The thread about Auchingane; a pleasant corner of 1980s suburbia with an unusual 16th century name and what it can tell us about language use

This thread was originally written and published in April 2022. It has been lightly edited and corrected as applicable for this post.

Sometimes in one’s daily trawling of the estate agents’ listings for funky carpets and bath suites, you come across an unusual street that name you don’t recognise. Auchingane was one such name for me.

73 Auchingane: for sale
73 Auchingane: for sale

Auch– place names are nearly always from Gaelic and Auchen or Auchin are nearly always from Achadh, or field. The only other Edinburgh Auch– placename is Auchinleck’s Brae (and by extension, Court) in Newhaven, named for a former landowner; Auchinleck being a village in Ayrshire with a Gaelic name – Achadh an Leac, “Field of Flat Stones”.

Mr Auchinleck's, Ainslie's Town Plan of 1804, Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Mr Auchinleck’s, Ainslie’s Town Plan of 1804, Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

There are a few more Auchs in Midlothian, e.g. Auchendinny and Auchencorth by Penicuik, and there’s Auchinoon Hill in West Lothian – all with Achadh/field derivations; Fields of height or fortress; of a standing stone; and of wool, respectively.

Back to Auchingane, it’s an unusual and rather obscure one. It’s recorded as early as 1554 as a portion of land, joined with Dreghorn in 1606. The original place may have been in the vicinity of what William Roy curiously calls Showerhole on his 1750 Lowland Map

Showerhole on William Roy's lowland map, 1750s. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Showerhole on William Roy’s lowland map, 1750s. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

The likely derivation of Auchingane is Achadh nan Gaimhne, Field of Stirks (yearling cows). It was probably therefore a particularly good bit of pasture for such beasts at one time. Beyond the modern streetname, it’s not a place ever included in an OS map for Edinburgh (or even recorded in the OS Name Books of Midlothian that I can find). Someone at Edinburgh District Council (as it was) obviously had a very long memory when they resurrected it in 1985 for a new housing scheme.

Such placenames as these are particularly interesting as they are direct evidence that the Gaelic language was in common enough use in these parts in late Medieval times that it was being used to give names to places. Even in a city and county long dominated by the Scots and then English languages, Gaelic has always been there – and still is – It’s just hiding in plain sight.

There is at least one other Auchingane in Scotland – a farmstead south of Falkirk. It is recorded by Roy as Achindean and by the Ordnance Survey in their name books for Stirlingshire as Auchingane.

OS namebook for Stirlingshire
OS namebook for Stirlingshire

However it’s also given in the maps of the OS variously as Auchingeen, Auchingean and Auchengean. The latter seems to be the accepted modern form; an impressive array of spellings for such a small place over only less than 100 years! It is still maintained as Auchingane however in the book of geological place names as it lends itself to one of the coal bearing strata of the Scottish Central coalfield.

The Dalgleish family at Auchengean Farm in 1963, photo via Falkirk Council Collections © Margaret Dalgleish

If you have found this useful, informative or amusing and would like to help contribute towards the running costs of this site (including keeping it ad-free) or to the book-buying budget, why not consider supporting me on ko-fi.

These threads © 2017-2023, Andy Arthur

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s