Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Galloway Place-Names database launched


Last night (12th May), the ‘Place-Names of the Galloway Glens: The Language of the landscape’ online seminar took place, with more than 80 people from across the world ‘dialling in’ to take part in an event led by the University of Glasgow’s Professor Thomas Clancy and the Galloway Glens Place-Names Officer Gilbert Márkus about the ongoing project to study local place-names, how they are formed and what they can tell us about our landscape.

This project is a partnership between the University of Glasgow and the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership Scheme. The Galloway Glens Scheme is a suite of projects being undertaken in the Ken/Dee Valley in Dumfries & Galloway, in Scotland’s first UNESCO Biosphere, supported by funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
For more than a year, Gilbert Markus has been working to catalogue place-names across seven parishes right in the heart of Galloway: Carsphairn, Dalry, Balmaclellan, Kells, Parton, Crossmichael and Balmaghie. The online seminar marked the unveiling of an online place-names database, which allows users to analyse and search the findings of Gilbert’s work, exploring the origin of names, the languages involved, probable age of names and what the names are trying to tell us about the landscape. More than 2,500 place names have been analysed and logged on the database.
The database is now available to all: HERE
After the event, and following the launch of the new database, Professor Thomas Clancy from the University of Glasgow who is overseeing the project, said:
“It is fantastic to be able to bring this work to the public now. Our partnership with the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership has brought systematic modern place-name survey to south-west Scotland for the first time, and the work of Gilbert, and of our Technical Officer Brian Aitken, have brought it into the public domain in this up-to-date and user-friendly medium. This is such a rich and interesting part of the world, in its ‘intangible heritage’ as well as the beauty of its landscape, and we hope this resource will help people to explore that—even in lockdown!”
The lead place-names researcher, Gilbert Márkus, said:
“I’m really looking forward to getting feedback from users of the database. It isn’t just a collection of names and interpretations. It is marked up so that people can analyse the data in all kinds of interesting ways, seeing clusters and patterns in the distributions for example, which will offer new insights.  The launch is just the beginning.”
The Galloway Glens Project Officer, Nick Chisholm, added:
We are indebted to the hard work of our project partners and this has been epitomised by the input of Professor Thomas Clancy and Gilbert Márkus. We had intended to launch the place names website at a public gathering in the area but clearly this was not possible. Thomas & Gilbert gamely stepped forward and offered to launch the database in an online seminar. We are also very grateful to the audience at last night’s event, with a huge variety of questions and comments on the night. Please do visit the new database and look into the history of our place-names, they are surprising, diverse and give us a real snapshot of our landscape centuries ago.
Colin Mackenzie, a local place-names enthusiast who runs the Dumfries & Galloway Place-Names social media accounts (Twitter: @dgplacenames, web: has had a chance to use the new database. Colin said:
This fantastic website lets you read the landscape of the Galloway glens and explore the hidden histories encoded in its place-names. The website is intuitive and easy to use. You can search it in various different ways, such as by language or landscape feature, but there’s great fun and insight to be had just by browsing the map and selecting place-names at random. I’d recommend having a look at Thundery Knowes and Eldrick as examples of the different and surprising ways the landscape was used and thought about in the past.
The website contains a treasure-trove of information about the seven parishes it covers. But because place-names were coined using a fairly limited vocabulary, it can be used to research place-names outwith this area too. It’s an incredible resource for the region and I’m looking forward to exploring it more!
Caroline Clark, Director, Scotland of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, which is funding the Galloway Glens Scheme, added:
“It’s wonderful to see the Galloway Glens project reconnecting people with their outstanding natural landscapes and historic places. This fascinating place-names resource will now enable everyone to explore the words which help unlock the history of their town or village.”

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