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O.E. scild, Icel. skjuld-r, a shield. A shiel is, therefore,
' any place which gives shelter,' and so, ' a house.' The
suffix is seen in GALASHIELS, POLLOKSIIIELDS, &c. The
word is seen in SHIELDHILL, in 1745 Shielhill, and so
often pronounced still ; also in a more disguised form in
SELKIRK, the old Sele- or Seles-chirche. Shiels enters
into many names of Lowland farms Biggar Shiels,
Legholm Shiels, &c.

Another very common suffix is -fell, Icel. fjall, fell,
N. fjeld, a mountain or hill, as in the Dovrefjeld of the
Romsdal. In the Outer Hebrides this aspirates into
-bhal or -val, as in Trelavall. Fells are very common
in Northern England, but almost equally so in Southern
Scotland, e.g., Coulter Fell, Goat Fell, Hart Fell, &c.
Noteworthy also are : -holm, the Dan. and O.E. holm,
a small island in a river, an islet, Icel. holm-r, an
island, also a meadow near river or sea. Those in the


far north, like HOLM itself, one of the Orkneys, and
like GLOUPHOLM, are, without doubt, Norse ; while
those in the south, like BRAXXHOLM and MIDHOLM,
are probably English in their origin, and they are per-
petually interchanging with the purely English ham
(see YETHOLM and HODDOM): -hope is not the O.E.
hopa, hope, but the Icel. hop, 'a haven of refuge,' as in
the two ST MARGARET'S HOPES ; the Lowland -hope, as
in SOOXHOPE, Peebles, is the same word (see HOBKIRK).
Soonhope means ' pen, shelter-place, for swine ; ' there
are both a Chapelhope and a Kirkhopc near St Mary's
Loch : -thu'aite, Icel. ipveit, a place, is common enough
in England, but rare north of the border, MURRAY-
THWAITE, Ecclefechan, being one of the very few Scotch
examples, but the original form of the name of the
MOORFOOT Hills was ' Morthwaite.''

Beck and gill are pure Scandinavian, and common to
both Northern England and Southern Scotland. The
former, Icel. bekk-r, Dan. buck, Sw. back, a brook, is
seen in Bodsbeck and WATERBECK : but it is rarer
in Scotland than gill, Icel. gil, a ravine or gully. Quite
a cluster of gills are found far inland, to the west of the
sources of the Tweed Duncan, Ram, Snow, Wind
Gills, &c. : -rlgg, Icel. hrygg-r, Dan. ryg, Sw. rygg, also
O.E. hrycg, a ridge of land, literally the back, the
equivalent of the common G. drum- (p. xlii.), is a fre-
quent suffix, chiefly in the south, as ROUGHRIGG, TODRIG,
&c. But these ' riggs ' are seldom of pure Norse
descent ; BOXXYRIGG and DRUMLAXRIG, for example,
cannot be. A curious popular corruption is seen in
BISHOPBRIGGS, which most Scottish folk would naturally
think denoted the presence of a bridge ; but the name
really tells of the ' riggs ' or fields of the Bishop of
Glasgow : -roe, Icel. for, a little bay or inlet, is common


in the far north, as in AITHSVOE, Caithness, and CUL-
LIVOE, Shetland : -goe, Icel. gjd, already referred to
(p. lv.), is of similar meaning, literally it is a cleft or
gap, as in GIRNIGO and Whaligoe in Caithness.

A very large group of words end in ey, ay, a, the
O.N. and Icel. ey, Dan. oe, cognate with O.E. ig, an
island. The ending is found all over the north and
west, as in PAPA WESTRAY, a double instance, RAASAY,
ULVA, and that very curious name COLONSAY (q.v.).
Almost in no case has the original -ey been retained.
PLADDA, off Arran, is the old Flada or ' flat isle,' another
instance of the Celt's very shifty use of the letter p.
The name remains uncorrupted in Fladay, off Barra.
An almost equally important group are the wickn, O.N.
and Icel. vik, a (little) bay ; hence vik-ing or ' bayman.'
Wick we have still in English in the expression ' the
wicks ' or corners of the mouth. LERWICK and BRODICK,
or ' broad bay,' are certainly Norse ; but this suffix is,
in the south, apt to be confused with the O.E. wic, a
dwelling, village, as in Alnwick, and probably BERWICK.
Another Old Norse word for a bay or cove is vdg-r ;
but the r of the nominative generally falls away, and
we get -ivay, as in SCALLOWAY, STORNOWAY, &c., which
-way must be carefully distinguished from the similar
Celtic ending, as in DARNAWAY, G. dor na bheath. In
other cases the r in vag-r changes into its brother liquid
I, as in Osmund wall, PIEROWALL, and especially KIRK-
WALL. This last town first appears in the Orkneyitiya
Saga, under the spelling Kirkiuvag ; before 1400 it
has become Kirkvaw, and already by 1497 it is Kirk-
wall, and Kirkwall, to many a one's puzzlement and
misleading, it is to this day. In Harris and Bcnbecula
vagr appears as -vagh, as in FLODAVAGH and Uskevagh.
Of somewhat similar meaning is the suffix -vat (Icel.


vatn, X. vand, water, a lake), as in Loch LAXGAVAT,
Lewis, &c.

The Norsemen have not only named many of our
inlets with their own names of firth and voe and goe,
they have named many of our ' outlets ' too. Every
'ness' is Xorse, this being the Icel. nes, Dan. naes, a
nose ; hence a cape or ' Xaze,' a transfer of meaning
precisely parallel to that of the G. sron (p. y.liiij. But
though names like STROMNESS and DEERXESS are pure
Xorse, it does not follow that names like BUCHAX Xess
and BUDDOX Xess are all Xorse too ; what Buddon
actually does mean no one seems sure. Ness often
becomes in Gaelic mouths nish, for the Gael almost
always aspirates his s, and loves to speak of the
' Shawms of David ' (cf. ARDALAXISH, MACHRAHAXISH,
&c.). The Viking has largely determined the nomen-
clature of our stormy northern and western shores.
All the ' stacks,' O.X. stak. these wild-looking, lonely
juts or columns of rock, in Caithness, are Xorse ; so are
all the ' skerries/ X. and Dan. skjaer, a cliff or rock, of
which there are numerous examples around the wild
Pentland Firth SCARFSKERRY, SULESKERRY, &c. ; and
such names as SUMBURGH ROOST are from the X. rost,
a whirlpool.

Two remarkable suffixes remain, and demand special
attention. The first is -by or -bie, so useful in detecting
the foot of the Dane rather than the Norwegian. This
is the north. O.E. l>y, Mid. Eng. bi, Dan. and Sw. by,
almost certainly all derived from the O.X. boer or by-r,
and all meaning a dwelling, a hamlet or town. The
root is the same as that of the good old Scottish word
big, to build, but not the same as that of 'bury' or
' borough,' which is from the O.E. byrig or burh, a
fortified enclosure. The suffix -by is frequent in the


north of England, and almost as frequent in South-
SORBIE, &c. There are nine examples in the Dumfries
district, three in Ayr (Crosby, Magby, and Sterby), and
only four in the south-east. There is one near Glasgow,
BUSBY, and just one north of the Forth, HUMBIE, near
Aberdour, Fife. In the extreme north by reappears in
the misleading guise of -bay, as in CAXISBAY and
BUNCANSBAY. But perhaps the most remarkable
group of suffixes in the whole study of Scottish names
is that evolved out of one compound O.N. word
bolstatir, a dwelling-place, which has been chopped
and changed into almost every conceivable shape.
It occurs alone, as a place-name, again and again,
and in many shapes, as in Bosta, Lewis, Boust,
Coll, and Busta, Shetland. Perhaps nearest to the
original are the forms -bolsij, found in ' Scarrabolsy,'
mentioned in Islay in 1562, and -bustar, -buster, and
-bister, as in ' Skelebustar,' ' Swanbuster,' in Orphir,
mentioned in the early Orkney rental books, c. 1500,
Cowbuster (Firth, Orkney), and Fimbuster, and Libister,
old form of LYBSTER. This last shows us the first
vowel dropped out, as is also seen in BIL-BSTER and
SCRA-BSTER (in 1201 Skara-bolstad). As common as
any is the form -bost, as in Colbost, GARRABOST, Shaw-
bost, all in Long Island ; there are thirteen names in
-bost in Lewis alone. In Islay poor bolstaftr is squeezed
down into -bus, as in Eorabus, ' beach-house,' Persebus,
' priest's farm,' &c. Then -bol often occurs alone, and,
indeed, bol is itself the O.N. for a dwelling, thus we
have BORROBOL and ERIBOL in Sutherland ; and then
that shifty liquid I drops away, and so we get EMBO
and SKIBO, near Dornoch. In Islay, Coll, Tyree, and
Mull the b may become p, and so for bol we get pol or


pool, as in CROSSAPOL, GRISAPOLL. In Caithness it is
the second or stafir half which has been chiefly used,
staSr being the Norse equivalent of the O.E. stede or
'stead,' a place, as in ' homestead.' Staftr gives us in
Caithness scores of -sters OCCUMSTER, STEMSTER,
THRUMSTER, &c. Instead of -ster we usually find, in
the Long Island, -stra, as in SCARRI-STRA, or even
-sta, as in TOLSTA. Further, metamorphosis could
hardly go. 1

An interesting little group is formed by the three
names, DINGWALL, TIXGWALL (Shetland), and TIXWALD
(Dumfries), which are all shapes of the same word,
]>ingavollr, ' meeting-place of the Thing, diet, or local
parliament.' In Norse tk is sounded t, hence the latter
two forms; and every one who knows Grimm's law,
knows how naturally Hi becomes d, hence Dingwall. or,
as it first occurs in 1263, Dignewall. The Icel. ]>i'ny,
and the Dan. and Sw. ting mean, properly, a court or
assembly, but in our own O.E. the tiling is originally
the cause or matter which the Thing met to discuss.
The ancient little burgh of TAIX is commonly supposed
to come from ]nny or ting too. Its earliest spelling,
in 1227, is Teiie, which makes this likely. The second
syllable of Dingwall, &c., is the O.N. vull-r or void,
Sw. folia, O.E. fold, Dan. and Mod. Eng. fold, an
enclosure, or what is enclosed, hence ' an assembly.'

Several Scottish counties have a Norse element in
their names, e.g., CAITHNESS, a name never used by any
Gael. He always speaks of Gallaibh, 'land of the
Galls ' or ' strangers,' these, of course, being the

1 In all matters regarding West Coast names this chapter is largely
indebted to Professor M'Kinnon's valuable series of articles on the
Place- frames of Aryylc, published in the Scotsman in the winter of


marauding Northmen ; -aibh is the old locative case-
ending. The name Caithness is the O.N. Catanes,
' ness ' or ' projecting land of the tribe Cat.' Cat is the
name actually given to the district by the man who
first mentions it, the Irish Nennius (? of 8th century).
This tribe of Cat or Caith took their name from Cat,
Gatt, or Got, one of the sons of the legendary Cruithne
(see p. xliv). The next neighbour of Caithness, SUTHER-
LAND, which, curiously enough, contains nearly the
whole of the extreme north of Scotland, is the O.N.
Sudrland, so named because it lay to the south of the
Norse settlements in Orkney and Caithness; just as
the Hebrides were termed Sudreya/r, as contrasted
with the more northerly Orkney and Shetland Isles.
Already in a Latin document of date 1300 we find
the name as Sutherlandia, The ending of the name
ORKNEY, at least, is Norse (see List). SHETLAND or
Zetland is the O.N. Hjaltland or Hetland, but what
that means Dr Vigfusson in his Icelandic dictionary
makes no attempt to explain.

Just one or two noteworthy scraps in conclusion : be
it noted that the PENTLAND Frith has nothing to do
with the word pent, which would be singularly inappro-
priate as applied to this swift-running sea-channel,
which is no true frith at all. Pentland frith, like
Pentland hills, is the O.N. word Petland, the Norse
for ' Picts' land,' which conveys to us some useful
information as to the settlements and migrations of
the Picts. Cape WRATH, standing in its stormy soli-
tude at the far north-west corner of Scotland, has
doubtless been thought to bear a very appropriate
name. So it does ; but what it means is, not rage and
fury, but ' corner, turning point,' or ' shelter,' Icel.
hvarf, and Sw. hwarf, the same word as our Eng.


wliarf. And that far northern isle in Shetland, YELL,
seems to bear a very startling name. But Yell is
the O.N. Jali, Icel. gelid or gall, which means nothing
more than ' barren.' This last is also the root of that
ugly name JAWCUAIG, near Slamannan, spelt in a 1745
map, Jallcraig. The present form is one among many
hundreds of examples of 'popular etymology,' or, as
likely, of popular carelessness.



To the student who has fairly tackled the Celtic, or
even the Norse, names of Scotland, the purely English
names are mere child's play. Considering that English
is now the vernacular of sixteen out of every seventeen
persons in the land, the number of our English or
Anglo-Saxon place-names is surprisingly small. We
are not aware, however, if the proportion of English to
Celtic and to Norse names in Scotland has ever been
exactly ascertained or even estimated. The calculation
would be rather a difficult one, but full of interest,
English has for some time been the language of all the
most populous districts ; but over a very wide area in
the Highlands English influence had scarcely any
existence before the Rebellion in 1745 ; and very few
place-names of any interest to us have originated
since that date. The place-names of yesterday are of
small account.

Both the contemporary historian Ammianus Mar-
cellinus and the contemporary poet Claudian prove,
that as early as 360 A.D., Saxons had invaded the
Roman province of Britain. How soon they entered
Scotland we are hardly able to tell ; but we have
already alluded to the possible presence of Frisians in
the flats of Dumfriesshire before the year 400. Octa
and Ebissa, leaders of the Frisians, were probably


established in East and Mid Lothian c. 500 A.D. ; and,
at any rate, by 547 Angles and Frisians, i.e., men from
the swamps and plains around the mouths of the Weser,
Scheldt, and Rhine, had spread from Tees to Forth.
A district on the south of the Frith of Forth was early
known as the ' Frisian Shore : ' and probably the
earliest recorded appellation of the frith itself is that
used by Nennius, Mare Frenessicum or ' Frisian Sea.'
The true modern representatives of these Frisians are,
of course, the Dutch or Low Germans of Holland and
Hanover. Though the Angle and the Saxon were thus
early on the ground, very few English names indeed
can be proved to have been in use in Scotland before
the days of Malcolm Canmore, c. 1060 ; therefore is it
that we have made this Chapter III. when strictly it
should have been Chapter II. Almost the only excep-
tions which occur to us are these that Simeon of
Durham (d. 1130), when writing of the year 750,
mentions a Niwaubyrig, which .may be XEWBURGH in
Fife, and Eddi and the venerable Bede (both c. 720)
mention ' Coludesburg,' or, in Bede's Latin Urbs Coludi,
which is the modern COLDINGHAM. Of course, probably
many more English names than these actually existed
at as early a date ; but our extant information is very

Professor Freeman informs us that exiles were wel-
comed from England as early as the days of Macbeth,
who, ' as every schoolboy knows,' was slain at Lumphanan
in 1057. But the chief inflow of English blood came
not till Macbeth's equally famous successor, Malcolm
Canmore, had been seated for fully half a score of
years upon his throne. By that time the Norman
Conquest was a sad reality to Saxon and to Angle ; and
King Malcolm now gladly welcomed the exiled Saxon


royal family to his palace at Dunfermline. Nor was
he long in espousing the devout Saxon princess,
Margaret, who has left her trace in North and South
QUEENSFERRY, hard by Dunfermline. From the
marriage of Malcolm with Margaret (1070), and from
the incoming of the English exiles about the same
time, we may safely date the decay, not only of the
old Celtic Church, but also of the Celtic speech.
Henceforth Gaelic was a courtly language no more.
But just after the Norman Conquest many of our
English town and village names must have sprung
up. By the aid of the old charters, of which we have
a rich abundance after 1116, we can see many of these
names coming in and taking shape before our very
eyes. And to the student of history the process
is quite as interesting as the embryologist finds it
to watch the slowly beautiful growth of the ascidian
or the tadpole under the microscope. Here, too, is

The English ending denoting ' town,' ' village,' is ton
or ham. We might, for illustration, select almost any
Scottish name ending thus. Let us take SYMINGTON,
which occurs twice, in Lanark and in Ayr. Both take
their name from the same man, Simon Lockhart, a
local knight, about whom we read a good deal in the
records of the middle part of the 12th century, and
whose surname is still preserved in Milton Lockhart,
near Carluke. In 1160, in one of the oldest charters
of Paisley Abbey, we read, ' Inter terram Simonis
Loccardi & Prestwick,' which shows us Knight Simon
already in Ayrshire, and prepares us for the entry in
1293, ' Symondstona in Kyi.' Again, c. 1189, we find
' Villa Symonis Lockard ' in Lanarkshire, which, before
1300, has become ' Symondstone;' in either case



the further advance to ' Symington ' is easy. Tak
one other very similar case, CoviNGTON, near Lanark.
About 1120 wo find among the followers of David
Prince of Cumbria a certain Colban. About 1190
we find mention of a 'Villa Colbani,' villa, by the
way, being just the Latin form of the Norman- French
mile, literally, a countryhouse, then a town. In 1212
we find ' Colbaynistun;' in 1434 this has become
' Cowantoun,' showing how the surname Coivan has
arisen ; but c. 1480 it has slipped into its modern
shape of ' Covingtoun ;' for toun is still the good
Scottish way of pronouncing town or ton.

As might be expected, genuine English names arc
to be found more or less all over the Lowlands ; but as
all the hills and streams had, long ere his coming,
received Celtic names, the Angle has named for us
very few of these ; though sometimes he managed to
add an adjective, as in the Black and White ADDER.
Perforce he adopted the names he found, though
seldom had he much inkling of their meaning.
English names for Scottish natural features are rarely
found. As for hills, neither MOORFOOTS nor PENT-
LANDS are true cases in point, and a name like
Norman's Law or North Berwick Law cannot be called
a very serious exception ; and as for rivers, if few even
of England's rivers bear English names, there are
positively none at all, of any consequence, in Scotland.
But there are several hov's (O.E. holy, hoik) or hollows
or valleys, as ' the How o' the Mcarns,' famous
HABIBIE'S How at Carlops.

The region 1 for true English names is that which

1 Readers of Armstrong's sumptuous History of Liddesdale, &c., will
see that English farm and manor names are very plentiful here


lies between Edinburgh and Berwick, whose original
population were the Celtic Ottadeni, a branch of the
great tribe of the Brigantes. But 1400 years of
Anglian settlement have largely obliterated the traces
of the old Celt here, especially as regards the names of
the towns or villages. Almost the only notable excep-
tion is DUNEAH, mentioned as early as the days of
Eddi (c. 720), certainly a Celtic name, and perhaps
commemorating St Bar or Finnbarr, an ancient bishop
of Cork. In the Highlands, English names, unless
they be quite modern, are very rare. Wherever an
English or partly English name occurs, the Gael is
sure to have a name of his own, e.g., he calls Taymouth
BALLOCH, and so forth. And the Gael deals precisely
so with Norse names also ; he speaks not of Tain, but
of Baile Dhuthaic, or ' the town of St Duthac.' Some-
times an English name is just a translation of an older
Gaelic one, as in the town now erroneously spelt and
called by outsiders FALKIRK, but which is really Fahkirk
(1382, Fawkirc), and is so pronounced by the natives to
this day. This is Simeon of Durham's Egglesbreth,
and the modern Highland drover's An Eaglais bhreac,
' the spotted church,' referring to the mottled colour of
its stone.

Place-names of English origin are a faithful reflection
of the typical Englishman stolid, unemotional, full of
blunt common-sense. They almost all spell plain
' John Bull his mark,' ' John Bull his house.' Anglo-
Saxon names are, as a rule, abrupt, matter-of-fact,
devoid of aught poetic, having of music none. How
different is Birmingham or ' Brummagem,' or Wolver-
hampton, from ' Be-a-la-nam-bo,' or COILANTOGLE ! and
even Balla-chu-lish has something pathetically Celtic
about it, if pronounced by understanding lips. For


pure expressiveness, however, few names can beat the
name (it cannot be very ancient) given to a conspicuous,
monument-capped hill nearLinlithgow, ' Glower-o'er-ern '
or Glowrorum. To translate glower into ' English '
would be to make the name feeble indeed. A little to
the south, near Drumshoreland, is found the feebler
name, ' Lookabootye.' The pure Englishman shows in
his names almost none of the Celt's inner sympathy
with nature either in her sterner or in her softer
moods. And the modern Socialist will not be too well
pleased to find that most of our O.E. town names
give strong expression to the idea of individual rights,
and to the sanctity of private property. Many of them
are the very embodiment of the adage that every
Englishman's house is his castle : so many of the com-
monest O.E. place-endings imply ' enclosure, fencing-off.'
This is the root-idea in burgh, ham, and ton, in seed
and ivorth.

And the English thane, as well as the Norman baron,
invariably called the little village, which grew up under
the shadow and shelter of his castle walls, after his own
noble self. Places ending in -mile, or, as it is some-
times found in Scotland, -well, are Norman ; but the
burghs, tons, and hams are all English. Burgh, or
more fully borough, is the O.E. burg, burli, gen. by rig,
dat. buri, biri, hence its other form ' Bury ' or -bury,
common in England but not in Scotland, though on
the Ayrshire coast stands TURNBERRY (in 1286 Turne-
byry). The root of burgh is probably the Old Ger.
bergan, to shelter ; and its earliest meaning, as given
in a Kentish glossary dating c. 820 A.D., is arx, i.e.,
1 citadel, castle,' then it comes to mean, ' a fortified
town ; ' but the idea of ' civic community ' or ' town '
arises very early also. In names the word occurs



chiefly as a suffix, -burgh, but occasionally as a prefix,
as in Borrowstoun-ness or BO'NESS, and in BUHGHEAD,
where the O.E. word bury with its hard g is still pre-
served intact. The Old Norse form borg (used by
Charles Kingsley in his Hereward) also occurs, on the
west coast of Lewis, as Borgh, as every reader of the
Princess of TJtule knows.

The O.E. tun(e) or ton(e) never originally meant a
large town ; and we still have the common Scots
phrase, 'the farm toun,' which means a collection of
houses very different in size from Leeds or Bradford.
In O.E. the word occurs both with arid without the
final e ; thus JOHNSTONE means not ' John's stone,' but
' John's town.' Ton seems also to have implied a village
belonging to a certain class, as FULLERTON or ' fowler's
town,' HALKERSTON or ' settlement of the hawkers,' i.e.,
falconers. Genuine cases of Scottish names in -burgh,
called after some man, are hard to discover ; but COLD-
INGHAM was originally Coludesburg or ' Colud's town,'
and WINCHBURGH may be another case in point. The
peculiar case of EDINBURGH is fully dealt with in the
List where it is shown that the name of Scotia's capital
is most likely of Brythonic origin \V. din eiddyn, or
Dunedin, ' fort on the hill-slope,' i.e., what is now the
backbone of Edinburgh, its High Street, from the
Castle to Holyrood. The name was merely remodelled,
though it certainly was remodelled, in honour of King
Edwin of Northumbria. But if burghs called after
Saxon thanes or knights are rare, tons are found in a
TON or ' Edulfs ton,' STEVENSTON, &c. Wherever this
suffix -ton is still, even occasionally, spelt -town, the
name is pretty sure to be modern, of which we see
examples in the two CAMPBELLTOWNS, Hutchesontown,


amateur must always walk warily in dealing with
English-looking tons in the north, aye, and in the
south too, for ton is not seldom a corruption of the
G. dun, a hill or fort, e.g., EDDERTOX, near Tain, is just
eada/r duin, ' between the hillocks ; ' and away in the
south, near to the boundary-line of the Tweed, stands

Online LibraryJames B. (James Brown) JohnstonPlace-names of Scotland → online text (page 5 of 26)