Originally published in the Scotsman on 11 June 2016
It is not only places in Scotland that have Gaelic names. The town of Penrith in Cumbria has its own: Pìorait. In 1745 there was a skirmish near Penrith between the English and Prince Charlie’s retreating forces; this is more commonly known in English as the Battle or Skirmish of Clifton Moor. This event seems to have put Penrith into Gaelic tradition.
Although the form appears several times in writing, the origin of the form appears to be a poem written in 1800 about this event, which contains the line: Am blàr a bha ’m Pìorait ‘the battle that was in Penrith’. It is the more interesting since the local pronunciation of Penrith is Peerith or Peerit from which the Gaelic form seems to have been taken, rather than the more common form of Penrith. Perhaps Prince Charlie’s forces coined the name from locals in Penrith?