Borness Farm Place names

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    John Shields

    Information from John Sproat in response to the article in the Galloway news on 1st October 2020.

    Good evening, John.  I was happy to read in the Galloway News that you had an interest in Borgue history, especially in the field names.  Without input from enthusiasts like yourself these names would surely disappear within a generation or less, if indeed a lot have not gone already.

    To introduce myself, I am Benji’s eldest brother John Sproat.  I was born in Rockvale in 1950, moving to Lennox Plunton in 1952 where I was raised until I went off to vet college in Glasgow.  I worked as a vet in Angus and in the Buchan district of Aberdeenshire until returning to Castle Douglas in 1989.  Since retiring in 2013, my hobbies include genealogy and local history.


    First records of our Sproat family appeared in Brighouse in 1520, then our line branched out to farm Borness in circa 1787.  They farmed Borness until the family went to Borgue House towards the end of the 19th Century when another, very distantly related Sproat family (Faed and George) took over the tenancy at Borness.

    William Sproat (1799 – 1820),  my great-great-grandfather, took over the tenancy when his father died in 1820.  In 1821, two of William’s brothers, Adam and John, emigrated to Ontario (called ‘Upper Canada’ then).  Many letters were written to them from their family, of which a boxful of 50+ have been discovered in Toronto, all written from 1821 to around 1853.  My fourth cousin in Canada, Paul Sproat, has transcribed the letters as best he can (many were cross-written: that is, they were written one way, turned ninety-degrees and written over the top – not easy to read!).  I then took the letters and revised them, then wrote the appendix for each.

    One letter you may be interested in is attached.  It was written by William who had travelled with his youngest brother Hugh to Liverpool where Hugh was joining the merchant navy aged 17 (his first ship was ‘Perseverance’; Captain Brown).  William makes reference to fields (highlighted) at home on Borness.  Do these field names still exist?

    Hope you find this of interest,



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    John Shields

    From Rachel Lucas – 3rd October 2020


    following the ‘taster’ article in the Galloway News this week, John has had an email from John Sproat (brother of Benji from Lennox Plunton).  He has (long story) a stack of letters from relations who emigrated to Canada and in this one from 1824 there is a reference to fields on Borness Farm.   We have them recorded, but we have two Cairn fields.  Any idea on Smack Cairn?


    John Shields

    From Alan james – 3rd October 2020

    A curious one. I think the most likely lead is SND sense III:

    †III. adv. As in Eng. Comb. smacksmooth, adj., completely smooth and even, level, flush with the surface. Also in Eng. dial.; adv., smoothly, uninterruptedly, evenly.

    which would imply that the field had been well cleared of stones, leaving it pretty well ‘smack-smooth’, with a clearance cairn in some out-of-the-way corner.

    Otherwise, there’s an Older Scots sense ‘taste, scent’, I suppose a cairn might have had a smell, but I think it should have been investigated! Or a big, hearty kiss, which is in the spirit of Cuddle Cosy, but a cairn might be a rather conspicuous place for it. 😊


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