Adam discovers what’s in a name

Adam's book
Adam's book

A new book published by ‘Mr Cairngorms’, Dr. Adam Watson, looks into some of familiar and not-so-familiar place names around the North east.

Adam, who has devoted his life to scientific study of the cairngorms and the surrounding areas, has reported his findings in ‘Place names in much of North- east Scotland: Hill, glen, lowland, coast, sea, folk’.

It joins his writings over the last 58 years, which include over 20 books and many hundreds of scientific and other publications.

The 400 page tome follows Adam’s search finding some 16,000 place names, many of which he feels are in danger of being forgotten.

Dr. Watson told the Piper: “I did a big study of the place names of Upper Deeside in the 1970s which was published in a book. Years later I realised that there were still many local names that weren’t on the map.”

Adam started to investigate these names and collected them into a new piece of work chronicling them with phonetic symbols so they were readable to all.

The author also interview the last fluent speaker of the Strathspey dialect of Gaelic, and a native speaker of the west- Sutherland dialect before they passed away.

This gave him a deeper understanding of where some of the names originated.

“Many of these names are in danger of being forgotten. Local gamekeepers, farmers, ghillies and fishermen used to be born and raised in the area and keep the names alive. Now with farms being so big and field enlargement happening the use of field names has declined.

“Many aren’t from the area now so these names dies out.”

Adam spoke about the Anglicisation of some of the names: “Lots of the names are of Gaelic or Scots origin which were frequently Anglicised. Surveyors would come from all over the UK and would speak to the local minister or doctor, rather than the farmer or fisherman. By speaking to the more educated people they would often note the name in English rather than in the traditional Scots or Gaelic.”

Included in the book are many vibrant colour photographs to illustrate the names.

Bert MacIntosh, of Macintosh plant hire, financially supported the publication.

He paid tribute to Dr. Watson: “I’ve now know this man for, must be, 55 years. He is an icon of the area and simply irreplaceable.

“Right from the start he has had the foresight to record local history as it is happening before it is lost forever. We need people like him and it is completely my honour to support this publication.”

It is said few people know more about the flora and fauna of the Cairngorms than Adam.

Born and educated in Turiff, he gained a 1st class honours in Pure Science (Zoology) at the University of Aberdeen. In the same year (1952), he won the MacGillivray Prize, Department of Natural History at Aberdeen University.

The book is priced £19.99 and available locally.