Meeting Report: Stories behind Dumfries and Galloway Coastal Place-names

Date: 
5 October 2018
Speaker(s): 
Nic Coombey (Solway Coastwise Co-ordinator, Solway Firth Partnership)

The first lecture in the Dumfries and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society lecture series for 2018–19, entitled Stories Behind Dumfries and Galloway Coastal Place Names, was given by Nic Coomby of the Solway Firth Partnership. In his talk he discussed the themes behind the stories of coastal place names, illustrated with some beautiful photographs of the places he talked about. He made the landscape of Dumfries and Galloway look splendid (no wet days here).

The talk was organised by coastal landscape features, beginning with caves. He showed how different associations influenced names. Place names could alter as their roles changed, thus Castle Port, a safe landing, became St Ninians Cave. Other caves had historic associations, some probably true like those linked to the Covenanters (Barholm Whigs Hole) or literary fiction such as Scott's 'Guy Mannering' — Hatteraik Cave. Some cave names were purely descriptive; Sapphire cave was derived from the nearby abundant supplies samphire and Butchers cave from the colour of the red algae on it. Some caves were named after the person who had lived in them; Callies Cave was allegedly named after a smuggler called Cally who used the cave. Another cave known on early maps as Sheep cave became Logies cave after Johnny Logies who lived there for about forty years, only leaving in the 1960's!

We also heard about island place names. Ardwall Island used to be known as Larry Isle after a rather notorious inhabitant. Hestan Island, which once had a monastery has a more historic place name, Monks Pool which probably contained a mediaeval fish trap. We also heard of cliffs named after birds such as Ducker Bing, a cormorant nesting site.

Finally Nic considered rocks. These seemed to have a guiding role on the Rhins. At the Mull of Galloway, one indicated a safe cave for small vessels in bad seas. Near Annan the Altar stone seemed to define the boundary between town and parish, and still retained a role in 'the Ridings'.

The talk was much appreciated, as shown by the large number of questions afterwards.