BRAEHEAD

Place-name:Braehead
Suggested Meaning:top of the bank with a fairly steep slope
First elementScots bra, brae ‘ bank or stretch of ground rising with a fairly steep slope’
Second elementScots head ‘top’
Blaeu Coila (1654):Brahead
OS Name Books (1855-57):Braehead
Location:Ordnance Survey (1892-1960)
Other Early Forms:
Brahead (1620), Brahead (Blaeu 1654), Braeheid (1665), Braehead (1674), Braheid, Brehead, the Braie Head (1684)
Map 1 : Auchinghy (Blaeu Coila Provincia) | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Braehead is a very common place name with 23 entries in the Ordnance Survey Name Books of Ayrshire (1855-1857) alone, including the entry for the parish of New Cumnock which reads –

A farm house and offices occupied by Robert Welsh – the property of Mr Ranken, Glenlogan Sorn.

Braehead

Scots bra, brae ‘ a bank with a fairly steep slope’ and Scots head ‘top’

The following early forms of the name are found in the Testaments of previous tenants [1]

Braehead (Robert Guthrie 2007)
  • Jonet Sloan, spouse to George M’Cra, in Brahead, parish of Cumnock , 19 Aug 1620.
  • Jonet McWnugret, spouse to Robert Mitchell, in Braeheid, parish of Cumnock, 31 July 1665
  • Agnes Campbell, spouse to William Anderson, in Braehead, parish of Cumnock 2/5/1674

[N.B. the parish of Cumnock was divided into the two parishes of New Cumnock and Old Cumnock in 1650. This decision was annulled in 1667 and reinstated in 1691]

The first element bra- appears in the two earliest forms Brahead (1620, 1654) fits the following entry in the Dictionaries of the Scots Language [2] –

Bra, Bray, Brae, n. Also: braa, brey, breay, brea(e, bre. [Northern ME. bra (rare), midland bro (1330), app. ON. brá eyelash (= OE. brǽw, bréaw eyelid), with similar development of meaning to that of OE. brú from ‘eyelash, eyelid, eyebrow, brow’, to ‘brow of a hill’.]

2. A bank or stretch of ground rising with a fairly steep slope; the face of a hil

Dictionaries of the Scots Language

Later defintions include Scots brae ‘the high ground adjoining a river bank’ [3] which desribes well the setting of Braehead farm. Below, the brae can clearly be seen rising from the banks of the River Nith to the farmhouse.

Map 2: Braehead | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Braehead Conventicle 1684

During the Covenating times, throughout October 1684, ministers and parishioners across Ayrshire were called to Ayr where they were interrogated (questioned). In essence the parishioners had to depone (swear under oath) and give names to the authorities of any fellow parishioners that were involved in non-conformist activities such as – failing to attend church, failing to have children baptized at church, attending conventicles.

On the 17th October 1684, it was the turn of the parishioners of Cumnock (Old and New) and included in three of the testimonies a reference was made to a conventicle being held at Braehead in April or May 1684 [4].

George Halbert in Little Auchincross, on the opposite side of the River Nith from Braehead, knew of the conventicle and also identiied Sarah Moodie in Dalricket Mill that neigbours Braehead farm.

George Halbert in Litle Auchencorse, ane of the elders within the parish of Cumnock, present, upon oath, of the age of 60 yeires or therby, maried, depones ………….he knoues of noe rebells or reseters within the said parish except ane Sarra Mudie in Dalriketmylne; depones he knowes of noe conventicles except one at Braheid in Appryll or May last.

James Logan in Farden, neighbouring Braehead, identified that both John Sloan had two children and John Vallence, fugitive, had two children baptised at the conventicle at ‘the Braie Heid‘, presumably in the River Nith. He also identified that George Brown in the neighbouring farm of Auchingee had a child that had not been baptised by the minister.

James Logan in Fardine, present, upon oath, of the age of 40 years or therby, marries, deponds that Sara Camble, Marey Nisbett, Jannet Diell in Boge doe nott keepe the church; deponds that George Brown in Aghengee hath a childe not baptised by the minister, John Slowan had two childeren and John Vallence, fugitive, had likewis two childeren baptised at the conventicle at the Braie Heid.

James Howatson in Ashmark identified tht John Grier in the neighbouring farm of Auchingee had a child baptised at Breheid

James Houtisson (sic) in Ashmarke present, upon oath, of the age of thirtey years or therby , deponds that Jannet Blacke in Laigh keeps not the church; deponds that John Grier in Achengee had a childe baptized at Breheid, and deponds idem with  the rest, as he shall answer to God. (Signed) James Howatsone

Map 3: Braehead | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Dr. Mark Jardine, a leading authority on the history of the Covenanters, considers that the famous field preacher the Reverend James Renwick held the conventicle at Braehead [5]. It is easy to visualise him standing at the top of the brae with those that had come to listen standing on the lower slopes and that children were baptised in the waters of the River Nith.

In 1760 the lands of Whitehill were acquired by James Ranken [6] possibly along with Auchingee at the same time since his son and successor George Ranken, according to the Cess Tax Roll (ca. 1834/44) held the following lands –

  • Whitehill and Auchingee
  • Auchingee called Braehead
  • Dalricket Mill and Lands

It appears that Braehead had at some time formed part of the lands of Auchingee. Although the Rankens of Whitehill later adopted Glenlogan in the parish of Sorn as their major residence they continued to own the above lands in the parish of New Cumnock until the 1920s when by 1925 Alexander Black, farmer had acquired the lands of Braehead and Dalricket Mill, while the Sloan family had acquired Auchengee.

More recently extensive opencast operations have been carried out in the vicinity for several years and sadly Braehead and neighbouring Dalricket Mill are now abandoned.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

References
[1] Francis J. Grant (Editor), Scottish Record Society, The Commissariot Record of Glasgow
Register of Testaments 1547-1800 (1901)
[2] Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. | bra, brae
[3] Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. | brae
[4] Henry Paton (Editor), The Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, Third Series, Vol IX, A.D. 1684, P.543-547
[5] Dr. Mark Jardine, Jardine’s Book of Martyrs | Braehead
[6] James Paterson, History of the Counties of Ayr and Wigton Vol. I, Kyle part two
Maps
Reproduced with the permission of The National Library of Scotland
https://maps.nls.uk/
Map 1 | Blaeu Atlas of Scotland (1654), Coila Provincia
Map 2 | Ordnance Survey (1857) |Braehead
Map 3 | Ordnance Survey (1885-1903) |Braehead
Ordnance Survey Name Books and Land Tax Rolls
By Permission of Scotland’s Places
scotlandsplaces.gov.uk
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49| Braehead