Ail-, Al-

Place-Name element:  Al-

Sir Herbert Maxwell [1] identifies the use and origins of the place-name element in Galloway as follows  –

‘I have not recognised fail (foil), a cliff, which gives names to places in the south of Ireland, in our topography. In the north of Ireland it passes into ail (oil), and, though not now a living word in Scottish Gaelic, has at least been in use at some former time in Galloway, as is shown by the names of some hills in that district : Alhang (2,200 feet), Alwhat (1937 feet) — ail chat (haat), cliff of the wild cat ; and Alwhillan — ail chuilean, cliff of the whelps, or chuilhain, of the holly.’

  • Scottish land-names; their origin and meaning
    • by Maxwell, Herbert Eustace, Sir, bart., 1845-1937
Alhang_Alwhat_map

Alhang and  Alwhat, New Cumnok

The neighbouring hills lies in the south of the parish on the boundary of Ayrshire and Kirkcudbrightshire, with Alhang holding the honour of hosting the source of the Afton Water.

Alhang_Alwhat_00

Alwhat hill (left) and Alhang hill (right) , New Cumnock

The first impression, neither of these similar green-clad rounded hills, are cliff-like in form. The drop over the boundary is much steeper and it is on the lower slopes of Alhang where Allwhillan is found, yet still little evidence of cliff-like features, other than being steep. However the description of both hills in the Ordnance Survey Name Books of Kirkcudbrightshire refers to their surfaces as comprising ‘rocky pastures’, no doubt the source of the stones that were used to mark out the county boundary. This is in keeping with the ‘Dwelly Dictionary’ [2]  entries for ail and al as ail– ‘rock, stone’; al  ‘rock, stone, solid, rigid or immovable’.

map_Alhang

Courtesy of National Library of Scotland

ALHANG

  • Place-name: Alhang
  • Suggested meaning: ‘steep, rocky wedge’
  • Gaelic: al ‘rock, steep’
  • Gaelic: ding ‘wedge
  •  Location: OS Six-inch Scotland 1892-1960;
    • National Library of Scotland

Ordnance Survey Name Book 1855-57, Ayrshire Volume 49

  • Forms: Alhang
  • Description: A hill at the southern Boundary of this Parish situate at the source of Afton Water

Ordnance Survey Name Book 1848-51 Kirkcudbrightshire Volumes 4, 5

  • Forms: Allhang, Alhang, Alhinge
  • Description: [Situation] About 2 miles ENE [East North East] of Clennoch. A considerable hill on the farm of Upper Holm of Dalquhairn, its surface consists of rocky and rough pasture. On it is a Trigl. [Trigonometrical] Station called by Trigl. [Trigonometrical] Party “Allhang” this hill forms part of a range with Mid Rig, Ewe Hill &c.
  • Description: The first syllable in this name appears tolerable plain to be the Gaelic Aill, A precipice, a rock or Steep place. but the affix, hang, is rather difficult to trace its derivation. I believe it is much changed by the lowland pronunciation

Alhang appears in the form Aldhing in Johan Blaeu’s Atlas of Scotland (The Stuartrie of Kircudbright, the most easterlie part of Galloway / auct. Tim. Pont).  The second element of the name could be Gaelic dhing ‘wedge’

aldhing_blaeu_map

Courtesy of National Library of Scotlandd

ALWHAT

Ordnance Survey Name Book 1855-57, Ayrshire Volume 49

  • Forms: Alquhat, Alquhat, Allwhat, Alwhat
  • Description: A high ridge of sheep pasture land, on which is a portion of the boundary between Ayrshire and Galloway

Ordnance Survey Name Book 1848-51 Kirkcudbrightshire Volumes 4, 5

  • Forms: Alwhat, Allwhat
  • Description: A tolerable Sized hill on the farms of Clennoch and Moorbrock the Surface of which is Rocky Pasture, how it got its name is not Known in the locality on its Summit is a Trigl. ◬ [Trigonometrical Station] Called by Trigl. [Trigonometrical] Party Alwhat
  • Description: [Situation] 1 3/8 Miles W.N.W. [West North West] of Lorg
    A considerable hill on the farms of Upper Holm and Montray. its surface is rough pasture, and on its summit is a Trigl.[Trigonometrical] Station called by Trigl.[Trigonometrical] Party “Allwhat”. This hill forms part of a range or group of hills.-
  • Note: Allwhat, from the Gaelic Al, a rock & fada, long. Aill, in the Irish signifies a high mountain, a great steep, &c.

 

Acknowledgements

National Library of Scotland

The Ordnance Survey Name Books for Kirkcudbrightshire (1848-1851), Volume 4  entry for Alwhat readss

  • Scottish land-names; their origin and meaning
  • by Maxwell, Herbert Eustace, Sir, bart., 1845-1937