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John Shields

From Alan James – 29 June 2020

Thanks David, that’s very helpful.

I see John Gillone spelt it ‘Welltrees’, there evidently was a spring there and the name was at least interpreted as a refernce to that source. All the same, it’s a slightly odd name, a singular wælle-treow, for a prominent, landmark tree would be more typical, but of course the plural could have been added when more trees had sprung up. I think Ockham’s razor can be applied to my Brittonic suggestion.

Gillone’s map does illustrate well what a prominent location the village centre holds. I think we can be pretty conifdent that it was the power-centre dominating the lands between the lower Dee and the Fleet estuary, becoming (as I argued in my ‘Angles and Britons around Trusty’s Hill’ article) the main centre of Northumbrian control in the 7th – 9th centuries, until challenged by the Norse settlement in Borgue in the 10th. The close cluster of The Doon, a definite motte, and another fort of some kind, is very curious (though a motte next to, rather than re-using, an existing dun is paralleled close by at Boreland of Borgue).

Gilbert has lately discussed ‘Desnes’ in the Facebook Scottish P-Ns group, suggesting ‘Ness of the Dee’, which is at least a possibility. I first thought the Ross would be the best candidate for the eponymous headland from which the district(s) was/were named, but then it occurred to me that, in the 12th century, the L- shaped peninsular ridge eventually followed by Kikcudbright High Street, with Moat Brae at its tip and the castle on the angle, would have enclosed at least a tidal sea-loch (where Harbour Square, St Cuthbert St and the Soaperie Gardens are now), and might have been so-named (the name Kirkcubright, of course, would at that time have primarily referred to the old church site up above) How does that compare with your impression of the medieval geography?

All the best