Colon­say and Oron­say bilin­gual place-names book­let pub­lished

The Oban Times - - NEWS -

A NEW guide to Colon­say and Oron­say’s Gaelic place-names was launched at the Colon­say Book Fes­ti­val Fringe.

The bilin­gual book­let, Gaelic in the Landscape: Place-names of Colon­say and Oron­say, ‘cel­e­brates the spe­cific cul­tural and nat­u­ral her­itage of some of Colon­say and Oron­say’s lesser-known names’.

Place-name re­searchers Mary Carmichael, Chris­tine Johnston and Scott Weather­stone, with sup­port from Dr Ja­cob King and Eilidh Scam­mell of Ain- mean-Àite na h-Alba (AÀA), col­lected in­for­ma­tion and as­so­ci­ated sto­ries on more than 130 place-names from mem­bers of the com­mu­nity. Many have never ap­peared in print be­fore.

The book ex­plains: ‘The lin­guis­tic mix of place-names in Colon­say and Oron­say is typ­i­cal of is­lands in the In­ner He­brides. The names of the larger is­lands and promon­to­ries tend to be Norse in ori­gin, while the ma­jor­ity of the names re­lat­ing to agri­cul­ture and nat­u­ral fea­tures are in Gaelic. In re­cent times sev­eral English names have been in­tro­duced, ei­ther de­not­ing new fea­tures, such as roads and houses, or as trans­la­tions of ex­ist­ing names.’

For ex­am­ple, ‘Comharra nam Muirs­geanan’ – the marker of the ra­zor fish ( plu­ral) – stands on Tràigh Orasa, now known com­monly as Oron­say Bay. When the rock is ex­posed, the tide is far enough out to suc­cess­fully gather ra­zor fish. ‘Eilean nan Giomach’ – the is­land of the lob­sters – is aptly named as lob­sters can still be found there.

‘In 1822 a ship called The Water­loo, which had sailed out of Cum­bria head­ing for Amer­ica, was wrecked off Eilean nan Ròn, the is­land of the seals. Ev­ery­one was saved ex­cept the cap­tain. The ship’s cargo was china and to this day porce­lain can still be found from time to time on the beach. Eilean nan Corp – the is­land of the corpses – in Kilchat­tan (at Am Port Mòr) re­lates to where a boat was wrecked; pre­sum­ably bod­ies were found on the is­land.’

The book­let, co-or­di­nated by AÀA and Scot­tish Nat­u­ral Her­itage (SNH), was funded by the na­tional Gaelic lan­guage and cul­ture re­search net­work Soillse.

Eleanor Mac­Don­ald of SNH said: ‘In un­der­stand­ing the mean­ing be­hind place-names we have an op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­pret the landscape dif­fer­ently.

‘These place-names gen­er­ally of­fer a uniquely Scot­tish, and Highland, per­spec­tive of the link be­tween the land and the com­mu­ni­ties who lived there for gen­er­a­tions. We are thrilled to launch this new bilin­gual pub­li­ca­tion, the sixth ti­tle in our Gaelic in the Landscape se­ries, which cap­tures the lo­cal pla­ce­name knowl­edge passed down through gen­er­a­tions.’

Eilidh Scam­mell of AÀA added: ‘The preser­va­tion of Scot­land’s Gaelic place-names is very much at the heart of AÀA and we are de­lighted to have been a part of this project, which we hope will se­cure their fu­ture in Colon­say and Oron­say’s landscape, and help fu­ture gen­er­a­tions un­der­stand the con­nec­tions be­tween the lan­guage and the land.’

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