Place-Names of the Original John Muir Way: A talk by Liz Curtis

February 2023

This month we will be looking at some slides from a DDHS talk by place-name expert Liz Curtis. Liz studied the origins of some of the places along the original John Muir Way – from Musselburgh to Dunglass. The John Muir Way as we know it today goes from Helensburgh to Dunbar. Liz kindly offered the examples below, with some explanation.

The first slide below shows the range of languages from which East Lothian names originate and this is because over the centuries a number of different peoples have migrated to East Lothian and settled here. The slide (best enlarged) gives the origin of the word Tyne and beneath that is BLITON – Brittonic Language in the Old North – and you can read more about this here. 

Languages influencing place names (Click on all slides to enlarge – recommended)

The next slide below shows three Old English words for farm settlements: hām, wīc and tūn (which later became ton). These appear in the names Tyninghame, North Berwick and East Linton. North Berwick is from Old English berewīc, meaning ‘barley farm’. It was recorded as Norberewic in a 12th-century charter. The term wīc also appears in Hedderwick, which is ‘heather farm’ and Liz noted in her talk that traditionally heather was used by country folk for things such as brooms and making beer.

Origin of North Berwick

The final slide from this fascinating talk refers to two names found on local golf courses. Hole 3 of Winterfield Golf Course is named Pin Cod after a dramatic rock close to the Dunbar cliff path. Pin cod is Scots for ‘pin cushion’ which well describes
the rock in question.

Hole 17 of Dunbar Golf Course is called Fluke Dub after a nearby tidal pool. Fluke dub is Scots for ‘flounder pool’ and describes a pool where fish become stranded when the tide ebbs. It is marked on OS Explorer map no. 351 at NT694782. The Ordnance
Survey Name Book of 1853-54 describes it here. Note that the original text is at the top of the page: scroll down for the transcription.

Golfing terms and their origin

Liz recommended the Scottish Place-Name Society‘s website as the gateway to information on the subject. Its Useful Links section lists many valuable resources for researchers. Liz also delved into the origin of several other names in the talk which was
appreciated by the audience and the speaker was rewarded by a hearty DDHS round of applause.