Stuff to waste time on a Sunday

Anagram railway map of GlasgowYesterday’s appeal for translation help for Solidarity with Scotland produced a fantastic response.  Huge thanks to everyone who offered to help or made suggestions.  It also produced an interesting discussion about Scottish place names.  So here’s a couple of maps of the Glasgow area for your amusement and edification.

You can click on the maps to view the full sized image – but be warned, the file sizes are very large.

First up is a version of the railway map that graces train stations throughout the West of Scotland.  It’s exactly the same as the map produced by the transport authorities, except I’ve replaced all the station names with anagrams.  The things you do late at night when you cannae get to sleep eh?  Have fun trying to work out what they are.  Some of them sound better than the originals (in my opinion anyway).  Getting a single to “Bedsit Regret” sounds quite poignant.

glaschunuadhThe second map is a bit more serious.  It’s a map of the Glasgow area at a scale of 1:100,000 (1cm to 1km) in Gaelic.  I drew it because I wanted to see what it looked like, and also because it’s a way of pointing out to people who say that they don’t want Scotland to become a different country that Scotland already is a different country.  But also I did it because maps are about ownership and possession – they are portraits of a landscape which make political statements.  Gaelic, Scots and Scottish English are equally national languages of Scotland, but – for the most part – we only have maps of Scotland in English, and that colours our perceptions of Scotland.

I chose to draw a map of Glaschu, instead of a traditionally Gaelic speaking area.  Gaelic belongs to Glasgow – and everywhere else in Scotland – too.

The Gaelic map of Glasgow is an uncorrected proof copy.  It doubtless contains quite a lot of mistakes, and many draft versions of names which might not be accepted by the Gaelic speaking community.  But at least it gives an idea of what Scotland’s biggest city looks like in its ancient Celtic tongue.

To raise funds, Newsnet Scotland is currently selling a Gaelic map of Scotland which I drew a couple of years ago.

0 thoughts on “Stuff to waste time on a Sunday

  1. Pingback: Stuff to waste time on a Sunday - Speymouth

  2. I love it when I travel, I see place names in Gaelic and can interpret where the English version comes from. I did mention yesterday about North Queensferry but all the stations into Edinburgh are double named.I did not know you were the maker of the Newsnet map, Good for you Paul.

  3. Great map! I was surprised that you put Newton Mearns on a Baile Ùr na Maorainn rather than B.U. na Maoirne, which is the only form I’ve ever encountered. What’s your thinking behind that?

    BTW, Collins once produced a beautiful map of Ireland and Scotland in Irish and Gaelic, rotated so that Scotland was on top of Ireland. Have you seen it? (I used to have a copy, but I lost it when I moved house a few years ago.)

    • Aye, originally I’d put Baile Ùr na Maoirne, but then I changed it. I’m on the laptop just now and all the files for the maps are on the desktop so I can’t actually remember why I changed it – but I think it was based on information in Watson’s Celtic Place Names of Scotland.

      I’ve seen the map you mean. It’s a lovely map but not very detailed.

      • Interesting — if you find that snippet of information, it’d be useful to know (at the very least, Wikipedia ought to contain both forms).

        True, it isn’t particularly detailed, but I love the way it makes places like Islay look central rather than peripheral, and the use of Celtic place names ties together Scotland and Ireland.

  4. I have just finished reading a book about Scotland/Britain during the Roman occupation. It contained the following quote attributed to Tacitus, a Roman consul, and I immediately thought about the wet cardboard cut-outs which are the Scottish versions of the main UK political parties:

    ” Thus among the British even our style of dress came into favour and the toga was everywhere to be seen. Gradually too, they went astray into the allurements of evil ways, colonnades, warm baths and elegent banquets. The British who had no experience of this, called it ‘civilisation’, although it was part of their enslavement”.

  5. What a talented WGD you are! Love Gaelic maps. Almost all of Scotland’s place names are originally Gaelic (with some Norse thrown in) and yet it is still perceived as a “minority” language. Consequently, even when talking about the towns and landscape most of us are speaking a “foreign” language. It’s good that some areas are restoring the Gaelic place names alongside the English. i would love to see the old County names and boundaries restored,
    Also, the Regions were created to foil the Independence movement during the Heath government. The Unitary Authorities ditto during the Major government. As Lesley Riddoch points out, we have a huge democratic deficit, unique in Europe, with such vast areas and populations with so few representatives.

  6. Many of the names in Scotland’s southern provinces predate Gaelic and Anglian toponymy. Glasgow, Lanark, Paisley, Linlithgow. Peebles, Bathgate, Carluke, Penicuik etc are Cumbric a northern form of Welsh. This is a linguistic substrate almost obliterated by the unionist uniformity myth-machine. We are a culturally complex nation. Gaelic, Nynorn, Scottis are our cultural patrimony. We promoted Inglis and its cultural worldview at their expense. Nuff said?

    • The problem with reviving Shetlandic and Orkney Norn is that surviving texts in the language are few and far between. Unlike Cornish, which has been successfully revived, there’s not enough surviving information to be able to discern the details of the language’s phonology and structure – other than the fact that it seemed to be very similar to Faroese. Even though there is far more surviving information on Traditional Cornish, a lot of educated guesswork has gone into the modern revived forms of the language. With a revived Norn, almost everything would be conjectural.

      For the same reason a revival of Cumbric or Pictish is impossible. There’s just not enough surviving information. There are place names and the occasional isolated word, but it would be like trying to bring a T-Rex back to life on the basis of two teeth and a toe bone.

      But it’s certainly the case that Scotland has a rich, complex, and fascinating linguistic heritage and history.

      • i was not suggesting a revival of Cumbric, whose literature Y Gododdin etc we know only through early Welsh, but an acknowledgement that an ancient “British” kingdom lasted in southern Scotland until the 11th century; probably the cultural milieu from which the authentic, not Mel Gibsonesque, William Wallace ie Welshman sprang. Not many Scots seem to know anything about this hidden history and the way in which that Welsh (and Pictish) undercurrent actually shaped the syntactic, lexical and grammatical development of the Irish language on Scottish soil. We have cultural and linguistic links with Ireland, Wales, England, France and Scandinavia. Celebrating these adds zest to our story. An enthusiast revived and planned, almost single handedly, what we know as modern Hebrew; a natural language but a “confected” one. Already a book-language 2000 years ago he made it “speakable” by augmenting its small vocabulary from Aramaic and Arabic sources. Norn enthusiasts are stamping Orkney and Shetlandic features, from surviving texts, on Faroese with fascinating results. From small seeds….

  7. Gaelic place-names are present everywhere in Scotland. On my daily commute out of Kirkcaldy I pass places called Inverteil, Kilrie, Auchtertool, Balmule, Dalgety and Inverkeithing.

    Mind you, on the same route there are also very ‘Pictish’ names like Pitteadie and Aberdour alongside thoroughly Scots ones like Stenhouse and Queensferry. we have an exceptionally rich cultural history which our scholars are only starting to investigate properly.

    • There is an excellent 5 volume set of Fife place names which was published recently by an academic at Glasgow Uni. I’ve also done a Gaelic map of Fife on the same scale as the Glasgow map, based on the information in these books. According to these books, Gaelic was widespread in Fife until the late 13th century, and probably clung on in parts of the county for several generations more.

  8. I have a wonderful book called ‘Canon Taylor’s Names and Places’ which I bought on a bookstall in Manchester. It shows how can chart the movements of people’s by the etymology of the place names.

    For example the River Esk literally means ‘River River’ as, when the newcomers asked the native inhabitants what was the name of the river, they replied, “uisge” which is Gaelic for water or river, because they didn’t need a name for it as, living beside it, they needed only to refer to ‘The River’. This shows you the original inhabitants spoke Gaelic and the incomers spoke a version of English.

    This also explains why there are so many River Esks!

    He also points out how you can trace the original banks of the Firth of Tay as many villages on the north bank have names which begin with ‘Inch’, for example, Inchcoonans and Inchture denoting the fact that they were originally islands. Pretty much any place and that ends in -ay or -ey or begins I- is or was an island, e.g. Ronaldsay or Iona.

    If you can find the book it’s well worth a read.

    • Gododdin is the later Welsh form of the tribal name Votadini – which also gives an idea of just how massive and far reaching were the sound changes which Celtic languages experienced in the late Roman period. Modern Gaelic and Welsh look very very different, but in Roman times their ancestors were very similar to one another. The older Celtic sound w (written V by the Romans) turned into gw or g in Welsh, but into f in Gaelic.

      The Votadini / Gododdin dominated the Lothians. The poem Y Gododdin tells the story of the Battle of Cartraeth, believed to be Catterick in Yorkshire, when the men of Gododdin were defeated by the Anglosaxons of Northumbria. The defeat spelled the end of the kingdom of Gododdin. The poem survives in later Welsh copies, but was almost certainly originally composed in southern Scotland.

      The Cumbric kingdom of Strathclyde survived another 350 years, and was finally absorbed into Scotland in the early 1000s, although it had been under strong Gaelic cultural and political influence for many many years prior to that, and Gaelic was already widespread throughout much of the kingdom.

      It’s not clear how later Cumbric differed from Welsh. It was certainly very similar, but was probably a distinct dialect. It is thought that Cumbric may have survived as late as the early 1200s in the upper Tweed district. Apart from place and personal names, it’s attested only in three words recorded in a Mediaeval Scots law text.

      Pictish was another descendant of the Celtic tongue of the pre Roman Britons. It’s not at all certain how it differed from Cumbric or Welsh, but the Anglosaxon scholar Bede listed Pictish as one of the languages of the island of Britain, along with Scottish (Gaelic), English, British (Welsh) and Latin. One theory holds that Pictish was a variety of Brittonic Celtic which came under strong and sustained Gaelic influence from an early date – even before the Romans left southern Britain and largely escaped the strong Latin influence found in Old Welsh.

      As you can probably tell, all this stuff fascinates me. But even so, it still doesn’t figure in my top 20 reasons for Scottish independence.

      • Wow! A book in here I think. It does make nonsense of the claim that by voting for independence we would be leaving Britain as the Britons are probably now living in Wales!

  9. My Dad came from Millport, and I remember as a child him telling me the Gaelic roots of the farm names like Port Righ (Portrye) and so on. The king being Haakon, I gather. Battle of Largs and all that.

    He barely spoke a word of Gaelic, but his father spoke a little and his father was fluent. So it goes. It was Arran Gaelic our family used to speak, as we came from Lochranza originally (not the Borders as everyone thinks when I tell them my name), and I think it’s practically died out. I feel a bit cheated actually.

  10. Paul,
    Seeing as you won’t accept donations,there is currently a Gaelic map of Scotland on it’s way to Australia.(by way of NNS)
    Your wit and passion always makes your blog a great read.

  11. Since my closest station is Paisley Saint James (Eaglais Sheumais Phàislig according to Scotrail),
    why have you got Pairc Chluain Fheargais? Is that Ferguslie Park as opposed to the station?

    • Yes, it’s Ferguslie Park. The map doesn’t show the train station names, just the location of the station and the name of the district. It doesn’t show the names Glasgow Central or Glasgow Queen Street either.

      I also did a Gaelic version of the Scotrail map which has all the stations on it. That was one of the first I did and there are lots of mistakes in it and names I later found better information on. I keep meaning to revise it.

  12. Just catching up on my reading and started looking at the map, it was phenomenal, to read place names I know so well but subtly different was a joy. A superb reminder that part of the reason Scotland is different is because, daft as it sounds to say it, we are. Thanks for this Paul, now comes the fun part of persuading the Better Half that the Newsnet one would look good in the hall beside the painting of the Buachaille!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.