Reply To: Boreland of Girthon

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John Shields

From Alan James – 12 July 2020

Thanks Mike, helpful as ever.

Carraig, I think in Galloway at least developed a specialised meaning as a rock jutting out into the sea from which it is convenient to fish from, a fishing stance. That would surely be the case with Carrick Point? That would certainly be very appropriate.

Airds Fie. This looks to me like an alternative spelling of Scots fey, originally from faithche? Could be, Scots fie could be various things; assuming its from Gaelic it could be (na) fèithe – there’s a boggy patch marked here on the 1854 map. but can Ann or Rachel confirm it’s not a typo?

Syllodioch. As you say, very tricky one. I don’t think deagh would work, as you say it seems always to precede the noun it is describing, even in abstract senses like deagh bheachd (good idea or opinion). If I were to bet I’d implicate Sliabh as the generic (Ian Fraser I think has pointed out the multiple meanings Sliabh (eg mountain, moor, slope, moor-grass etc) can have so the location may not rule it out). Simon has dealt very fully with the meanings and frequency of sliabh, in Galloway and elsewhere, in JSNS 1 2007, primarily disproving the Nicolaisen – MacQueen hypothesis that the ‘Slews’ on the Rhinns are evidence of early Gaelic. Undoubtedly the sense of ‘rough grazing’ could have been appropriate here, or up on the ridge where the wood lies. And in favour of sliabh, the nearest both geographically and phonetically are Slochabbert across Wigtown Bay in Kirkinner, Slewheubert 1457, and Slogarie in Balmaghie, Sleugarre 1482, Sleugarie Pont/Blaeu etc.

But the first vowel, evidenced in Pont/Blaeu Saladyow remains a problem. Epenthesis is phonologically possible, but in all Simon’s long list of sliabh names in Scotland, including many Lowland Scots forms, there are no parallels, nor do I see any in Ulster or IoM.

As to the specific it looks a bit like G. deoch, drink, but the genitive form dighe takes us away from the current spelling/pronunciation. And ‘moor of drink’ would be an odd formation! Actually, the gen. sg. dighe (so in Calder, Dwelly gives dìghe – of geekish interest to me as one of the few survivors of the OIr -u declension, when it was dige) is consistent with the pronunciation [sɪ’lodȝi] reliably obtained from James Finlay – but the spelling looks (deceptively? cf. Pont/Blaeu) like the nom. sg. deoch. As you say, hard to see what it would mean in a p-n.

I suppose Sliabh Dabhaich, ‘moor/slope or whatever of hollow’ might be possible, maybe from a conspicuous hollow in the ground?  I don’t see any hollow here any more than elsewhere in the area – where it’s all humps and bumps anyway. Lag and, even more, lagán are the favoured terms for the hollows round our way, I think a dabhach would have to be a distinctively ‘cauldron-like’ one, I’m sure it does have that sense in the splendid corrie on Knockendoch above New Abbey, but I can’t see one here.

But Nae is fascinating, have you contacted Gilbert about it? Gilbert’s in this mailing – I was thinking he might be interested in this one!

Why this should crop up in Borgue and Bute only in Scotland is really odd. Gilbert’s point is that G but in the specific sense of ‘a small farm’ is peculiar to Bute; elsewhere it, and Scots butt, refer to a truncated rig or a detached portion of a field, which would be the case here.


I agree with your comment on gender fluidity in Galloway. Is there any explanation of this phenomenon (Joyce and Broderick also note it in Ireland/IoM respectively I think). Is it something that happens as a language is going into decline and grammatical conventions break down? I’m not aware of any sytematic study. It could reflect a late stage – though not necessarily ‘decline’, after all, English lost grammatical gender in the transition from OE to ME, but it’s no doing badly the day! But in some cases – I’d need to check on faiche – nouns that were neuter in early Celtic were somewhat indeterminate after that third gender expired in the early stages of Goidelic and Brittonic.