Boreland of Girthon

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  • #1467
    John Shields
    Keymaster

    From Alan James – 12 July 2020

    Plenty to chew on here! The Clains, Syllodioch (revisited), Saul and Mrs Solomon, But nay, Laggie Wheelie …

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    #1469
    John Shields
    Keymaster

    From Michael Ansell – 12 July 2020

    Good morning Alan, thanks for these very interesting and thorough notes. Just a couple of comments:

    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?
    Airds Fie. This looks to me like an alternative spelling of Scots fey, originally from faithche?
    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). 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! I suppose Sliabh Dabhaich, ‘moor/slope or whatever of hollow’ might be possible, maybe from a conspicuous hollow in the ground?
    But Nae is fascinating, have you contacted Gilbert about it? Why this should crop up in Borgue and Bute only in Scotland is really odd. 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?
    Kind Regards

    Michael

    #1471
    John Shields
    Keymaster

    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.

    Cheers

    Alan

    #1475
    John Shields
    Keymaster

    From David Devereux – 5 August 2020

    Dear Alan

    My apologies for the delay in getting back to you on your very informative report on the Boreland of Girthon field-names, which also raises several interesting points of local history. Please find re-attached your report with some thoughts inserted here and there in blue, which I hope may be helpful.

    I see that Tait’s 1761 map –  A Plan of the foot of the River Fleet exhibiting the several fords and roads leading thereto, with the adjacent shore and houses –  is now accessible on nls/maps (estate maps) – here’s the link   https://maps.nls.uk/view/216390173 . It’s a useful source in connection with your study and I refer to it in the attached.

     

    A minor correction – please note the spelling of David’s surname – Austin rather than Austen.

    thanks again and best wishes

    David

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    #1485
    John Shields
    Keymaster

    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

    Alan

    #1489
    John Shields
    Keymaster

    From Gilbert ?? – 8 August 2020

    Just a couple of thoughts.

    But Nay could be but an eich ‘horse’s butt’ – in the land-holding sense rather than the anatomical!

    Shed Field.  There is Sc shed, shod, shad  ‘a strip of land, a separate piece of ground’.  One of that nice range of words cognate with scissors, schizomenos, scindo, schizophrenia, shit …. all to do with dividing or separating.

     

    My suggestion of faithche/faiche for Fominoch is given with great hesitation – see the note under that name, which is really to say that I doubt it, but one has to make the occasional nod towards Herbert Maxwell (who turns out to have been yet another relations, by marriage, of my wife Rachel) if he says something that isn’t too fa-fetched an one can’t think of anything better.

    All the best

    G

    #1490
    John Shields
    Keymaster

    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

    Alan

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