Meadowside is a built-up area now, but the name once meant what
it said. Often the meaning of a name becomes obscure because
of changes in spelling. St. Fort, on the south side of the Tay,
is an example. On an 18th century map it appears as St. Ford.
In the 17th century it was santford, and two centuries further
back still it was Sannford. Probably all the name ever meant
was “a sandy ford” and there was no saintliness
is another name inclined to be misleading. It has, in fact,
no connection with the king of birds, and the only “eagles”
likely to be recorded there are on the golf-links. The name
is derived from the Gaelic “eaglais,” meaning a
are very old. Names like Tay, Esk, A’an, Forth, Dee, Don,
suggest by their very brevity that they belong to a time when
language was terse and primitive. Certainly they appear to have
been firmly established at the beginning of recorded history.
The Roman historian Tacitus mentions the Tay and its estuary
in his account of Agricola’s campaign against the Caledonians
Avon (or A’an) come from the Gaelic “uisge”
and “abhuinn.” Both signify water, or something
that gushes forth. The Dean implies a dark and deep stream.
In early records the Isla appears as Ylaf and Hilef, and even
at that time suggests “a flooding river.” The turbulent
Garry derives from the Gaelic word “garbh,” meaning
I cannot enlarge greatly on place-names in this web site as
the subject is much too wide. But it should be noted that many
names should not be taken on their face value. Baldragon, Rottenrow,
Bonnymoon, Maiden Castle, Mugdrum, Tarrybuckle, Kinnettles,
Brig o’ Turk, Aldbar, all these are fairly heavily disguised.
has nothing to do with fire-breathing monsters. The name refers
to a house or hamlet situated among thorny coppices. It should
be pronounced Baldraygon, from the Gaelic "draighionn”
was once Balnamoine, and it alludes to a nearby peat-moss, while
Maiden Castle (traces of which are to be seen on the clifftop
between Arbroath and Auchmithie) most likely comes from “maith-dun,”
or large fort, and has no romantic connections.
versions of Mugdrum Island (Newburgh) give Muc-druim, which
means “shaped like a sow’s back,” and Rottenrow
(Arbirlot and elsewhere) might refer to rottans or rats, but
more likely to a soft quality of the soil.
may be an exposed height or a height with a view, but it seems
to have no connection with the stinging nettle, while names
like Brig o’ Turk and the Turkey Burn show corruptions
of the Gaelic “tuirc,” meaning a wild boar.
was once Tor na buichaille-the hill of the shepherd or watcher.
And as for Aldbar, the only liquid refreshment available is
in the burn-” allt barra,” or the burn by the hill,
which still cascades down to join the Lunan Water.
in a name ?“ says a character in Shakespeare, but it is
evident that a name may well have something in it that does
not meet the eye. The examples I have quoted show how the original
Gaelic name can be altered and given new meaning (of sorts)
by a non-Gaelic speaking people. Not all our place-names are
based on Gaelic, of course; some are Scandinavian in origin,
others French and so forth. Place-names make an intriguing study,
and as they are linked with the peoples of the past, I make
no apology for mentioning the subject in a small way here. Most
books on place-names are out of print or out of date, and a
great many puzzling names are still waiting to be unravelled.