Jock’s Hags

Place-name:Jock’s Hags
Suggested Meaning:Jock’s marshy hollow piece of ground in a moor
First elementPersonal name: Jock
Second elementScots hag ‘marshy hollow piece of ground in a moor’
Blaeu Coila (1654):No Entry
OS Name Books (1855-57):Jock’s Hags, Haggs
Location:Ordnance Survey (1892-1960)
Jock’s Hags | ©Copyright Chris Wimbush and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The Ordnance Survey Name Book (1855-57) entry for Jock’s Hags reads –

A Small Moss on the footpath side – leading from Pencloe to Glenlee

Alternative spelling Jock’s Haggs

Authority for spelling : John Welsh, Craigdarroch

Hag – Moss – ground – Jamieson.

Map 1 : Jock’s Hags |Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

1st element : Personal Name Jock

Here the name Jenny is not associated with any specific local boy or man of that name. A search through the Ordnance Survey Name Books for the neighbouring county of Dumfriesshire reveals the following ‘Jock names’

  • Jock’s Cleuch
  • Jock’s Grain
  • Jock’s Knowe
  • Jock’s Pool
  • Jock’s Sike
  • Jock’s Stane
  • Jock’s Thorn

It appears that all of these ‘Jock’ names, and others like them, are based on the generic name for a country boy [1] where the female equivalent is the generic name ‘Jenny’ [2].

Nevertheless, ‘Jock’s Hags’ may well have been a reference to a local ‘Jock’, land-owner, tenant farmer or agricultural labourer at some time in the past and the association now lost. [N.B. John Welsh, shepherd at Craigdarroch was the recorded ‘authority for the spelling‘ of the name and doubtless he would have recorded that it was named after him if it had been so. In any case the sources may have been an estate map of 1769.]

A further possibility of the origin of the name Jock’s Hags is considered below albeit ultimately dismissed.

2nd element : Scots hag, hagg ‘A soft marshy hollow piece of ground in a moor’

One of the Dictionaries of the Scots Language entries for hag [3] reads –

3. (1) HAG, v.1, n.1 Also hagg, haag, haug. A soft marshy hollow piece of ground in a moor, e.g. where channels have been made by water or where peats have been cut; “moss-ground that has formerly been broken up; a pit, or break in a moss”

Also used attrib. and in such combs. as moss-hag (Ayr. 1790 A. Tait Poems 224, -haug), peat-hag, etc. Now Gen.Sc. Also found in n.Eng. dial.

Dictionaries of the Scots Language, Dictionars o the Scots Leid | hag

The Glenshalloch Burn rises in the vicinity of Jock’s Hags which perhaps may contribute to the soft marshy nature of the landscape. Similarily it may well have been a place where peats were cut and accessed by the foot-path that stretches three miles between the farms of Pencloe and Glenlee.

Place-name hag distribution

There are three occurrences of the place-name element hag, hags in the parish of New Cumnock, all in the southern uplands of the parish within less than a mile of one another.

  • Craigenrig Hag: On the west side of the footpath from Pencloe to Glenlee, just over one and half miles south of Pencloe [4].
  • Jock’s Hags: On the east side of the footpath from Pencloe to Glenlee, just over two-miles mile south of Pencloe
  • Saddle Hags: On the south of Auchincally Hill, just over a half-mile east of Jock’s Hags [5].
Map 2: Hag place-name distribution | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland


In the late 17th century the moors and hags of south-west Scotland offered refuge to persecuted Covenanters. Many would gather there to attend out-lawed conventicles to hear field preachers away from the prying eyes of government troops. In more severe cases those Covenanters with their names on wanted-lists would hide in the hollows of hags. Indeed the name moss-hager was coined to describe ‘a hunted fugitive in Covenanting times who frequented such country‘ [6]. In the north of the parish of New Cumnock there is the named Whig’s Hole [7], where Whig was an alternative name for a Covenanter at the time, on the extensive Martyrs’ Moss [8]. There are also two Martyrs’ Graves in the parish on Carsgailoch Hill [9] and near Cairn farm [10]. Although there are also a host of Covenanting traditions [11] associated with the parish there is not one that makes reference to a Covenanter of the name ‘Jock’ or ‘John’.

Still there is a tenuous connection with the parish and the days of hags and Covenanters through the writings of Samuel Rutherford Crockett in his 19th century work ‘The Men of the Moss Hags’ or to give it its full-title.



S. R. CROCKETT (1895)

Crockett writes about key events of Covenanting times through the eyes of William Gordon of Earlstoun, in the parish of St. John’s Town of Dalry, Kirkcudbrightshire, including the capture and death of his father, also William Gordon, in the aftermath of the Battle of Bothwell Bridge, 22nd June 1679.

He recalls a Great Conventicle by the Dee Water where people had gathered to listen to the field-preacher Richard Cameron, ‘Lion of the Covenant’, who began with a short prayer.

So all the people stood up on the hillside and the sough of their uprising was like the wind among the cedar trees. And even as he prayed for the Spirit to come on these poor folk, that were soon to be scattered again over the moors and hags as sheep that wanted a shepherd, the Wind of the Lord (for so I think it was) came breathing upon us. The grey of the clouds broke up, and for an hour the sun shone through so kindly and warm that many let their plaids fall to the ground.

S. R. Crockett, The Men of the Moss-Hags
So what is the connection with the parish of New Cumnock?

In later years William Gordon of Earlstoun married Ann Campbell, heiress of Sir George Canmpbell of Cessnock, another strong supporter of the Covenanting cause and a major land-owner in the parish of New Cumnock. On the 9th July 1706 William Gordon was created 1st Baronet of Afton, inheriting the Campbell lands which formed his new Barony of Afton, in the parish of New Cumnock. Crockett, writing as Gordon, makes reference to a place called Afton a few times and ends ‘The Men of the Moss-Hags’ –

Concluded in my study at Afton, December 2, 1702. W.G.

This pre-dates the creation of the Barony of Afton and presumably Crockett writing in 1895 and awareof the barony introduced this fictitious Afton into the lands of Earlstoun. He also makes reference to Will Gordon and Afton in his later work ‘Lochinvar’.


Jock’s Hags | ©Copyright Chris Wimbush and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
[1] The Dictionaries of the Scots Languages | Jock
[2] The Dictionaries of the Scots Languages | Jennie
[3] The Dictionaries of the Scots Languages |hag
[4] New Cumnock Place-Name | Craigenrig Hag
[5] New Cumnock Place-Name | Saddle Hags
[6] The Dictionaries of the Scots Languages | moss-hager
[7] New CumnockPlace-Names | Whig’s Hole (in progress)
[8] New Cumnock Place-Name | Martyrs’ Moss (in progress)
[9] New Cumnock Place-Name | Martyrs’ Grave (Wilson, Jamieson, Humphry) (in progress)
[10] New Cumnock Place-Name | Martyrs Monument (Corson and Hair) (in progress)
[11] Reverend Robert Simpson ‘Traditions of the Covenanters’
[12] Samuel R. Crockett ‘Men of the Moss-Hags’ (1895)
[13] Samuel R. Crockett ‘Lochinvar’ (1898)
Reproduced with the permission of National Library of Scotland
Map 1: Ordnance Survey (1894) | Jock’s Hags
Map 2: Ordnance Survey (1858) | hag distribution
Ordnance Survey Name Books
By Permission of Scotland’s Places
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49| Jock’s Hags