Garepool, Garepool Burn

Place-name:Garepool, Garepool Burn
Suggested Meaning:slimy, filthy, or muddy pool
1st elementS. gar ‘slimy, filthy, or muddy’ + pool
2nd elementS. pool ‘pool’
Blaeu Coila (1654):Poulshell B.
OS Name Books (1855-57):Garepool, Garepool Burn
Location:Ordnance Survey (1892-1960)


The entry for Garepool in the Ordnance Survey Name Book reads –

A large pool in the river Nith, about 4 chains N. E. of the mouth of Garepool Burn.

Map 1 : Garepool & River Nith| Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Scots gar ‘slimy, filthy, or muddy‘ + pool

Thank you to Dr. Simon Taylor for explaining the first element of the name is Scots gar ‘slimy, filthy, or muddy substance, specif. that produced by algae in a pond or river’ [1]; that presumably collected at the pool.

N. B. Originally I had considered the name to be Gaelic garbh ‘rough, boisterous’ [2] and Gaelic poll, poul ‘pit, hole, pool’; [3] i.e, ‘rough pool’.

Garepool Burn

The entry for Garepool Burn in the Ordnance Survey Name Book reads –

A burn rising on the Knipes, and flowing southwards into the river Nith

The Ordnance Survey Map (1895) shows the Garepool Burn rising on the Knipe and then downstream flows past Polshill farm before joining the Nith, upstream from Garepool on the Nith.

Map 2: 1. Garepool 2, Polshill 3. Garepool Burn| Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland

There are several examples of Garpel Burns or Waters found in Ordnance Survey Name Books across Ayrshire, Dumfriesshire, Kirkcudbrightshire and Renfrewshire which appear to be a variant of Garepool Burn.

Sir Herbert Maxwell entry for Garpel Burn in ‘Place-Names of Galloway’ [3] which includes a reference to the early P. (Pont) form reads –

Garpel Burn (P. Garvepool B.) ‘Balmaclellan’ Garbh [garv] pol, rough stream

There is no early equivalent form of Garepool Burn to be found on Blaeu Map Coila Provincia, based on Pont’s Manuscript. However, the map shows Poulshell B. (burn) rising in Chnip Hill (The Knipe) and downstream joins the River Nith just beyond N. (Nether) Poushil.

For many the burn to this day is still known as Polshill Burn and the name has survived in Polshill farm on its banks. It is one of a number of burn names in the parish of New Cumnock with the first element British pol- ‘stream, burn’ which at some later stage the term burn was appended by those that were unaware the it was already part of the name, i.e. the original name of this water-course was simply Polshill.

At some time long after burn had been appended to Polshill Burn it was renamed Garepool Burn. Of course since Polshill Burn was the name as late as 1645 it was not renamed by Gaelic speakers. The most likely explanation is that locals named it after the pool called Garepool in the Nith, i.e the burn that entered the Nith near the Garepool. [See NCPN: Polshill – pending].

[N.B. Parallels can be drawn with Polquheys Burn where this ‘burn, stream‘ name was later renamed Muirfoot Burn, after Muirfoot farm which sat on the banks of the Nith near where its joined by the Polquheys Burn.]


[1] Dictionaries of the Scots Language Dictionars o the Scots Leid | gar
[2] Edward Dwelly ‘Illustrated Gaelic- English Dictionary|garbh
[3] Edward Dwelly ‘Illustrated Gaelic- English Dictionary|poll, puill
[4] Sir Herbert Maxwell ‘The Place-Names of Galloway’ | Garpel Water
Reproduced with the Permission of the National Library of Scotland
Map 1 | Ordnance Survey (1858) | Garepool
Map 2 | Ordnance Survey (1895) |Garepool Burn
Map 3 | Blaeu Coila Provincia (1654) | Poulshell B.
Ordnance Survey Name Books
By Permission of Scotland’s Places
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49| Garepool
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49| Garepool Burn
New Cumnock Place-Names
Polshill- Pending