Place-name:Corsencon , Corsencon Hill
Suggested Meaning:1. crossing at the cone-shaped hill
2. crossing over the hill-end
First elementScots corse ‘a crossing’
Second element1. Scots con ‘cone’
2. Scots con ‘end of the hill, eminence’
Blaeu Coila (1654):N. KoBinkon, O. Korfinkon ,KoBinkon hill
OS Name Books (1855-57):Corsoncone, Corsoncone Hill
Location:Ordnance Survey (1898)
Earlier forms
Crosenecon (1203×1207), Krosenekone (1367), Corsincon (1398), Corssencon (Blind Harry 1478 x 1488 x 1509), Corswintoun (1488), Corsintoun, Corsintoun, Corsyntoun, Corsincon, Corsincoune (1512), Corsincone(1530), Cofsinkon (Pont 1583×1596), Corsinton, Corsintoun (1609), KoBinkon, Korfinkon (Blaeu 1645), Corsancone (1680), Corsencon (Baptsim Records 1712 x 1730), Crofin Con (Roy 1752-55), Corsincon (Armstrong 1775), Corsincon (Burns 1788 x 1795), Corsancone (NSA 1845, Groome 1884), Corsoncone, Corson Cone (OSNB 1855-57), Corsencon (OS 1908).

Corsencon, Corsencon Hill

From a purely personal perspective of a local history enthusiast Corsencon Hill to me is the Hill of our History for the name itself often rises up like the majestic hill itself from the pages of our past. So before considering the possible derivations of the place-name name here are some key events and stories associated with the lands of Corsencon.

Corsencon Hill from Dalhanna Drive where my family lived 55 years (Robert Guthrie 2014)


Duncan’s Burn flows down the south facing slope of Corsencon Hill. It was named after a man called Duncan ‘who was said to have had an encounter with the devil in the hollows of this burn’ after which ‘the devil fled into the interior of Corson Cone’ [1]. The following tradition also places the Devil at Corsincone [2]-

Did the de’il, for a wager, try to putt the Kemp Stane frae Corsincone on to the Knipes, but it slipping aff his haun’ fell into Polquhirter Glen?”

New Cumnock School Fellows Association Magazine (1898)

Gowkthorn Well sits close to the source of Duncan’s Burn, a name which combines the mystical Scots gowk ‘cuckoo’ and the thorn or ‘faery tree’, the source of the May flower [3].

1205 | Ancient Gateway to Ayrshire

In the closing decade of the 12th century, William I, ‘The Lion’, King of Scots (1165-1215) built his royal castle at Ayr in the bailliery of Kyle, on the south bank of the River Ayr, near the river mouth.  The settlement that developed along side the castle was created a royal burgh in 1205 by royal charter at Lanark. The royal burgh enjoyed privileges within the broader trading precinct of the newly constituted sheriffdom of Ayr, created by William I, through the amalgamation of the baillieries of Cunninghame, Kyle ( Kyle Stewart and King’s Kyle) and Carrick. The king established the following toll and customs points at five key routes into the sheriffdom of Ayr [4] -.

‘Grants his firm peace to all merchants coming to buy and sell at the burgh of Ayr and commands that toll and custom due to the burgh shall be given and received at Maich, Karnebuth, Loudon, Corsencon and Laicht. No toll or customs belonging to the burgh is to be taken outwith these marches’.

Lanark 21 May, 1203 x 1207, probably 1205.

‘Precipio etiam firmitier ut apud Mach . et Karnebuth’ . et Lowdun’ . et Crosenecon . et Lachtalpin. Tolneium et alie consuetudines que Burgo debentur. dentur et recipiantur.

G.W.S Barrow (Editor), The Acts of William I, King of Scots

Perhaps the taxes collected were secured at Cumnock Castle (which certainly was in place in the early 13th century), situated at the heart of what is now the village of New Cumnock.

The charter was confirmed by Alexander II and David II (1367) and the names of the toll and customs points appeared in the following forms [5] –

‘Precipio eciam firmiter ut apud Mache et Karnebuth et Loudowne et Krosenekone et Lachtalpene tolneum et alie consuetudines que burgo debentur dentur et recipiantur.

RMS Vol I, 262

Ayr 800 Celebrations

The original royal charter, written in Latin on animal skin is too fragile to be displayed and is safely stored in Ayrshire Archives and can be viewed on-line [6].

To mark the 800th anniversary of Ayr being created a royal burgh the Ayr Guildry, as part of the Ayr 800 celebrations, re-enacted the signing of the charter. A copy was prepared and in accordance with the original process it was signed at Lanark on 21st May and then taken to Ayr on horseback. The following day it was put on display outside the Sherrif Court under the care of two Scots Guards after which it was taken to the town’s Wellington Square, in a proession led by a pipe-band, where it was signed by the provost of South Ayrshire Council.

On closer inspection the charter produced for the Ayr 800 celebrations has the early form of Corsencon written as Croseneton rather than Crosenecon given in the Latin extract of the Acts of William I and the charter in Ayrshire Archives [6].

Croseneton (Robert Guthrie 2005)

N.B. George S. Pryde notes ‘though the c and t are almost identical in the original hand, Crosenecon seems a slightly better reading than Croseneton, as in the printed transcript‘ [7].

1296 | William Wallace

The road at Corsencon features in Blind Hary’s epic work ‘The Wallace’ [8].  Hary makes several references to Scotland’s great patriot Sir William Wallace and his ‘ryall house’ (crown tenancy) at Blackcraig in the upper reaches of Glen Afton in New Cumnock.  However, the reference to Corsencon is often overlooked, not helped by the fact that William Hamilton of Gilbertfield [9] in his popular 18th century abridged version of Hary’s Wallace, excluded it entirely!

According to Hary, as Wallace and his men were returning to Blackcraig they found the road at Corssencon had been destroyed [8] –

At Corssencon the gait was spilt that tide,
Forthi that way behovid thaim for to ride.’

Wallace and his men had to turn back and take a detour that eventually took them by the way of Loudon Hill, one of the other key routes into the sheriffdom of Ayr ( see toll and customs points above).

Corsencon and Mansfield Road (Robert Guthrie 2008)

1398| Managing the Marches of Scotland and England

The Marches on either side of the border between Scotland and England, were divided into the West, Middle and East, each with their own Warden having beenintroduced in the 13th century.

At Clochmabanstane on 6th November 1398 the commisioners for Scotland and England met ‘to agree on additonal articles and conditions for the observance of truce and promoting peace‘ which for the West March included the following terms and a reference to Corsincon [10] –

‘Scotsmen born,’ at English fealty, are to dwell as far from the March as ‘the Bowes’ in England before Candlemas next; ‘Englishmen born,’ at Scottish fealty, to dwell by same term as far from the March as Pebles, Crawfourd, or Corsincon. The men of Galloway, Nithsdale, Annandale, and Crawford Muir shall meet the wardens of the west March for redress of claims at Clochmabanestane.

CDS Vol iv. No. 51
Corsencon Hill, March Brig over River Nith near the boundary between Ayrshire & Dumfriesshire (Robert Guthrie 2018)

1448| The Beacon Hill

On the 18th December 1448, William, 8th Earl of Douglas held court at Lincluden College where the ‘ordinances of war werr sett doune‘. One of the requirements of managing the Marches was to maintain the beacon service to warn of any ‘host of Englishmen arriving in the country‘. William McDowall in his History of Dumfries [11] explains that ‘the system of signalling the approach of an enemy was brought to perfection unknown before.’ Nine of the beacons were to be erected in Nithsdale including ‘one on Corsincon‘. McDowall gives the full text of the Beacon Act given by George Neilson in his ‘Repentance Tower and Its Traditions’ [12]

Acts, Parl, Scot., i., 716 A.D. 1448

‘Item is fundin statut is found statute and usit in tyme of werfar, anentis bailis birning and keping fur cuming of ane Inglis oist in Scotland, ther sal ane baill be brynt on Trailtrow hill; and ane uther on the Panchat hill; and on the Bailze hill abone the Holmendis; ane on the Coldanis abone Castelmylk;ane on Quhitwewin, in Drivisdaill; ane on the Burane Skentoun in Apilgarth parochin; ane on the Browan Hill; and ane on the Bleize, in the tenement of Wamfray; ane on the Kyndilknock, in the tenement of Johnestoune; ane on the Gallow Hill, Moffet parochin: and syne in Nyddisdaill, ane on the Wardlaw; one on the Rahothtoun; ane on Barlouch; ane on the Pantua hill; ane on the Malow hill; ane on Corswintoun*; ane on the Crwfell, ane on the fell above Dowlwerk, and ane on the Watchfell : And to ger ther balis kepit and maid, the Shiref of Nyddisdaill and the stewart of Ananderdaill, and the stewart of Kirkcudbricht, in Gallowai, salbe dettouris : and quhasa kepis nocht the balis ordinance and statut beand maid in tym of werfar sal pay for ilk defalt a merk. Item quhatever he be, an ane oist of Inglismen cum in the cuntre the balis beand brynt that followis nocht on the oist on hors on or fut ever quhill the Inglismen be passit of Scotland, and at thai have sufficent witnessing thairof all their gudis salbe escheit and ther bodyis at the wardanis will bot gif thai have lauchfull excuse for thaim.

William McDowall, History of Dumfries (4th Edition, 1986)

*McDowall includes the following notes from Mr Neilson ‘Corswintoun (read Corswincoun) is Corsincon or Corsancone (1547 feet), in New Cumnock parish on the borderline of Ayrshire and Dumfriesshire‘. N.B. It also given in the form Corswyntoun in an RCAHMS report [13].

Corsenson Hill and the River Nith plain (Robert Guthrie 2021)

1511| Slaughter of the Laird of Corsintoune

The Earls of Dunbar held the lands of Cumnock before it was gifted in 1375 to a branch of the family to be known as the Dunbars of Cumnock, with their baronial seat at Cumnock Castle. In turn, branches of that family held a number of lands in the parish of Cumnock in particular Knockshinnoch, Auchincross and Corsencon, all of which are situated in what is now the parish of New Cumnock.

In late 1511, a local feud resulted in the the murder of Patrick Dunbar of Corsintoune while attending mass at Cumnock Kirk [14]. The Reverend Warrick gives the following summary of the ‘foul crime‘ [15] –

We read that in 1512*, Patrick Dunbar of Corsintoune (Corsencon) when attending mass in Cumnock church one Sabbath, was murdered. Evidently this Patrick was a kinsman of the baron. At the time of his death people were gathered together for divine service. But they were powerless to present the foul crime. For we are told that “remission of blame” was given in the matter to “William Craufurd of Lefnoryis, Alexander Campbell of Skellington, parochinaris of the said kirk, and generally to all the remanent of the parichonaris tharof and utheris our lieges being their being assemblit, the tyme of the committing of the said slauchter.

One of the actual murderers, Andrew Campbell, was taken and hanged, doubtless at the Gallows Knowe, while Duncan Campbell and John Stillie were put to the horn. Robert Campbell of Schankistoune, George and John, his brothers, James Campbell of Clewis and others were also denounced as rebels. The murder of this Dunbar in the sanctuary of God when the worshippers were assembled – a murder deliberately planned and carried out – opens a page in our local history, which we would willingly obliterate if we could.

Reverend John Warrick, History of Old Cumnock
*the trial was in 1512, the murder took place in 1511 (R.G.)

In the account of the ‘Slaughter of the Laird of Corsintoun’ given in ‘Ancient Criminal Trials in Scotland’ [16] the place-name Corsencon is found in the forms Corsintoun, Corsintoune and Corsyntoune.

National Library of Scotland Bannatyne Club, Ancient Criminal Trials in Scotland [16]

Several instruments, dated on 12th January 1512, are recorded in the Protocol Book of Gavin Ros regarding a dispute between James Dunbar, baron of Cumnock and the son of Patrick, Laird of Corsincone over sasine of his late father’s lands and indeed the matter was not resolved until 1530 through the intervention of King James V [17].

1169. Copy of precept by King James the Fifth directed to the sheriff of Aire, narrating that he had commanded James Dunbar, baron of the barony of Cumnok, that without delay (he shall cause sasine to be had) to Patrick Dunbar, son and heir of the late Patrick Dunbar, of the 12 merk lands of Auchincors and Corsincone, with mill thereof, lying in the barony of Cumnok, which unless they do, the king directs the sheriff to give sasine. At Perth . . . November A. R. 18 (1530),

Protocol Book of Gavin Ros,

Throughout the Protocol Book the common forms of the place-name of Corsincon and Corsincone appear along with the entry in 1512 of Corsincoune. There were no entries of Corsintoun(e).

1583-96 |Timothy Pont, [Nithsdale; part of Teviotdale] – Pont 35

A section of Timothy Pont’s map ‘Nithsdale; part of Teviotdale’ extends into the parish of Cumnock (New Cumnock) and the place-names include ‘Hill of Cofinkon’ and ‘Cofinkon hill’, where the latter appears to have been scored out.

Map 1 : Nithsdale -Pont 35 | Reproduced with the Permission of the National Library of Scotland

1645 | Joan Blaeu, Coila Provincia

Unfortunately, Timothy Pont’s maunuscript of Kyle did not survive. However, Joan Blaeu’s Coila Provincia is based on Pont’s work with the Dutch cartographer preferring ‘k‘ over ‘c‘. The map shows KoBinkon hill (Corsencon Hill) and two properties of N. KoBinkon (Nether Corsencon) and O. Korfinkon (Over Corsencon).

Map 2 : Blaeu Coila Provincia (1645) | Reproduced with the Permission of the National Library of Scotland

1680 -1685 | Covenanters

On the 22nd June 1680 Covenaner preacher Reverend Richard Cameron and his armed band of followers rode into Sanquhar to declare war on the tyrant and usurper, ‘Charles Stuart and all the men of his practices, as enemies to our Lord Jesus Christ’. The Government’s response was swift and on the 30th June 1680 the Privy Council issued a warrant for the apprehension of ’notorious Traitors and Rebels against Us and Our authority’. The Earl of Airlie marched his force to Cumnock Castle to hunt down the rebels and on the 5th July, sent a letter to Earl of Linlithgow informing him of his progress [18] –

intelligence that Cameron with a partie of 13 or 14 horss marched to Corsancone toward Cummerhead and Crawford John’

Papers of the Earls of Airlie (1680)

On this occasion Cameron and his men evaded capture, however on 22nd July 1680 he along with eight other Covenanters, including John Gemmil in Bank (New Cumnock), were killed at the Battle of Airdsmoss, in the parish of Auchinleck.

Five years later in 1685, during what was known as the Killing Times two Covenanters, George Corson and John Hair were shot by the Government’s dragoons, near Cairn farm across the Nith valley from Corsencon [19]. They were buried where they were shot and a Covenanter memorial marks the spot. It stands one mile to south of Corsencon Hill and two miles south of Hare Hill which locally often begs the question – Were the hills named after the Martyrs?

Of course the hills were named long before Corson and Hair ‘were chased up to heaven’ however the presence of the Corson name in Nithsdale is worthy of further investigation as a potential source for the place-name Corsencon.

1712-1730 |Early Baptism Records

The baptism records for the parish of New Cumnock cover the period (1706-1855) [Scotland’s People]. The first recorded baptism for Corsencon is ‘6th April 1712 for John, son to John Shaw and Agnes M’Cririck in Corsencon’. Corsencon is the preferred spelling throughout the register. In the 1730s there are five baptisms of the children of John Hamilton and Sarah Dalzell, the headstone of the couple can be found in St. Conel’s Kirkyard, in the neighbouring parish of Kirkconnel, over the county boundary.

John Hamilton & Sarah Dalzell 1774 , St. Conal’s Kirkyard (Robert Guthrie)

Another baptism of interest is that of April 26th, 1730 ‘George, son to Thomas McMichael and Euphans Gemmel in Hillend of Corsencon‘, suggesting two Corsencon properties at that time.

1752-55 | Roy’s Military Survey

William Roy military survey map (see Map 3, in list of maps an end of the article) records Crofin Con (hill) and Crofin Con (farm), the first example of the place-name being divided into two distinct elements.

1775 | Armstrong’s Map of Ayrshire

Andrew Armstrong’s Map of Ayrshire gives the form Corsincon for both hill and farm and also gives Hillend, the aforementioned Hillend of Corsencon in the baptis records.

Map 4: Armstrong’s Map of Ayrshire (1775) | Reproduced with the Permission of the National Library of Scotland

1788-95 | Robert Burns

Robert Burns became familiar with the landscape of New Cumnock (as well as its Inns!) as he travelled back and forth between his home at Mauchline, 11 miles north-west of New Cumnock, and Ellisland, some 25 miles south-east of New Cumnock. It was at Ellisland, on the banks of the River Nith, in 1788 where Burns set up a family home for him and his new bride Jean Armour. In the summer of that year he penned “O, Were I on Parnassus Hill” laying bare his love for Jean during these times they were apart [20, 21]. Although his mind takes him to Parnassus hill, home of Greek muses, and to the sacred springs on Mount Helicon seeking inspiration, he consoles himself and accepts ‘but Nith maun be thy Muse’s Well‘ and ‘on Corsincon I’ll glow’r and spell, and write how dear I love thee‘. It is difficult to imagine that Burns could have penned any finer words on Parnassus. Indeed it would come as no surprise to learn that some heartbroken Greek poet, sitting on Parnassus Hill has penned ‘O, Were I on Corsincon Hill’!.

Corsencon Hill , Corsencon Farm & Cottage and the River Nith (Robert Guthrie 2005)

While at Ellisland Burns worked the land later took a second job with Customs and Excise. Three years later in November 1791, he gave up the farm and the family moved to Dumfries where he continued with his Customs and Excise duties. In 1795, he played a role in forming the Dumfries Volunteers in response to the threat of an invasion from France and soon after penned ‘Does Haughty Gaul Invasion Threat?’ [20,22].

Here, he warned there was more chance of the ‘Nith running to Corsincon’ or ‘the Criffel sinking into the Solway’ than a French invasion.

Coincidently both Corsincon and Criffel hills formed part of the aforementioned ‘beacon system’ establiseh to warn of an English invasion of Scotland.

O, Were I on Parnassus Hill and the opening lines of Does Haughty Invasion Threat?

1807 | Arrowsmith Map of Scotland

Aaron Arrowsmith’s map of Scotland gives Crossin Con similar to Roy’s Crofin Con (1752-55)

Map 5: Aaron Arrowsmith Map of Scotland (1807) | Reproduced with the Permission of the National Library of Scotland

1845 | Corsencon the Weather Forecaster

The Reverend Matthew Kirkland in the New Statistical Account of the parish of New Cumnock shares a local proverb about Corsancone hill and the Knipe on the opposite bank of the River Nith that predicts, without fail, when it will rain! [23].

Meteorology. – The clouds frequently rest on the tops of the hills, and thick mists often settle in the valleys, so as to appear from the higher grounds like a vast sheet of water. By these, the inhabitants are enabled to prognosticate with great certainty the approach of rain. Thus it has become a proverb.

“If Corsancone puts on his cap, and the Knipe be clear, it will rain within twenty-four hours.”

This sign, it is said, never fails

The proverb has since been lost in the mists of time and been superseded by the following rhyme that predicts rainfall if mist covers Corsencon’s hill top and dry if it covers its lower slopes.

  • When Corsencon puts oan it’s hat
  • Ye mai be shair it’s gaun tae be wat
  • When Corsencon puts oan it’s tie
  • Ye mai be shair it’s gaun tae be dry.

Corsoncone, Corsoncone Hill

The Ordnance Survey Name Book Ayrshire (1855-57) introduces the form Corsoncone.

The entry for Corsoncone reads –

A farm house on the southern declivity of Corson Cone hill, the property of the Marquis of Bute.

Both John Spence, senior in Corsancone and John Spence, junior in Nethertown, authorise Corsancone as the name of the farm which also appears in that form on the Property Map, while the other mode of spelling is recorded as Corsencon as found in the Voters List.

The entry for Corsoncone Hill reads –

One of the chief eminences in the parish of New Cumnock, about 2½ miles east of the village. [It] slightly resembles a truncated cone, and has a very bold appearance, standing [out] from and towering above the neighbouring hills. Water flows plentifully from its sides.

The entry is tentatively suggesting the origin of the name is related to the shape of the hill as a ‘truncated cone‘. Furthermore, Corson Cone Hill is offered as another mode of spelling of the name as given on a Property Map and is also authorised by John Spence, senior in Corsancone and John Spence, junior in Nethertown. (cf. 1752-55|Roy’s map Crofin Con). It is interesting to note that the Spences consider the hill name to be Corson Cone and the farmhouse as Corsoncone.

Nether Corsencon and Over Corsencon

Returning briefly to Blaeu’s Map (1654) and the two properties of N. KoBinkon (Nether Corsencon) and O. Korfinkon (Over Corsencon). The place-name elements nether ‘lower’ [24] and over ‘upper’ [25] are commonly used to differentiate between two properties of the same name. However, these elements are no longer in use and according to the early baptism records appear to have been replaced with Corsencon and Hillend of Corsencon. Comparing the locations on the OS Map with those on Blaeu then Corsencon appears to have been Over Corsencon and Hillend of Corsencon to the east, was Nether Corsencon. Today Hillend, forms part of the lands of Merkland [26].

Later, in the baptism records of the children of George Spence and Isabella Steel (1820-1830) the name of the place of birth switches back and forth between Corsencon and Midtown of Corsencon and clearly these are the same properties. Bull’s Burn and Spout Burn merge at Corsencon farm to form Mid Burn.

The use of the pre-fix Midtown of Corsencon suggests it sits between two other properties, one of course which would be Hillend of Corsencon to the west and the other to the east a new Nether Corsencon which appears briefly (1810-1815) in the baptism records of the children of Abram Wilson and Mary Archibald. This Nether Corsencon may be what was later known as Nethertown, which formed part of the lands of Corsencon [27].

Indeed the Valuation Roll of 1855 records the properties as Corsencon, Midton and Nethertown with J&J Spence as tenants, i.e. the Spence father and son that appear in the Ordnance Survey Name Book (1855-57) above. While Hillend of Corsencon is paired with Merkland, with Robert Steelas the tenant,

Map 6 : OS Map | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Five derivations of the modern day place-name Corsencon are now considered.

1. Crosnecon, Krosnecone ‘crossing of the hounds’

Gaelic cros na con ‘the hound’s crossing’

W. J. Watson’s discussion on Corsancone in the ‘The Celtic Place-Names of Scotland’ include references to both the ‘toll and customs point‘ (1205) and the management of the Scotland / England marches (1398). He offers the following derivation of the name [28] – ,

Krosnecone is now Corsancone* on the Nith in New Cumnock, close to the Lanark march*. It is for cros na con ‘the hound’s crossing’ with reference probably to the crossing over the hill of Corsancone for there is no evidence for a cross having stood at the place. Cu, a hound is here feminine, as it was and is in Irish, though masculine now in Scottish Gaelic.

W.J. Watson, Celtic Place-Names of Scotland

*Here, Watson considers the form Corsancone, which appears in the New Statistical Account (1845) [23] and in F. H. Groome’s Gazetteer (1884) [29].

Watson’s reference to a crossing at Corsencon is consistent with the establishment of a toll and customs point at Crosenecon in 1205 on the route into the sheriffdom of Ayr; Blind Hary’s reference to William Wallace finding the gait, road at Corssencon destroyed and Richard Cameron and his men marching ‘to Corsancone toward Cummerhead and Crawford John’ – albeit this is heading to Lanarkshire.

However perhaps the strongest supporting factor is that of the presence of Barney Hill on the lower eastern slopes of Corsencon Hill which may be Gaelic bearna ‘gap, crossing, gap’ [30]. The map below shows two roads that cut across it and have been considered as possible Roman Roads. The first running from Glemuckloch Crichton to Hillhead ( both in Kirkconnel) then across the upper slopes of Barney Hill and then on to Hillend Knowe. While the second runs from Knowehead in Kirkconnel and across the lower slope of Barney Hill and on to Corsencon before aligning with the current road.

Map 7: ‘Roads’ at Corsoncone | Reproduced with the Permission of the National Library of Scotland

However, Watson’s ‘the hounds’ crossing’ appears to suggest something less significant than a major route and more like a route where hounds were taken back and forth for hunting purposes.

2. Corsincon ‘crossing place at …’

Scots cross, corse ‘crossing place’

G.W.S. Barrow identifies Corsencon in New Cumnock and Corsincan near Blyth Bridge as two of a number of ‘crossing places’ associated with ‘passes and boundary points’ [30] -.

Another word for pass, common in the Lowlands , was ‘cross’ or ‘Corse’, apparently identical with the Gaelic word crasg, a crossing place. This word is found in Glencorse, Corsincan near Blyth Bridge, in Crosscryne near Biggar, and Corsencon in New Cumnock, all passes and boundary points in Midlothian, Peebleshire, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire respectively.

G.W.S. Barrow, Scotland and its Neighbours in the Middle Ages

Corsincan near Blyth Bridge, parish of Kirchurd, Peeblesshire appears in the form of Corsincon in Mostyn Armstrong’s map of Peebleshire (1775) which matches the form given in Andrew Armstrong’s map of Ayrshire (1775) for the New Cumnock equivalent. N.B. Mostyn Armstrong was the son of Andrew Armstrong.

There are other similarities between Corsincon, Peeblesshire and its Ayrshire counter-part. Research into roads in the vicinity, in 1952, revealed ‘A low causeway 5-6m wide, which may well be the Roman road, may be seen in Corsincon Wood, N of the modern road‘, although 15 years later another study concluded that the road was ‘patently of medieval or later date‘ [31]. Similarly the modern-day road at Corsincon Wood cuts across the lower slopes of a prominent hill (See Map 8) in this case Kip which may be Scots kip ‘a jutting or projecting point on a hill, the summit of a sharp-pointed hill’ [32].

Map 8: Corsincon Peebleshire | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Although Barrow is in agreement with Watson that the place-name refers to a crossing place, he considers the name to be Scots cors, corse ‘cross, to cross’ [33]. Presumably the first-element is then corsen, corsin (i.e. crossin’) ‘a crossing’. It is also worth noting the alternative, Scots cors, corce, corse ‘a stone cross or pillar erected as a boundary mark’ [34]. Unfortunately Barrow does not offer an explanation for the second element of the name.

It certainly would be some coincidence however if the crossing points at county boundaries (sherrifdoms) at Ayrshire/Dumfriesshire and Peebleshhire / Lanarkshirer were both “the hound’s crossings“.

2.2 Corsencon ‘crossing at the cone-shaped hill’

Scots corse ‘crossing’ and Scots con ‘cone’

Returning now to the OS Name Book Ayrshire (1855-57) entry for Corsancone Hill and recalling its description ‘slightly resembles a truncated cone, and has a very bold appearance, standing [out] from and towering above the neighbouring hills’ and also that the local farmers considered the hill name to be Corson Cone. Of course many of the variants of the name, including the earliest form Crosenecon (1205) and the current form Corsencon , end with -con, which is simply Scots con ‘cone’ [35].

Peter Drummond in ‘Scottish Hill Names’ [36] does not identify Scots con ‘cone’ as a hill name generic, however he does considers the Scots kip as one and it is worth noting his desription of West Kip in the Pentlands as follows –

– seen from the north or south, it has a striking conical shape, and from the east and west its trademark nick juts out just beneath a short flat summit, thus encapsulating both nuances of the kip defintion

Peter Drummond, Scottish Hill Names

It would be interesting to learn if soem views of the aforementioned Kip Hill, Peeblesshire were also conical in shape.

Returning to Corsencon, New Cumnock many of the photographs of Corsencon Hill already shown above (and below) demonstrate the striking features of the hill, particularly viewed from the south and west . It is difficult to imagine that the features of such a dominating landmark would not influence the naming of the landmark, if only tocall it Cone Hill or The Cone!

If Corsencon is Scots ‘crossing at the cone shaped hill’, then the naming sequence is probably Corsencon farm was named after the crossing as was the cone-shaped hill!

2.2 Corsencon ‘crossing over the end of the hill’

Scots corse ‘crossing’ and Scots con ‘end of hill, eminence’

Returning briefly to Corsincon, Peeblesshire and the its entry in the Ordnance Survey Name Book Peeblesshire (1856-1858) which reads –

[Situation] About ½ Mile N.W. [North West] from Netherurd Mains

This name applies to the place where the boundary between the Counties of Peebles and Lanark cross the road which leads from the Town of Peebles to Lanark,

The word Con, is supposed to mean the end of a hill or eminence.

N.B. this entry has also been copied in the OS Name Book Lanarkshire (1858-1861) for Corsincon.

Map 9: Corsincon milestone & Corsincon Wood | Reproduced by Permision of the National Library of Scotland

The local farmers of the parish of Kirkurd gave Crossing Con as an alternative spelling of the name Corsincon which compares well with Roy’s map Crofin Con, New Cumnock [Map 3],Arrowsmith’s Crossin Con [Map 4], and to some extent the New Cumnock farmers’ alternative spelling of Corsoncone, i.e. Corson Cone.

It is not clear if Kirkurd farmers were also responsible for the claim that ‘Con, is supposed to mean the end of a hill or eminence‘. Other examples of place-names with this element and its ‘supposed meaning‘ have proved elusive, thus far. Nevertheless ‘crossing at the end of the hill’, is a good description of Corsincon, Peeblesshire, i.e. ‘crossing at the end of Kip Hill’.

Similary, it is a good description of its Ayrshire counterpart as demonstrated onthe ‘Map of the turnpike and parish roads for the parish of New Cumnock’ (1852). It shows that a stretch of the the parish road runs from Corsencon farm to Hillend farm and beyond. [N.B. This corresponds to the route D-E, shown in Map 7 above. Although route A-B-C shown on the map, further up the hill, it also crosses at the back of the Hillend Knowe].

Map 10: Parish road at Corsencon (1852) | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

If place-name Corsencon (and its variants) is Scots ‘crossing over the end of the hill’, then it follows that Corsencon farm takes its name from this crossing while Corsencon Hill takes its name from the farm.

3. Corswintoun ’rounded hill of the pig farm’

Scots cor ‘rounded hill and Old English swin-tun ‘pig-farm’

The aforementioned form Corswintoun, Corswyntoun (1448) immediately brings to mind Dalswinton, situated in Nithsdale, some 25 miles south-east of Corsencon. W.F. H. Nicolaisen describesd the place-name as follows [37] –

The Dumfriesshire name Dalswinton establishes itself in unbroken tradition back to 1290 CDS (Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland), when it is Dalswynton, as one of the most interesting names in the Scottish south because of the later addition of Gaelic dail ‘river meadow’ to OE Swin-tun ‘pig-farm’ is evidence of an early English and largely pre-Gaelic element in the popuation of that area’

W.F.H. Nicolaisen , Scottish Place-Names

By analogy, Corswintoun could be the later addition of Gaelic cor ’rounded hill’ [38] to OE Swin-tun ‘pig-farm‘ . The discovery of a 9th century Anglian cross near Mansfield, one and half miles to the west of Corsencon, suppports an early English settlement [39] while a mile to the west in the parish of Kirkconnel are the three farms carrying the name Glenmuckloch – Gaelic gleann muclac ‘glen of the piggery’ [40].

Map 11 | Corsencon and Glenmucklochs | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Note: Corswinton as Gaelic cor ’rounded hill’ and OE swin-tun ‘pig-farm’ was first offered in 2004 [41]. On reviewing the research the form Corswintoun appears to have suffered from the aforementioned misreading of a ‘c‘ for a ‘t‘, i.e. Corswintoun for Corswincoun as George Neilson noted [ See Section: 1488 | Corswintoun]; although this does not explain the addition of a ‘w’. Futhermore, although Maxwell considers Gaelic cor ’rounded-hill’, it does not appear in Dwelly’s dictionary. Therefore this suggestion can be discounted but was still worth the research!

4. Corsintoune ‘Corsin’s farm’

Personal name: Corson and Scots toun ‘farm settlement’

The family name Corson has a long association with Dumfries and Dumfriesshire as William McDowall in ‘History of Dumfries’ explains [42] –

The ancient family of Corsanes or Corsons claim to be descended from the Patrician Corsini, and say their first ancestor in Scotland from Italy to superintend the erection of Sweetheart Abbey and Devorgilla’s Bridge over the Nith, though it is right we should state that frequently in old writs the name appears wiht the pre-fix “A” or “Ap”, indicating a British or Celtic origin.

In the above account of the ‘Slaughter of Laird of Corsintoun’ in 1512 it is worth noting that the place-name in the forms –toun, -toune are only found in the ‘Ancient Criminal Trials in Scotland’ck Dunbar, Laird of Corsintoun / Corsincon while those in the forms –con, –cone are found in the local records . This suggests that this may be another example based on the passing down of the the original misreading of a ‘c‘ for a ‘t‘ of the charter of 1205.

Nevertheless, the –toun, -ton forms also appear in the following two different sources in the early 17th. cenutry –

Scottish Wills (Scotland’s Places): Christian Gemmill, spouse to Thomas Hutcheon, in Corsintoun, parish of Cumnock, 27th July 1609. (N.B.Marion Gemmill, spouse to Peter Hutcheon in Glenmuckloch, parish of Kirkconnel, 24th October 1599 probably sister of Christian in neighbouring farm of Glenmuckloch on lower slopes of Corsencon hill).

The other reference is found in an action of Alexander Dunbar of Boghall, (cousin of Sir Alexander, Sheriff of Elgin and Forres, Baron of Cumnock) against Hew Campbell, Lord Loudon

— 27 Jan 1609/10 Lords transfer to her, Janet, Marjory siss, heirs portioners of dec Alexender Dunbar of Cumnock et al a decree given in actinn at inst of Alexander Dunbar of Cumnock against Hew Lord Lowdoun anent lands of Corsinton etc [CC/viii.180]]

Communication with Stuart Clarkson, CC/viii.180 [44]

Another connection between the surname Corson and Corsencon appears to be no less than a sad coincidence. George Corson, along with fellow Covenanter John Hair, was shot on the hillside opposite in 1685 by Government troops during the ‘Killing Times’. Both Corson and Hair were making their way home toNithsdale after having attended a large conventicle in Galloway. Although it is said that the Hair family lived in Glenwharry in the neighbouring parish of Kirkconnel, the home of Corson remains unknown [43].

Corsencon and Covenanter Martyrs’ Corson and Hair grave | (Robert Guthrie 2005)

Another perhaps remarkable coincidence, can be found in the records of baptisms in the parish of New Cumnock which date from 1706 to 1855. In the period 1776 to 1782 five children were born to James Corson/Corsen and Elizabeth Duncan. In four of the baptisms the surname is given in the form Corsen while the place of birth is not noted. However, the remaining baptism in 1780 reveals a Corson born at Corsencon! –

‘1780, July 2, Sarah L. daughter to James Corson and Elizabeth Duncan in Corsencon’

[1] New Cumnock Place-Name | Duncan’s Burn
[2] New Cumnock School Fellows Association Magazine (1898)
[3] New Cumnock Place-Name | Gowkthorn Well
[4] G.W.S Barrow (Editor), Regesta Regum Scotorum II, The Acts of William I (1971)
[5] The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, A.D. 1306-1424 (1912) | RMs Vol I.,No. 262
[6] Ayrshire Archives | Ayr Burgh Anniversary
[7] George S. Pryde. The Royal Burgh of Ayr, Seven Hundred and Fifty Years of History , Chapter 1, p.2 Annie I. Dunlop (Editor) for Ayrshire Archaeological and Natural History.
[9] Elspeth King (ed.) ‘William Hamilton Gilbertfield The Wallace’ (Luath Press 1998)
[10] John Bain (Editor), Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland (1357-1509), CDS Vol iv. No. 512
[11] William McDowall, History of Dumfries (1867, 1986 Edition), p. 153-154
[12] George Neilson in his ‘Repentance Tower and Its Traditions’ (1894)
[13] The Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland, Seventh Report with Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the County of Dumfries, Edinburgh 1920.
[14] New Cumnock History | Mass Murder at Cumnock Kirk
[15] Reverend John Warrick, A History of Old Cumnock (1899, Repint 1992)
[16] National Library of Scotland, Publications by Scottish Clubs | ‘Ancient Criminal Trials in Scotland’ by Robert Pitcairn,Esq. and published by the Bannatyne Club (1833), p. 82-84.
Image and transcriptions is used under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence .
[17] Protocol Book of Gavin Ros, N.P. 1512-1532, Nos. 25, 26, 28, 29, 1060, 1083, 1132, 1162 and 1169.
[18] National Records of Scotland, GD16 Papers of the Earls of Airlie | GD16/51Covenanters & the Airlie Troop in Ayrshire GD16/51/23
[19] New Cumnock Place-Name | Martyrs’ Monument /Corson & Hair [in progress]
[20] C.J. Rollie, Robert Burns & New Cumnock (1996)
[21] Robert Burns Organisation| O, Were I On Parnassus Hill
[22] Robert Burns Organisation| Does Haughty Gaul Invasion Threat?
[23] Reverend Matthew Kirkland, New Statistical Account, New Cumnock, County of Ayrshire, NSA, Vol. V, 1845| Corsancone
[24] Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. |nether
[25] Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. |over
[26] New Cumnock Place-Name | Hillend (in progress)
[27] New Cumnock Place-Name | Nethertown (in progress)
[28 ]W.J. Watson. Celtic Place-Names of Scotland (Birlinn Edition 2004)
[29] National Library of Scotland, Gazetteers of Scotland (1803-1901)F.H. Groome (Editor), Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, A Survey of Scottish Topography, Vol. II (1884), Cumnock, New
[29] New Cumnock Place-Name | Barney Hill
[30] G.W.S Barrow, Scotland and its Neighbours in the Middle Ages (1992)
[31] Canmore National Record of the Historic Enviroment | Corsincon Wood
[32] Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. |kip
[33] Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. | cors, corse
[34] Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. | cors, corse
[35] Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. | con
[36] Peter Drummond, Scottish Hill Name, Their origin and meaning (1992)
[37] W.F.H. Nicolaisen, Scottish Place-Names (1986)
[38] Sir Herbert Maxwell, The Place-Names of Galloway (1930, Reprint 2001)| cor ’rounded hill’
[39] J. Stuart, Sculptured Stones Of Scotland Vol 2, 1867. | Mansfield Cross
[40] Edward Dwelly, Illustrated Gelic-English Dictionary | glen, muclac
[41] R. Guthrie, The Newsletter of the Scottish Place-Name Society. Comman Ainmean-Aite Na H-Alba. No. 17, Autumn 2004.
[42] William McDowall, History of Dumfries (1867, 1986 Edition), p,223-22
[43] Reverend R. Simpson ‘Traditions of the Covenanters’ (1846)
[44] Commnunication Stuart Clarkson, Guelph, Ontario.
Reproduced by Permission of National Library of Scotland
Images used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licence.
Map 1: Pont, Timothy, 1560?-1614? [Nithsdale; part of Teviotdale] – Pont 35 | Corfinkon
Map 2: Blaeu, Joan (1645) Coila Provincia, [or], The province of Kyle / auct. Timoth. Pont. |KoBinkon
Map 3: Roy’s Military Survey Lowlands 1772-75 | Crosin Con
Map 4: Armstrong, Andrew, 1700-1794   A new map of Ayrshire… | Corsincon
Map 5: Arrowsmith, Aaron, 1750-1823 (1807), Map of Scotland constructed from original materials. | Crossin Con
Map 6: Ordnance Survey Maps – Six-inch 1st edition, Scotland, 1843-1882 (1857)| Corsoncone
Map 7: Ordnance Survey Maps – Six-inch 1st edition, Scotland, 1843-1882 (1898) |Corsoncone
Map 8: Armstrong, Mostyn, fl. 1769-1791, map of the County of Peebles or Tweedale| Corsincon (Peeblesshire)
Map 9: Ordnance Survey Maps – Six-inch 2nd and later editions, Scotland, 1892-1960 (1898) | Corsincon (Peeblesshire)
Map 10: James Mc. Derment & SonsMap of the turnpike & parish roads … [for parishes in central Ayrshire] New Cumnock (1852). | Parish Road at Corsencon
Map 11: Ordnance Survey Maps – Six-inch 2nd and later editions, Scotland, 1892-1960 (1898) | Corsancone & Glenmuckloch

Ordnance Survey Name Books
By Permission of Scotland’s Places
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49|Corsoncone
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49|Corsoncone Hill
Peeblesshire OS Name Books (1856-58) Vol. 18 |Corsincon
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Old Parish Records | Baptisms