Folklore of the coast
Stories behind place names
The first lecture of the new series was by Nic Coombey, of the Solway Firth Partnership.
In his talk he discussed the stories behind coastal place names, illustrated with some beautiful photos 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 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 Ninian’s Cave.
Other caves had historic associations, some probably true like those linked to the covenanters (Barholm Whigs Hole) or literary fiction such as Sir Walter Scott’s Guy Mannering – Dick Hatterick’s Cave.
Some cave names were purely descriptive, such as Butcher’s Cave from the colour of the red algae on it.
Some caves were named after people who had lived in them – Callie’s Cave was allegedly named after a smuggler.
Another cave, referred to on early maps as Sheep Cave, became Logie’s Cave after Johnny Logie who lived there for about 40 years, only leaving in the 1960s.
Information was also given 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 medieval fish trap.
The meeting also heard of cliffs named after birds such as Ducker Bing, a cormorant nesting site.
Finally, Nic considered rocks. The Altar Stone, near Annan, seemed to define the boundary between town and parish and still retained a role in the riding of the marches.
The talk was much appreciated, as shown by the large number of questions afterwards.
Members are now looking forward to the next talk, by Professor Andy Ferguson, which will deal with the impact of environmental changes of native freshwater fish.
This will be given at the Cumberland Street Day Centre, in Dumfries, on October 19 at 7.30pm. Visitors welcome.
What’s in a name? Nic Coombey talked about places along the Solway coast