Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

A sense of time and place: the importance of place-names

St Vigeans.
St Vigeans.

It’s easy to take place-names for granted – in fact they speak volumes about our history, geography and language. Caroline Lindsay finds out more.

In a poignant juxtapostition of old and new, V&A Dundee will be hosting a conference of the Scottish Place-Name Society on May 11, opening a window into our country’s past.

Place-names can tell us about landscape and history, as well as about people from the past, their activities, beliefs and their use of language, and the conference will start with a talk by Gillian Molloy on the origins of Dundee. Gillian, a volunteer for the city’s Friends of the Archive, explains: “Scotland has been occupied by different peoples, some of whose languages can still be traced in our place-names today.

“Dudhope, for example, probably comes from the Viking word ‘hop’ meaning a bay or sheltered area, while Baldragon comes from the Scottish Gaelic ‘Baile’ and ‘dreagan’ meaning place of the hero. ‘Ton’ is an old English place-name ending meaning homestead so the farm around the church was the Kirkton, and the one by the mill was the Milton, says Gillian, whose researches have taken her back to 14th Century sources in a labour of love stretching over many years.


“Whitfield was originally Quhitefield (Whitefield) and is so named in a document dated 1510. Possibly a plant such as bog cotton grew there turning the field white.”

Most locals will have heard of Peep o’Day Lane – it was, says Gillian, probably named after Peep o’Day mansion, owned by Hon. Walter Ogilvy of Clova.

Dr Simon Taylor, meanwhile, who will also be speaking at the conference, has found that St Vigeans monastery in Angus, founded in Pictish times, led him to early place-names there and in the medieval parishes of Arbirlot, Inverkeilor, Ethie, Panbride and Kirkbuddo. St Vigeans place-name comes from a Latinised form for Saint Feichin, who flourished in the 7th Century AD.

Dr Simon Taylor

“Place-names work on many different levels,” says Simon. “They are a basic part of the identity of a place but they are also precious relics of the past, many dating back over a thousand years, telling us about how our predecessors saw the world around them, and what was important to them. Not only that, but they tell us what languages they spoke – often it is place-names alone which allow us to say a certain language was dominant in a certain area. For example, we would not otherwise know that Gaelic had been so strong in and around Dundee (‘fort on the Tay’)if it were not for the fact that the names of many of the older settlements are from Gaelic – such as Dundee itself, Invergowrie, Craigie, Gourdie, all coined between about AD 900 and 1100.”

Gillian Molloy.

Other expert speakers including Norman Atkinson, Jacob King and Peter McNiven, will also share their local knowledge at the conference, offering an increased understanding and appreciation of the richness and history of place-names.

Non-members can apply for places at the V&A meeting. Visit for more information.


Already a subscriber? Sign in