Place Names

It’s Charles Hutton I imagine scrabbling over Schiehallion with, although highly unlikely that he ever visited; his traversing occurred on paper. I should rather think of Charles Mason who made the initial survey on its suitability for the experiment, or Reuben Burrow and William Menzies who surveyed whilst Nevil Maskelyne made his observations (on which Hutton’s calculations are based). So I’m not clear who drew this map which is sometimes credited to Burrows, sometimes to Hutton.hutton name mapSitting facing south, miniature juniper forest world at my feet, I spy Am Fireach (Firroch), and we are in agreement. All along to the south of the mountain the named points from the survey make sense to me. To the North I come unstuck, could:place names blog 2

F. Malbirroch be Creagan Geur?

G. Derridnafanaig be Cnoc an Fhithich?

W. Maldonglaikcharne be Meall Dubh (or Lochan an Daim)

I question each syllable searching for resemblances; a dumb folly as I know neither Scots nor Gaelic, and wonder what rules would have been used for translating the names as given them by their guides.

A few things are clear ‘Schehallien’ (Sìdh Chailleann) was preferred over ‘Maiden Pap’. So ‘Fairy Hill of the Caledonians” to ‘big girl’s bosom’, though Maskelyne tells a different tale: “… called by the people of the low country Maiden-pap, but by the neighbouring inhabitants, Schehallien; which, I have since been informed, signifies in the Erse language, Constant Storm: a name well adapted to the appearance which it so frequently exhibits to those who live near it.”

I believe ‘leg pulling’ was as alive then as today.

Then there are prominent places such as ‘E & W Knocknanaine’ which, rising out of the northern flanks of Schiehallion, would have added considerable difficulties to Hutton’s computations. Named Cnoc nan Aighean on the current OS, this has had a curious life; on the first OS to include contours, this huge outcrop appears as nothing more than a wee burp in the line at 2250 feet.place names blog 3

With many thanks to Chris Fleet from the NLS Map Library

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