My name is Michaela Strick and I’m a student at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. I have been learning Gaelic for a year and a half now and I came to Skye last September to do the Cùrsa Comais. I’m doing my work placement at Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba because I like research (I think it’s a bit like being a detective).
I was excited when I was told I could do my own little project which is compiling about thirty place-names within the Cairn Gorm National Park and finding out about the Gaelic form of the names. I was shown how to use the interactive maps on AÀA’s website. These maps were very helpful in locating places. After compiling a list, I began by looking them up in various books such as Scottish Gaelic Place-Names, The Place-Names of Aberdeenshire, Celtic Place-Names of Scotland, The Place Names of upper Deeside, Scottish Place-Names and Place Names, Highlands & islands of Scotland. This was quite interesting because in some cases the writers contradicted each other when it came to the name’s Gaelic form because they thought the place-name was derived from different words. I also tried to find the names in the OS Name Books and on old maps but there was usually not much new information because those were the places the authors of the above-mentioned books looked as well.
The old maps were rather difficult to use, especially Pont‘s map. It is not really a map but a number of sheets on which he drew, for example, a river and the towns on the river, or a mountain. I found it difficult to make his drawings match an actual map.
I also did some transcriptions of handwritten lists with place-names. That was quickly done and only some were difficult to read.
Thanks to Covid, I was able to participate in an online conference with the Scottish Place-Name Society on “Farm Names and the Origins of the Gaelic Landscape in Kirkcolm Parish, The Rhinns of Galloway”. Other lectures included “Place-names from Knoydart to Moidart, triangulation suggestions: microtoponyms, real life and tall stories” in Applecross, “Ordnance Survey Name Books” and a multimedia presentation “To Where It May Concern” about Armadale in Skye, Armadale in West Lothian and Armidale in Australia. This was very interesting and fascinating.
My next small project was to compile a list of place-names from the poem ‘The Vikings of Islay’ by William Livingstone and write down the names in English if I can. The poem is very complex and the spelling is strange. Sometimes one and the same word is written in different ways.
The two weeks were very interesting . I would never have thought that the subject is so fascinating. I really enjoyed my time and would like to thank Eilidh and Jake for allowing me to see what they do.