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Parish of Durness.







Rev. ADA/n Gunn, n. a. John Mackay.

G L A S G O W :


Until 1724 this parish extended from Kyle Sku on the west to the water of Borgie, thus including modern Tongue, Durness, and Eddrachillis. It is divided by arms of the sea into three sections, the Moine district, including Eriboll; Durness proper, between the Kyle of Durness and Loch Eriboll; and the Parph district, between the Kyle of Durness and the Atlantic. Its place-names are mainly of Scandinavian origin. Durness, N. deer and nes point ; point of the deer. Various other derivations have been given, but none suits the phonetics but the above. In old MSS. and the Sagas, it is always Dyrnes.


There is a small village, Durin, which some suppose has given name to the parish, but the Gaelic of Durin is an Durinn : d is flanked by a broad vowel, and not by a small as in Diuirineas. Besides, the parish name is very old, and Durin, only a modern township, comes from G. dubh, black, and rinn, point, or raon, field. The soil of Durin is different from the sandy soil of the neighbouring district.


  • Eriboll, N. eyrr, pebbly-beach, and boll, township.

  • Hope, river, loch, and ben ; comes from N. hop, a bay,inlet.

  • Arnaboll, N. township of the eagle.

  • Heilim, N. holmr, an islet, often a rock detached from the mainland.

  • Fresgill, N. gill, a ravine, fraes-a, noisy. The name may have been given from the noise of the sea in the caves in its face. One of these is said to extend half a mile inland.

  • Polla, G. poll, and a, ford.

  • Laid, G. Leathad, slope.

  • Rispond, N. rhis, copsewood, and G. beinn.

  • Sangobeg and Sangomore. N. sand, and goe, bay.

  • Durine, see above, under Durness.

  • Balnakil, G baile, and cill, church. There was a Culdee monastery here. From Theiner's monumenta—a Vatican MS.—we gather that the church here contributed fourteen shillings and eight pence for the crusades, in the year 1274.

  • Keoldale, N. Kyle and dale.

  • Farrid Head. Ordnance survey map etymologises this into far-out-head ! The Gaelic is an fhairid, amfaire aite, the watch-place.

  • Parph. N. hvarf, receding, a turning away.

  • Achitnore, G. achadh, field, mbr, large. Da//, G. da/, dale.

  • Kenvick. Here there is a small bay — wick, which probably is the last part of the word. On the maps it is Cearbhag. The Gaelic pronunciation is ceathramh-dg. Car is a common prefix, signifying a fortified place, from Gaelic caithir, a city. We have it in this district in Car-breac, where there does not appear any trace of a fortification.

  • Cape Wrath. This it entirely the map-maker's name, taken from the Gaelic parbh, N. hvarf. P. as an initial sound is not Celtic ; hence the Lewisman calls it not am Parbh, but an Cairbh. The hill on which the light-house stands is called an dunan, the small fort. If we agree with many that Tarvedimum on Ptolemy's map represents Cape Wrath, and not a Caithness headland, we might connect tarve with modern parbh, the Greek letters p and / being easily confounded in the MSS. On this theory, parbh would be a pre-Celtic word.

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