Originally published in the Scotsman on 21 May 2016
The Irish Annals record a battle in 685 between the Picts and the Northumbrians at a place called Duin Nechtain, which in modern spelling would be Dùn Neachdain. The name as it stands means ‘the fort of Nechtan’; Nechtan was a Pictish King. The location of this battle is not certain, but it is generally thought to be at Dunnichen in Angus.
Dunnichen is on record as dunectin in 1179, and the modern Gaelic form recorded about a century ago is Dùn Eachain ‘the fort of Eachan’ where Eachan is a personal name commonly anglicised as ‘Hector’. The 1179 form could reflect either Eachan or Neachdan. It is of course possible that the meaning of the name has changed, especially since Neachdan is not a common Gaelic name. Alternatively, the similarity between the names Dunnichen and Duin Nechtain may be coincidental, with the battle having occurred somewhere else entirely.