as far as I’m aware, the only Scottish place-name to contain the word ‘grandmother’. Gutcher, Scots for ‘grandfather’, appears at Gutcher’s Isle, Colvend.

Killywarren [Queensberry Estate Plans, 1854 Volume 2]
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Trumpet Moss, Hoddom

Not on the OS. The Ordnance Survey Name Book entry for Trumpet Knowes, Hoddom says that, “The Knowes took their name from a small moss, in shape, like that of a trumpet and situated near the same spot. The moss is now drained”. Here we get to see the moss before it was drained. It doesn’t look particularly like a trumpet to me. If the knowes did take their name from the moss we might expect them to be called *Trumpet Moss Knowes. The fact that there are three names on the map with ‘Trumpet’ as their specific element – Trumpet Lands, Trumpet Moss, Trumpet Knolls – suggests that the name might not have come from the shape of the moss after all. What the reference is though, I’m not sure; ‘Trumpet’ names aren’t common. There’s a Trumpethill in Stirlingshire but apart from that I’m not aware of any others in Scotland.

Plan of Ecclefechan & Mein Water, 1759-60
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Servitude Field, Middlebie

Not on the OS. This is the only occurrence of ‘servitude’ as a place-name element that I am aware of.

Pennersaughs, Queensberry Estate Plans, 1854 Volume 2
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Gushet, Dornock, Closeburn & Middlebie DMF

Scots GUSHET is ‘an ornamental pattern in silk thread on a stocking, a clock’; ‘a pocket near the arm-pit of a jacket or coat, a breast pocket’; and, as is the case here, ‘a triangular piece of land, esp. one lying between two adjacent properties, a nook; in ploughing or reaping: a three-cornered section of short furrows or standing crop at the corner of an irregularly-shaped field’. GUSHET is the scots equivalent of English GUSSET, both of which are from Old French gouchet, gousset. GUSSET doesn’t appear in Paul Cavill’s A New Dictionary of English Field-Names and I’m not aware of GUSHET in any Scots field-name databases. Aside from being an a rare example of the word used in this context, recording and plotting such a wee portion of ground serves to illustrate the diligence of the Duke’s surveyors.

Plan of the lands in the parish of Dornock belonging to His Grace the Duke of Buccleuch, 1821
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Here is another, larger Gushet in Closeburn. Unlike the one above, this is the name of substantial field.

Plan of Cunningholm in the Parish of Closeburn belonging to His Grace the Duke of Buccleuch & Queensberry
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

And another from Middlebie.

Plan of part of the lands in the parish of Middlebie belonging to His Grace the Duke of Buccleuch
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

And another from the same map:

Plan of part of the lands in the parish of Middlebie belonging to His Grace the Duke of Buccleuch
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

The Tea Field, Dornock DMF

T, Tea, and Tee appear in field-names in the sense of ‘a T-shaped piece of land’ but no matter how you look at it, this doesn’t apply to The Tea Field. Perhaps the T referred to is the junction between the railway line and the loaning between Turn Field and The Long Land. Or it might be that The Tea Field was at one point at T-shaped piece of land. Another possibility, though I think less likely, is that Tea here means ‘tea’: either the stuff you drink or the stuff you eat.

Eastriggs and Dornock Common, Queensberry Estate Plans, 1854 Volume 2
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Cyder Orchard, Kirkmahoe DMF

Speaking of stuff you can drink, here’s Cyder orch[ard]. Orchard is a common enough field-name but Cyder Orchard is, as far as I know, a one-off. Cider doesn’t appear in Paul Cavill’s A New Dictionary of English Field-Names nor are there any Cider names in the Ordnance Survey Name Books.

Mains and Netherholms, A volume of maps of the several farms of the estate of Dalswinton, 1768
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland


Cats’ Strand (Ruthwell), Catstrand (Dumfries) and Cat Strand (Kells) all look to be transparently formed from CAT and STRAND ‘a little stream or run of water, a rivulet’. This is how the Place-Names of the Galloway Glens interprets Cat Strand (Kells) [1] and is behind the rather more elaborate explanation the Ordnance Survey Name Book gives for Catstrand (Dumfries):

“This name applies to where a small stream crossed the road at the top end of [the] Kirkgate. The name [originates] from the fact of the place [having been] formerly haunted by witches [in] the shape of cats.” [2]

Another possibility is offered by John Mactaggart’s Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia. He defines CATSTRAN’ as ‘a very small stream’. [3] This is the DSL‘s only citation for this word and, other than these places-names, I’ve not seen it anywhere else. [4]

It’s hard to know if the names above are CAT + STRAND or CATSTRAN’. CAT appears in plenty of local place-names, including Cat Syke (Gretna, Westerkirk) which is the eastern D&G equivalent of Cat Strand. And there are several ‘animal’ + STRAND place-names in Galloway: Otter Strand (Minnigaff), Goat Strand (Carsephairn, Girthon, Borgue), Hare Strand (Carsephairn), Heron Strand (Carsephairn), Ged Strand (Balmaclellan). The size of the stream might offer a way in, but with only 3 examples so far, there’s not much to go on. Perhaps more will come to light in estate maps and field-name surveys.

Update 18/08/2021: I spotted another CATSTRAN’ while reading ‘The Gold Wells of Cairnsmore’ in Lowran Castle by Robert Trotter. It’s used in Mactaggart’s sense of ‘a very small stream’. It also antedates the Mactaggart example by two years. No a muckle antedating – but it’s ma first yin an A’m fair pleased wi it!

Here’s the extract where it appears:

“From its [Cairnsmore] summit also, rushes many a torrent stream, wherein the hunter’s moon casts her clear light, as the fleet roe of the wood drinks the golden water from the sparkling stream. There Dr Dodds placed his water mills, anointed with an oil, the name of which was never yet known to the most cunning artisan, ‘north of the Tweed.’ They, in form and size, resembled those made of rushes by the school-boy, and placed in the cat-stran’ by the village school; and so powerfully attractive was this oil, that every morning before the sun rose above the horizon, he carried them home, their spokes thickly plated with the pure gold from the dashing stream.”[5]

You can read Robert de Bruce Trotter’s account of the ‘The Goold Mills’, from Galloway Gossip, here.


[1] Kirkcudbrightshire place-name 1830: ‘Cat Strand’. 2021. In Place-names of Kirkcudbrightshire. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 28 June 2021, from

[2] OS1/10/11/180

[3] Mactaggart, John (1824) The Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia, or, The Original, Antiquated, and Natural Curiosities of the South of Scotland…, p. 128


[5] Robert Trotter (1822) Lowran Castle or the Wild Boar of Curridoo: with other tales illustrative of the superstitions, manners, and customs of Galloway, Dumfries: J. Swan, pp. 94-95