Place-name:Pollach, Pollach Burn
Suggested Meaning:stream, burn of the deer
First elementGaelic poll ‘stream, burn’
Second elementGaelic ois ‘deer’
Blaeu Coila (1654):Pouloifh, Pouloifhb.
OS Name Books (1855-57):Pollach, Pollach Burn
Location:Ordnance Survey (1898)

Pollach, Pollach Burn

Earlier References
Polloch (1535), Polloche (1602), Pollosche (1604, 1620, 1628, 1652), Pollosch (1642, 1647) Pouloifh (Blaeu 1645), Pollosh (OPR , Polosh (OPR ) Pelosh (Roy1752-57), Pollosh (Armstrong 1775), Pollosh (Census 1841, 1851)
Map 1: Pouloifh and Pouloifh Burn (Blaeu1654) | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library ofScotland

Following the death of James Dunbar, baron of Cumnock in 1535 the following parcel of lands in Glen Afton, including Polloch, passed to another member of the Dunbar family [1].

At Striueling , 27 Jul [1535]

‘Ane Letter maid to DAME JONET STEWART, LADY MOCHRUM (a footnote says “the second wife of Sir John Dunbar of Mochrum, and mother of Gavin Dunbar, Archbishop of Glasgow), hir airis and assignais ane or ma, – of the gift of nonentres, malis, fermes,profittis and dewities of the four merk land of the Blakcrag, ane merk land of Munthray, twa merk land of Cragydarrocht, thre merk land of Lagurgeroch, twa merk land [of] Polloch, three merk land of Puntlo and twa merk land of Lagbrowen, with the pertinentis,pertenyng to hir in in (sic) conjunct fee, liand in the barony of Cumnok, within the shirefdome of Aire, being in oure soverane lordis handis be resoun of nonenteree of the last terme of Witsounday, throw the deceis of umquhill James Dunbar of Cumnok.

Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland, vol 2, no. 1737.
Map 2: Pollach B. (Bartholomew’s 1940-47) | Reproduced with the persmission of the National Library of Scotland

Later that century the twa merk land of Pollach fell into the hands of another branch of the Dunbar, to be known as the Dunbars of Polloche (or other variants of that name).This family was undoubtedly related to the Dunbars of Mochrum mentioned in the letter above and thereby to the Dunbars, barons of Cumnock.

Dunbars of Polloche

The earliest record of this family uncovered thus far, is the ‘Testament of Johnne Dumbar of Polloche, parish of Cumnock in Kyle, sheriffdom of Ayr’, dated 6th July 1602 [Scotland’s People]. Three years later his widow’s name appears in the Sasine Register (7 May 1605) as ‘Katherine Campbell, relict of John, of Pollosche’ [2].

George Dunbar, probably the eldest son of Johnne Dumbar and Katherine Campbell, succeeded to the lands of Polloche. He was minister of Cumnock from 1559-1608 and his brief entry in Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae for Cumnock reads ‘George Dunbar of Pollesche, min. in 1599; trans. to Ayr about 1607‘ [3]. During this period he appears in the Sasine Register as ‘George Dunbar, rector of Cumnock (1604) and as parson of Cumnock‘ (1605) alongside that of ‘Jean Crawford, spouse of George Dumbar, rector of Cumnock‘ [2].

The Reverend Warrick in ‘The History of Old Cumnock’ explained that George Dunbar ‘is the first of the Reformation ministers of whom we have a detailed account‘ and summarised his relativley brief spell at Cumnock Kirk as follows [4] –

‘His name, George Dunbar, makes it probable that he too was a member of the Dunbar family in whom the patronage of the church was vested. Dunbar was a member of the Assembly in 1602, and again in 1605. In 1608 he was translated to the first charge in Ayr, where he succeeded John Welsh, the son-in-law of John Knox, who had been banished from the king’s dominions. The call to take the place of Welsh marks Dunbar as a man of ability.

Rev. John Warrick ‘ The History of Old Cumnock’

Dunbar was indeed a man of outstanding ability and often at odds with the authorities. In 1611 he was removed from Ayr and confined to Dumbarton for two years ‘for praying for banished brethern and others‘ . Two years later he returned to take up the second charge at Ayr and then in 1619 filled the vacant position of the first charge at Ayr. His name appears in the Register of Sasines as minister at Ayr (1621) alongside that of his now spouse Margaret Wallace [5]; presumably Jean Crawfurd had passed away. In 1622 he was deprived of his charge at Ayr and ordered to be confined at Dumfries at which time he remarked to his wife ‘Margaret, prepare the creels again!‘ which were used to transport their young children on horseback. However, he returned to Ayr to preach and when he ignored a summons to remain at Dumfries he was banished to Ireland in 1625, ‘now and old man and a poor man with a large family‘ . Here he served as minister at Inver near Larne for 12 years [4].

In 1638 George Dunbar returned to Scotland and was minister at Calder, West Lothian, until his death three years later. His entry in Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae gives an insight into his family members [6]-

He married (1) Jean Craufurd (2) Margaret Wallace, who survived him, and had issue Samuel, who succeeded him in the lands of Pollesche ; George died in 1651, Margarert (married Robert Peebles, Irvine); Marion

Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae, FES Vol.1 p.176

His eldest son, Samuel Dunbar is designed of Pollosch in the Register of Sasines (1642,1647) [5] and of Pollosche in the Testament of his younger brother George (1652) [Scotland’s Places].

Although Samuel is said to have succeeded his father George Dunbar to the lands of Pollesche, entries in the Register of Sasines [5,7] identify the following owners in between times – Andrew Crawfurd of Pollosche (1620) spouse of Agnes Dunbar, who may have been the daughter of John Dunbar of Pollosche (1628) who in turn may have been a brother of George Dunbar. Following Samuel Dunbar were John Campbell of Pollosch (1648) and then William Crawford of Polloshe (1649).

The Crawfords must be the ‘Craufuirds of Palosch‘ identified by James Paterson in ‘A History of the Counties of Ayr and Wigton’ as one of several families, in the parishes of Old Cumnock and New Cumnock, connected with small properties that are now extinct [8]; although this is only reference of the form Palosch thus far uncovered.

Old Parish Records

Certainly by the time of the Old Parish Records of Baptisms/Birth of the parish of New Cumnock came into play (1706-1855) the Craufurds of Pollosche/Polloshe had disappeared from view. The first family encountered in the records is that of Hugh Farquhar and Janet Gemmel and their children Agnes (Pollosh, 1721), Janet (1723, Polosh) and William (1735, Polosh). [Scotland’s People].


In Roy’s Military Survey (Map 3) the name appears as Pelosh while in Armstrong’s Map of Ayrshire (below) is given as Pollosh.

Map 4: Pollosh (Armstrong 1775) | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Census Records

The early Census records show the family of Robert & Sarah Williamson living at Pollosh in 1841 and that of John & Mary Murdoch at Pollosh in 1851, while there are no entries for Pollosh in the following years. However, it was still occupied during the compilation of Ordnance Survey Namebook (1855-57), however it was done so under the name of Pollach [Scotland’s Places].

Pollach and Pollach Burn

The Ordnance Survey Namebook (1855-57) entry for Pollach reads –

A shepherd’s house, occupied by George Hyslop, herd, of Lochingirroch.

The three ‘Authorities for Spelling’ were George Hyslop, shepherd at Polloch and John Mitchell farmer at nearby Lochingirroch along with the Property Map of the time – all of which stated the ‘Various Mode of Spelling’ was Polloch (pronounced locally as pollosh).

Janet Hyslop, the 8th child of George Hyslop and his wife Agnes Murdoch, was born on the 7th January 1855 at the shepherd’s house and her place of birth recorded as Pollosh [Scotland’s Place]. This would be last child born atPollosh since it fell into ruin soon after.

The Ordnance Survey Namebook (1855-57) entry for Pollach Burn reads –

A Stream rising north of Laglaff Hill and uniting with Afton Water South of Polloch

Even here, the entry refers to the shepherd’s house south of the burn as Polloch, while all three ‘Authorities for Spelling’ agree on the spelling alternative form of Polloch Burn.

However, depsite all these references to Polloch, inexplicably it was the place-name form Pollach that prevailed and that appears on Ordnance Survey map for both the house and the burn.

Map 5: Pollach & Pollach Burn (OS 1857) | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

The Ordnance Survey Map (1856) also shows Pollach as a Ruin

Map 5: Pollach (OS 1856) | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Although the shepherd’s house was now in ruins, the lands of Pollosh were paired with those of neighbouring lands and farmhouse of Lochbrowan in the Valuation Rolls from 1855-1915 under the ownership of the Marquis of Bute. The lands of Blackcraig were also included with these propeties in the Valuation Rolls of 1885 & 1895. By 1920 the properties were owned by Campbell of Dalhanna [Scotland’s People].

Pollach ‘burn of the deer’

Gaelic poll ‘ stream, burn’ Gaelic ois ‘deer’

The Ordnance Survey Namebook entry for Pollach also included the following derivation of the name

Pollach – Lumpish – stupid – Gaelic Dictionary

However, Michael Ansell considered Pollach in his ‘New Cumnock Place-Names’ articles and offered [9] –

This will be the same place-name as Polloch on Loch Sheil, Invernesshire. Scots Gaelic pollach means abounding in holes or pools and in the Glen Afton case presumably referred to the bed or banks of the Afton Water.

Michael Ansell, New Cumnock News Issue 8, Spring 2021

Following clarification that the local pronounciation of the name is pollosh and providing the early forms of the name – Polloch (1535), Polloche (1602), Pollosche (1604), Pollosch (16427) Michael reassessed the place-name and considered the first element to be Gaelic poll ‘pool or burn’ and the second element Gaelic os, ois (plural) ‘deer’.

The earlier spellings of Polloch suggest perhaps ScG poll + os, so maybe poll ois (pronounced like Powl-osh), pool or burn of deer. This fits the recorded earlier spellings better.

Michael Ansell , Correspondence

Pollach Burn

Pollach Burn is then one of many pol-, poll- water course place names that have been suffixed with the Scots element burn ‘stream’; an act that Sir Herbert Maxwell describes as follows [10] –

‘All these streams have had a ‘Burn’ plenoastically added to their names since Gaelic ceased to be spoken and understood.

Herbert Maxwell ‘The Place-Names of Galloway’

Michael also addressed the ‘odd situation’ of Pollach sitting on the north bank of March Burn which signifies boundary burn [11] , suggesting the building did not sit on the same lands as Pollach Burn.

The situation on the far bank of the March Burn is odd, perhaps what happened was 1) Burn called Poll Ois, 2) holding called after the burn that stretched past the March Burn, 3) Subdivision perhaps in the Scots speaking times with the burn that became the March Burn re-named from its original name.

Michael Ansell , Correspondence
Pollach , March Burn, Pollach Burn (Robert Guthrie 2009)

Afton Water at Pollach

The stretch of the Afton Water at the lands of Pollach is a well loved local beauty spot. If Pollach was Gaelic poll ‘pool’ + Gaelic os, ois ‘deer’, i.e. ‘pool of the deer’, then this place would be a good contender. However, it seems a convoluted route that the lands of Pollach would take its from this stretch of water and then Pollach Burn takes its name from these lands; rather than give its name to the lands!

[1] Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland, vol 2, no. 1737.
[2] H.M. Stationery Office. Indexes No. 23. Index to Secretary’s Register of Sasines for Sheriffdom of Ayr and Bailiaries of Kyle, Carrick and Cunningham 1599-1609.
[3] Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae, FES Vol.3 p.25 | Cumnock, George Dunbar
[4] Reverend John Warrick, ‘The History of Old Cumnock’ (1899, Reprint 1992)
[5] H.M. Stationery Office. Indexes No. 29. Index to Particular Register of Sasines for Sheriffdom of Ayr and Bailiaries of Kyle, Carrick and Cunningham 1617-1634. Vol. I
[6] Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae, FES Vol.1 p.176 | Mid-Calder, George Dunbar
[7] H.M. Stationery Office. Indexes No. 31. Index to Particular Register of Sasines for Sheriffdom of Ayr and Bailiaries of Kyle, Carrick and Cunningham 1635-1660. Vol. II
[8] James Paterson , ‘A History of the Counties of Ayr and Wigton’, Volume 1, Kyle Part two (1863, 2003 edition)
[9] Michael Ansell, New Cumnock News Issue 8, Spring 2021
[10] Sir Herbert Maxwell ‘The Place-Names of Galloway’ (1930, 2001 Edition) | See Polchiffer Burn, p. 225
[11] New Cumnock Place-Name | March Burn
Reproduced with the Permission of National Library of Scotland
Images used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licence.
Map 1: Joan Blaeu(1645) Coila Provincia, [or], The province of Kyle / auct. Timoth. Pont | Poulifh, Poulifh b.
Map 2: Bartholomew`s Revised Half-Inch Map, Great Britain, 1940-47 | Pollach B.
Map 3: Roy Military Survey of Scotland, 1747-1755 | Pelosh
Map 4: Andrew Armstrong (1775) A new map of Ayrshire|Pollosh
Map 5: Ordnance Survey Maps – Six-inch 1st edition, Scotland, 1843-1882 (1857) | Pollach, Pollach Burn
Map 6: Ordnance Survey Maps – 25 inch 1st edition, Scotland, 1855-1882 (1856) | Pollach
Ordnance Survey Name Books
By Permission of Scotland’s Places
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49|Pollach
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49|Pollach Burn
Scotland’s People
Old Parish Records, Births, Marriages, Deaths, Census Records, Valuations Rolls, Wills & Testaments