Reply To: Boreland of Girthon

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John Shields

From Alan James – 8 August 2020

Thanks Gilbert, helpful thoughts.

Yes, I think an eich ‘horse’s’ is a good idea, it’s a fairly wee shoreside piece that could well have served as a horse-paddock. And horses could well have grazed at Moss Nae, but that would entail Gaelic adoption of ‘moss’ – or even Cumbric maes – neither of which is impossible.

‘Shed’ – OE scead – can have that sense, it can also be a boundary, and ‘shedding’ in English field-names seems to refer to places where sheep etc. were sorted out for keeping or sending to market. But I think all the four ‘Shed’ fields on Rachel’s map happen to have farm buildings in or beside them.

My respect for Sir Herbert as place-name scholar has grown with acquaintance. His knowledge of Ulster toponymy in particular is a helpful corrective to the assumption that Gaelic names in Galloway can necessarily be understood in terms of modern Scottish Gaelic. It was a pity, though, that he didn’t revise his work more thoroughly before re-publishing it in 1930; though he claimed it was ‘a wholly new work’, he obviously didn’t take into account Dwelly’s magnificent dictionary by then available, and regarded William Watson as an irritating young upstart. But he was well into his ninth decade by then. It seems ‘fie’ may be a typo, but if it is genuine, a form of fey with an English etymology is most likely.

All the best