Reply To: Boreland of Girthon

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John Shields

From Alan James – 7 August 2020

Hello David

Thanks very much, most helpful notes. And thanks for reminding me of Tait’s map, very relevant here. I agree the crossings over the estuary must have varied greatly over the years, after a storm what had been a safe route could well have been washed away and another one formed on a different line. Only a few locals with intimate knowledge would have been able to pilot strangers across. I’m pretty sure it’s the ‘Coup Foord’, Tait’s ‘a’ in similar labels has a top-tail – and coup here would refer to basket-traps for salmon (DOST coup2, sense 1).

I’m inclined to believe the story that offloaded ships’ ballast was used to improve the soil, whether or not it was actually lime, or calcareous rubble of some kind, it could well have been dumped here from ships to lighten the payload before they entered the channel to the old landing-place, ‘Cally Port’ (still marked on the 1854 0S map), and was found to be useful on the land, just as broken crockery has been ploughed in since Neolithic times. More systematic use of marl and other sources of lime was indeed associated with the era of agricultural improvement, this opportunistic use of ballast may not have been part of that – or only very indirectly, in that boats from across the Solway may have continued to offload ballast here after the canal became operative, and their ballast might have had some lime content.

Thanks for the references for ‘fey’. I think Ann probably got it right – it would be interesting to know how David Austin pronounces it, ‘fee’ or ‘fye’? DOST has two citations from a 1669 document concerning the kirkland of Wigtown where it appears as ‘feiy’ and ‘fey’, while close to home SND quotes William Nicholson mentioning ‘Sandy’s fey’. Gilbert also suggested ‘fey’, he thinks it’s from Gaelic fai(th)che, which does seem to refer to fields of various sorts, including (Dwelly sense 6) ‘green by a house’. However, SND gives an English derivation, ‘from Mid.Eng. fēȝen, to clean, O.N.fgja (sic, should be fegja), id. The n. develops from n.Eng. dial. fey, to remove the surface soil, to spread manure, of the same origin.’

The note about the 1682 valuation of the original Murray holdings is very helpful, it throws light on other names now surviving as field-names – Knockewan and Millerton on Rainton, and Cuffieton on Cally Mains (where a house has the name, though it seems to be on the site of Bar Hill Cottage, which may not have been the location of the original Cuffieton). Marcelstoune must be Marshalton, also now on Rainton land: that, and Pont/Blaeu’s Masselstoun are weird, but I think they must be versions of a Scots form from Old French Marescal (c.f. Marischal College in Aberdeen), i.e. the Galloway surname Marshall. Accounts of the ‘Gypsy King’ generally assert that was a Gypsy surname, but I don’t think necessarily so – though if the family were evicted by the acquisitive Murrays, I suppose they might have taken to the road.

Bucht, b(o)ught is indeed a common term in Galloway for a sheepfold, or ewe-milking pen, there are Bucht Fields at Ingleston and Lennox Plunton, but the ‘ch’ [x] is strongly persistent, it’s unlikely to underlie ‘But’. Moreover, it’s not Gaelic, it doesn’t have any Gaelic parallel, its closest cognates are in the Germanic languages, and I’m pretty sure it belongs in a complex of words in various Scots dialects with varied meanings having in common a sense of something ‘curved’; they represent a weak-verb past participle form of the OE root bug- ‘bend, bow’, a Scots parallel to English ‘bowed’ (in either sense, ‘bow-shaped’ rhyming with ‘road’ or ‘bent over’ rhyming with ’loud’). Be all that as it may, I think it’s unlikely to be in But Nay, which appears to be a Gaelic generic + specific form (though I think G buta in the sense of ‘a truncated rigg’, which seems plausible here,  is probably a borrowing from Scots/ English ‘butt’)

The indications of the March Dyke on Tait’s map are helpful. At Carrick, it apparently coincided with ‘the bounding dike of the parks of Cally’, but also with the parish boundary, I think that was the primary sense of ‘march’ here.

The information about the ‘castle’ is very helpful – I’d failed to find it on Canmore, so I am grateful to have your report. The field at present is apparently called Laggie Wheelie, and that’s likely to be an old, Gaelic name. Nevertheless, what you say implies that the field was at the time of the 1850 Survey named ‘Castle Hill Field’ (and maybe that was the name David Austin gave to you in 2002?), but the location of the eponymous castle had been transferred from the hill-fort at the north-east to the cairn on the hill at the south-west. That’s not impossible, though it leaves Laggie Wheelie hanging in uncertainty. And, as you say, it’s unlikely that the bordland served or was associated with either of these ‘castles’, I think it’s likely to have been the home farm of the secular lord based at Cally, although some distance away, the land farmed probably comprised at least what now belongs to both Boreland and Cally Mains. Alternatively the Bishops of Whithorn, if their grange/ ‘palace’ at Enrick was grand enough for Edward I to lodge at, might have maintained a bordland.

Finally, I was a little surprised by the spelling ‘Austen’ on Rachel’s list, probably a typo. I associate David Austin with roses, not with novels!

All the best