Meikle Ross & Balmangan Map

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    John Shields

    From Rachel Lucas – 14 May 2020

    Hi Chris and Archie


    I really enjoyed the map talk – fascinating, and was intrigued by what you as professionals can spot from a map.


    I’ve been deciphering the field names shown on the map and comparing them with the names we have now, together with the shapes of the fields, and it’s interesting to see how little some of them have changed.  Our project is going well, we now have over 1,000 field names but it’s got to the tricky stage of filling in gaps now!    You might like to see the videos we had made as part of the project, which combine names with stunning scenery!

    I’ve got a couple of questions I’m afraid!

    There’s a feature called Port Cheek, on the border between Balmangan and Senwick Farms, which Alan James has told me could be a special gate, and on the map it looks like there’s a roadway through it going to Kirkcudbright.  I remember that you said that one of the roads on the map was added afterwards, but could you please just clarify a bit?

    Can you also decipher the name of the small croft on in Balmangan Bay, it looks like ?abies Croft, but  I cannot make out the first letter.

    Would Watch Hill have been the site for a watch tower?

    Many thanks

    Rachel Lucas

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    John Shields

    From Archie ? – 14 May 2020

    Good afternoon Rachel

    Please note that I am not a professional, Graham is I think a bit of one but mainly an archivist but now retired.  Chris of course looks at maps all day and everyday.  My background is in sawmilling!

    Anyway I was having a quick squint at the videos  (…which are all excellent and great scenery!) and was minded of a map.  It belongs to Dumfries Museum and is a bit modern for us…but they wanted it copied.  Not sure that there are any names that you will not have but it should be fun if you are down that way.  I think they were done for an archeological dig of some sort. Please use for study only and not for reproduction.

    On your questions…

    Yes we also had a look at Port Cheek.  I started off by thinking that it was a Port Check or a place where the customs boys could have stood to tax any incoming material landed on the peninsula.  Graham pointed out my mistake but actually this could have been what it actually was.  “Cheek” in this instance is the “cheek” of a dyke…the bit of walling that abuts the gatepost…so we think that this was indeed a barrier/gate of some sort which would have been manned to cut down the smuggling.  By the time the road was changed (to the darker red one) smuggling was not so prevalent(???) and the gate no longer required at that point.  The new road would have been post 1786 when Gillone would have been hired by Lord Daer who was organising the roads in the area at the time.  This leads me to believe the map was slightly earlier than this…but Graham thinks it later…and the new road added as and when.

    I have also had a go at reading the ?abies…and also failed! …but is there only one letter?

    I presume that a watch was kept on Watch Hill…but it does not perhaps need a tower.  A stand for a beacon or bonfire would have sufficed…but not sure what a watch was kept for… smugglers, shipwrecks, Norse invaders…who knows?

    All best


    John Shields

    From Alan James – 13 May 2020

    Nothing very obvious comes to mind for ?abie. I think the likeliest might be Mabie as a surname. Although it doesn’t appear in the standard reference works, a less than scholarly ‘ancestors’ website asserts that the surname Mabey ‘is first found in Kirkcudbrightshire’, and the ‘family seat’ was there – obviously Mabie (Hotel, Forest etc.). Actually, the English surname Mabey has various origins, and I’ve not tracked down anyone surnamed Mabie or Mabey in the Stewartry, but it’s at least possible (and, if it isn’t from the place-name, it could, like some cases of Mabey, be a from pet-form of Mab for Mabel etc.)

    I overlooked Port Cheek – or rather I didn’t realise it was a field-name rather than an object.

    Scots port is a gate, but usually a rather grand town gate (though bee-skeps may have ports).

    But there might be a hint of a special sense in this SND definition:

    SND Port n1
    2  A piece of open ground near a town gate used as the site of a feeing market or hiring fair, esp. for farm workers; hence the feeing-market itself (see 1786 quot. above). Combs. port-day, the day of a hiring-fair, port-wages, the official rate of pay fixed at a hiring fare.

    As for cheek, again the meaning is basically the same in Scots as in English,

    but I think this Galloway usage is interesting, and may suit the location:

    SND supp 1976 Cheek

    4: A specially built portion of a dry-stone wall (see quot.). Gall. 1957 F. Rainsford-Hannay Dry Stone Walling 76:

    The usual skill is shown when building up a steep slope. “Heads” are built at frequent intervals. In Scotland they would be called “cheeks” or solid pieces of single walling against which the rest of the work can lean.

    So just possibly a gate in the long drystane dyke that bounds the north-west of the Balmangan lands, at a point where the was such a ‘cheek’ (and possibly one where labourers came hoping to be hired?)

    But all of this is very much in the realm of guesswork!


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