Stellhead Rig

Place-name:Stellhead Rig
Suggested Meaning:head of the lower part of a ridge projecting from a hill
Scots steel the lower part of a ridge projecting from a hill’
SSE headhead, top’
Scots rig ‘rig, ridge ‘
Blaeu Coila (1654):N/A
OS Name Books (1855-57):Stellhead Rig (transcribed mistakenly as Hillhead Rig)
Location:Ordnance Survey (1894)
Early forms
Steelhead (Old Parish Records 1719, 1732,1741, 1743, 1746); Caledonian Mercury 1744

Stellhead Rig

Place-Name: Stellhead + Scots rig ‘rig, ridge’

The entry in the Ayrshire Ordnance Survey Name Book (1855-57) for Stellhill Rig reads-

A ridge of arable land slightly elevated situated east of High Park.

Jamieson – ‘Rig, Rigg – a ridge’

Note: The ‘transcriber’ has transcribed the hand-written ‘Stellhead Rig‘ as Hillhead Rig.

The three ‘Authorities for the mode of Spelling’ John Kerr, farmer High Park; Dr. Hunter, East Polquhirter and John Muir, New Cumnock all opted for Stellhead Rigg. The entry also included reference from Jamieson;s dictionary – ‘Rig, Rigg – a ridge’.

The entry in the Dictionaries of the Scots Language for rig reads [1] –

ridge of high ground, a long narrow hill, a hill-crest

Map 1: Stellhead Rig (1857) | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

At first glance the first element of the the place-name Stellhill appears to be Scots stell ‘enclosure, typically for sheep’, however the early form of the name is Steelhead.

Steelhead

Scots steellower part of a ridge projecting from a hill‘ + SSE head ‘head, top’

The place-name Steelhead (Steel head) appears in Old Parish Records of births / Baptisms through the period 1719-1746 [Scotland’s People, Church Registers].

  • 1719 March 1, John, Son to Patrick McCrae and Janet Nichol in Steel head
  • 1732 Nov 26, Margaret, Daughter to Hugh Dunbar and Mary Craufurd, in Steel head
  • 1741 May 10, Isabel, Daughter to William Muir and Margaret Park, in Steelhead
  • 1743 Apr 3, Janet, Daughter to William Muir and Margaret Park, in Steel head
  • 1744 Apr 15, Janet, Daughter to William Muir and Margaret Park, in Steel head
  • 1745 Sep 15, James, Son to William Kirkwood and Rosina Gordon in Steel head
  • 1746 Apr 27, Euphans, Daughter to William Currie and Agnes McCrae in Steelhead

During this period, in 1744. the lands of Polwharter (Polquhirter), Park and Steelhead where put up for sale at a public roup at the Tolbooth of Douglas [2], following the death of the previous tenant ‘Robert Barrie in Powharter in the new paroch of Cumnock‘ [Scotland’s People, Legal Records]. The lands formed part of the Gordons of Afton, extensive Barony of Afton within the parish of New Cumnock.

Caledonian Mercury, 06 Feb 1744 (British News Archive) [2]

By the time of the Land Tax Rolls of 1759 these lands were recorded as ‘Brown’s Polquhirter and Park’, at which time Thomas Brown owned, what is now known as West Polquhirter, while by 1803 the lands were owned by the McTurk family.

At the time of the compilation of the 1855 Valuation Rolls, Miss Guthrie of The Mount, Kilmarnock (later Lady Oranmore) had recently acquired the following lands –

PropertyTenant
West PolquhirterThomas Miller
High ParkJohn Kerr
Three small fieldsJames McDonald
House and 3 small fields
at West Polquhirter
Mrs McTurk
East PolquhirterThomas Hunter
High PolquhirterAdam Dunlop

The property of Steelhead has disappeared from view and the only reference is that of Stellhead Rig in the OS Name Book (1855-57) and OS Maps that followed. The Ordnance Survey 6 inch plan (Ayrshire, sheet XLII.SW) marked to show farm boundaries [1944-55] / RHP75837 [Scotland’s People] show Stellhead Rig on the farm lands of West Polquhirter.

The LIDAR (Light Detecting and Ranging) map (50cm-1m) shows a number linear features running perpendicular to the ridge, probably enclosures while on the east side there is one and probably more rectangular buildings – perhap the farm building, cottage, i.e. Steelhead and outbuildings.

Map 2: Stellhead Rig (OS 1894) | Reproduced by the permission of the National Libary of Scotland
Crown Copyright Scottish Government SEPA, Fugro & Scottish Water (2011-12)

The entry in the Dictionaries of the Scots Language for steel reads [3] –

STEEL, n.2 Also steele, stiel. A steep bank, esp. a spur of a hill-ridge. Freq. in Border place-names, e.g. Ashiestiel (Slk.), Steele Road (Rxb.), Stielhead (Dmf.). [stil]

Rxb. 1825 Jam.:
Steel. A wooded cleugh or precipice; but applied to one of greater extent than “slain”; the lower part of a ridge projecting from a hill where the ground declines on each side [in Liddesdale]. It is generally understood as including the idea of the remains of old shealings.

Bwk. 1885 Hist. Bwk. Nat. Club XI. 77:
There are five ravines subsidiary to the main Stonecleugh running between it and the Lammermoor ridge, and sub-dividing into spaces more or less extensive the intervening high slopes; some of the intervals being elevated spurs called Steels.

The dictionary entry includes a reference to Stielhead in Dumfriesshire. Interestingly the entry in the Dumfriesshire OS Name Book (1848-1858) for the parish of Keir identifies that the name Steelhead should be changed to Steilhead (not Stielhead). Similarily for the associated names Steel Burn, Steel Plantation and Steel Burn.

Map 3: Steilhead, Keir (Dumf.) | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Sir Herbert Maxwell in The Place-Names of Galloway quotes Jamieson on his entry for Steelstop Wood in Kirkpatrick-Irongray, Dumfriesshire [4] –

Steelstop Wood L.Sc. ‘The wood on top of the steel’ “Steel: a wooded cleugh or precipice, ; the lower part of a ridge projecting from a hill” -Jamieson

Perhaps Steilhead, Keir falls in to ‘the wooded cleugh‘ category with regards to the nearby wooded-plantation, with Steilhead at its head? While, surely Mill Steel does – ‘A name applied to a hollow portion of Elliock Wood’, in the parish of Durisdeer, also Dumfriesshire.

Closer to home in the parish of Muirkirk, Ayrshire is ‘The Steel’, which clearly falls into the category of ‘a ridge projecting from hill‘, despite the fanciful ‘hard as steel‘ derivation.

An elevated portion of ground to the North-West side of the “Cairn Table”

– The name is probably derived from the Condition of the ground which is considered to be as hard as steel,

Map 4: The Steel, Muirkirk (OS ) | Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Stellhead Rig may not be as impressive as ‘The Stell’ but it certainly meets the criteria of being ‘the lower part of a ridge projecting from a hill‘, in this case Dalhanna Hill.

Map 5: Stellhead Rig (OS 1937) | Reproduced by the permission of th National Library of Scotland

It appears to be the case that the lower part of the ridge was known as a steel and the farm house / cottage built at the head of the steel was called Steelhead. Once the farmhouse was abandoned the ridge was later renamed Stellhead Rig, where Stellhead appears to be a corruption of Steelhead and rig is a common place-name element in parish.

The corruption of Steelhead may well have been influenced by Scots stell ‘enclosure, typically fo sheep’ and indedd there is a Midhill Stell and Stell Knowe in the parish.

Stellhead Rig (Robert Guthrie 2020)

References
[1] Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. | rig
[2] British Newspaper Archives | Caledonian Mercury, 06 February 1744
[3] Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. | steel
[4] Sir Herbert Maxwell, The Place-Names of Galloway | Steelstop
[5] New Cumnock Place-Name | Stell Knowe (in progress)
[6] New Cumnock Place-Name | Midhill Stell
Maps
Reproduced with the Permission of National Library of Scotland
https://maps.nls.uk/
Map 1: Ordnance Survey Maps – Six-inch 1st edition, Scotland, 1843-1882 (1857) |Stellhead Rig
Map 2: Ordnance Survey Maps – 25 inch 2nd and later editions, Scotland, 1892-1949 (1895) , Background LIDAR Crown Copyright Scottish Government SEPA, Fugro & Scottish Water (2011-12) |Stellhead Rig
Map 3: Ordnance Survey Maps – Six-inch 2nd and later editions, Scotland, 1892-1960 (1898) | Steilhead, Keir (Dumf.)
Map 4: Ordnance Survey, One-inch to the mile maps of Scotland, 2nd Edition – 1885-1900 (1895) |The Steel
Map 5: Ordnance Survey, 1:25,000 maps of Great Britain – 1945-1971 (1957) | Stellhead Rig
Ordnance Survey Name Books
By Permission of Scotland’s Places
scotlandsplaces.gov.uk
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 49| Stellhead Rig
N.B. the written entry entry for Stellhead Rig has mistakenly been transcribed as Hillhead Rig (page 100)
Dumfriesshire OS Name Books (1848-58) Vol. 29| Steilhead
Dumfriesshire OS Name Books (1848-58) Vol. 14 |Mill Steel
Ayrshire OS Name Books (1855-57) Vol. 48| The Steel