Here you will find a little background information on some notable figures in place-name research as well as a list of our primary sources for research.
Francis C. Diack (1865-1939)
Diack was a Gaelic scholar who largely conducted research outside of the University environment. He gathered a large amount of important material on Gaelic dialect and toponymy from the 1910’s to the 30’s and published a number of articles in Scottish Gaelic Studies, Etudes Celtique and in various newspapers. In his later years his view that ‘Pictish’ was a Q-Celtic language and the direct ancestor of modern Gaelic has somewhat tarnished his reputation, especially amongst place-name scholars. This tarnishing is all the more unfortunate as the raw material he did gather was of the highest quality, gathered from “the last generation of Gaelic speakers possessing a sure grip of the place-names in their true form.”
His manuscript material exists at Aberdeen University Historical Collections. MS2276 from which most of his work is taken is a notebook transcribed by W. M. Alexander in 1957 from file cards which are now lost.
Alexander MacBain (1855-1907)
Charles M. Robertson (1864–1927)
Robertson was a Gaelic scholar who is probably best known now as the author of a number of articles on Gaelic Dialect in the Celtic Review and the Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness. He was for a large part of his life an itinerant Free Church minister and for all his adult life he gathered Gaelic material from local speakers about place-names, folklore and dialect. His informants are unfortunately unknown. In general he recorded the name in standard Gaelic orthography (of the time) but on occasions gave information about pronunciation. His manuscript collection now resides at the National Library of Scotland as the Robertson Collection MS357-483 (some material also resides at the Carmichael-Watson Collection at the University of Edinburgh).
William J. Watson (1865-1948)
Watson was the author of many books and articles on place-names and is probably the single most important person in the historiography of Gaelic toponymy. Originally a teacher, he became the second Chair of Celtic Studies at Edinburgh University in 1915. His two most important works are The Place-names of Ross and Cromarty 1904 and The Celtic Place-names of Scotland 1928. He also left behind a number of place-name field work notebooks and other material in the Carmichael Watson Collection at the University of Edinburgh. See here for more details.
- Cox, Richard A. V., 1991, Brìgh nam Facal (Gairm Publications, Glasgow).
- Cox, Richard A. V., 1997, Modern Scottish Gaelic Reflexes of Two Pictish Words: *pett and *lannerc, Nomina 20, 47-58.
- Cox, Richard A. V., 2007, The Development of Old Norse -r(-) in (Scottish) Gaelic ‘Language Contact in the Place-Names of Britain and Ireland’, Edited by Paul Cavill and George Broderick (English Place-Name Society, Nottingham).
- Grannd, Seumas, 2013, Gàidhlig Dhùthaich MhicAoidh (Taigh na Gàidhlig, Mhealanais).
- Ordnance Survey, Gaelic Place-names
- Taylor, Simon 2005, Guide to Gaelic Origins of Place Names in Britain
- GOC 2009, Gaelic Orthographic Conventions 2009,
Some Reliable Manuscript Resources for Gaelic Name Forms
- Diack, F. C., 1954, MS2276, unpublished manuscript in Aberdeen Special Collections of Diack’s field work, compiled by W. M. Alexander.
- Dieckhoff, H. C., A pronouncing dictionary of Scottish Gaelic: based on the Glengarry dialect W. & AK Johnston, limited, 1932.
- Robertson, C. M., c.1895-1927 Robertson Collection in the National Library of Scotland
- Watson, W. J., 1900-1948 Topographic Material in the Carmichael Watson Collection in the University of Edinburgh Library.
Some Reliable Resources of Scholarly Works
For a list of works published before 1989, see A Reader’s Guide to the Place Names of the United Kingdom. Spittal & Field, J., 1990. See also the SPNS bibliography.
- Alexander, W. M., The Place-names of Aberdeenshire. Aberdeen, 1952.
- Barrow. G. W. S., ‘The Uses of Place-names and Scottish History – Pointers and Pitfalls’, in The Uses of Place-Names, ed. S. Taylor. St Andrews Scottish Studies Institute, 1998, 54–74.
- Beveridge, E., The ‘Abers’ and ‘Invers’ of Scotland. Edinburgh, William Brown, 1923.
- Black, G. F., The Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning and History. Birlinn Ltd, 1998.
- Borgstrøm, C. H., A linguistic survey of the Gaelic dialects of Scotland, 1940.
- Cox., R. A. V., The Gaelic Place-names of Carloway. Isle of Lewis, 2002.
- Dwelly, E., The illustrated Gaelic-English dictionary. Gairm Publications, 1912.
- Henderson, G., The Norse Influence on Celtic Scotland. James MacLehose and Sons, 1910.
- King, J., Scottish Gaelic Place-names: The Collected Works of Charles M. Robertson, Clò Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba, 2019
- MacLean, R., The Gaelic Place Names and Heritage of Inverness. Culcabock Publishing, 11 2004.
- Nicolaisen, W.F.H., Scottish place-names: their study and significance. B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1976.
- Stahl, A. B., ‘Place-Names of Barra in the Outer Hebrides’, unpublished Ph.D., University of Edinburgh, 1999.
- Taylor, S., with Márkus, G., The Place-Names of Fife, volumes 1-5. Shaun Tyas, Donington, 2006-2012.
- Watson. A., and Allan, E., The Place Names of Upper Deeside. Aberdeen University Press, Aberdeen, 1984.
- Watson, W. J., Place-Names of Ross and Cromarty. Inverness 1904.
- Watson, W. J., The History of the Celtic place-names of Scotland. Birlinn, 1926, repr. 2004.
- Watson, W. J., Scottish Place-Name Papers. Steve Savage, Edinburgh, 2002. (Reprints of earlier articles.)
Some Reliable Resources for Early Forms
- ALI: Acts of the Lords of the Isles 1336-1493, eds. Jean Munro and R. W. Munro, SHS 1986
- Brechin Reg.: Bannatyne Club, editor. Registrum Episcopatus Brechensis. Aberdeen, 1856.
- ER: The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, ed. J. Stuart and others (Edinburgh 1878–1908).
- Moray Reg.: Bannatyne Club, editor. Registrum Episcopatus Moraviensis. Edinburgh, 1837.
- RMS: Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scottorum, ed. J. M. Thomson and others (Edinburgh 1882–1914).
- maps.nls.uk [This contains a wealth of historical maps and texts; of particular interest are those of the Ordnance Survey, Pont, Blaeu and Roy.]