Fascinating field names

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At the most recent monthly meeting of Forfar and District Historical Society, well-known farmer and local historian David Orr provided a fascinating and informative insight into the origins of the names given to farms, pendicles and fields, along with amusing stories of how farmers often named their fields with a little of their own humorous and quirky view of the land which they worked.

A classic example of this was a field called ‘bare-breeks’, indicating that the yield from this ground fell far short of what the farmer would have liked!

There were many small farms that have disappeared as they were absorbed into much larger units, but their names live on as field-names.

However, the early nineteenth century saw the growth of the practice of enclosing fields, and this saw an equal growth in the naming, which might be based on numerous factors, such as direction from the home farm, eg ‘North Mains’, topographical features such as ‘Bogside’ or named after prominent local agricultural figures.

The audience were taken by David on a journey from Kirriemuir to Forfar, with stories of the names of various places along the route, some of which the traveller may pass daily without knowing the history.

How many know that the village of Padanaram was formerly known as Ellenorton? The names have continued to evolve in the present day when the field systems have been affected by events such as the construction of the dual carriageways, which may have cut straight through individual farmlands. The virtual journey was illustrated with photographs, maps and plans, and the speaker was warmly applauded for making the ‘tour’ come to life.

The next meeting of the Society will be on Thursday, February 2 at 7.30 pm in the East and Old Parish Church Hall, when Professor Richard Oram of the University of Stirling will speak about Restenneth Priory and its Estates. Non-members are welcome to attend this and other meetings.