Attribution: Anne Gordon & Barbara Scott (Nigg Old Parish Church)


Nig 1227;
G. ‘n eig, the notch (locative of eag).
The notch in question may be that cut by the bay of Nigg; but it is noteworthy that the parish church, which has always apparently occu-pied the same site, stands on the edge of a V-shaped gully, and on the analogy of other parish names it is perhaps safer to regard this gully as the notch which gave its name first to the church and then to the parish; c£ Eigg, and Nigg near Aberdeen.

Ballewallie; G. bail’ a’ bhealaidh. Between it and Balintore is Doru.s na(m) b, door, or pass, of the kine.

G. seannduaig, from Norse sand-vik, sand-bay.
1n Islay the same combination gives Sanaig. A plan of the land about Shandwick, dated 1786, shews the following:-Tobar na .slainte, well of health; Stronmore, the big point; Walter’s Seat; Craggan, the little rock; Cull lish,’ back or nook of the enclosure; Crot kerk, Hen’s Crof’t; Crot Ganich, Sandy Croft; Crot Oich; Fisher Crofts; Ballnamorich, Fisher-town; (Cromlet, the bent slope; Leatcanum, the bent hill-side ; Clasinore,? Claisean mora, the big furrows: .Rihindow, black slopes; Cocli kinich; (i.e., Cach-aileith Coinnich), Kenneth’s gate.

Rarichie (Easter and Wester)-
Rarechys 1333,
Raricheis 1368;
G. Rath-riachaidh shios agus R. shuas.
Fort of scratching (as by brambles), satisfies the phonetics. The foundations of a circular fort still exist on a hillock, with well-marked fosse at foot, near the farmhouse of Easter Rarichie. The former existence of wood is proved by its name, Cnoc coille na tobarach, Well-wood Hill. Cf. Dunriachie, a hill fort in the parish of Dores, Inverness. The latter part of the compound may, however, be riabhach, dappled, with -idh exten-sion. The local derivation is as follows:-The Picts lived at Cadha ‘n ruigh, and in spring-time they would say, ‘ tiugamaid ‘bhan ‘dheanamh rotha riachagan,’ let us go down to make rows of scratches ‘ (to sow seed in).
Easter Rarichie includes Cnoc Coinnich, Ken-neth’s Hill; an Torran shuas and an Torran shios, the wester and the easter hillock.

Lower Rarichie -G. Bail’ a’ phuill, Pool-town.

Drumdil -G. Druim(a) daol, Beetle-ridge, west of Wester Rarichie. Below it is Croit Bhreunan, the little rotten croft.

Pitcalnie -Pitcahan 1662; G. Baile-chailnidh; ‘1’ silent in English; an obscure name.

Pitculzean -Revived as the name of Westfield, which was of old Meikle Pitcalzean; Pitcalzeane 1581, Pitcalzean 1598; G. Bail’ a’ choillean, town of the little wood, as is proved by Tobar na coille, well of the wood, on the place.

Culnahaw 1611;
G. Cul-na-h-atha, Kiln–nook or Kiln-back, for it is practically impossible in such cases to distinguish cuil, recess, from cul, back. With it goes Cadh’ a’ bhreacaich, path of the spotted place.

Culnald cum ustrina lie kill die Nig,, 1634 (Culnald with the kiln, called the kiln of Nigg); Burn-nook, now part of Nigg Farm. The streamlet in question flows through the gully at Nigg Church.

Strath of Pitcalnie
Culderare 1611;
G. Srath chuilt-eararaidh; eararadh is the process of parching corn; cuilt occurs passim in Perthshire and elsewhere, e.g., a chuilt rainich, the ferny ‘ cuilt ‘; doubtless the Aberdeenshire Cult-s. The meaning of this obsolete word seems to be some-thing like ‘ nook’; it may be cuil, O. Ir. cuil, with excrescent ‘ t.’ (Cuilt-eararaidh would thus mean the nook of parching. In this Strath is Cnoc Ghaisgeach. From a loch in the hill above it flows Allt an damhain (O.S.M. Aultandown), burn of the little ox.

Kindeis Wester, within the barony of Ballinbreich, 1650 Ret.; Bank-town Near it is Cnoc na h-iolaire, Eagle-hill.

Balnapaling -A hybrid, Paling-town; there were a number of small plots of land separated by ‘ palings.’

G. (Caisteal Chrag (sic); now the name of a farm, on which may yet be traced the lines of the castle built by William the Lion in 1179. Its name was Dun Sgath, fort of dread, now English Dunskaith. The farm of Castlecraig includes several holdings formerly distinct: an Annaid, the Annat (Annot 1611; Rhidorach, the dark slope; Culbinn, back (or nook) of the hill, and Dunsgath, Dunskaith.

Formerly Meikle Kindeace;
G. Cinndeis mhor, or Cinndeis Rob’son shuas, Wester Kin-deace of Robertson, from William Robertson, a burgess of Inverness, who bought it and the following in 1629. The name was changed to Bayfield by John Mackenzie, commander of the ‘Prince Kaunitz,’ who bought the estate about 1788 (v. Nevile Reid’s ‘Earls of Ross’).

G. Cinn-deis bhig, Little Kindeace; also Easter Kindeace; bought in 1721 by Alex-ander Ross (locally known as Polander Ross), late merchant at Cracow, who changed the name (v.’ Earls of Ross ‘ and N.S.A.)-v. Kindeace in Kilmuir Easter.

Carse of Bayfield -G. Mor’oich Cinndeis, Carse of Kindeace, or simply, a Mhor’oich.

Culisse 1296;
Culuys 1351;
Culliss alias Cullenderie, 1642;
G. Cu1 an lios, back of the ‘lios ;’ lios, now garden, formerly meant an enclosure or fort with an earthen wall; cf. Lismore. Rare in northern place-names. Near Culliss was Muileann Ach-railean, Achrailean Mill, cf. Badrallich in Lochbroom.

Blackhill -G. an cnoc dubh.

Hill of Nigg -G. Binn Nig; of old ‘ the Bishop’s Forest.’

Big Audle
A channel in the bay, from Norse vaoill, a ford. There is also an oitir, the sea-bank.

The Three Kings
G. Creag Harail, Harold’s Rock.
This skerry of the Nigg coast is called in the N.S.A. The King’s Sons. The story goes that three sons of a Danish prince, sailing to avenge their sister’s wrongs, were wrecked here. Their graves were marked by the sculptured stones of Hilton, Shandwick, and Nigg. Another legend of their burial is given below.

Of all Ross-shire parishes, Nigg is, in proportion to its size, the richest in wells. Most have names, but some that appear in the following list no longer rise to the surface at their proper place:-
Tobar Cormaig -Cormac’s well, at Shandwick farm-house.

Tobar Cnoc Coinnich -Well of Kenneth’s hill, i.e., the hill above Easter Rarichie.

Glagaig -Now closed, to the south of the road at Torran shuas, ‘the little noisy one;’ c£ glagan, the clapper of a mill; glagar, a prating fellow.

Sul ba -Cows’ eye, i.e., well-eye at which cattle came to drink; in front of the old curate’s house at Easter Rarichie.

Tobar na h-iu– At the wester side of Cnoc coille na tobarach, Well-wood hill, which is the Gaelic name of the so-called Fairyhill or Danish fort, really a Celtic hill fort, at Easter Rarichie. Hard by this well once stood a tree whose branches bent over the water, and while the tree stood, the well cured ‘ white swelling.’ The tree was cut, and the well struck. The following rhyme in connection with this tale shows the sort of feeling with which such wells were regarded:-

Tobar na h-iu, Tobar na h-iu,
‘s ann duit bu chumha bhi uasal;
tha leabaidh deis ann an iuthairnn
do ‘n fhear a ghearr a’ chraobh mu d’ chluasan.
Well of the yew, Well of thc yew! 2
to thee it is that honour is due;
a bed in hell is prepared for bim
who cut the tree about thine ears. 1.

1. The two last lines would be rendered less rugged by reading
tha leabaidh dois an iuthairnn do’n fhear
a ghear a’ chraobh mu d’ chluasan.
2. This translation supposes iu to represent Ir. eo, a yew tree.

Tobar nam puill linn– Well of the lint pools, above Wester Rarichie.

Tobar nan geala (or deala) mora -Well of the big leeches, between Wester Rarichie and Culliss.This well was insulted and is not what it was.

Tobar Sein Sutharlain – Jane Sutherland’s well, at Drumdil.

Tobar a’ bhaistidh– Baptismal well, at Ankerville, just above the old U.P. Church. Otherwise, tobair Eapaig Ghearr, Eppy Gair’s well.

Tobar Eadhain Bhaist -John Baptist’s well, beside Chapelhill Church.

Tobar a’ Choirneil -The Colonel’s well (Colonel Ross), at Nigg Farm.

Tobar na coille -At Pitcalzean; G. Bail’ a choillean.

Tobar Alaidh Bhodhsa -Sandy Vass’s well, supplies Westfield house.

Tobar Dun-Sgath -Dunskaith well.

Tobar na h-eiteachan -On the top of Nigg hill, famous water, used by the Nigg smugglers.

Tobar cadha ‘n ruigh -Ca’an ruigh well.

Tobar na slainte -Well of health, near Shandwick Village, and noted for its healing powers.

Tobar na’ muc -Pigs’ well, by the shore, west of Shandwick.

Leisgeig -The little lazy one, near Shandwick; its water comes in very small quantity.

Tobar a’ chlaidheimh duibh an Eirinn, ‘s i air ;
aghaidh na greine an port an Druidh (al. a dh-eirich an Port an Druidh)-
Well of the black sword in Erin, facing the sun in the Druid’s port (or, that rose in the Druid’s port). It does not rise, but gushes out of the rock, and is excellent water. Port an Druidh is west of Shandwick.

Besides the old churchyard at the Church of Nigg, there are, or were, four other places of burial in the parish.

At Nigg Rocks, below Cladha Neachdain, there is a graveyard, now covered with shingle. Here the Danish princes were buried. Their gravestones came from Denmark, and had iron rings fastened in them to facilitate their landing. So local tradition. This most unlikely spot for a graveyard was not selected without some good reason, the most probahle being that hermits once lived in the caves, whence the place was reckoned holy ground.

At Clach’ charaidh, the sculptured stone near Shandwick, all unbaptized infants of the parish were buried up till fairly recent times. It is now cultivated.

At Easter Rarichie -Here the curate of Nigg lived, and the field behind his house is called ‘ raon a chlaidh,’ the graveyard field. The plough goes over it now and formerly used to strike the gravestones, but these are now removed.

Near Shandwick Farm-house, to the south-west, between the sea and the rock was a graveyard, the name of which I failed to find. Some of the stones are still visible.

The following are the paths (cadha) leading to the shore beneath the rocks:-

Cadha nan caorach, sheeps’ path;

Cadha sgriodaidh, shingly path;

Cadha nan suibean, path of rasp-berries;

Cadh a’ bhodaich, the old man’s path;

Cadha a’ bhreacaich, pass of the speckled place;

Cadha Neachdain, Nectan’s path;

Cadha ‘n ruigh., path of the slope;

Cadha cul losaidh; Cadha togail toinn, a path with one difficult part where a push from behind is requisite;

Cadha port an druidh, west of Shandwick, path of the Druid’s port;

Spardan nan gobhar, goats’ roost.

Place Names of Nigg Parish

This extract was taken, with the permission of the Trustees, from Prof. W.J. Watson’s – ‘Place Names of Ross and Cromarty’. The most recent edition of this work was published by HIGHLAND HERITAGE BOOKS Tir nan Oran, 8 Culcairn Road, Evanton IV16 9YT

Place Names of Ross and Cromarty p 50 onwards

Place Names of Ross and Cromarty

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