Welcome to the joys of place name study in Scotland and the struggle against the ANGLO-SAXON HERESY (ASH), which stifles it.
What’s in a name? Everything! Never mind Romeo. It is the history of a place and its people and can turn any landscape into a fascinating panorama of the past. And whether we like it or not, history is all that we have and its record should be treasured.
Traprain Law, tells us that the first part is Old Welsh, Brythonic, Tref pren, ‘Tree steading’ and the Law, Old Norse, Lög, ‘Law’, which came to mean a ‘hill’ because of the Old Norse custom of reading out the laws from a hill or rock.
This hill was only known as Traprain, after a nearby hamlet, from the late 18th. century. Before that we find it on old maps as Dunpendyrlaw. Dunpelder (l often becomes n), is Gaelic, Dun, ‘fort’ and Brythonic, paladur , ‘spear shaft’ according to Prof. Watson. In Welsh dictionaries it is given as a ‘scythe’, but that is a minor detail. We get the idea. Also although not recorded, because of the Brythonic provenance of this name it was certainly called Dinpaladur, before a later Gaelic hand changed the Din to Dun.
You will also have observed the three languages, Old Norse, the language of the Vikings(Norwegian variety), Gaelic, language of the Scots of Ireland and Scotland(Alba) and Brythonic, the language of the Brythons, of whom the Picts were a branch. These three languages are intertwined in this magnificent hill name. ‘East Lothian’ has an Old Norse provenance.
Now for the contentious bit. Most place name experts and historians claim that what I describe as Old Norse is really Old English, or a dialect of it, because they claim southern Scotland was settled by Old English speakers in the 7th./8th. centuries. Any Norse words found in southern Scotland being merely the result of Danish settlers in England migrating North and introducing them at a later stage. This is taught in our Scottish schools and is featured in our Scots Dictionaries. It is the basis for innumerable mis-translations of Scots place names or non-translations, condemning thousands of names to the fate of anonymity. Silent sign posts, in dumb ignorance of the wonderful stories all around. This is the basis of the Anglo-Saxon heresy, whichI first read about in the last letter of Robert Louis Stevenson to his brother in 1894. It gave me strength at a time when I was rather overawed by the opinions of the experts from the universities
and our national dictionaries and place name experts. I owe further appreciation to
the work of Dorothy Dunnett, in “King Hereafter”, and her historical research which
Showed to my satisfaction, and that of the Historiographer Royal, that MacBeth,
king of Scots in the 11th. century was the adopted name of Earl Thorfinn,
the Norse ruler of Orkney, Galloway and ten other earldoms in Scotland, making
him by far the most powerful man in Scotland..
Thanks to the inspiration provide by these two writers, I (Iain M.M.Johnstone- see About) have produced two books on Scots place name. The first, ‘Viking Place Names of East Lothian’- ‘Of Whales and Dwarves’ Pub. 6th. Oct. 2005, will be followed soon after by ‘Place Names of Scotland’-(Facts and Frauds), which takes in the Celtic and Norse names of Scotland.
The main purpose of this site is to open up the debate on the true origin of our non-Celtic tongue, to get rid of the Anglo-Saxon heresy, and to prepare the ground for my discovery of hundreds/thousands of place names which up till now had no proper identity.