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Gaelic Road Signs

Ordnance Survey and Gaelic Place-names

The origins of Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba

In 2000 the Ordnance Survey (OS) recognised that some Gaelic place-names on their maps were incorrect, and in some instances, inconsistent across their scales of mapping. This arose because most names of natural features were collected in the 19th century, with revision in line with the Gaelic spelling system of the late nineteen sixties and early seventies. Further revisions have occurred since then.

A number of experts were consulted: Dr Roy Wentworth, Prof. Richard Cox, Prof. W.F.H. Nicolaisen, Mr Ian Fraser, Dr Peadar Morgan, Prof. David Munro, Dr Ian R. White and Dr Simon Taylor. They agreed that the OS should set up the Gaelic Names Liaison Committee (GNLC). The first meeting was held in July 2000.

In November 2000 the OS produced a Gaelic Names Policy (Updated 2015). This provides the framework for the OS's usage of Gaelic names. The OS website includes pages that explain in more detail the issues around Gaelic names on their products, e.g. Taylor 2005 which includes a glossary of Gaelic place-name elements on their maps. The website also has information on the distribution of Gaelic place-names. The OS encouraged the development of GNLC, recognising the benefits that an authoritative Gaelic place-names database would bring. Bottom of Form

In 2003, when the Scottish Government started a policy of bilingual road signage in the West Highlands, GNLC was approached to research Gaelic names for the signs.

In 2005 the OS carried out a pilot programme to review and update Gaelic place-names in their data. The outcomes from this pilot programme informed the further development of their Gaelic Names Policy to ensure consistency of names across OS products. As the role of GNLC expanded, it was restructured in 2006 to form the Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba (AÀA) partnership. AÀA was increasingly approached to provide Gaelic place-name research for bilingual street, building and path signs as councils and other public agencies bring their Gaelic Language Plans into operation. By 2008 AÀA had two members of staff, a Project Manager and Researcher. In 2010 its national database of Gaelic place-names was launched online and continues to be updated. Since 2012 AÀA has produced a number of books in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Soillse, each focussing on a specific area of Scotland. In 2015 AÀA received the Community, Heritage and Tourism Award at the Scottish Gaelic Awards for their third book with SNH, ‘Gaelic in the Landscape, Place-names of Strath, Isle of Skye’.
Last Updated: 2017-02-16
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