Duncan’s Burn

Place-name:Duncan’s Burn
Suggested Meaning:Duncan’s Burn
First elementPersonal Name: Duncan
Second elementScots burn ‘stream’
Blaeu Coila (1654):No Entry
OS Name Books (1855-57):Duncan’s Burn
Location:Ordnance Survey (1892-1960)
Other Early Forms:
No other forms
Corsencon hill and Duncan’s Burn (Photo Robert Guthrie)

Duncan’s Burn is one of several burns that runs off the south face of Corsencon hill before entering the River Nith. The burn also gives its name to Duncansburn Bridge. The Duncan’s Burn entry in the Ordnance Survey Name Books (1855-57) reveals that the name has its basis in local folklore and reads –

A man named Duncan is said to have had an encounter with the devil in the hollows of this burn. Returning home late at night with a ‘wee dram in his ee,’ as he was crossing the burn his majesty seized him by the leg – Duncan struggled manfully for liberty but the devil held fast enjoying the fun and exclaiming

‘Weel done Duncan fire awa Duncan; weel done Duncan.’

Duncan was at last released by the crowing of a cock; the devil fled into the interior of Corson Cone; and Duncan’s admiring friends in commemoration of his adventure gave the burn his name.”

Thus far, identifying the name Duncan (either as a Christian name or Surname) associated with this district of the parish has proved elusive. However another folk-lore tale places the Devil on Corsencon [1].

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?”

While Kemp is typically recognised as ‘A champion, warrior, hero. Surviving in ballads and place-names‘ [2] the kemp-stane, “a stone placed as the boundary which has been reached by the first who kemps or strives at the Putting-stone. He who throws farthest beyond it is the victor” [2].

Map 2 | Corsencon, Polquhirter | Reproduced with the Permission of the National Library of Scotland


[1]. New Cumnock School-Fellows Annual Magazine (1898)
[2]. The Dictionaries of the Scots Languages | kemp, kemp-stane
By Permission of National Library of Scotland 
Map 1 | Ordnance Survey (1892-1960) 
Map 2 | Ordnance Survey (1942)
Ordnance Survey Name Books
By Permission of Scotland’s Places
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49| Duncan’s Burn