Thursday, 29 October 2009

Ulster-Scots place-names

The current issue of Ainm - A Journal of Name Studies has an interesting chapter by Pat McKay on 'Scots influence on Ulster townland names'.  It notes that the influence of Ulster-Scots takes several forms:
1. Ulster-Scots words in townland names eg burn, brae, kirk, calhame, flush, haw, holme, knowe, moss,  cott and whin.
2. Scottish surnames in townland names eg Blairtown, Boydstown, Grahamsland and Newtownstewart
3. The element Scotch in townland names eg Scotchtown and Ballindreen Scotch
4. Townland names imported from Scotland eg Scotland, Caledon and Roxborough
5. Townland names with Scots cultural or religious association eg Tom of the Tae-end, Cuttymanhill and Meetinghousehill.

At the beginning of the 17th century the government simply accepted the existing townlands as the basic administrative unit and retained the existing Gaelic names.  According to Pat McKay, 'It was therefore something of a legal imperative for the Scottish settlers to adopt the native Irish townland names and it is no surprise that for the most part they followed this course rather than inventing new names of their own.'  As a result, even in county Antrim, the number of townland names with an Ulster-Scots influence in just under 3%.

However minor place-names, below the level of the townland, show a much higher level of Ulster-Scots influence. Some years ago McKay carried out an oral survey in the parish of Loughguile in county Antrim and found an Ulster-Scots influence on as many as 22.5% of the place-names.  This is an important area of study and one that deserves much more attention.

1 comment:

  1. Settlers from Lowland Scotland were well-used to using and identifying themselves with Gaelic place-names. See comments in Dean Edward Ramsey's 'Reminiscences from Scottish Life and Character' 1858 (people's edition 1909) pp.170-2