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Far-ainmean Bhailtean Ionadail (Pàirt 3): A' Mhachair Rois agus a' Mhachair Chait

Far-ainmean Bhailtean Ionadail (Pàirt 3): A' Mhachair Rois agus a' Mhachair Chait

Posted by Calum on 21st October, 2021
At long last, we are back! We have returned to nicknames of local towns in Easter Ross this time. Have you read Part 1 or Part 2 yet?
We are going to the land of my heritage this time, going to Easter Ross and East Sutherland and we shall have a look the nicknames, be they bad or good, about each town there and their meanings. The nicknames of the towns were found in the two books “Saoghal Bana-mharaiche,” Seòsamh Watson, and “Scottish Gaelic Studies, Vol. XXIX.”
Easter Ross
1.Hilton, Balintore and Shandwick – “Na Trì Puirt-mora [mara]” [“The Three Sea-ports.”] There is an idiom with this name of them: “An leanabh as fheàrr a rugadh anns na Trì Port-Mara,” [“The best baby that was born in the three sea-ports.”]

2. Hilton – “Na ‘Thilgean is na Pilgean’” [“The ‘Higgledies and the Pilgies’”] agus “Na Dubhain” [“The Hooks”]. The shape of the town is somewhat loopy and abstract in comparison to the other towns so that is the reason that they say the town is quite “higgeldy-piggledy!” Hilton is to the North of the Three Sea-Ports just as a hook will be at the head of a fishing-rod [you can see later on below for more about that imagery.] 

3. Balintore – “Sgalltairean” [“Jellyfishes”] and “Àbaich” [“The Abbots”]. An old Abbey used to be in the town, before Fearn Abbey was built, therefore the name stuck. A “Sgalltair” is the local name for a “muir-teachd” [“Jellyfish”].

4. Shandwick – “Na Seanndlairean” [“The Chandlers”] agus “Na Slaiteirean” [“The Rods”] – If the “Abbots” are the people in Balintore perhaps the chandlers came from Shandwick. It is not surprising that “Baile-chèiridh” [“Pitkerrie,” “Town of the Wax”] is on the outside of the towns that would make candles for them too! If “the hooks” are the Hilton folk then “the rods” must be the Shandwick folk as the well!

5. The Bard (a row of houses between Balintore and Shandwick) – “Na Bàrdanaich” [“The Bard-folk”].

6. Gaza – “Gàsa” [“Gaza”]. The people of the town, south of Portmahomack, this nickname because it was said that the minister was in the town and he gave them this bad nickname of the townsfolk because they would not attend his services. 

7. Tain – “Na Bodaich” [“The Old men”]. There is a satiric verse about specific group of people o the town: “Na bodaich gòrach! Sìor òl, ’s ag iarraidh tuille!” [“The silly old men! Always drinking, and wanting more!”]

8. Easter Ross itself(?) – “An Èipheit” [“Egypt”]. There is a good chance that that no-body ever called Easter Ross “Egypt”, but there is a great verse would make people think that though: “Creid thu mis’, chan eil e faras,
Creid thu mis’, chan eil e faras,
Creid thu mis’, chan eil e faras,
Dul a chapadh an Èiphit.”
[“Believe you me, it isn’t easy,
Believe you me, it isn’t easy,
Believe you me, it isn’t easy,
Going to hoe Egypt.”]
Easter Ross is a somewhat sandy and fertile area, so that could make a person think that they’re labouring in Egypt.
A’ Mhachair Chait
1. Dornoch – “Na Mogan” [“The Boot-hoses”]. This nickname is what the Embo folk say to Dornoch folk in the programme “Mar a chunnaic mise,” about Gaelic in Easter Sutherland. Apparently there was a verse in english for this too:“Embo lassies are bonnie lassies
And so are the Golspies too;
But before we would marry a Dornoch mog
We would travel the whole world through.”
To be fair to the Dornoch folk though there is a bad report of the Rosses in the transciption “Verse, Story and Fragments from various districts” by Hugh Barron in Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness; “Cleas na Rosaich aig an dannsa” [“The appearance of the Rosses at the dance”]. I am not so fond of this saying but perhaps they were talking about Clan Rose?.. I hope that that’s the case anyway!

There is a children's verse that is interesting to note as well:
“Thèid sinn, thèid sinn thairis air an t-sruth,
Thèid sinn, thèid sinn gu Dòrnach.
Chì sinn na beanntaichean ’glèidheadh sneachd an geamhraidh
Chì sinn na caileagan bòidheach.”
[“We shall go, we shall go across the stream,
We shall go, we shall go to Dornoch.
We shall see the mountains that would keep the snow of winter
We shall see the beautiful lassies.”]
This song is connected to “Òran do Chataibh,” by Iain Rothach from the area of Creich, East Sutherland. You can hear it here on "Fuaran's" website, the heritage program.
2. “Dòrnach a’ bheach, Goillspidh an gort.”[“Dornoch of the Beach, Golspie of the field.”]
2. “Baile Dhuthaich bòidheach, Dòrnach na gort’,
Eunabhal na h-adagan, Goillspidh na’ sligean dubh,
’s Brùra mìn-choirc’.”
[“Beautiful Tain, Golspie of the field,
Embo of the haddocks, Golspie of the black shells
And Brora of oatmeal.”]
3. “Goillspidh goirt, ’g ith a’ mhin a’ choirc’,
Eunabol dhubh ’g ith na sligean dubh.”
[“Golspie of the field, eating the oatmeal,
Black Embo eating the black shells.”]
4. “Baile Dhuthaich bhòidheach, ’s Dornoch nan gorta,
Sgiobal nan Ubhlan, ’s Bil an arain choirce.
Eribol nan adagan, Dunrobain a’ chàil,
Goillspidh nan sligean dubha, ’us Druim-uidh an t-sàil.”
[“Beautiful Tain, Dornoch of the fields,
Sgibble of the Apples, and Bill of oatcakes
Embo of the haddocks, Dunrobin of the kail,
Golspie of the black shells”]
And Drummy of the seawater.”]

5. “Goillspidh goirt ’g ith a’ mhin-choirc’,
Eunabal dhubh, ’g ith na sligean dubh;
Baile Dhubhthaich bòidheach, Dòrnach na goirt,
Goillspidh na sligean dubh, Brùra min choirce.”
[“Golspie of the field eating the oatmeal,
Black Embo, eating the black shells;
Beautiful Tain, Dornoch of the field,
Golspie of the black shells, Brora of oatmeal.”]
1. Gallaibh – “Na Gollachan” [“The Caithnessians.”]
There will be another chance to look at nicknames of local towns another time. Do you know any of the nicknames above? Do you have a far-ainmean, or a frith-ainmean yourself? Let us know on facebooktwitter and our own website!
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