From Alan James – 25 July 2020
Here are my notes on Creoch, Tanniefad and Stroqhain’s Pool:
The spellings of High and Low Creoch are perplexing: High Creoch is High Croach on the 1st edition OS map (likewise High Croach Wood), but High Creoch in the 1851 Census, and on subsequent censuses and OS maps; Low Creoch is likewise Low Croach on the 1st edtion OS map, but Low Creach in the 1851 Census, Low Croech in 1881, Low Creoch on later OS maps. local pronunciation seems to be consistent with ‘Croach’. Whatever the origin, there is a significant possibility of a connection between this name and Culreoch a couple of miles up the valley, with a pronunciation that rhymes with ‘Croach’…
The best explanation for Creoch name is probably Gaelic craobhach, craobh ‘tree’ plus an adjectival suffix, so ‘abounding in trees, wooded’. The 1st edition OS map shows the hillsides overlooking the Fleet between the Barlay Burn and Lag Burn as mainly open grassland or heath with a good many scattered trees, the kind of land characterised by landscape historians as ‘wood pasture’, former woodland that had been regularly grazed by livestock over many centuries: see also Cruffock and Culreoch below.
In Scottish Gaelic, ‘ao’ is pronounced as a rounded vowel, rather similar to German ‘ö‘ or French ‘eu’, but in Irish it is ‘ee’ or ‘ey’: the alternation between between ‘Croach’ and ‘Creoch’ here might reflect some variation in the local pronunciation of craobhach between ‘crö(w)ach’ or ‘cre(w)ach’. However, see also Cruffock …
An alternative consideration could be cruach, meaning literally ‘a heap, pile, stack’, but in place-names used of hills. There are several hills with ‘Cruach’ names in south-west Argyll, including at least four named simply A’Chruach; most are low, rounded, and stand somewhat apart from others, though Cruach Àrdrain is a Munro, and Cruach Innse a Corbett. In Ireland, cruach is commonly Anglicised as ‘Croagh’, as in Croaghgorm, the Blue Stack Mountains in Donegal. Much nearer home, Croach Hill between Boreland of Kelton and Gelston Lodge seems a good example of a cruach; High Croach in Inch in Wigtownshire is likewise on a rounded hill; Croachie Moss in Kells parish is overlooked by a small rounded hill; Maxwell lists a Croachan in Borgue parish which I cannot find on OS maps, but it would probably be a diminutive *Cruachán. If this is the origin of the two Creochs in Girthon parish, the Bar of Barlay would probably be the cruach.
However, we should also notice Creoghs in Balmaghie, recorded as Meikle Creochis in 1511: Maxwell associates this with Crows (now Crouse) in Kirkinner, Crows (now Crews) in Old Luce and Cruise in New Luce, deriving all of them from Gaelic crua(dh)as ‘hardship’. The related word cruadhach ‘endurance’ is another possibility of Creoch. However, MacQueen (on the basis of early recorded forms) again sees Gaelic craobh, with an added Scots plural ‑is in the Luce Valley names, and that is perhaps preferable for Creoghs too.
Tanniefad is marked on the 1st edition OS map as a small house uphill above Low Creoch; the name only survives now in the Tanniefad Burn that flows down into the Fleet at Stroquhain’s Pool. It is surely Gaelic *Tamhnach fada ‘distant cultivated spot’, very appropriate to the location.
The Gaelic word tamhnach (in place-names often in the locative form tamhnaich, as was probably the case in Tanniefad) is an interesting example of a place-name element shared between Ulster and Galloway. It is used in Ulster for a small piece of arable land in an upland location that is otherwise unsuited for cultivation: examples include Tamnaghbane Co. Armagh, Tamney (otherwise Tawny), and Tawnalaghan Co. Donegal, Tonaghmore and Tonaghneeve (Saintfield) Co. Down, Tamnabrady and Tamnamore Co. Tyrone. It is less common in the rest of Ireland, and in Scotland is found most frequently in Galloway, but occurs in Ayrshire, in Argyll and Bute, in the north-east, and even in Caithness, although the word is not to be found in Scottish Gaelic dictionaries.
In the Stewartry, besides the three examples of tamhnach in our corner (see Tannymaas and Tenniewee below), there are three former small farms named Tannoch, one above New Abbey (with Tannoch Hill and Gill), one in Colvend (spelt Tannock on the 1st edition OS map and by Maxwell), and the third (with Tannoch Flow) in Kells overlooking the Black Water of Dee, the north-eastern boundary of Girthon; each of these has a Tannoch Burn flowing past the site; another Tannoch appears on OS maps as a location in Kells parish on a hill overlooking Glenlee Mains and Old Glenlee. Tannochbrae at Culdoach, across the Dee from Tongland, appears on modern OS maps, but one suspects it may be named from the fictitious town of that name in A. J. Cronin’s novel ‘Country Doctor’, adapted for television as the well-loved series ‘Dr. Finlay’s Casebook’. In Wigtownshire, Tannoch in Penninghame is now lost; Tannylaggie (Tynalagach on Blaeu’s map) and Tannyflux are in Kirkcowan; Tannieraggie in New Luce and Tannieroach in Old Luce, are both listed by Maxwell but now lost. In Ayrshire, Tunnocks (Tannock on Blaeu’s map) is in Kilbirnie parish, on Bute there is Tawnich in North Bute, in Wesl Lothian, Tannock in Torphichen.
Stroquhain’s Pool (on the 1st edition OS map, Stroquhan’s) is in a bend in the Fleet at the confluence with the Tanniefad Burn just downstream of Rusko. The possessive ‘s implies that this is a form of a surname corresponding to the Irish Ó Srutháin, or else the Scottish Strachan, Northumberland Straughan. However these names in turn probably derive from place-names, such as Strachan in Kincardineshire. Stroquhan occurs as a place-name elsewhere in our region as a location on the Buchan Burn north of Glentrool, and as a country house in Dunscore parish in Dumfriesshire. Early records for the latter include Straquhan 1582 and Stronwhonn 1660: that latter form suggests *sròn chòinn ‘dog’s snout’ (cf. Stramoddie), but our pool on the Fleet – and maybe the location on the Buchan Burn in Minnigaff parish – might have been *sruthan, either ‘little rapids’ or ‘little stream’ (perhaps referring to the Tanniefad Burn), reinterpreted as a surname.