The construction of bilingual Gaelic signage for Glasgow’s underground stations have been discussed on and off for years, but to date there are still no concrete plans. Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s new advertising campaign in conjunction with Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba (AÀA) and LearnGaelic, however, contains a Gaelic map of the subway with Gaelic forms. Some of the Gaelic forms can be provided as translations of transparent names in accordance with our policy, such as Bridge Street ~ Sràid na Drochaid. Other names were much more complicated to interpret, some because the precise elements involved in their construction is far from certain, making any proposal speculative. The following names are those with more interesting stories:
Cowcaddens is a name of obscure origin. Whilst it is often said to be of Gaelic origin, from *Coille Challtainn ‘hazel wood’, this is far from clear. The first syllable Cow- may be the same Brittonic element as seen in the final syllables of Linlithgow and Glasgow meaning ‘hollow’, thus the name may be Brittonic for ‘hazel hollow’. A twelfth century spelling of Cowcaddens as Camcathethyn however casts doubt on this derivation. For these reasons the name has not been adapted into Gaelic.
Cessnock is a Gaelic name in origin, from An Seasganach ‘the place of reeds’ from seasgan ‘reed’. There are several examples of this name in Scotland with variations, Shiskine on Arran is An Seasgann. In Menteith is Blaircessnock which may be Am Blàr Seasganach ‘marshy grazing, plain, or muir’, where seasganach is an adjective, however. There is also a Cessnock in Ayrshire and one in Fife, although the latter is transferred from somewhere else. The Glasgow Cessnock comes from an estate with the same name, and there is no reference to this place before the nineteenth century 1st Ordnance Survey maps, so it may itself be a name that has been transferred from elsewhere.
The name of this well-known suburb, Partick (perteyk in 1136), is of British, that is pre-Gaelic, origin. It likely meant ‘little copse’, coming from the same root as Perth (in Gaelic Peairt) deriving from British pert ‘copse’, with a diminutive suffix. In antiquity Gaelic lost the sound [p] so when it occurs in the language, it is nearly always as part of a loan word from another language.
Although the modern Gaelic for Partick is Partaig, as seen on the bilingual sign at the railway station and used locally, this is a modern form derived from the English name. In the nineteenth century, Gaels who lived in Glasgow referred it as Pearthaig or Pearraig. Indeed, this Gaelic form was so well-known it gave rise to a saying: when a young child was restless it was said of him, cho lùthmhor ri Muileann Phearraig ‘as agile as Partick Mill’.
Like Partick, Govan is likely a name of British or Cumbric origin, from *gwo-van meaning perhaps something like ‘lower summit’. Possibly, this name passed through Gaelic before going into Scots. Nowadays however the name has been reinterpreted as gobhainn ‘smith’. Since this does not make sense as a name by itself baile ‘town’ has been added to make Baile a’ Ghobhainn ‘farm or town of the smith’, which is a common place-name in the Highlands.
Kinning Park is on record as an original Kinnenhouse in a map from 1747-55. Although this name looks as if it has a Gaelic origin, it instead appears to be a version of the Scots word coney ‘rabbit’.
The name Kelvin is almost certainly of British or Cumbric origin, although its precise derivation remains obscure. Some etymologies suggest the final -in represents abhainn but this does not fit the old forms, the current pronunciation or the expected syntax. Some early forms of the name show the ending spelled as -ing (Kelvinghauch, water of Kelving in 1591-2) which might suggest a suffix representing Gaelic –inn.
The name Ibrox is sometimes said to derive from *Àth-bruic as if ‘badger ford’. The derivation of the name is however far from certain. Even the original language is uncertain, though the name is almost certainly Celtic.