The study of the
place-names of any district is often of much interest, as frequently
thereby meanings are found attaching to them that are at first quite
hidden, or only, if at all, obscurely revealed. In some instances,
as will be seen from those of our parish, the local names throw
light, not onlv upon the physical and geographical condition of the
land as it was in the remote past and as it continues to be even
now, but in others they indicate conditions of its past natural
history that would not be readily discovered now, as they have very
long ago ceased to exist. Especially would this seem to apply to
words of Celtic origin, whether Gaelic or Cymric—Highland, that is,
or Welsh. Take examples from one or two of the place-names in the
parish as illustrative of what is here meant. For instance, the
local name The Moyne, from the Welsh word maim— peat. Here we have
disclosed at once a whole description of the character of the tract
of land bearing that name, which is one vast moor of peat. Again,
the local name Knockglass—Gaelic, cnoc=hill, glass=green —
Greenhill. What more descriptive designation could have been
selected for the lands of this hill farm?
As a matter of fact, identical or cognate names to these are to be
found in adjoining parishes, and also in places further apart, even
different counties, showing that the same natural objects had
suggested identical or kindred names to the kindred tribesmen who
invented them, and who, though inhabiting those separate and
isolated localities, all spoke a common language. It has already
been shown that the lands of the parish were at one time included in
the ancient kingdom of Strathclyde, which for a very long period was
possessed by the Strathclyde Britons, a Celtic people speaking a
Celtic tongue. In these circumstances, therefore, it might naturally
be expected, notwithstanding the remoteness of the period, that they
would have left behind them some evidence of their protracted
stay—for they continued in possession until a comparatively late
date—in the names, for instance, of the most outstanding physical
aspects and conditions of the land, its hills, moors, and
specialties of land and water; those features, in short, least
likely to undergo or be exposed to change. Now, this is exactly what
is to be found. Many centuries have passed away since the Gaelic
language was regularly spoken by the people of this parish, but many
of its place-names still bear evidence of having been originated by
a people speaking that tongue. No doubt the names have in many
instances undergone change of form in spelling and pronunciation as
they have come down to us through the ages, and that their original
meanings and significance have been correspondingly obscured. But,
notwithstanding this, it is still possible to trace backward through
the root meanings of the words and discover some, at least, of the
reasons and ideas those early people had in their minds when giving
or associating, as they did, those very descriptive names to the
different places and localities. For example, take the Celtic name,
hiock-an-cte— which means the hill of the hind. When that word was
coined and given to the hill and surrounding land, it would appear
that the stag or red deer roamed wild in the broad moorland and
district, and that the hinds were so much accustomed to assemble
about this hill as to suggest to the early people the distinctive
name, Knock-an-ae. Whilst another name belonging to the same class—Knockmade,
the hill of the wolf, or Wolfhill, the local name of another hill in
the parish—probably takes us back, by its name, to the period when
the wolf was to be still met with in the uplands, and had to be
combated with by the inhabitants.
By other of our place-names, again, the ecclesiastical conditions of
the parish in mediaeval times are recalled and brought before us.
The “Mains,” for instance, was the designation given to the “granary
of the Abbey homestead” by the monks—a place, we learn, which was
usually under the charge of a lay brother, or sometimes one of the
Other names in the parish are, many of them, either Scottish or
English, and are mostly self-explanatory, whilst a few have been
derived from the proper names of persons, either owning or holding
the land or occupying some special relation to it.
Subjoined is a list of the names, given alphabetically, with their
PLACE-NAMES OF CELTIC ORIGIN.
Possibly Old British. Having some relation to Walton Burn, which
crosses this road, and which, before being covered over, would be a
broadish, shallow stream. Several river-names resemble it. Cf. Ahr,
a tributary of the Rhine ; Scot. Ayr; Eng. A ire; etc.
Alt-Patrick—Gaelic, alt, a stream, and proper name, Patrick—Barn of
Auchentiber- Gaelic, achaclh, field : cn, the, = Gaelic an : liber,
a well—Field of the well.
Auchenback—Gaelic, achadh, field : cn, the, = Gaelic an : bac,
crook, or Gaelic, bac, bank of moss, etc., from Norse, bakki—The
Balgrav—Gaelic, bail' greigh, the stead or town of the stud or herd
(of horses, etc.). Greigh, stud of horses, connate with Lat. gre.r,
giegis, horse-stead. The surrounding land, including that now under
water by the Gorbals Gravitation Reservoir, having been in olden
times most likely used for grazing young horses, this was the
horse-stead where they were brought together, as occasion might
“Barrhead—Gaelic, barr, a hill: Engl, head, end—The end of the hill;
from Neilston—as in Townend, end of the town.”
Boghouse—Gaelic, hybrid, bog, a marsh, and Engl, house—A dwelling in
Braco—Gaelic, brago: obscure. Evidently a compound. Possibly Old
British. If Gaelic, bras;o = brcch, a wolf, and viagh, plain, or
field—brechmagh, wolf field; brae being assumed a variant of brcch.
Possibly phonetic. A moor extends from this place northeastward to
Paisley, which in very early times was covered with forest.
Brockburn—Gaelic, broc, a badger ; Scot. burn—The burn of the
Caldwell—Possibly Celtic, root as held (in Dun held), wood, cognate
with Gaelic coil it, and well—The well in the wood. Having,
possibly, special reference to the fine well within the policies,
known as “The Brandy Well.”
Capellie—Gaelic, caiplich, from capall, a horse—Horse pasture.
Capellie-moor—Gaelic, caiplich, from capall, from Latin, cabalhts, a
horse : moor—Moor for pasturing horses.
Caplaw—Gaelic, caiplich—A hill for grazing horses. CJ'. caiplich in
Highland place-names, stretch of moorland for pasturing horses. It
is a little remarkable that this hill has always been used for
grazing young horses, and is so now.
Carswell—cars, a level tract, and well—A well in a level tract of
land. Derivation of cars is doubtful: if Celtic, it may be Pictish.
It may be Cross-well (or even Norse, kross-vollr, the field of the
Chappell—Gaelic, caibcal, a cell or church. There is a tradition
that St. Conval had a cell or primitive church here at a very early
Commore—Cymric, cwm, a valley or hollow : mor, great—Great or big
hollow. The accent is on more. In the bottom of this valley the
ruins of Waterside and the Links of Levern are situated.
Corkindale-law—Norse, Thorkeloll’s, Gaelic, Corkadalc’s, hill,
hybrid—A proper name with suffix law, a hill.
Cowden valley—Gaelic, calluinn, hazel, and valley ; hybrid—Hazel
Cowden burn—Hazel burn.
Cowden muir—Hazel muir or moor.
The hazel is not a conspicuous growth in any of these places at the
present day; but in very early times, and before this tract of
country became so public and altered, it probably was so, as the
valley would be very suitable for its growth, and at present the
tree or shrub grows freely to the west of it, at Uplawmoor.
The Craig—Gaelic, creag, the rock. The name of a farm on the east
skirt of the Pad, a large trap hill west of the town.
Craig o’ Carnock—Gaelic, crcag, a rock or hill: carnach, place of
cairns—Cairnplace rocks or cairnshaped hill. This trap hill has
quite the shape of a very large cairn or tumulus. It is quite a
detached hillock, and Macdonald, in his Rambles, describes it as
“presenting a sort of facsimile in miniature of Arthur’s Seat.”
Craigheads—Gaelic, creag, a rock, and heads—Rock of projections.
Craigiebar—Gaelic, creag, rock : bar, obstruction—Rocky obstruction.
Or, craig a' bharr, “rock of the top,” or rock with a projecting
Dodhill—Cumbrian—Mountain with round summit.
Dubs—cf. Gaelic, dubh ; Old Welsh, dub, black—Black pools.
Duchallaw—Gaelic, dubh, black, choill, wood, black wood ;
derivative, dubkallach; and Sc. law, hill—Blackwood-hill.
Dumgraine—dum for Gaelic, tom; Cymric, tom, knoll or hillock : hence
Duncarnock—Gaelic, dun, fort: carnach, stony—Stony-fort.
Durduff—dur for Gaelic, torr ; Welsh, tur, hill of conic shape :
dubh, black—Black conical hill.
Fereneze or Fereneneze, Fernieneese (1296), as it is spelled in some
old records—Gaelic, fern, the alder, or j'eama, alderwood : innes,
mead or marsh—Aldermead or Alderwood marsh. Cf cognate place name
Ferinish in Morvern Parish. This hill is situated at the north-east
end of Levern Valley and has a varying height of about 500 feet. At
its most prominent part it occupies a somewhat angular position at
Grahamston, Barrhead, where it turns northward, in the direction of
Paisley, to join Gleniffer Braes ; whilst, in the direction of
Neilston, it turns westward to join Capellie hill range. At the top
of the hill the land extends backwards with an irregular surface,
having Harelaw Dam, through which the boundary of the parish passes
in this direction, in one of its hollows. In the earliest records
all these hills—extending from Paisley to Caldwell—are described as
being covered with forest, and that, as the wild deer were abundant
on the hills, they were preserved as a hunting forest for the
Stewards of Scotland, their hunting lodge being Blackhall, Paisley,
part of which still exists, and John le Hunter, de la Forreste de
Pasly, is mentioned in Ragman’s Roll, Anno, 1296. There is also a
village of Fereneze referred to, and most probably this village was
situated on the southern, or what is now Barrhead, slope of the
hill, and in the vicinity of Chappell, where the ancient religious
house of St. Conval then was; where an old well and some ruins,
thought to be relics some way associated with the early chapel,
still exist. The place-name probably had been suggested to the
ancient name-makers by the free and vigorous growth of the alder
tree in the marshy uplands and in the ancient forest. And it is only
necessary to observe the healthy and vigorous growth of the alders
planted a few years ago at Rockwood, to see how suitable the
environments of Fereneze still are for the growth of this particular
Head of Side—Gaelic, hybrid, Engl., head : Old Gaelic, side,
fairyhill—Head of fairy hill. Possibly connected with the circular
mound (fairy circle) lower down the hill at the east end of Loch
Libo. Side, the old spelling is here given ; and if the etymon be
right, it takes us back to the old form when the d was as yet
unaspirated in the word (eighth or ninth eentury) ; sidhe being a
much later spelling.
Kilburn—Gaelic, hybrid, cell, kil, church : Scot., burn, a
stream—The church stream, or burn. Most probably from the bum (Levern)
which comes from the vicinity of the very early church at Waterside
and flows past the farm, forming its boundary in Midge Glen.
Killoch—Gaelic, r/w, head (n assimilated to / following), and
loch—Head of loch or loch head.
Knockanae—Gaelic, cnoc, hill: an-agh, hind ; gen. aigh—Hill of the
Knockglass—Gaelic, choc, hill; Old Welsh, cnoch, tumulus: Gaelic and
Old Welsh, glas, green —Greenhill.
Knockloch —Gaelic, cnoc, hill : loch, loch—Hill loch.
Knockmade—Gaelic, cnoc, hill : madadh, mastiff (wild dog), wolf—Hill
of the wolf.
Levern (river)—Celtic, from Pictish or Old British root cognate with
Latin /wo; cf. Leven, Lorat. The idea is “flowing water.”
Linnhead—Gaelic, hybrid, linnc, a pool or water, and head, Engl.—
Head of the pool.
Loch Libo—Libo is very obscure and, possibly, of great antiquity,
even pre-Gaelic. Cf ljft'y, Dublin.
The Moyne—Cymric, maim, cognate with E. Irish mom, peat, bog, or
moss. Same name occurs in The Moyne, a peaty stretch between Durness
Moyneinoor—Cymric, ninirn, peat: Celtic, mor, big, great—The big
moss. Which, in this situation, extends miles into the adjoining
Plvmuir—Obscure. The meaning seems to be “ Muir-ton,” ply being
through Old British in the sense of “ton.” Cf Armorican, ploit—Moor-dwelling;
and quite descriptive of the farm.
Polleick—Celtic, baile (farm), town, or steading, and lie, genitive
of Icac, flag or flagstone— town of the flagstones; having reference
to the outcrop of limestone flags under the steading.
Paisley Road—Paisley, Gaelic, Paislig, from Latin, basilica,
ultimately through Greek, /WiXkctj, palace, or abbey, and road,
A.-S. pa. t. of ridan, to ride. The ride or road to the Abbey. At
the early period here implied, the busy burgh of Barrhead would be
non-existent, and the people of the parish would mostly find their
way to chapel by this road to Paisley, or the Abbey.
Syde—Celtic, side, fairy hill ; possibly connected with the circular
mound above the east end of Loch Libo.
Tinnoch—Gaelic, leine, fire—Where Beltane fires were probably
Whitehouse—Mid. Engl.—Whiteam, house. Latin writers used the word
Candida as in Candida casa at Whithorn.
PLACE-NAMES OF TEUTONIC ORIGIN.
name, with suffix lie—Mid. Engl., a field—Arthur’s field.
Auld Barn—Scot.—Old barn.
Banklug—Doric—A tautology ; beside the bank of a stream.
Bogsidc—Scot.—Beside the bog or marsh.
Boghouse—Scot.—Dwelling in the moss.
Boon the Brae—Doric—Above the hill.
Bowfield—Scot.—A hollow field.
Braeface—Scot.—The face or slope of the hill.
Broadlie—A.-S.— Broad, with Mid. Engl, lie suffix, broad fields.
Burhouse—Scot.—Dwelling beside a stream.
Burnhouse -Scot.—A dwelling beside a stream.
Colinburn Glen—Proper name, Colin’s burn ; glen, A.-S., small
Craigha’—Scot. “ rock-liall ”—House on the hill.
Croftliead—A.-S., cognate with Dutch kroft, a little hill : and Eng.
head—Head of little hill. Darnley—Proper name.
Dyke—A.-S.—A ditch; probably referring to the ditch between Dyke and
Greenhills farms. Fauldhead—Doric—Pastoral; top of sheep-fold.
Fifthpart—Doric—Agricul.; a farm where one-fifth part of the multure
was thirled to a mill. Finnybrae—Proper name; and brae, a hill
Foreside—Front of a hill slope.
Gateside—Doric—by the side of the gate or road ; by the wayside.
Glanderston—Probably a proper name ; with the A.-S. suffix ton.
Grahamston—Proper name ; with A.-S. suffix ton, town.
Greenfield moor—The green fields of a moorish farm.
Greenhills—Engl. (Name of a farm.)
Greenside—Engl. (Name of a farm.)
Harelaw—Scot.—Hill of the hares.
Hartleyhill—Proper name, and hill.
Hillside—Engl.—The slope of the hill.
Holehouse—Scot.—House or dwelling in a hollow.
How-Craig—Scots—Hollow in the rocks.
Jaapston—Probably a proper name; and the A.-S. suffix ton, a farm
Kirkhill—Scot.—A hill near the church.
Kirkstile—A.-S.—Stigel to climb; and probably derived from a step or
stile leading to a lane or pathway to the church in early times.
Kirkton—Scot. kirk: A.-S., ton, dwelling or enclosure—A dwelling
near the kirk. Kirkton-field—Scot., kirk, and ton, and
field—Dwellings in field near the kirk.
“Kissing-tree.” The stubby old thorn bearing this name, which stood
near the summit of the path across Fereneze Braes from Neilston to
Paisley, passed away about fifty years ago. The associations of the
name, however, seem to have been too interesting to allow it to die
out, and so there is still a “ kissing-tree ” on the Braes, but not
that referred to by Macdonald in his delightful Rambles, under date
14th August, 1852. Knowe—Scot.—A little hill.
Loanfoot—Scot.—Lower end of narrow road.
Luckiesfauld—Doric—The old woman’s enclosure.
Mains—Mediaeval Eccl.—The granary of the Abbey homesteads.
Mali’s mill—Doric—Mary’s mill.
Maukens Glen—Doric—The hares’ glen.
Middleton—A.-S., midd, middle : ton, town—The middle farm town.
Midgehole Glen—Doric—Probably a corruption of image hole. There is a
tradition that the iconoclastic reformers threw an. image, taken
from the church at Waterside, into the pool under Kilminning’s fall
on the Levern, in this glen, hence the name. Milnthird—Engl, mill,
and third—A farm where one-third of the multure was thirled to a
Mossneuk—Doric—Corner of the moss.
Muirhead—Doric—Head of the moor.
Muirhouse—Doric—Dwelling in the moor.
Neilston—Proper name ; with suffix ton, town.
Neilstonside—Doric—Beside or near Neilston.
Netherton—Engl, nether, lower : A.-S., ton, enclosure—Lower farm
town or steading.
Neukfoot—Doric—The bottom corner.
Ouplay—Up-hill; variant of Uplaw.
Over-Carswell—Above Carswell. See Carswell.
The Pad—Doric—A large trap hill, so named from the resemblance it is
said to bear to the pillion or saddle-pad nsed by ladies, when it
was customary for them to ride sitting behind gentlemen.
Parkhouse—Doric—A dwelling in the field.
Pattieston—Doric—Proper name Peter; with suffix ton, a dwelling.
Peesweep—Doric—Named from the cry of the lapwing—vancllus tristatus—common
round the moorland road where this house is situated.
Picketlaw1—picket, a small military out-post; and lagh, a hill—Hill
of the pickets.
Shilford—Doric—Corruption of shallow ford. In early times the water
from Thortor burn crossed the road here on its way to Loch Libo.
Sergeantlaw—Military—Hill of observation during military occupation
of the country.
Sidebraes—Scot.—Hills on the north side of Loch Libo valley.
Smithyhill—Doric—From a farrier’s shop at one time on the hill.
Snypes—Ornith.—Probably from the birds of that name which frequent
the marshy places round this farm.
Springhill—Engl.—Hill of water springs.
Stewart Raiss, or Raiss Castle—The name of an old castle now in
ruins on the south bank of the river Levern, east of Barrhead.—Obscure.
An old map of 1654 gives the orthography as Res. Possibly the word
is Old British, with some relation to the river which runs close
past it: and a proper name.
Tod-plantain—Nat. his.—The fox plantation.
Thornlie moor—Doric—Thorn ; lie, field : muir—Thornfield-muir.—Doric—On
the other side, or across the stream.
Athort the burn.
Threepgrass—Mediaeval agric.—Grass of the three-penny land.
“Two-penny land of old extent”—Norse, peighinn, penny—Name attached
to certain land on the west border of the parish, indicating Norse
methods of valuation of land in Celtic Scotland.
Uplawmoor—Doric—Up hill muir.
Walton—Scot.—A stone-walled dwelling as opposed to an earth or “clay
biggin.” Wardlaw—If’ard, to watch : law, a hill—Watch-hill.
Wardhill—A variant on the above name. These hill tops were probably
places for giving warning by means of fire-signals in times of
Waterside—Engl.—Beside the water.
Windy ha’—Doric—A dwelling in a windy exposure.
Witch Burn—Doric—A name probably derived from electrical
phenomenon—as St. F-lmo’s fire—being witnessed during a
thunderstorm, and ascribed by superstition to witchcraft. The writer
had ail experience of such a nature, and at this very bridge, during
a professional night journey in an electrical storm. It was about
two o’clock a.m. The night had been very stormy, and was at the time
intensely dark, the whole sky— except along the eastern horizon,
which showed a faint streak of light—being filled with dense clouds,
darker than the ordinary nimbus cloud. The wind blew in great gusts
from the north-west, across the high land of Caplaw moor, with
occasional sharp showers of small hail; and at intervals broad
sheets of lightning, accompanied by a quite audible, soft fluffy
sound, passed sluggishly from the masses of cloud in the west to
those in the east. The road through Greenfield moor dips into a
slight hollow, where the moorland stream passes under the bridge at
Witch Burn; and the writer, who was on horseback, was surprised to
observe that, immediately on the horse getting into this hollow,
both its ears became lit up with a shimmering phosphorescent glow,
as if from a tiny light in each ear, and at the same time the
creature becoming restless and uneasy, snorted as if its nostrils
were being irritated also. Scarcely had there been time to realize
these conditions, before the same phenomena overtook the rider, who
had evidently now himself entered this electric stratum, as his
eyebrows immediately began to emit a faint crackling sound and his
moustache and locks to twitch and coruscate and shimmer with a
luminosity similar to that displayed by the horse’s ears. On getting
beyond the bridge, under which the water was running, the phenomena
entirely disappeared. It was evident that the atmosphere at this
place was highly surcharged with electric fluid ; that the
electrically-laden clouds were so low as to admit of their
electricity combining with that of the earth; and that the points of
hair of the horse’s ears and nostrils, and the writer’s eyebrows and
moustache, had become the medium of rendering it visible, in a
manner analogous to the electrical brush. There can be little doubt
that the name, Witch Burn, attached to this and the stream on
Uplawmoor road, had its origin in some experience similar to the
above, at a time when superstition exercised greater influence over
the human mind than it happily does in the present age. So far this
view is supported, as regards superstition, by the following story,
from a gentleman whose family has had long connection with this
parish. His grand-uncle, a man of substance, and owner of several
farms at Sproulston, Kilbarchan, was in the habit of coming to
Neilston to see his brother, who owned Holehouse farm, the journey
being usually made on horseback. As evening had generally set in
before he left to return, he always required two or three persons to
accompany him and see him as far as the Witch Burn, in Greenfield
moor, on his way home, so great was his dread of being caught by
witches at that place after dark. When nearing the burn, he was
suspicious and watchful, but when safely past that uncanny spot he
became cheerful, and could bid his escort “good-bye,” in excellent
spirits. This would be about a hundred and forty years ago; and no
doubt his friends considered his caution highly commendable, their
own safety being assured by their number on the way back.
Waukmill Glen—Doric—IVaulk, to thicken : mill and glen—The glen of
the fuller’s mill. An art introduced into this country by the
Flemish merchants early in the twelfth century.