Suggested Meaning:Ridge of hard water
First elementW. drum ridge’
Second elementBrittonic caleto-dubron ‘hard water”
Blaeu Coila (1654):The ridge of Drumkalladyr, Drumkalladyr
OS Name Books (1855-57):No Entry (now Rig hill)
Location:Ordnance Survey (1892-1960)
Other Early Forms:
Drumcalder (1427), Drumkalladyr (1654), Drumcallander-rig (1766)


“The Ridge of Drumkalladyr” appears on Blaeu’s Coila Provincia (1654) shown below. The River Nith, rising in the hills to the south, flows past the property of Drumkalladyr and along the side of “The Ridge” before passing between the properties of Rigend and Waterhead Castle to meet with the Lein water-course. It then heads east across the parish before beginning the long journey through Nithsdale to the Solway Firth.

Map 1: Blaeu Atlus Novus, Coila Provincia (1654) | Reproduced with the Permission of the National Library of Scotland

The Ordnance Survey maps show the River Nith rising near Enoch hill before heading north alongside Rig Hill and from there between the properties of Little Rigend and Waterhead. The grand-sounding The Ridge of Drumkalladyr has been reduced to Rig Hill while the property of Drumcalder is now Righill.

Map 2: Righill & River Nith | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

1st element |Welsh drum ‘ridge’; Gaelic druim ‘ridge’

The Ridge of Drumkalladyr is an example of place-name tautology as the first element of Drumkalladyr is Welsh drum ‘ridge’ or Gaelic druim ‘ridge’; while the whole name has since been reduced to the Scots rig ‘ridge’.

2nd element |British caleto-dubron ‘hard water’.

W. J. Watson considers the placename Drumkalladyr under Calder in his section on rivers names and explains “the stream-name Calder is very common from Caithness southwards.” In the lowlands, as well as Drumkalladyr in Ayrshire, he identifies two Calders in Lothian, three in Lanarkshire and one in Renfrewshire further explaining that the name is a survivor of an early British caleto-dubron ‘hard-water’.

A. G. James includes the River Calder in Cumbria, West Yorkshire and Lancashire (x2) in his study analysis caleto-dubron names [2].

That Drumkalladyr is a Calder name is confirmed in a Charter of 1427 where Lord Alan of Cathcart renounced the lands of Drumcalder to Roger Craufurd of Dalleagles [3]. However there are no Calder rivers, waters or burns in the parish of New Cumnock and the ‘hard water‘ that flows past the ‘ridge o the hard water‘ must be a reference to the the rocky river bed in the upper reaches of what is now known as the River Nith.

River Nith with the wooded Rig Hill in the distance (Photo Robert Guthrie)
Map 3: Rig Hill, Righill and River Nith | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

With its British origins Drumkalladyr is one of the oldest place-names in the parish of New Cumnock. Indeed, ‘the ridge of the hard water‘ is a place of some antiquity. The forest that now covers much of it also conceals the site of a Bronze Age burial cairn. During the excavation of the cairn in 1937 one of the finds was the stunning stone-axe shown below [4]. Perhaps the stone from which it was fashioned was plucked from the rocky bed of the nearby Calder?

Stone-axe. By Permission of The Trustees of the National Museums of Scotland

The River Nith flows some 55 miles from its source on Enoch Hill to the Solway Firth. It was not uncommon for rivers to have multiple names and long rivers were not perceived as single features until the early modern period when map-makers began imposing ‘standard’ names. Uncertainty over which headwater was the ‘main’ course of the river would often give rise to competing names [5].

In the map shown below the Beoch Lane meets the River Nith at the farm of the House of Water just upstream from the farm of Waterhead and the site of Waterhead Castle, shown on the Blaeu map above. [*See footnote]

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

It is proposed that the Beoch Lane and the stretch of the River Nith from its source to the meeting point (i.e. the Calder) at Waterhead (i.e the head of the River Nith) were the two competing head waters of the River Nith. In which case it was the Calder that was later identified as the head water of the River Nith and assigned by map makers as the River Nith.

Ironically it is the older Brittonic Calder name that has disappeared while the much younger name Lein (Scots lane ‘slow moving burn) survived and was later prefixed by Beoch (Gaelic beitheach ‘a place of birches , birchwood’); the lands through which it passes.

Perhaps on another day the Lein would have won the battle of the head waters to carry the name River Nith while Calder “Water” would rise in Enoch hill and flow into the Nith at House of Water.

It is interesting to note the named tributaries of the Lane and the “Calder” each with some potential pol- names – Polmath, Powkelly?, Peddinnan? and Pumarleuch?

Footnote: The landscape has been changed dramatically in the late 20th/ early 21st century as a result of extensive opencast working in the vicinity of Craigman and House of Water. Beoch Lane now meets the River Nith some 500m upstream.

[1.] W. J. Watson | The Celtic Place-Names of Scotland (Birlinn 2004)
[2.] Alan G. James |’P-Celtic in Southern Scotland and Cumbria:
a review of the place-name evidence for possible Pictish phonology’
The Journal of Scottish Name Studies 7 2013, 29–78
[3.] Register of the Great Seal, vol. II, #90,|provided courtesy of Stuart Clarkson
[4.] Alexander G. McLeod | ‘Excavation of two Bronze Age Burial Sites in Ayrshire’
Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 72, 1937-1938, 241-247
[5.] Discussion initiated on Scottish Place-names / Ainmean-àite na h-AlbaFacebook page (02/10/2020) with particular thanks to Thomas Owen. Clancy, Alan G. James and Henry Gough-Cooper.
[6] Cases Decided in the Court of Session, Vol. 5 (1843) | Rev. Matthew Kirkland v Sir John Andrew Cathcart
[7] New Cumnock Place-Name | Waterhead Castle and Waterhead Farm
Reproduced with the permission of National Library of Scotland
Map 1 |Blaeu Atlas, Coila Provincia
Map 2 | Barthomolew’s Half Inch
Map 3 | Ordnance Survey (1892-1960)
Ordnance Survey Name Books
By Permission of Scotland’s Places
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49| See Rig Hill


 Register of the Great Seal, vol. II, #90
At Edinburgh, 31 May (1427).
THE KING confirmed a certain indenture,- [in which Lord Alan of Kethkert knight, lord of the same, pledged and offered the title of pledge (?) and renounced to ROGER of CRAUFURDE lord of Daleglis,-his own 10 merk lands in his barony of Dalmelyntoun, in the sheriffdom of Air, viz. the farthing land of Benbane, the obulatam (?) land of Drumcalder, the farthing land of Lathanis, the farthing land of Molynnach, the farthing land of Dalwar, the farthing land of Rewach, the obulatam land of Knocbyrny, the farthing land of Marchaleholme,- for £46 13s. 4d. sterling; which the said Roger paid to the said Alan as necessary:- to be held by the said Roger and Elisabeth his spouse and the longer living of them and their heirs and assignees from the said Alan, his heirs and assignees, until such time as the said Alan and his heirs or assignees shall have paid £46 13s. 4d. upon the high altar in the kirk of St. Conval of Cumnock on one Sunday between the sunrise and setting next following the one festival of the birth of the blessed John the Baptist (ie 24 June):- also the said Alan yielded to the said Roger and Elisabeth and their said all farms and proficua (?profits) of the said lands, having been levied in the meantime, for counsel and aid:- returning to the said Roger and Elisabeth one secta (?vote) at the three head courts annually held at Dalmelyntoun, with an annual return of 2 merks, 1d.:- Moreover if they shall have been expelled from the said lands, Alan obliged himself, his heirs, etc, and all his lands of Cathkert and Sondrum, etc … . At Sundrum Tuesday next after the feast of the birth of the Lord 1384]:- witnessed by John bishop of Glasgow chancellor, John Forstare chamberlain, Robert of Lawedre knight, justiciar; Walter of Ogilby treasurer.

(N.B.This seems to be more of a wadset/rental agreement than a full transfer of property.)

kindly translated by Stuart Clarkson, Guelph, Ontario

These lands later made up the ‘nine-merk lands of Waterhead’ including the two-merk land of Drumcallander-rig and Lanehead [6].

See also New Cumnock Place-Name Waterhead Castle and Waterhead Farm [7]