W.J. Watson 'The Celtic Placenames of Scotland'
W.F.H. Nicolaisen 'Scottish Place-Names'
JB Johnson 'Place-names of Scotland'
GWS Barrow 'The Uses of Place-Names (Ed. Simon Taylor)
Hugh Lorimer 'A Corner of Old Strathclyde'
Alexander Murdoch 'Ochiltree Its History and Reminiscences'
CH Dick 'Highways & Byways in Galloway and Carrick'
Malcolm MacLennan 'Gaelic Dictionary'
The Pocket Scots Dictionary (Aberdeen University Press)
Johan Blaeu 'Atlas Novus, Coila Provincia'
POL- Cumbric pol 'burn, stream'
GWS Barrow provides an insight into the distribution of the element pol- throughout
Scotland and in particular its predominance in upper Nithsdale . He concludes that pol
was the standard term for burn in this vicinity and that this early British name failed to be
influenced by Old English , Gaelic or Scots (i.e. pow -).
The parish of New Cumnock makes a substantial contribution to the upper Nithsdale
population of pol- names . It should be noted that although all the names appear in modern
maps beginning with pol-, a number of them given by Timothy Pont in the 16th century
began with pow or polw, suggesting some Scots infleunce. Furthermore the local
pronunciation of pol in all these names is puh, pih or pah with the 'l' silent . The modern-
day names along with where available the Pont equivalents and suggestions for meanings
are given below
Pollach Burn (Pouloifh) - [Gaelic] leac 'stone burn'
Polmath Burn (Polmatth, Polmoth) - [Gaelic] math 'good burn'
Polquhap Burn (Powhaip)frothy - [Gaelic] cop 'frothy burn'
Polquheys (Powhois, PolwhouB) -[Scandinavian] quoy, [Scots] whey 'pool of
Polquhirter Burn (Polwhyrtyr, Powwhyrtir) - [Gaelic] cairtear ' carter's burn'
Polshill Burn (Poufhil, Poulfhell) shielling - [Scots] shielling 'sheilling, hut burn'
Polstacher Burn -[Scandinavian] stakker ? - 'stack burn'
Powkelly Burn [Cumbric] caled 'hard water burn' [Gaelic] coille 'wooded burn'
Pumarleuch Burn marlach 'boundary-stone, march burn' cf. Polmarlach (Kirkconnel)
BURN, LANE, SYKE, GRAIN
BURN - the vast majority of water-courses in the parish carry the name burn . As
seen above the element pol appears to have been adopted as the standard term for
many burns in the parish- but even these end with the word burn e.g. Polquhirter
Burn. The word burn has its origins in [Old English] burna 'brook'. There are too
many burns to list them all and many of the names are self explanatory or adopt the
names of hills or farms . Nevertheless there also others with intriguing names e.g.
Blueboots Burn, Bitch Burn, Peddinnan Burn.
LANE : In the south west of Scotland the word lane is used to describe ' marshy
meadow or a slow-moving windy stream' . This prefectly describes the Beoch
Lane which winds its way slowly from Benbeoch and then through the Burnston
bog to join the River Nith . Beoch is from the [Gaelic] beithe achadh 'birch
wood'. ( A Scots equivalent is found in the east of the parish in the form of Birk
Burn ). Similarily the Lane Burn which starts at Lanehead passes through some
marsh-land before joining the Nith a mile downstream from the Beoch.
SYKE : The word syke is another Scots term for a 'small stream associated with
boggy ground'. Examples in New Cumnock include Whitelaysyke, Cameronsike
and Peat sike.
GRAIN : In Scots the word grain describes 'branch, offshoot of a burn, river'
.The only example I can find is the Grain Burn which joins Muirfoor Burn near
An ancient prehistoric loch once covered much of the parish of New Cumnock . Some
idea of the extent of this can be seen when the River Nith burst its banks and floods the
adjoinging meadows. However, all that remains are a numbe of small lochs, three of
which carry names . The Black Loch no doubt takes its name from the dark
appearance of the water. The Creoch Loch takes is name from the Creoch farm-
dwellings which in turn are from the [Gaelic] crioch 'boundary'. Finally, there is quaintly
named Loch o' the Lowes at the foot of Lowesmuir. JB Johnston offers [Middle
English] law, 'low' for the its namesake at St. Mary's Loch in the Borders, whereas
Hugh Lorimer suggests the name Lowes is derived from the personal name Lothus ,
brother of Urien of Rheged.
There are numerous wells dotted about the landscape and there is a Wellhill. Only two of
these wells carry names and sadly neither seem to have any religous overtones that may
claim some antiquity. Blubber Well at the side of Garclaugh Burn probably seems to
describe the action of the water. Whereas Gowkthorn Well on the slopes of Corsencon
hill appears to contain the [Scots] gowk 'cuckoo', and therefore Gowkthorn is the
'cuckoo's thorn-bush' well. Thorn bushes were noted as marking meeting places, i.e.
'trysting thorns' (Jenny's Thorn is found on the Connel Burn). Perhaps, Gowkthorn
Well is where Rabbie Burns rested en-route to Ellisland to collecting his thoughts for 'O
were I on Parnassus Hill.'.
History of the Parish
of New Cumnock
by Robert Guthrie