It is the second book on Scots place names completed by Iain M.M.
Johnstone but the first to be published. The unexpected discoveries of the
Old Norse, that is Vikings from Norway, source of most of the place names
in the first book made him consider writing a more compact book with
historical and linguistic information limited to a six mile radius of the
main town, Haddington, in East Lothian, Scotland. The more comprehensive
book, covering all Scotland, will be published soon.
The book has various sections devoted to Viking history,
language, religion and social customs which are reflected in the place
names, showing that from an early age, 9th/10th c.,
that they had settled this area to the same extent as the author had found
in most of southern Scotland. The implications for Scots early history and
the origins of their early non-Celtic tongue are of startling proportions.
The official position of the early Scots tongue having developed from Old
English or a dialect of it must now be dropped. Why have the place name
‘experts’ and official ‘historians’ not found this out before? Decide for
yourself-after reading the book.
Further details of background to the book and where to purchase it at:
Viking Place Names
of East Lothian
Of Whales and Dwarves
Whittingham(e) XE "Whittingham(e)"
is a hamlet situated in East Lothian, a few miles from Haddington, the
county town, and facing the great bulk of the misnamed Traprain Law. This
is our starting point for a stroll in the surrounding countryside to have
at look at the place names and see what clues they give us as to the
people, where they came from, their language and activities.
In the 18th.
century, Adair’s map shows Traprain XE "Traprain"
as Dupenderlaw XE "Dupenderlaw"
, while Timothy Pont’s map of the 16th. century shows it as
Dunpendyrlaw. It is only in the late 18th. century that some
cartographical vandal has inserted the name of the nearby hamlet of
Traprain, early Brythonic for a ‘tree steading’, instead of the ancient
name of Dunpender XE "Dunpender"
, and previously probably, Gaelic, Dunpelder, from Brythonic, Dinpaladyr
XE "Dinpaladyr" , which
according to Prof. Watson, means, ‘Fortress of Spearshafts’. This would
have been at least one of the main fortresses of the Brythonic Votadini
XE "Votadini" tribe, who
encountered the Romans in the first and second centuries A.D. and made
peace presumably with them at that time, because of the evidence of Roman
treasure discovered here in the 1920’s and residing and on display in the
Scottish National Museum in Edinburgh.
Prof. Watson believes
this is the place where the mother of the Brythonic (Old Welsh) St.
Kentigern XE "Kentigern"
(Mungo XE "Mungo"
), Thenaw XE "Thenaw"
, was cast down from for being unmarried and pregnant with a child that
one day would be the patron saint of Glasgow. Thenaw survived and was cast
adrift into the Firth of Forth near Aberlady XE "Aberlady"
. This story is taken from Jocelin XE "Jocelin"
, a 12th. century monk of Furness, Lancashire. He had been
commissioned to look into the lives of the older saints. He actually says
that Kepduff XE "Kepduff"
was the place she was thrown from, but Prof. Watson thought it wasn’t big
enough and suggested Dunpender. Today, Kepduff is called Kilduff
XE "Kilduff" , since there was
a fashion for such name changes some years ago. Makes it look like a
saint’s abode, ‘Church of Duff’ or the like, whereas it actually means in
Gaelic, ‘Black block’. I think it big enough to give you more than a sore
head if you were cast from one of its slopes down to the ancient fortress,
still visible, at the foot of it.
The Brythons, Old
Welsh speaking Celts, seem to have left en masse for other parts in the
direction of Wales, in various waves from the 6th. to the 9th.
centuries, including Kentigern. After the Siege of Dumbarton XE "Siege of
Dumbarton" by Norse and probably Scots in 870 a.d., there was a major
exodus of Brythons from Strathclyde to Wales. It may also have been at
this time that many of their fellow Brythons in the old Lothian, decided
to join them. Some of course would have stayed, like possibly Cospatrick
XE "Cospatrick" of Dunbar.
The family of William Wallace XE "William Wallace" , a Brythonic name,
possibly returned to Strathclyde after a period of exile in Wales.
Now the question is
who took their place in Strathclyde and the Lothians? The history of this
time is murky to say the least, but there are significant pointers that
more than suggest that it was the Scots and Norsemen, their allies at the
Battle of Brunanburh XE "Battle of Brunanburh"
in 937 and related to the Scots kings since king Kenneth MacAlpin
XE "Kenneth MacAlpin" was the father-in-law of Olaf
the White XE "Olaf the White" , Norse king of Dublin
about the middle of the 9th. century. Kenneth MacAlpin had
already burned Dunbar five times in the middle of the 9th.
century, probably in the company of the Norse.
There is no question
of there being Saxons or Angles in Scotland at this time, unless they were
refugees from their own people or the Vikings. Saxons lived in places
where their name still survives, like Wessex, Sussex, Middlesex. The
Angles stretched from East Anglia to Newcastle and had already lost much
of their power and influence, especially in the North. Simeon of Durham
reports that the English of Northumbria lost most of their army and their
king, Eadbert XE "Eadbert" , abdicated in 757 (became a monk) after a
disastrous defeat (almost certainly by the Picts under Angus XE "Angus" )
in southern Scotland, which led to anarchy and confusion for the next
hundred years in whatever remained of Bernicia XE "Bernicia"
/Northumberland. Nonsense stories of Edinburgh being named after an Anglic
king of Bernicia called Edwin, are just that. There was no Edwin XE
"Edwin" . There was an Eadwine XE "Eadwine" , who died in 633, chopped up
by a king of Mercia, without giving his name to anywhere in Scotland,
because it is etymologically impossible, historically impossible and
logically impossible—if you read the history.
It was the Norsemen
who restored their version of order with successive kings of York and
Northumbria, and established the Danelaw XE "Danelaw"
, (see Glossary on Scots word Law) which covered most of England,
and showed who ruled the land. The very name England, could be Norse (C/V
say it comes from Öngull land, Öngull XE "Öngull"
being a Norse personal name and a name for the Angles. It means ‘an
angle, fish hook, bent’). After all, Scotland, Iraland, Iceland,
Greenland, Shetland, Vinland etc. were named by the Norse. If it had been
English, it would have been something like
Anglecyn XE "Anglecyn"
which was a term used by Bede, or
Angle something. The Saxons of course were not Angles XE "Angles" , or
indeed Engles (A/S engle means Angel), and being the greater number
and of the greater influence, would have probably preferred another name.
The Scots called England, Sassan, land of the Saxons and thus
Sassanach XE "Sassanach"
for an Englishman. The Irish have Sasana and the Brythons,
Lloegr, ‘lost lands’.
Now, I am perfectly
aware of the eyebrows ascending heavenwards and lower lips navel gazing at
this rough sketch of those times and its being at some variance with the
accepted official story. This is where toponymy can play a significant
role. Prof. Ó’Corráinn, of U.C.C. says that “toponymy (the study of place
names) is a surly, inarticulate and ambiguous witness, even in the hands
of the best counsel”, but when the numbers and spread of the inarticulate
witnesses are great enough, I think even sceptics must concede some worth
to them, especially when there is historical and topographical evidence in
support. The area which is under study in
this book is a good example.
abound all over southern, central, northern Scotland and the islands. They
have been suppressed through ignorance and/or perhaps for perceived
political advantage from succeeding dynasties. The ignorance I can deal
with; the political spinning mentality I am afraid is dead wood, beyond
help. The ignorance I refer to is the result of an education like mine,
and millions more, which was based on ‘accepted wisdoms’ which no history
teacher or officially sanctioned publication would dare to question. It
has been a self perpetuating delusion with no one questioning the
emperor’s lack of apparel—and unfortunately I have unwittingly played my
part in this delusion. I must mention several people who have helped me to
see the emperor—not a pretty sight—starkers (from Norse sterk,
A/Saxon is stearc).
Stevenson XE "Robert Louis Stevenson" in his last letter to his brother
referred to the Anglo Saxon heresy of the official histories, which said
Anglo-Saxons had settled here and left their language. It set me on a path
which led to Dorothy Dunnett XE "Dorothy Dunnett"
and her great work, ‘King Hereafter’, wherein she showed, using
painstakingly assembled genealogies, how the Earl Thorfinn
XE "Thorfinn" , Viking ruler
of the Orkneys and ten other earldoms in Scotland was better known in his
day as the Scots king MacBeth XE "MacBeth"
. I laughed at first, but soon came to realise, as did the Scots
Historiographer Royal of the time, that it just had to be true. More than
90% of Scotland was under the sway of Thorfinn, and his mother was Bethoc
XE "Bethoc" , making him
MacBeth, i.e. son of Bethoc. We had a Norse king. The more Norse names I
uncovered, the more relaxed I became with my preposterous
findings—everywhere in Scotland
One of the places in
this area that I visited, Stenton XE "Stenton"
, was fairly well known to me. There is a nearby loch, Pressmennan
XE "Pressmennan" , in a wooded
setting, which was a favourite place of mine for teaching my dogs how to
swim. The higher slopes of the wood provide magnificent views to Stenton,
North Berwick and the Forth. What I hadn’t realised before was the Norse
origins of this place.
Old spellings of the 12th.
century, give Steinton. This is from Norse, stein, (pronounced in
the distinctive Scots fashion, steen or stain)
‘stone’ and tún, ‘an enclosure’. Later of course, the tún,
pronounced toun/toon, would refer to larger living places, sometimes
finishing up as a ‘toon, toun or ton. This tún,
was common in Iceland (Ekwall, 1924), where many of our Norse visitors
came from via Norway and also Ireland. The A/Saxon word for stone is,
stan, as in Laurel.
A star pupil at
Pressmennan Loch, nr. Stenton
Now if this place was
isolated, surrounded by Gaelic or Brythonic place names, then there would
be grave doubts as to its provenance, never mind the 12th.
century Norse spelling, which could be put down to other causes. There are
Gaelic and Brythonic places, like Ballencrief XE "Ballencrief"
, Achingall XE "Achingall"
, Tranent XE "Tranent"
, Trabroun XE "Trabroun"
, Traprain, Dunbar, etc., but these names merge into the local Norse names
and in no way overwhelm them. On the contrary, I have found that the Norse
names are predominant. And it is in this context that Stenton can
confidently be sourced as Norse. Of course you will demand quite rightly
for solid proof of these other places.
In Timothy Pont XE
"Timothy Pont" ’s 16th. c. map can be seen a place in
Pressmennan Wood named Fattlipps
, which does sound humorous and many place name commentators seem happy
with that. However, Fatt is Norse for ‘upturned or bent backwards’
and lipps, may come from Old Scots lippie, ‘flax or corn
seed measure’. This would then give us a meaning perhaps of
upturned flax flowers or corn heads.
Stenton with N. Berwick and Firth of Forth in
Just outside Stenton,
we find Meiklerig XE "Meiklerig"
and Meiklerig Wood. This is Norse, Mikill
‘great, tall, large size’, hryggr,
‘ridge’, viðr, ‘wood’. ‘V’ in Norse is pronounced ‘W’, and the
end ‘R’, indicating the nominative case, usually disappears. ‘K’ is
a Norse feature, not found naturally in Anglo-Saxon, which used the Latin
c. This word mikil, is found all over Scotland in various
guises as mykel, mukel, mykyll and many more. Old English didn’t have a
‘K’. Bit of a giveaway.
Close by Stenton is a
little place called Ginglet XE "Ginglet"
. Strange sounding name and I have no old forms of it. However here goes.
There is Norse, Göngu-líð, ‘footmen, also, help or assistance’.
A short distance away
is Spott XE "Spott"
Wood, Farm, Mill, Burn, etc. This is Norse, Spotti, ‘bit, small
piece’. Anglo-Saxon word is splott. Norse for a ‘mill’ is mylna,
found all over Scotland spelt similarly and a common Scots name, Mylne
XE "Mylne" . ‘Burn’ comes
(with metathesis) from Norse Brunnr, ‘a spring, running water’. The
Gaelic is bùrn, probably from the Norse. Farm is French.
Overlooking Spott is Brunt Hill XE "Brunt Hill" and The Brunt XE "The
Brunt" . Brunt is Norse ‘burnt, barren heath’, and incidentally
possibly the meaning of Burntisland XE "Burntisland"
in Fife. A bit above Pressmennan (Brythonic ‘wood of the hill’) is Rammer
Wood XE "Rammer Wood" , which is Norse, Ram(m)r, ‘strong, mighty’.
Stevenson had relatives in this area, and he used to go to North Berwick
amongst other places for holidays. Not far from Whittinghame is Stevenson
House XE "Stevenson House" and Stevenson Mains. On Pont’s late 16th.
c. map it is Steenstoun. R.L.S. had tried for some years to trace
his family roots in order to satisfy certain worries but died before
succeeding. I think his name is probably Norse, Stefanson a fairly
common name still today. I also noticed a Stefansdottir. A medial
f in Norse commonly changed later to a v. Stefan is recorded
as an Old Norse name, so R.L.S. has no fears.
Within a short
distance from here we have Coldale XE "Coldale" , and several Colstouns.
The Norse for coal, and dark, was kol, but it is recorded that
there is no coal around here, in the Statistical Account of the 18th.
century. There is however, the Norse personal name
Kol XE "Kol"
, and still today in Scandinavia. What about the C? In the 12th.
c. Icelandic grammarians laid down rules when C could be used instead of
K. These rules seem to have been very flexibly observed, and the result
was the names we see today.
On the other side of
Stevenson House we have Hailes XE "Hailes"
(Hales in 16th.c.) Castle, situated near Nether Hailes. Nether
is Neðar, in Norse, and means ‘lower’, as opposed to ofarr,
‘over, higher up’ as in Over Hailes XE "Over Hailes"
which is opposite Hailes Castle further up the slope, which is hallr,
or háls, ‘ridge, hill’, and very common in Scotland. The owner at
one time of the castle was Francis, Earl of Bothwell
XE "Francis, Earl of Bothwell" , a Norse name of
difficult etymology. However, I suggest, N. Boð, ‘an order,
command, summons, a battle’, and vel, ‘well, good, fine’. There is
also veldi, ‘power’. There are several other possibilities. He was
the third husband of Mary, queen of Scots XE "Mary, queen of Scots" , and
died in a prison in Denmark.
Along from Hailes
there is Garlabanck XE "Garlabanck"
as it was in the 16th.c. map of Pont. This is N. Geir-laukr,
‘garlic’, plus bakki, ‘bank, slope leading to a river, usually’.
Today there is Gourlay Bank XE "Gourlay Bank" , in
nearby Haddington. The Norse were keen on their condiments. Double ‘K’ in
Norse commonly became nk. Whenever you see the word bank, in
this sense, in early times, you may count on a Norse origin, because there
was no Anglo-Saxon word like it.
A bit north of Hailes
XE "Hailes" there are several
places with Markle XE "Markle"
, (15th.c. Walter Bower, Marcle, which he claimed meant
miracle), possibly N. Mark, ‘wood’ and hlið, ‘cultivated
hill, slope or farm’. A church here dedicated to St. Mary had been
destroyed some years ago.
Heading down the hill
from Pencraig we find the village of East Linton XE "East Linton" . This
is B. llin, G. lin, or Norse, lin,
meaning ‘flax’, plus
tún, or it could be B. llyn, G. linn, ‘pool’. On its
outskirts we have Knowes XE "Knowes"
, Norse, Knollr, ‘rounded small hill, mound’ and Hedderwick
XE "Hedderwick" , farther on
towards Dunbar, N. Heðarvík, ‘heather or moorland bay’.
* * *
Copyright Iain M.M.
Published by: Tarmagan Press
3 Piershill Place
Edinburgh, EH33 2AH