Beoch

Place-Name:Beoch
Nether Beoch, Upper Beoch, Beoch Lane
Suggested Meaning:a place of the birches, birchy place
Gaelic beitheach ‘a place of birches , birchwood’
Blaeu (1654) :N. Bioch, O.Byoch
OS Names (1855-57) :Nether Beoch, Upper Beoch, Beoch Lane
Location:Ordnance Survey (1897)

Other Early Forms of the Name:
Boughs (1387); Beathtis, Myddil Beath, bosca of Beath, OvirBeath (all 1452); Beauch (1511), Beax (1511-1546 ); Nather Beaux (1533); N. Bioch and O. Byoch (both Blaeu 1654)

Beoch

Gaelic beitheach ‘a place of birches, birchwood’

Sir Herbert Maxwell in The Place-Names of Galloway’ identifies several occurences of the place-name Beoch in Galloway and identifies them as Gaelic beithach ‘a place of birches, a birch wood’ [1] while Dwelly gives Gaelic beitheach ‘Of, or belonging to birch trees’ [2].

An early reference to the place-name Beoch in the parish of New Cumnock is found in the late 14th century in the records of Roger Craufurd of Dalelglis . His name appears frequently in “New Cumnock Place-Names” primarly associated with his family’s lands of Dalleagles [3] but also with the ’10 merk-lands in the Barony of Dalmellington’ he acquired from Lord Cathcart in 1384 which comprised the ‘merk-land of Benbane’ in the parish of Dalmellington and the ‘9 merk-lands of Waterhead’ in the parish of New Cumnock [4].

Map 1: Benbain and Upper Beoch | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Alexander Nisbet’s analysis of those names that appeared in the Ragman Roll of 1296 included that of Roger de Crawfurd Del conte de Air. Here he makes reference to Roger Crawfurd of Boughs, Dalleagles & c . in 1387; some 3 years after acquiring the above lands. Boughs, presumably is a reference to Beochs which may have been associated with the ‘merkland of Benbane‘.

Roger de Crawfurd Del conte de Air: This is for certain the family of the Crawfurds, that were sometimes designed of Cumnock, and sometimes of Tarringin; and had also the lands of Crawfurdston in Nithsdale. So much is certain that Roger Crawfurd of Boughs, Dalleagles & c., was in the reign of Robert II anno 1387, brother to Edward Crawfurd of Tarringin; and that they founded the once great House of the Crawfurds of Drongan, of whom came another considerable family of the Crawfurds of Liffnorris. Of them all the Crawfurds in Kyle are come.

Alexander Nisbet ‘System of Heraldry’ , Vol. II, Ragman Roll p.37 [5]

Although Roger Craufurd and his heirs retained their principal lands of Dalleagles those of Beoch passed to the family of Crawfords of Liffnorris through George Craufurd, called of Beathtis. [N.B. Liffnorris is also known as Lochnorris or Lefnories which now form part of the Dumfries House estate in the parish of Old Cumnock.]

The records of the Craufurds of Liffnorris provide some early forms of the place name Beoch, for example, in this charter of 1452 –

At Edinburgh 20 May 1452

George Craufurde called de Beathtis [Royal confirmation of charter to Roger de Craufurde de Drongane in 2 merk lands of Myddil-Beath with the bosca of Beath with all lands lying between bosca and Nith, with all lands of OvirBeath on the other part with the whole hill called the Brounhill between the Blaksolling and barony of Uchiltre lying in barony of Cumnok vic Are .]

Register of the Great Seal, No. 559 [6]
(Translation courtesy of Stuart Clarkson, Guelph, Ontario

Here the second element of the two properties of Middle and Over Beath is Gaelic beith ‘birch tree’ [7] . [N.B. The bosca of Beath appears to be a reference to a wood and is discussed under the section on ‘Bosca of Beath’ below].

In later records of the 16th century the name appears in the form Beax including in the following charter –

January 1512

Apud Edinburgh, 14 Jan. REX confirmavit cartam Wil. Craufurde de Lefnoriis et de Beax, — [qua concessit fiho suo et heredi apparenti GEORGEO CRAUFURDE, heredibus ejus et assig- natis, — 4 mercatas terrarum de Leflinnoriis, 10 solidatas de Blakethill, et 8 mercatas de Beax, cum turre et fortiilicio earundem, autiqui cxtentus, una cum parte sua com- muni de communi terrarum de Terringzane, in Kyle-regis, vie. Are

Register of the Great Seal, No. 3679 [8]

James Paterson in ‘History of the Counties of Ayr and Wigton’also refers to the above charter, although from Lord Auchinleck’s notes, where the “8 mercatas de Beax” is recorded as “eight merk land of Beauch“. He also quotes a later charter of 1533 which refers to the “two merk land of Nather Baeux” [9]

In Blaeu Coila Provincia (1654), based on Timothy Pont’s manuscript (ca. 1590), the properties 1. O. Byoch (Over Beoch) and 2. N. Bioch (Nether Beoch) are shown on the banks of a water course called 3. Lein (Beoch Lane), which joins the River Nith beyond Waterhead Castle. The prefixes Over and Nether were used to differentiate between two properties of the same name.

Map 2: Over Byoch and Nether Bioch (Blaeu) | Reproduced with the Permission of National Library of Scotland

The earliest record, thus far unvovered, of the place-name in the current form of Beoch is found in the Old Parish Records on 23rd October 1709 for the baptism of David, of James Hall and Joan Crichton in Beoch.

Although Roy’s Military Map (1747-55) does not show the Beoch properties it does show Beach Mofs (Beoch Moss) [Map 3] while Armstrong’s Map of Ayrshire (1775) shows a single property called Beoch and the nearby Benbeoch hill in the neighbouring parish of Dalmellington is given as Benbeugh [Map 4].

In the Land Tax Rolls of 1759 and 1803 the properties are recorded as the Beochs and in the latter of the two rolls Quintin McAdam, Esquire of Craigengillan, Dalmellington is identified as the proprietor. In the Valuation Rolls fom 1855 through to1940 the properties are recorded as the Two Beochs.

Upper Beoch and Nether Beoch

In the Ordnance Survey Name Book (1855-57) the Beoch properties are recorded as Upper Beoch and Nether Beoch (ruin) and their entries read –

Upper Beoch: A farm house occupied by Andrew Smith, the property of Colonel McAdam Cathcart

Nether Beoch (ruin): The remains of an old farm house. The farm is now annexed to Upper Beoch

The Ordnance Survey map shows both Nether Beoch and Upper Beoch (previously known as Over Beoch) on the banks of the Beoch Lane which joins the River Nith, just upstream from House of Water. Was Middle Beoch once located between them?

Map 5 : 1. Upper 2. Nether 3. ‘Middle?’ Beoch | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Upper Beoch

The prefix upper has replaced the earlier Scots over ‘upper’ [10], in this case Upper Beoch (Over Byoch) is further upstream than Nether Beoch (Nether Bioch).

Map 6: Upper Beoch | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Photos of Upper Beoch lands (Robert Guthrie January 2009).

Photos of Upper Beoch lands (Robert Guthrie September 2021),

Some minor changes with the farm road being named Beoch Lane, a play in words supposedly with the nearby water-course Beoch Lane.

Nether Beoch

The prefix Scots nether ‘lower’ [11] reflects that this the lower lying property of the two Beoch properties on the Beoch Lane. Possibly if this property hadn’t fallen into ruin the prefix nether would have be dropped in favour of the modern-day lower. Although much of the lands are now blanketed by forestry the remains of the ruins and the associated stane-dykes can still be seen.

Map 7: Nether Beoch | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Myddil-Beath

Further references to the aforementioned ‘2 merklands of Myddil-Beath’ (1454) have yet to be found. Presumably these lands were situated between Nether and Over Beoch.

However it should be noted that elsewhere in the parish there was a Midle Auchincorfs and Litil Auchincorfs (Blaeu 1654); another example of a ‘middle’ property associated with two properties rather than the expected three [12].

Bosca of Beath

The original Latin text of the relevant extract from above charter of 20 May 1452 reads –

2 mercatas terrarum dictarum Myddil-Beath, cum bosca de Beath, cum tota terra jacente inter boscam predictam et aquam de Nitht, cum omnibus terris de Ovirbeath

The bosca de Beath appears to be a reference to the wood of Beath, more than likely to be the original birch-wood itself. The term bosca can be compared with Sanctus Boscus ‘a latinised form of the parish of Holywood‘ in Northern Ireland [13]. Nearer to home ‘the greatest mathematicion of the middle ages Joannes a Sacro Bosco‘ is said to have taken his surname from the monastery of Holywood in lower Nithsdale, Dumfriesshire [14].

The TreesforLife web-site identifies the following uses for birch [15] –

People used the bark for tanning leather, and sometimes, when dried and twisted into a rope, instead of candles. The spray was used for thatching houses and also for sleeping on when heather was scarce. The sap can be tapped as it rises in spring and fermented to make birch wine, a process still practiced in the Highlands today. Of old, the Druids made the sap into a cordial to celebrate the spring equinox.

treesforlife.org.uk

Beach Moss

The Beach Moss recorded in Roy’s Military Map (1746) appears on later Ordnance Survey Maps as Martyrs’ Moss, an extensive stretch of moorland and boggy ground, a half-mile or so from the ruins of Nether Beoch. The moss is now named for a Covenanting tradition of the late17th century [16].

Beoch Lane

The Ordnance Survey Name Book (1855-57) for Beoch Lane reads-

A rivulet rising on the western confines of the Parish of New Cumnock and flowing thro’ [through] a valley, by Beoch and Craigman, empties itself into the River Nith at a house called Laneside.

The original Name Book entry was recorded as Beoch Lane Burn where Burn had later been scored out, reflecting perhaps that the term lane was not recognised as a reference to a water-course; or indeed a rivulet. Beoch Lane is one of a handful lanes in the parish of New Cumnock, all of which take there name from Scots lane ‘slow moving stream’ [17]. In Blaeu Coila Provinicia (1654) Beoch Lane appears simple as Lein, without any suffixes such as R. (river) or b. (burn).

Map 2: Over Byoch and Nether Bioch (Blaeu) | Reproduced with the Permission of National Library of Scotland

The Beoch Lane rises in the parish of Dalmellington less than half-mile to the north-east of Benbain and flows in a north-east direction for less than half-mile to the parish boundary with New Cumnock. It then flows in a northerly direction for 2 miles forming the boundary between the lands of Beoch and the Waterhead Estate before heading east for another mile where it joins the River Nith. For most of its journey the Beoch Lane, moves slowly though the lands of Beoch.

Map 8: Beoch Lane | Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland

Map 9: Beoch Lane | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

The Beoch Lane and its environs have suffered significantly from various opencast and forestry operations in the area. The source is only a short distance from the opencast quarry, just west of the foot of Benbeoch and fairly soon as it cuts its way through the moss it encounters a couple of built-up forestry roads with metal pipes embedded in their bases to let the water pass through before it begins its slow descent to the plain of the broad moss. Here it passes under the Beoch road via double concrete pipes and begins to secretly and slowly wind its way through the extensive moss, now bounded with forestry on the east bank.

Photos (Robert Guthrie 2021)

The Beoch Lane suffered greater changes in its lower reaches due to extensive opencast operations. Indeed its route has been realigned from near the Dow Craig, on its north bank, to join the River Nith less than half a mile downstream.

Map 10: Beoch Lane at Dow Craig | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Photos (Robert Guthrie 2003)

The following photos of the Beoch Lane were taken in 2003 during a much earlier phase of the opencast workings. At this point on its journey the lane has greatly expanded in width but still winds slowly through the landscape.

Beoch Cottages, Beoch Mine, Beoch Side School

In 1847 the Nithsdale Iron Works (later known as New Cumnock Iron Works) was formed and three furnaces were erected on the banks of the Connel Burn. The company acquired leases from the landowner, McAdam Cathcart of Craigengillan, to work the minerals (ironstone, coal and fireclay) on the lands of the Two Beochs, some five miles to the west of the furnaces. .The company’s mineral trackway [see Map 5 above] was expanded accordingly [18]. Houses were erected for the miners and their familes at two locations, one at the foot of Auldnaw Burn and the other, a single row, on the path toward Upper Beoch.

Map 11 Beoch Cottages, School and Mine| Reproduced with the Permission of the National Library of Scotland

Unfortunately, the quality of the ironstone wasn’t fit for purpose and the short-lived New Cumnock Iron works company failed. Dalmellington Iron Works later obtained the leases to work the minerals, in particular the coal reserves, on the lands of the Two Beochs. Their pits took the name Beoch and the remaining houses, the single row was known as Beoch Cottages, In essence it was the small Beoch mining community. [N.B. It referred to as North Beoch in the 1911 Census].

The New Cumnock School Board established a school at the south end of the cottages and although it was known locally as Beoch School, its formal name was Beoch Side School, as witnessed in the situations vacant newspaper columns [19] –

NEW CUMNOCK SCHOOL BOARD Wanted, a FEMALE CERTIFICATED TEACHER, to take charge of BEOCH SIDE PUBLIC SCHOOL. Salary, £80 per annum. Applications with testimony, to be lodged immediately, with Wm. Tweedie, Clerk to the School Board, New Cumnock 6th September 1907.

The Scotsman, Saturday, September 7, 1907

The name Beoch Side may reflect that the school’s proximity to the side of the Beoch Lane, which if so, suggests the water-course was just referred to as the Beoch. (cf. Laneside [20] ). The school later fell under the auspices of the Dalmellington School Board.

The Beoch Cottages remained occupied until 1938 [21] after which the miners and their families were relocated to Dalmellington. The last of the Beoch mines, Beoch No. 4 closed in 1968 [22], renowned as the highest mine in Scotland.

Map 12: Beoch Cottages, School & Mine: Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Craigengillan Estate | Two Beochs

Many thanks to the Dumfries Archival Mapping Project for giving permission to use the following section of the Craigengillan estate map which shows the extent of the lands of the Two Beochs. It featured in a 1919 Sale Brochure of the estate which identified a number of lots for sale including Lot 14, Upper Beoch (i.e. effectively the Two Beochs), described as ‘A Capital Sheep Farm’ [23]. James Smith, grandson of the aforementioned Andrew Smith in the Ordance Survey Name Book, was the tenant at the time of the sale.

The Shepherd’s House contains Two Rooms upstairs and Three downstairs and Boiler. In addition, there are the following Buildings:- Byre for 19 head, Pig House, Store House, Milk House, Hay House, Cart and Implement Shed

Craigengillan Sale Brochure (1919)

Although the sale did not go ahead at that time, the Valuation Rolls of 1920 identify James Smith as the proprietor of the house and farm of the Two Beochs, while the mineral rights remained under the ownership of McAdam Cathcart family who leased these out to the Dalmellington Iron Company.

Map 13: Craigengillan Estate , Two Beochs | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland and Courtesy of the Dumfries Archival Mapping Project

Acknowledgements
Many thanks to the Dumfries Archival Mapping Project for giving permission to use the above section of the Craignegillan estate map which shows the extent of the lands of the Two Beochs. The maps have been made available on-line through the National Library of Scotland Courtesy of Carsphairn Heritage Centre through the Dumfries Archival Mapping Project.
References
[1] Sir Herbert Maxwell “The Place-Names of Galloway” | Beoch
[2] Edward Dwelly Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary | beitheach
[3] New Cumnock Place-Names | Dalleagles – in progress
[4] New Cumnock Place-Names | Waterhead
[5] Alexander Nisbet ‘System of Heraldry’ , Vol. II, Ragman Roll p.37
[6] Register of the Great Seal, No. 559
Thank you to Stuart Clarkson, Guelph, Ontario for translating the charter
[7] Edward Dwelly Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary | beith
[8] Register of the Great Seal, No. 3679
[9] James Paterson, History of the Counties of Ayr and Wigton Volume 1, Kyle Part Two | Parishes of Cumnock
[10] The Dictionaries of the Scots Language | over
[11] The Dictionaries of the Scots Language |nether
[12] New Cumnock Place-Names | Auchincross
[13] Place Names Northern Ireland | Holywood Parish, County Down
[14] William McDowall, ‘History of Dumfries’ (4th Edition 1986), p.239 footnote
[15] TreesforLife| birch
[16] New Cumnock Place-Names | Martyrs’ Moss in progress
[17] Dictionaries of the Scots Language | lane
[18] J. L. Carvel ‘The New Cumnock Coalfield’ (1946)
[19] British Newspaper Archive | The Scotsman, September 7, 1907
[20] New Cumnock Place-Names | Laneside
[21] George Sanderson, ‘New Cumnock, Long Ago and Faraway’
[22] Miles K Oglethorpe, ‘Scottish Collieries’ (2006)
[23] CANMORE | Plan of the Craigengillan Estate, Ayrshire and Kirkcudbrightshire, For Sale by Auction by Messrs. Knight, Frank and Rutley
Maps
Reproduced with the Permission of the National Library of Scotland
https://maps.nls.uk/
Map 1 | Ordnance Survey (1900)|Benbain and Upper Beoch
Map 2 | Blaeu Atlus Novus (1654) |Over and Nether Beoch
Map 3 | Roy Military Map, Lowlands (1747-55) | Beach Moss
Map 4 | Armstrong Map of Ayrshire (1775)| Beoch and Benbeugh
Map 5 | Ordnance Survey (1863) | Over and Nether Beoch
Map 6 | Ordnance Survey (1892-1945) | Upper Beoch
Map 7 | Ordnance Survey (1892-1960) | Nether Beoch
Map 8 |Ordnance Survey (1940-47) | Beoch Lane
Map 9 |Ordnance Survey (1850-57) | Beoch Lane – upper reaches
Map 10 |Ordnance Survey (1892-1960) | Beoch Lane – lower reaches
Map 11 |Ordnance Survey (1850-57) | Beoch Housing and Minerals
Map 12 |Ordnance Survey (1908) | Beoch Housing, School and Mine
Map 13 |Ordnance Survey | Craigengillan – Two Beochs

Ordnance Survey Name Books
By Permission of Scotland’s Places
scotlandsplaces.gov.uk
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49 | Nether Beoch
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49 | Upper Beoch
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49 | Beoch Lane
Scotland’s People
https://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk
Old Parish Records, Births, Marriages, Deaths, Census Records, Valuations Rolls, Wills & Testaments