Alhang, Alhang Burn

Suggested Meaning:Ail Chumhang
‘narrow rock, cliff or steep place’.
Element:1. Gaelic ail,al ‘rock, stone’
2. Gaelic aill ‘rough, steep’
Element:1. Gaelic chumhang ‘narrow’
Blaeu Coila (1654):Aldhing
OS Names (1855-57):Alhang
Location:OS Map Six-inch Scotland 1892-1960
Other Early Forms
Aldhing (Blaeu,1654), Alhinge (Ainslie, 1797), Allhang, Alhang, Alhinge ( OS Name Book, Kirkcudbrightshire 1848-51)
Alwhat (left) and Alhang (right)             ( photo Robert Guthrie)

Alhang Hill

The Ordnance Survey Name Book Survey Ayrshire (1855-57) entry for Alhang Hill reads –

A hill at the southern Boundary of this Parish situated at the source of Afton Water.

One of the alternative ‘Various Modes of Spelling’ given is simply Alhang, without hill, and indeed it is this form that appears on the OS Map

Map 1: Alhang and Alhang Burn | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
1st element|Gaelic aill ‘rough, steep’; Gaelic ail, al ‘rock, stone’

See also New Cumnock Place-Name ‘ail-,al-,aill-‘ [1]

Sir Herbert Maxwell in “Scottish Land-Names” [2] identified Alhang and Alwhat as examples of hill names perhaps containing Scottish Gaelic ail ‘cliff’. However, neither of these hills have cliff like features. In his later work “The Place-Names of Galloway” Maxwell drops the reference to cliff and simply refers to them both as hills with his entry for Alhang simply reading ‘Alhang, a hill of 2100 feet‘ [3].

Of course much of Alhang rests in Galloway, over the county boundary into Kirkcudbrightshire, and it is reasonable to suggest that the origin of the name lies in this side of the boundary.

Map 2 : Alhang (Kirkcubrightshire) |Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland

The entry for Alhang in the Ordnance Survey Namebook, Kirkcudbrightshire 1848-151, Vol. 4 gives the following description along with a footnote of interest.

[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

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.

The reference to Gaelic Aill fits well with Dwelly entries for Gaelic aill ‘rough, steep’ and Gaelic ail, al ‘rock, stone’ [4]; all of which could be applied to describe similar aspects of both Alhang and Alwhat as well a Allwhannie on the lower south facing slopes of Alhang.

2nd element| 1. Gaelic chumhang ‘narrow’

The remarks above about the difficulty of tracing the derivation of the hang in Alhang still seem to stand. The early form Aldhing (Blaeu, 1654) suggests that Gaelic ding ‘wedge’ [5] is worthy of consideration; however it is pronounced ‘jeeng’. 

Map 3: Aldhing (Blaeu 1654) | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Of course in this neck of the woods ‘hang‘ is pronounced ‘hing‘ but that’s not to suggest it was a hanging hill or Gallows hill!

However, Michael Ansell in his New Cumnock Place-Names articles in the New Cumnock News suggests that Alhang Hill is probably derived from Gaelic Ail Chumhang ‘narrow rock, cliff or steep place’.

2nd element| 2. Gaelic teanga ‘tongue’

There is an excellent discussion on Alhang in the Place-Names of Galloway Glens and on considering Blaeu’s Aldhing (1654) they offer [7] –

One possible explanation for the d might be G teanga ‘tongue’ referring to some tongue-shaped formation on the hill as perceived by those who named it.  Aldhing, however, is not a very convincing representation of ail teangaidh, so this is suggested as an outside possibility.

Place-names of Kirkcudbrightshire. 2022 [7]

Alhang Burn

The Ordnance Survey Name Book Survey Ayrshire (1855-57) entry for Alhang Burn reads –

A small stream at the source of Afton Water, and one of its first tributaries.

Scots burn ‘stream'[8] is a common place-name element in the parish. The burn takes its name from the hill and is the first tributary of the Afton Water which rises between Alhang and Alwhat.

[1] New Cumnock Place-Names : ail-, al-, aill-
[2] Sir Herbert Maxwell | Scottish land-names; their origin and meaning (1894)
[3] Sir Herbert Maxwell | The Place-Names of Galloway (1930/ (Reprint 2001))
[4] Edward Dwelly | Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary (1902-1912)
[5] Malcolm MacLennan| Gaelic Dictionary
[6] Michael Ansell | New Cumnock News No. 6 Autumn Winter 2020
[7] Place-names of Kirkcudbrightshire. 2022. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. | Alhang
[8] Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd| burn

Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Map 1| OS Map Six-inch Scotland 1892-1960 | Alhang, Ayrshire
Map 2| OS Map Six-inch Scotland 1892-1960 | Alhang, Kirkcudbrightshire
Map 3| Johan Blaeu, ‘The Stuartrie of Kirkcudbright, the most easterlie part of Galloway’ (1654)

Ordnance Survey Name Books
Ayrshire OS Name Book (1857-59) Vol. 49| Alhang
Kirkcudbrightshire OS Name Book (1848-51) Vol. 4| Alhang
Kirkcudbrightshire OS Name Book (1848-51) Vol. 5| Alhang