Lecture – Michael Ansell – “Revealing the Gaelic mountain-names of the Galloway Highlands”

Comann Rìoghail Ceilteach
Royal Celtic Society

On Thursday the 3rd of November at 7:30pm (GMT/UTC) Michael Ansell will present

“Revealing the Gaelic mountain-names of the Galloway Highlands”

an unravelling of the underlying Gaelic landscape in Galloway.


Galloway resembles parts of the Scottish Highlands in more ways than one. For one thing the former Lordship should be properly regarded as part of the Scottish Gàidhealtachd, Gaelic having been spoken there for the best part of 1000 years. Galloway also boasts rugged ‘highland’ mountain landscapes in the interior of the province. Put these things together and we have dramatic mountain scenery which has been named by the Gaelic people who lived in and exploited these landscapes.

The Galloway Highlands therefore boast an impressive Gaelic toponymy. There is a problem however. Gaelic died out in the area perhaps 150 years before the first OS mapping took place so the hill names were recorded in anglicised forms which do a good job in obscuring the original Gaelic meaning. All is not lost however, by careful study of the available sources and the ground itself the underlying Gaelic landscape can be unravelled.

This reveals a rich Gaelic heritage, describing the Galloway Gaels’ mountain vocabulary (similar but not identical to that of the Scottish Highlands) and enlightening us as to their interest in the natural environment, land-use and folk-lore.

In this talk I intend to demonstrate parts of this ‘hidden’ Gaelic landscape to let us see the Galloway Highlands as the local Gaelic speakers named it.

Michael Ansell:
was brought up in the Glenkens area of Galloway and through hill-walking in the nearby Rhinns of Kells developed an interest in mountain landscapes and place-names. Now retired and a self-confessed place-name ‘anorak’ he lives in the foothills of the Rhinns in the Glenkens.

The Galloway Highland farm of Clenrie (A’ Chlaon-Àirigh) on the slope of Meaul (Am Meall) with Craigencallie (Creag na Cailliche) and Millfore (Am Meall Feòir) in the background

If you wish to take part, please contact the Royal Celtic Society via info@royalcelticsociety.scot. You will then be sent the Zoom codes in time for the event.

No fee is charged for these talks but we welcome donations via PayPal – there is a link on the homepage of our website- the address is at the head of this message.

A prompt reply is encouraged as attendees are currently limited to 100, and places will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

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