knocknarran hill

Place-name:Knocknarran Hill
Suggested Meaning (1):G. cnoc an earrann ‘hill of the the portion of church-land’
First element:Gaelic cnoc ‘hill’
Second element:Gaelic earrann ‘a portion, a share – possibly of land for the upkeep of a church’
Blaeu Coila (1654):No entry
OS Name Books (1855-57):Knocknarran Hill
Location:Ordnance Survey (1892-1960)
Earlier Forms
Map 1 Knocknarran Hill & Dalleagles Mount | Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland

First Element: Gaelic cnoc ‘hill’

Knockarran is one of five knock- names in the parish where the first element is from Gaelic cnoc ‘hill’ which represents an eminence of no great height. The Ordnance Survey Name Books (1855-1857) entry describes it as follows –

A conspicuous hill on the south side of Dalleagles on which is a circular plantation, sometimes called the “Mount”.

The circular plantation on the summit of the hill is known as Dalleagles Mount, where the term ‘mount‘ is commonly applied to similarly circular woods; others in the parish include Highmount, Lowmount and Lowesmuir Mount. Only a few trees survive on Dalleagles Mount and some excellent aerial images of the mount can be viewed on CANMORE [1].

Knocknarran Hill behind the former Dalleagles School House (Robert Guthrie)

Second Element: Gaelic earran ‘a portion, a share’

Gilbert Markus [2] in the marvellous resource ‘Place-names of the Galloway Glens’ considered why earrann names appear in clusters in that part of Galloway. One train of thought was prompted by the studies of Peter MacNiven [3] and his observation that many of the earrann names in Menteith have ‘some kind of church connection‘. 

Markus explains that Gaelic earrann and Old Gaelic airrann represents ‘a portion, a share’. In the Galloway Glens he identified two clusters of earrann names where none of the ‘northern cluster’ of eight names were found to be church-related while six out of eleven names in the ‘southern cluster’ were considered to be so.

The name Dalleagles (Brittonic dol egles or Gaelic dail eaglais [4] ) clearly has a connection with a ‘church or church property‘ and as such Knocknarran Hill, part of the Dalleagles estate, is worthy of consideration as a possible earrann name.

Further analysis of the 18 earrann names collated by Markus (See Table 1) show that 14 have the earrann form as the first element, with ern- by far the most popular. Only four of the names had the earrann form as the second element and although -erne is again the most popular form, it is the solitary -arran name that is of much greater interest in the context of Knocknarran.

Earrann ElementEarrann form (No.)Earrann form (No.)Earrann form (No.)
1st element Ern- (9)Iron- (3)Arn- (2)
2nd element -erne (3)-arran (1)
Table 1: Gilbert Markus [1] earrran names as 1st and 2nd elements

The –arran example is Dalarran in the parish of Balmaclennan, Kirkcudbrightshire and Markus explains –

Dalarran, (survives in Dalarran Holm) ‘haugh of the earrann’ – this is not the name of an earrann farm, but the obsolete name of a dail ‘riverside meadow or pasture’ associated with a lost or unidentifiable earrann.

Gilbert Markus (2020)

Comparisons can be drawn between the Knocknarran and Dalarran over and above the –arran element. Neither are earrann farms and their surviving names are tautological, i.e. knock/hill and dal/holm . Perhaps like Dalarran , Knocknarran is associated with a lost or unidentifiable earrann.

Alan G. James [4] in considering the place-name element dol- suggests that in some cases “it might have been adopted specifically as a term for a piece of church land”. He suggests that Dalleagles as dol egles might be “a detached or reserved portion of an ecclesiastical estate.” It may be the case that Knocknarran Hill cnoc n’earrann is also ‘a portion or share’ of that same ecclesiastical estate at Dalleagles. (Is it possible that Dalarran as dol earrann in Balmaclellan parish was a portion of a church estate?)

Although Knocknarran Hill topped off with Dalleagles Mount can often go unnoticed in the upland parish of New Cumnock it may be the case that its lush green north facing slope is the unidentifiable earrann.

Dalleagles Farm and Knocknarran Hill (Robert Guthrie)
Knocknarran Hill with the wooded banks of Dalleagles Burn in the foreground (Robert Guthrie0

N.B. This observation that Dalleagles may be a reference to land owned by the church rather than land on which a church stood will be discussed in more detail under Place-Name: Dalleagles.


[1] CANMORE, National Record of the Historic Environment | Knocknarran
[2] Gilbert Markus, , Place-names of the Galloway Glens| ‘Why do earrann-names form clusters?’ (2020)
[3] Peter McNiven, Gaelic Place-names and the Social History of Gaelic Speakers in Medieval Menteith , PhD Thesis (2011)
[4] Alan G. James, The Brittonic Language in the Old North.A Guide to the Place-Name Evidence (2019)
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Map 1 | OS (1892-1960) | Knocknarran Hill
Ordnance Survey Name Books
By Permission of Scotland’s Places
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49 | Knocknarran Hill