When the Scottish Place-Name Society was founded, following an inaugural meeting at St Andrews in 1996, one of its objectives was to establish a Survey of Scottish Place-Names. Much progress has been made in pursuit of that goal over the last two decades, culminating last year in the formal inauguration of a Survey with Thomas Clancy as Director and the Society’s Honorary Preses Simon Taylor as Chief Editor.
The first major step towards this was the publication of the five-volume survey of the place-names of Fife by Simon Taylor with Gilbert Márkus (2006-2012), followed by a volume on the place-names of Bute by Gilbert Márkus (2012). The Fife survey was funded by a research grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), supporting a project entitled “The Expansion and Contraction of Gaelic in Medieval Scotland: The Onomastic Evidence” which had Thomas Clancy as Principal Investigator. That led into another AHRC-funded project, “Scottish Toponymy in Transition: Progressing County Surveys of the Place-Names of Scotland” (STIT), again with Thomas Clancy as Principal Investigator and Simon Taylor as Chief Researcher. STIT produced full surveys of two further counties, Clackmannanshire and Kinross-shire, the latter of which will appear in print later this year. It also scoped out work on other areas, including the historical county of Berwickshire, which became the focus of a subsequent grant application to The Leverhulme Trust. The success of this application means that a three-year project, “Recovering the Earliest English Language in Scotland: Evidence from Place-Names” (REELS), is currently underway to undertake survey of Berwickshire place-names. Like the predecessor projects mentioned above, it is based at the University of Glasgow. The project team comprises Carole Hough (Principal Investigator), Simon Taylor (Co-Investigator), Eila Williamson (Research Associate), Brian Aitken (Systems Developer) and Dàibhidh Grannd (PhD researcher). We are also grateful for the support of our advisory group: Christopher Bowles, Dauvit Broun, Jayne Carroll, Thomas Clancy, Alison Grant, Andrew Prescott, Maggie Scott, Jeremy Smith and Diana Whaley. The project website can be found at www.gla.ac.uk/reels.
Berwickshire is a large county, whose size and complexity preclude full survey within a three-year time-frame. We have therefore selected six parishes to survey in depth, for publication as The Place-Names of Berwickshire Volume 1: The Tweedside Parishes. Based on the template first established by the Fife survey, this will form a volume of the Survey of Scottish Place-Names. Alongside it, we shall provide broader coverage of all place-names across the county on the Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger map, for public access through a freely available online resource.
The six parishes are Coldstream, Eccles, Foulden, Hutton, Ladykirk and Mordington. All are situated along the Anglo-Scottish border, a study area chosen because the research question underlying the project focuses on the Old English language spoken on both sides of the present-day border during the period when many of the place-names were created. As with other parts of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, there are many gaps in both the historical and the linguistic record. Indeed, one of the problems facing scholars of Old English and Older Scots is the sparsity of written texts in the Northumbrian dialect of Old English from which the Scots language ultimately derived. Neither is there much archaeological evidence in the form of inscriptions. The toponymic corpus is therefore crucial, but it has remained as yet largely unexplored. REELS is using place-names to investigate the lexis, morphology and phonology of Old Northumbrian, and to test the full potential of this type of data for linguistic reconstruction.
The Old English stratum is central to the project, with Simon Taylor’s paper at the Galashiels conference focusing closely on the early sources. At the same time, the survey work is bringing to light a lot of important material from later periods, and for other areas of interest including literature, as illustrated in Eila Williamson’s paper at the same conference.
Carole Hough (summarising her talk at the spring conference at Galashiels)
Márkus, Gilbert. 2012. The Place-Names of Bute. Donington: Shaun Tyas.
Taylor, Simon with Gilbert Márkus. 2006–2012. The Place-Names of Fife. 5 vols. Donington: Shaun Tyas.
Taylor, Simon with Peter McNiven and Eila Williamson. In preparation. The Place-Names of Clackmannanshire. Donington: Shaun Tyas
Taylor, Simon with Peter McNiven and Eila Williamson. 2017 in press. The Place-Names of Kinross-shire. Donington: Shaun Tyas