Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba – Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland – Blog

by jake – 08:46:46 on 2011-09-28

There are a number of places in Scotland called Balnain and Balnaan. Having had one of them to research I soon realised many of these reflected different underlying Gaelic forms and I rapidly got confused between sources. I managed to unravel them below:

Balnain in Glen Urquhart NH4430

Bail’ an Athainn – the Town of the Ford: MacKay 1893 and 1914 [Macbain wrote the 1893 version, with notes by Watson later]

Balnain near Conon Bridge NH5254

Baile ‘n fhàin: Watson 1904, 105 Balnain (Inverness) Bail’ an fhàin: Watson in Dwelly [Presumably this one is meant given the form but he refers to it as Inverness which would be Balnain NH4430]

Balnain on Feshie Moor NH871051 (extinct)

Balnain is for Beal an àthain: MacBain, Badenoch History and Place-names, Transactions, 1890 Balnain, Badenoch Beul an athain Dwelly (not Watson) Balnain in Badenoch is beul an àthain, ford-mouth: Watson 1904, 5 Bealadh an àthain, Balnain (I. Badenoch).. ‘passage of the ford’ : Diack Place-names of Pictland, ii, 154 and very similar in Inscriptions, 192 Beul an Àthain: Watson 1926, 478

Balnaan in Duthil NH9724

Beul an Àthain (Duthil): Diack Place-names of Pictland, ii, 154

Balnaan in Deeside NJ2800

Beul ‘n àthain Diack in a letter to Robertson, 1.1.1912. [Location not clear from this letter] BALNAAN … is in Gaelic Beul an athain (pronounced Bel an aan), Diack, Some Local Place-names in Aberdeen Free Press 6.5.1911 Beul an Àthain: Watson and Allan 1984 Alexander 1952 quotes Diack’s Beul an àthain as being Deeside Balnaan. Feel free to contact the site if you would like any references. As you can see there seems to be three separate forms: Baile an Àthain ~ town of the little ford, Baile an Fhàin ~ the lower town, Beul an Àthain x3 ~ mouth of the little ford.

Of special interest here is the Badenoch Balnain. Although discussed by scholars of the day its precise location had been lost. Today there seems to be no remains of the settlement on Feshie Moor, although it can be seen on Old Maps easily enough.

This is a cautionary tale about assuming underlying Gaelic forms without the proper research.

Add your comment