Local Places and Place Names
We have compiled an extensive but not complete list of place names fromthe Vale of Leven and its surrounding areas with notes on their origins where available. We would welcome further information, contributions, corrections or comments an any of this content.
The names have been arranged alphabetically. You can view them by clicking the links in the column to the right below the menu.
Vale of Leven Place Names
The origins of place names in any locality are a subject, which can usually be guaranteed to generate considerable discussion, and the Vale is no exception. These discussions usually centre on why a place is called by its name or nickname, when a place got its name, or where a particular place was / is. There are some simple rules that can be followed to help identify the older names in the area.
Firstly, names around Loch Lomondside are nearly all Gaelic in origin, and if no explanation is readily at hand, then one can usually be quickly derived from the Gaelic. An example of this is Firkin Toll on the old A82 Loch Lomondside road (the actual toll house is now by-passed but the area is still called Firkin). Firkin is probably derived from the Gaelic firichean, meaning moors or hill-lands, which is a pretty good description of the area.
Baile and achadh are two of the most common indicators of Gaelic derivation and over the centuries they have developed to Bal - meaning an inhabited place such as a village or hamlet, and Auchen - which indicates a place under cultivation or a field name. Either way, a place with either in their name suggests that they have been in circulation for many centuries. Ballagan is one example of an inhabited place (Balloch in the Vale is not, although Balloch just outside Inverness is) while Auchencarroch suggests an agricultural background, although one considerably more basic than what has continued to this day.
Secondly, in the 18th and 19th century, what passed for the great and the good of the day named places, streets etc after family or caste members. Thus Alexandria and Renton.
Thirdly, by the 20th century, the increasing urbanisation of the Vale required a host of new names for streets, estates etc, particularly in the second half of the 20th century. The selection of street names passed to the local authorities in the shape of councillors. Some clearly dreamt of immortality, and a great many streets, drives, roads etc, particularly in local authority housing, were named after councillors and politicians, mainly from the Left. Many of them were anonymous during their terms as councillors and having a street named after them has maybe turned out to be a bit of a double-edged sword, as their names began to appear as the addresses of the accused in court cases.
In the early to mid 1950’s the building of the Haldane created a voracious demand for names for its thoroughfares and the Council of the time decided to use names from the old Bonhill Parish Council, which had gone out of existence in 1930 to be replaced by Vale of Leven District Council. Since 70 men (no women) had served on the Bonhill Parish Council (BPC throughout Place Names) they had plenty to choose from. They favoured in particular the members of the 1922-25 Council, the first on which there was a left-wing majority and also one which earned BPC a footnote in history because of its fight with the Tory government to increase poor relief at a time of staggering unemployment in the Vale. Many of the key figures in that struggle have streets named after them – the leader, Dan O’Hare has a whole estate named after him – including some who only served the single 1922-25 term and 3 who only served part of it. Moderate or Independents from that time also have thoroughfares named after them, but not in the same numbers.
Also in the Haldane, Labour MP’s have done well. There are in total 4 streets in the Haldane named after former Labour MP’s for the area, whatever the constituency happened to be over the years, plus possibly one for a former Labour Secretary of State for Scotland. This contrasts with none for former Tory MP’s, so no prizes for guessing which party controlled the council when names were being dished out in the Haldane.
To be fair, between 1918 and 1936 there were four Unionist MP’s in the 15 years that they held the old Dunbartonshire seat, none successfully defended the seat, although one of them won it back at a subsequent General Election, and none stayed for more than 5 years, usually going of to some well paid government sinecure. Alexander Wylie was the last Liberal Unionist MP (Tory) who served for more than 5 years, and he retired as an MP in 1906. He was also the last MP for the area who actually lived in the Vale, at Cordale House, Renton, and his commitment to Renton and the Vale is well recognised in place names in Renton and Alexandria.
With some privately owned estates the councillors showed more restraint. The Mollanbowie Estate at Balloch, for instance, has mainly used local places for names, and the origins are therefore largely self-explanatory. The developers of Strathleven Estate in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s hit upon the inspired idea of naming the streets after woman’s first names, making a lot of wives, girl-friends, secretaries etc. very happy. More recently, leaving the naming to private developers, has been a major disappointment, only offset by the “laugh out loud” of some of their choices.
Most recent new names are meaningless hybrids, some are potentially confusing, and none are particularly inspiring. Only a few new areas and roads were named after deserving cases such as doctors, nurses and teachers. Apart from Burns, Tobias Smollett (Random Street) and the poetess Katherine Drain (Katherine Place), the Vale has had a cultural bypass, while sporting and historical figures also barely feature, except in Renton, which as usual has shown the way.”
Planners and people who have to name roads are pleased when there is more than one source for a name they have chosen since they it allows them to please more than one person or sectional interest with no additional effort. It is quite hard to avoid anyway when using surnames because in any area there are many people with the same surname and some of them at least are deserving causes. In the Vale as in many other places, the Council rarely announced after whom they were naming a road, leaving it up to the public to make its own informed assumptions. Ambiguities remain in some names and where there is more than one possibility we have tried to mention them all.
An early contributor to the discussion was Alexander Hunter (see discussion) who wrote to the Lennox Herald from Rue Gluck in Paris on the 19th December 1892, to clarify some questions raised by a native of Balloch, James Barr, whose reminiscences about Balloch in the 1820-30's were being printed in the paper at that time. (These reminiscences are the basis of much of the information in the relevant parts of the entry about Balloch).
Although a number of specific alternatives have been offered to some of his explanations, and we would now think that a number of them are wrong, Hunter's views of the origins of the place names serve as a useful starting point. His complete letter is worth showing in full, as it appeared in the paper, including his spellings of places, and some sentences which we would find it difficult to understand today - for instance his explanation of Croftengea, which I suspect is a reference to the Oak Tree, but I could be completely wrong.
His complete letter, complete with his spelling as published, is as follows:
SATURDAY MORNING, DECEMBER 31 1892
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
BALLOCH AND AROUND
Having read with much interest your aged correspondent's reminiscences of the Lennox country, and observed his inability to explain the meaning of Mount Misery, I send you the following particulars concerning the topography of the district in question, the names of the localities being for the most part Gaelic, or of Gaelic origin - in accordance with the rules of ethnology, that, in every country, localities bear the name names given to them by the original inhabitants, who, as regards the Lennox, were of course, Celts.
Inch Murrin: Gaelic, Innis na Muirn - meaning island of hospitality
Inch tavanach: Innis ta Mhanaich (pronounced Tavanaich) - island of monks.
Inch Cailliach: Innis Cailleach - island of nuns.
Inch Clair: Innis Clair - island of the harp.
Inch Conachan: Innis Coinneach - island of moss or fog
Inch Cruin: island of the crown
Inch Fad: Innis Fad - long island
Inch Galbraith: Innis Gu Brath - island of the Galbraiths, or Coubrachs, a very old name, meaning “for ever until the day of burning”.
Inch Lonaig: Innis Lonaich - island of morasses
Inch Moan: Innis Monadh (pronounced Mona) - moor island
Inch Friechlan: Innis Fraoch-lan - heather island
Inch Croin: Innis Cruinn - round island
Inch Torr: Innis Torr - island of the mound
Inch Aber: Innis Aber - island at the river mouth
Loch Lomond: Loch Lumon; and Ben Lumon: Beinn Lumon - named after the famous Lumon, a hero of the Fingalian period.
Rowardennan: Ravir Daonnan - yesterday to be always remembered (in memory of a Fingalian victory)
Duncroyne: Dun Cruinn - the round fortress
Glen Falloch: Gleann Falaich - the glen of concealment (gathering place where, during the Ossianic period, Fingal, Ossian and Oscar assembled the Fenians to combat the Romans and Norsemen)
Glenfruin: Gleann Bhroin (pronounced Glyannfroin) - the glen of sorrow (in remembrance of the slaughter of the Colquhouns by the McGregors)
Glenfinlas: Gleann Foinn-Leus - the glen of Fingals ray of light (Fingal's banner was the sunbeam emerging from the gloom)
Luss: Lus - herb plant (place of rich vegetation).
Colquhoun: Coille-com-thonn (pronounced Col-co-houn) - the forest with the waves of the sea or loch
Carn-na-Ceasoig: Cairn-na-Ceasoig - cairn of St MacKessock (origin of MacIsacc)
Kilmaronock: Cell-marnoc - the sanctuary of Saint Marnoc
Douglas: Dubh-Glas - the dark grey
Endrick: Oth-an-Daraich (pronounced Oandaraich) - the water of oakes
Balmaha: Bal maitheas - the town of mercy, or the goodness of God (one of the Celtic towns of refuge for the shelter of fugitives under protection of the Church)
Mount Misery: Mathas Righ (pronounced Maus-Ree) - the hill of the king's bounty (where an open house or monastery was established for the maintenance of refugees under the jurisdiction of Balhama during the Culdee period)
Rossdhu: Ros-Dubh - the black promontory
Boturich Castle: Buaidh-Turrach - crowned with victory, towers of victory
Balloch: Bealach - gorge or pass
Leven: - Leamhan (pronounced Leavan) - the elm water (the elm was one of the emblems of the Lennox family)
Dalvait: Dail-Bhata - place of boats
Tullichewan: Tulach Uaine - green knoll
Croftengea: Craobh-na-Geamba (pronounced Kravongea) - the tree of the pledge; the gathering place of the MacFarlanes (Foir-Lann: sons of the true sword), under the Lennox chiefs; more recently known as “the oak tree” which was therefore an interesting historical reminiscence; the Croftengea Works have simply retained the Gaelic and original title of this historical tree
Bonhill: Bun-hill - the foot or basis of the hill; Till by mutation becomes Thill (pronounced Hill), implying return or descent
Dalmonach: Dail Manaich - the dail of monks
Cordale: Coir Dail - dale of justice
Dillichip: Dail-na-chuip - dale of the lash (where culprits were flogged)
Dalquhurn: Dail Coraichean - place of charters and title deeds
Dalreoch: Dail Righ - king's dale (where the site is still seen of the castle where King Robert the Bruce died)
Cardross: Ceord-Ros - the smith's promontory or point
Kilmahew: Cill Maitheas - the sanctuary of Divine goodness
Carman: Cairn-Monadh (pronounced Cairn Mona) - the hill of cairns; there is a curious stone on top of this hill formerly “Clach mor” and more recently “The Big Stane”; can this be Ossians Hill of Cairns?
Dumbarton: Dun Bhreatuinn - the fortress of Briton: Breagh-Tonn - the fortress of the land overlooking the sea
Glasgow: Glas Gath (pronounced Glasga) - the sunbeam in the gloom, Fingals banner, or the Kelvin and the Clyde
The Kelvin and the Clyde: Clui-otha - Clutha - were the battlefields of Fingal and his son against the Romans
Caledonia: Coille-tonn-ia - the land of the forest and floods
If any of your readers are interested in the names of localities, those particulars will no doubt afford them pleasure.
I am, yours very truly,
4 Rue Gluck
19th December 1892
This is a very useful starting list, and where no further comment is required none is given below. However, much has changed in 116 years in the area and a more up-to-date list of places and place names would include what is listed below - which is clearly a work-in-progress with all of the building work currently underway - particularly the two new projects at Dalmonach and Dalquhurn, both of which are forecast to take 5 years to complete i.e. until 2012.