Thursday, 15 July 2010

Scots Place-names

Irish place-names are obvious and ubiquitous in Northern Ireland. The same cannot be said of Scots ones, however. And yet there is evidence enough for them if one cares to look.

The most obvious ones are Gaelic names borrowed directly from Scotland such as Stormont, Culloden and Strathearn. The last of those is of particular interest because it derives from Srath √Čireann or "Valley of Ireland", a name adopted at a time when Scotland was an Irish colony.

As well as the many instances of "Scotch" (often in contradistinction to "Irish" or "English", perhaps the best example being the streets in Armagh City), there are also many Planter surnames to be found in the names of townlands and villages where Scots founded settlements.

Scots may also have dealt slightly differently with native Irish names when it came to their transliteration, being more likely to retain the native "ch", which was also part of the Lowland Scots orthographic tradition. Thus we have Ballymenoch in Holywood, part of the Hamilton lands in the Hamilton-Montgomery Plantation of 1606, but Ballymenagh in Tyrone. There is an intrusive final -d in Dundonald, something typical of Lowland Scots, with similar instances of -d and -p found in proper names such as McKendrick, Henderson, Thompson and Campbell. In some cases Scots may have substituted Gaelic toponymic forms with which they were familiar for others with which they were not. Thus we have Portglenone for Port Chluain Eoghain (no glen there).

There are also obviously Scots names such as Kirkistown on the Ards peninsula ("church town", retaining a Middle Scots possessive -is) and Glarryford in Antrim ("muddy ford"). And one could hardly forget Sandyknowes roundabout, mentioned daily in radio traffic reports. Interestingly, BBC presenters tend to pronounce this correctly as Scots, whereas commercial broadcasters often substitute the cognate English knoll, or, indeed, the not so cognate knows. Incidentally, the great Lowland Scots writer Walter Scott spent part of his childhood on a farm of a very similar name in the borders.

Unsurprisingly, given the linguistic mix in Ulster, there are also hybrid names such as Connswater, named after Conn O'Neill but evidencing a distinctively Scots term for a large stream. And the most likely explanation for the final element in Lisburn is that it is the Scots burn.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.