15.5.18

Questions & Answers, after Paul Celan

twenty poem nest-boxes, Southwark Park
commissioned by CGP Gallery

what’s love? day sees, day / is, day’s us (Epithalamium for DL)


CGP gallery is physically and socially at the heart of Southwark Park – walks with Judith Carlton, the director, are punctuated with cheery hellos, updates about the birdlife on the pond, and chats with dog walkers and strollers – and this project succeeded, for me, as a response to a place, in a way that, if I am honest, not every sited project does. The scale felt right; the number of boxes, the size of the park, the time it takes to wander between them.

No-one wants a world in which the civic realm is dominated by art: nest-boxes have enough informality – being variable, interesting but imperfect geometrical forms – and are, anyway, not only there to satisfy human needs.




There’s a lot of talk about site-specific artworks and much effort made towards community engagement these days, but the results are often dubious. For one thing, the artist, on a tight budget and with limited time, is assumed to have the magic and guile to milk a community of meaning in a way that a commissioner would never expect to achieve themselves. Too often we’ve lost the role of the curator as a person who speaks for a community and a place.

But sometimes, as a visiting artist, one is able to pick up on the embedded knowledge and, just as important, the fondness a curator has for a place – I think of Alex Hodby when she was based at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, or Emma Nicolson of Atlas, on Skye – and then, when you are lucky, the commissioner also becomes, to some degree, a collaborator. You can see into the place with them, and through them, as well as finding those few locals who hold the spirit of a place. Questions should be asked whenever this doesn’t happen.


what’s tea? an old pond / to fish in


In my ongoing work on mapping and ecopoetics in The Cairngorms I’ve been discussing the idea of walking with. Some of the examples I had in mind include Robert Macfarlane’s walks guided by Fraser Darling – who walked with red deer more than people – and, on Lewis, Finlay MacLeod and Anne Campbell, whose maps and name collections reveal the moors, peat roads, and airigh, àirighean, of the island, insisting on the richness of that landscape; Tim Robinson’s studies of Connemara and Oileáin Árann, which grew from maps that seem to detail every stone, dyke, and bog; and Kathleen Jamie’s walks with archaeologists and RSPB rangers on the islands of Rona and Coll, which un-fussily share glints off the mosaic of places.

Questions and answers is partly a work of walking with Judith.


what’s summer? sun is shining / send in the cones


Of course, the landscapes of MacFarlane, Robinson and Jamie reek of character – wild, remote, challenging, weather-beaten and mossy. One walks with a guide there for a reason, to turn the key in the lock of the place, in terms of ecological niches and the paths of language. By contrast, Southwark Park is a modest grassy and, dare I say, relatively ordinary rectangle within the metropolis. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t alignments, memories, personal and historical traces, mappings, signifiers, and meaningful phrases of speech.

It’s hard to say whether urban London or The Cairngorms are more remote to me personally, but that’s hardly the point. The knack of the poet, which comes from training, is to be open to the various methods of attunement that exist in terms of representing a locality – close observation, familiarising oneself with the codes and cryptic meanings in a culture, humour, playfulness, puns, and other forms of mimesis.

For instance, a line borrowed from Bob Marley’s political anthem to peace, ‘Sun is Shining’, stitched together with a parody of ‘Send in the Clowns’ that I once heard June Tabor sing, ‘Send in the Cones’. And using colour as another way to settle the work into its locality, the next-boxes are painted using my usual approach, colour specification, to match the leaves – summer and autumn – of the trees, or pick out the colours of a lifebuoy, London brick in the park gate, or even the red of a rubbish bin.





I tuned into the park through Judith and the people she introduced me to. Even her love of ice cream made it into the work. And then I spent time watching how different people enjoyed The Park, walking, sitting, jogging, exercising, cycling, flying drones, playing with radio-controlled cars, getting stoned, snogging, keeping bees, eating lunch, consoling their loneliness, passing time.


where’s heaven? through the rose garden


That awareness of The Park doesn’t mean every poem has a localised meaning. Some do – there are questions referring to things that are within view, like the tower blocks beyond Dilston Grove, the looming silhouette of The Shard, the sculpture of two Caryatids, and a poem which locates Heaven, or the Tree of Heaven, just through the rose garden. But there’s also a desire to make a coherent body of work, by its own measure.


what’s London? a shard with its sides / rent by The River

A suite of twenty poems on nest-boxes isn’t a book – it is a text opened outward, and the surroundings insist on taking part in the making of meaning. It is a body of words, and they needed to be played together until they worked, as a thing. A typical book of poetry circulates among a narrow community of readers who are, in their way, experts in language assemblage, whereas words that are placed in a public setting like this are going to be encountered by anyone and everyone, maybe once, but more likely over months and perhaps years. One simple way to acknowledge The Park was the inclusion of a poem for each season.




In a setting like Southwark Park I was interested to try and weave together local speech with texts I already had. These punned and riffed, for instance, this poem pre-existed the project and helped define it:

    less than a call or song : tweet


This short glossary gives a sense of the reference I made to urban dialect, localising the work in its hood.

Bare: very, a lot.
Chirpsing: flirting.
Ends: area, neighbourhood.
Rinsed: overused, used up, all gone.
Yard: house, garden, where one lives.

Daisy Lafarge is a poet who spent some of her childhood in South London, and she did a helpful edit, tweak, and boost of the text in its latter stages, which further authenticated this local aspect. She knew those South London usages. I also spent more time with Tim Atkins wonderful Horace and Petrarch, which are London.


what’s a friend? bare love

The project for CGP began from an early Romanian poem by Paul Celan, translated by Julian Semilian and San Agalidi, composed of questions, a form Pablo Neruda and Edmund Jabes have also adopted. 




In 2000, as part of my research into shared consciousness, I published a newspaper of young children’s questions as part of an artist project, in collaboration with Baltic, which later became a book, The Book of Questions (2005), a set of postcards, and of pencils.

And in 2010 Ken Cockburn and I used the question and answer form in the road north, where they preface sections of our journey, helping to define, poetically, the landscapes forms, ecologies, and cultures, we were entering.

    what is a river?

    a river is a flower
    with its roots in the hills


Heather Yeung collaborated on an expanded sequence, after Celan, and I read some of these at the launch of the project at CGP this March.




The open-ended nature of the question-and-answer poem, where the reader is implicitly encouraged to supply their own answer, works well in a public situation, where one has to imagine a dog-walker passing a text every day. Hopefully some poems reveal their answers speedily and others slowly.


what’s the sky? jug of blue


If Celan’s poetry is hermetic and richly allusive, the argot of the streets belongs to the young, who, being the most innovative and intrepid transformers of language, also give speech a cryptic quality. Alice Becker-Ho of the Situationist International identifies one reason for this: ‘To belong to a House, Family or Order is already, in itself, a force, if not a power.... Argot is also the sum of all the procedures that deform language (verlan, largonji, javanais, etc.), and that are used
 in a certain milieu, among individuals who are able to recognize themselves through them. Argot is disguised language.’

The same could be said for speakers of cant and polari, the toked-up exuberance of mountain climbers, and code-words that circulate within all marginalised communities.




The poems on the nest-boxes should be experienced in Southwark Park; rather than only listing the twenty texts presented there. I have gathered together a wide range of the examples of the form by myself, with Daisy, along with a couple of contributions by Heather Yeung.




What is forgetting? An unripe apple stabbed by a spear.’

– Paul Celan


what is a garden?
a garden is culture & labour
which produces an annual
surplus of colour



what’s trees?
trees are Ys



what is a hut?
a hut is four thin walls
nailed around a stove
set in woods, wilds



what is a loch?
a loch is an acre
of crofted water



what is a beach?
a beach is an abacus
which counts in lines
powered by the moon



what is the sea?
if the sea knew
what it was
it wouldn’t keep
coming back



what is an air-bed?
an air-bed is something
that lets you down
slowly
all night long






what is illness?
illness is strangeness
felt inside us



what’s a pigeon?
not what, but …
            who, whoo



what’s the moon?
a coin in the high
rise slot machine



what’s winter?
gates closed early



what’s a friend?
bare love






what’s love?
day sees, day
is, day’s us



what’s a park?
walks on grass



what’s summer?
sun is shining
send in the cones



what’s a lake?
a glass rinsed
by cloud



what are dolphins?
I’ll answer
in two clicks



what’s the sky?
jug of blue





what’s tea?
an old pond
to fish in



what’s London?
a shard with its sides
rent by The River



what’s a tweet?
less than a call
or song



what’s spring?
time to chirpse






Thanks to Judith Carlton and all the team at CGP Gallery, Daisy Lafarge, Jenna Corcoran, Tim Atkins, Chris Ellis, and Damian Griffiths.

Supported by Southwark Council, Co-op Local Community Fund, and Arts Council England.

CGP Gallery London
Gallery by the Pool
1 Park Approach
Southwark Park
London SE16 2UA






















16.10.17

Upper Teviot: notes on place-names

Fleety Wood and the Slitrig Water (KM)

The Upper Teviot and its tributaries were coded along their length. The coding was numbered from the source at Teviot Stone (TE1) downstream as far as the Rule Water (TE48), which was our cut-off point.

Tributaries consisting of more than one water were given their own codes, e.g. the Borthwick (TE34) was coded BO. Single burn tributaries were assigned Teviot (TE) codes, e.g. Grinding Burn (TE46). The tributaries were coded beginning from their confluence with the Teviot and progressing upstream, e.g. SL1 is Smaile Burn, the first water you come to following the Slitrig upstream from its confluences with the Teviot. A burn running into a tributary was assigned an additional point, e.g. a tributary of RU8 is coded RU8.1 and a tributary of RU8.1 is coded RU8.1.1.

Our approach is subjective in terms of judging where the main thread of a tributary ends and we were unable to undertake a detailed survey.

These notes accompany the phylogenetic mapping of the Upper Teviot, published as a booklet and available as a print. As well as sharing the process of research involved in this mapping they also offer some insight into the complexities of interpreting place-names. The project was not of such length as would allow me to undertake detailed research into every site, or make field trips. This informal summary represents an initial survey. As Maggie Scott (MS) said: ‘without seeing historical forms of the names, as is the case for the majority here, it’s very difficult to give a decent etymology; even though etymologies are ‘best guess’ at times, they are, if you like, ‘very best’ guesses when you have the spellings that allow us to see changes over the centuries.’ The other main informant was Douglas Scott (DS). We referred to the Dictionary of the Scots Language (DSL), and May Williamson’s thesis (MW). William Paterson praises Williamson in the Foreword to the version of the thesis published online by the Scottish Place-Name Society.

“As was conventional at the time but is less usual practice now, the element headings use the most ancient Old English forms and do not separately classify later medieval and early modern derivatives of those elements in Scots, where these rather than ancient forms were used to form new place-names. However, such reservations are outweighed by admiration for the continuing validity of much of May Williamson’s clear and penetrating thinking.”

The phylogenetic diagram divides the tributaries of the Teviot into North and South. The mapping was a collaboration with Gill Russell, completed with the assistance of Kate McAllan.

In the text I have referred to waters that have no name as they appear on OS maps as NAMELESS WATER.

(KM)

Notes on common terms:

sike: small stream in marshy ground: gully, rill. I use rill.
grain: from Old Norse, greni, fork, branch, tributary. I use fork.
den, dene, dean: hollow where the ground slopes on both sides; generally has a rivulet running through it; a small valley. I use hollow.
hop or hope: small upland valley or hollow enclosed at the upper end by green hills or ridges (DSL) – I use valley to distinguish these from dene. Some waters which bear the name hope have no burn, water or sike, so the word can signify the presence of a water, e.g. LB6: LANG HOPE, and LB7: EWEN'S HOPE. I use valley.
cleuch: narrow gorge or chasm with high rocky sides. I use cleft.

Hope Sike (AF)

We begin with the Teviot (TV) itself, which Nicolaisen gives as one of a group of river-names, including Tain, Water of Tanar, Glentanner Water, and (probably) Tay, which derive from an Indo-European root form *ta- meaning ‘to melt, dissolve, flow’. My translation was an attempt to emphasise the importance of the local term, witter, for water, and suggest the essential simplicity of that streaming or flowing, which can be related also to The Allan Water, Ailan Witter, or The Ailnan.

   The Teviot
   the witterflow

(AF)

TEVIOT TRIBUTARIES (NORTH)


HASSENDEAN BURN

HB: HASSENDEAN BURN
Burn of Hathustans Hollow

The first element is an Old English personal name *Heaðustān, (MW). Hathustan would be the more local rendering, (MS).

I tend to leave off apostrophes in place-names.

HB1: HUNTLAW BURN
Hunthill Burn

HB1.1: NEWLANDS BURN
Newlands Burn

HB1.2: NAMELESS WATER

HB1.3: NAMELESS WATER

HB2: DEARLY BURN
Deer-field Burn

Tentatively given as deer leah, deer field, (MS).

HB2.1: NAMELESS WATER

HB2.2: NAMELESS WATER

HB2.3: NAMELESS WATER

HB3: NAMELESS WATER

HB4: NAMELESS WATER

HB5: NAMELESS WATER



BOONRAW BURN

BB: BOONRAW BURN

The origin is possibly good reaping or ploughing land in Old English or the bondsman’s house or bondsman’s corner, from Old Norse bondi vra, (DS). MW suggests the first element may be Gael bun, bottom, or Old English, bune, a weed, (MS). Given this information I sketched Grandland Burn, Goodbottom Burn, Lowerfield Burn, as possibilities, but decided to leave the name untranslated.

BB1: NAMELESS WATER



CALA BURN

Gill Russell noted that this is the Dean Burn, Burn of the Hollow, which it becomes the Cala Burn upstream. It is common for burns to have two names. We used Cala, but it would be known as the Dean Burn in Hawick.

CB: DEAN BURN / CALA BURN
Burn of the Hollow / Cooler Burn

Probably from caller, fresh, cool, (MS).

CB1: NAMELESS WATER

CB1.1: NAMELESS WATER

CB1.2: NAMELESS WATER

CB2: NAMELESS WATER


WILTON BURN

WB: Wilton Burn
Willow-farm Burn

Toun: small settlement or farm. Wilig, Old English, willow, (MS).

WB1: TODSHAW SIKE
Fox-coppice Rill

Shaw: small wood, esp. one of natural growth, a thicket, coppice, grove, (DSL).

WB2: NAMELESS WATER



BORTHWICK WATER

BO: Borthwick Water
Homefarm Water

Bord, home farm. Wick, farm, village.

BO1: NAMELESS WATER

BO2: HARDEN BURN
Hare-valley Burn

This is probably hara denu, Old English, hare valley, (MW).

BO2.1: MERCHELYTON BURN

Merch may be march, bounds, but being unsure I left this untranslated.

BO2.1.1: NAMELESS WATER

BO2.2: PENMANSHALL BURN

Penman could be a surname from the occupational term for a clerk, though this word also acquired some less savoury meanings over time and could denote a forger as well as a scribe. If there’s no record of a hall, then the final element is probably halch, from Old English halh, nook, corner of land, no doubt the name of an adjoining piece of land next the brook, (MS).

BO2.2.1: BLIND BURN
Blind Burn

BO3: NAMELESS WATER

BO3.1: NAMELESS WATER

BO4: BITSTONE BURN
Bitstone Burn

Bit could suggest a piece, share (of land), which sounds plausible, but it may be a form of but which has a variety of different meanings: a ridge or strip of ploughed land; a mark for practice in archery, target; or it may be something completely different, (MS).

BO5: GLEN BURN
Glen Burn

BO5.1: NAMELESS WATER

BO6: NAMELESS WATER

BO7: NAMELESS WATER

BO8: CHURNTON BURN
Churn-farm Burn

This may be churn, for butter, and tun, farm, though it’s a tricky guess from modern spellings alone. Northern English dialectal uses of churn for daffodil appear to be rare from the dictionary record, and I’m not aware of this usage north of the Border, but that doesn’t rule it out. There’s also an Ayrshire example of churn referring to ploughed land (DSL, MS).

BO9: NAMELESS  WATER

BO10: BORTHWICKBRAE BURN
Homefarm Hill Burn

As above, Borthwick is Homefarm.

BO10.1: NAMELESS WATER

BO10.2: NAMELESS WATER

BO10.3: NAMELESS WATER

BO10.4: NAMELESS WATER

BO11: WOOD BURN
Wood Burn

BO11.1: NAMELESS WATER

BO11.2: NAMELESS WATER

BO11.3: NAMELESS WATER

BO12: NAMELESS WATER

BO13: DEAN BURN
The Hollow Burn

Dean or dene is akin to an English version of glen; a hollow where the ground slopes on both sides, generally with a burn running through it.

BO13.1: NAMELESS WATER

BO13.2: POT SIKE

BO13.3: NAMELESS WATER

BO13.4: NAMELESS WATER

BO13.5: NAMELESS WATER

BO13.5.1: NAMELESS WATER

BO13.6: NAMELESS WATER

BO13.6.1: NAMELESS WATER

BO13.7: NAMELESS WATER

BO13.8: NAMELESS WATER

BO14: MUSELEE BURN
Marsh Burn

MW has 'MUSELEE (Rbt): (85, 9 B): Meussly, Blaeu. Perhaps OE mōs-lēah, containing mōs, “sustenance”, in the sense of “fodder”: cf Fodderlee (supra). OE mōs > MSc muis. The local pronunciation is [møzli;] which suggests original ō.’ Another possibility could be Old English ‘mos’ meaning ‘bog, marsh’, (MS).

BO15: NAMELESS WATER

BO16: HOSECOTE BURN
Bramble-cottage Burn

There are various possibilities, but I decided to plump for Bramble-cottage Burn. Cote is a cottage and hoshla is Old English for bramble, (MW).

BO16.1: NAMELESS WATER

BO16.2: NAMELESS WATER

BO16.3: NAMELESS WATER

BO16.3.1: NAMELESS WATER

BO16.4: MID SIKE
Mid Rill

BO16.5: BLACK SIKE
Black Rill

BO16.6: LOCH SIKE
Loch Rill

BO17: CAMP BURN
Camp Burn

BO18: NITSHIEL SIKE

We were unable to resolve this name, beyond the ending: Summer-pasture Rill

BO19: PHILHOPE BURN

MW has one early spelling, from Blaeu’s 17th century map, which muddies the waters for the –hope, valley, ending: ‘PHILHOPE (Rbt): Phillippe, Blaeu. Compare Philliphaugh (Slk) (infra): this may be the same’ (p. 89); her comparison with Philliphaugh (Slk) reveals: ‘PHILLIPHAUGH (Slk): (80, 10 E): Fulhope, 1265 Rot Scac; 1288 ib; Fulhopehalche, 1317 RMS; Phillophauch, 1570-80 RMS. Either Long Philip Burn or the small stream behind Philliphaugh Farm provided the original fūl hop, “foul, or muddy, valley”. Old English fūl hop became Middle English fŭlop, and the ŭbeing later modified to ĭ, according to the local dialect, a form fĭlop, associated with the personal name Phillip, arose. The haugh is the flat ground by the side of the Ettrick’, (MS).

As the meaning is uncertain no translation is given.

BO19.1: NAMELESS WATER

BO20: NAMELESS WATER

BO21: EILDRIG BURN
Deer-trap Burn

An eilrig is a traditional site for a tainchell, deer drive; a number of the names relate to hunting and stalking, such as Rut Sike.

BO21.1: ROUGH-HOPE BURN
Rough-valley Burn

BO21.2: PHILHOPESHIEL BURN

see BO19

BO21.3: NAMELESS WATER

BO21.4: NAMELESS WATER

BO21: NAMELESS WATER

BO22: WHINNEY CLEUCH
Whiny Cleft

It seems likely from comparable names that this is from whin, gorse, so whinney would refer to an area dense with gorse, (MS).

BO22.1: MOSS SIKE
Moss Rill

BO23: DIRTHOPE BURN
Dirt-valley Burn

BO23.1: SHIEL SIKE
Summer-pasture Rill

Shieling can be translated in a number of ways depending on the local form of transhumance. My general preference is summer-pasture.

BO23.2: OTTERHOLE SIKE
Otterhole Rill

BO23.3: RED SIKE
Reed Rill

Red is a less usual colour for a river; they tend to be black / white / muddy / fast / slow / etc, so reeds would make sense in the watery context, (MS).

BO24: LIMIE SIKE
Lime Rill

BO25: CRAIK SIKE
Croaky Rill

This may be crag. MW interprets the early spellings in craik-: ‘CRAIGSFORD (Mel): Craiksford, Blaeu. A family name Craik, or Craig, derived from OBrit *craik, “crag”, is the first element’, (MW).

BO26: NAMELESS WATER

BO27: BIRNY SIKE
Stalky Rill

Birny: having a rough or stunted stem; applied to plants, (DSL). This may refer specifically of heather, as per DSL: used to describe a birn stalk or land covered with Birns, (MS).

BO28: AITHOUSE BURN / WOLFCLEUCH BURN
Oathouse Burn / Wolf-cleft Burn

Aithouse looks like a Scots form of oathouse. Wolf may indeed be literal – it’s fairly common in place-names.

BO28.1: HARE SIKE
Hare Rill

BO28.2: HARE GRAIN
Hare Fork

BO28.2.1: NAMELESS WATER

BO28.3: CAT SIKE
Wildcat Rill

BO29: HOWPASLEY BURN / STOCK GRAIN
Hollow-pass Field / Stock Fork
This was "Howpaslot" in earlier documents, and that's probably a clue to the origin, (DS). It could be howepasleah, the hollow – pass – field, but it would be best checked in the field. Canmore records a medieval tower of which no remains survive, which was burnt by the English in 1543, (MS).

BO29.1: LOANS CLEUCH
Lane Cleft

Loan, Orig., before the enclosing of fields, a strip of grass of varying breadth running through the arable part of a farm and freq. linking it with the common grazing ground of the community, (DSL).

BO29.2: RUT SIKE
Rut Rill

BO29.3: HEDLEY BURN
Topfield Burn

The meaning here is of the head and pasture, (MS).

BO29.3.1: NAMELESS WATER

BO29.3.2: NAMELESS WATER

BO29.3.3: NAMELESS WATER

BO29.4: CAT CLEUGH
Wildcat Cleft

BO29.5: BLOODY SIKE
Bloody Rill

BO29.6: NAMELESS WATER

BO29.7: NAMELESS WATER

BO29.8: WHITEHOLM SIKE

As this could be white, or wheat I have left it untranslated, (MS).

BO29.9: MARK SIKE
Mark Rill

This could be a personal name, or a marker of some kind, or something completely different, (MS).

BO29.10: NAMELESS WATER

BO29.11: FOUL CLEUGH

This could be foul, unpleasant, but may also be foul, bird, (MS)

BO29.12: GAVEL SIKE
Gable Rill

This may be metaphorical for some aspect of the shape of the land? (MS).

BO29.12.1: NAMELESS WATER

BO29.13: LADSHAW SIKE
Lade-wood Rill

This could be a lad, but also a mill lade, a channel for conducting water from the mill-dam to and from a mill. One could seek evidence locally, (MS).

BO29.13.1: NAMELESS WATER



NEWMILL BURN

NB: NEWMILL BURN
Newmill Burn

NB1: NAMELESS WATER

NB2: LOCH SIKE
Loch Rill



VALES BURN

VB: VALES BURN
Valleys Burn

I have taken vale in the traditional sense here.

VB1: NAMELESS WATER



TEINSIDE BURN
Sprinkling Burn

MW has: ‘TEINDSIDE (Tvt): (85, 10 C): Tenside, 1446-7 HMC (Rxb); Teneside, 1511 RMS; -syde, 1547 ib. /144/ Perhaps Gael Tigh na suidhe, “house on the hillside”: cf Tenafield (PN R & Cr, 111). The first element might be a Celtic river name: cf Teign D, from W taen, sprinkling, (ERN, 397). The Teindside Burn might have had originally a Celtic name.’ (MS).

I went with the latter explanation.

TB1: BACK BURN
Back Burn

TB1.1: NAMELESS WATER

TB1.2: NAMELESS WATER

TB2: NAMELESS WATER

TB3: NAMELESS WATER



WEENS SIKE

WS: WEENS SIKE
Wailing Rill

Ween, wail, weep, (DSL). I went with this interpretation, but MS wondered if there is any sign of caves in the area near to this tributary? It’s possible that Weems could be the first element, as hinted at by some of the 16th century historical spellings, as weem, from Gaelic uaimh, is a cave, cavern, most famously at Weems, (MS).

MW has: ‘WEENSLAND (Hwk): (86, 2 B): Weyndis-landis, 1511 RMS; Wemis-landis, 1540, 1547 ib. “Lands belonging to Weens (Hbk)”. Weens may be Celtic in origin, or it may be MSc wyindis, “windings”, as the Rule Water makes a bend there.’

WS1: NAMELESS WATER



FALNASH BURN

FB: FALNASH BURN / HAZELHOPE BURN / LANG BURN
Hazel-valley Burn / Long Burn

DS thought that Falnash Burn comes from fallen ash, whereas MS thought it is more likely that it derives from a village. I left it untranslated. The other names for this burn are straightforward.

FB1: DRYDEN BURN
Dry-hollow Burn

The adjective dry is usually associated in place-names with streams or valleys, (MW).

FB1.1: NAMELESS WATER

FB2: CALFSHAW BURN
Calf-wood Burn

Shaw, a small wood, esp. one of natural growth, a thicket, coppice, grove, (DSL).

FB2.1: NAMELESS WATER

FB3 LAIRHOPE BURN / RUTHEAD SIKE
Den-valley Burn / Ruthead Rill

Lair could also be an animal’s lair, or a grave, (MS). The second name of this burn is another example that may relate to hunting.

FB3.1: CRIB SIKE
Crest Rill

I had suggested the Brittonic crib, ridge, but MS thinks this unlikely. MW has ‘CRIBS HILL (Slk): Cribbes, 1296 CDS. This may be a manorial name from a personal name, Cribb. /118/ ModSc Crib is a “manger” or “wooden box”; it may be that the hill has indentations on its surface resembling mangers in shape. Cf Crib Law (Chan).’

FB3.2: NAMELESS WATER

FB3.2.1: NAMELESS WATER

FB3.2.2: HARE GRAIN
Hare Fork

FB3.3: NAMELESS

FB4: MARCH SIKE
Boundary Rill

FB5: FAULD BURN
Fold Burn

The terms fank and stell, for a fold (for livestock), occur in different areas of the Borders.

FB5.1: NAMELESS WATER

FB5.1.1: NAMELESS WATER

FB5.1.2: NAMELESS WATER

FB5.2: NAMELESS WATER

FB5.3: NAMELESS WATER

FB6: NAMELESS

FB7: NAMELESS WATER

Stell, Slitrig Water (AF)

TEVIOT TRIBUTARIES (SOUTH)


RULE WATER

RU: RULE WATER
Steeps Water

DS thought the origin might be the old Celtic for a steep slope. MW has: ‘Rulesmains (Duns) is Rowlis Manys, 1536 RSS, Rewlismains 1587 HMC (Wed), perhaps from a personal name, OFr Raoul.’

RU1: TOWER BURN
Tower Burn

RU2: DYKES BURN
Walls Burn

There is The Dykes-farm in the Rule Valley, just to the west of Bedrule and east of Spittal Tower, (DS).

RU2.1: NAMELESS WATER

RU3: NAMELESS WATER

RU3.1: NAMELESS WATER

RU4: NAMELESS WATER

RU5: FULTON BURN
Bird-farm Burn

Old English fugol-t〉n, bird farm, perhaps because it was frequented by unusual numbers of them, (MW).

RU5.1: NAMELESS WATER

RU6: NAMELESS WATER

RU6.1: NAMELESS WATER

RU7: FODDERLEE SIKE
Fodder-meadow Rill

The origin is probably simply the fodder meadow, (DS).

RU7.1: NAMELESS WATER

RU7.2: NAMELESS WATER

RU8: FODDERLEE BURN
Fodder-meadow Burn

RU8.1: NAMELESS WATER

RU8.1.1: NAMELESS WATER

RU8.1.2: KILN SIKE
Kiln Rill

RU9: HALLRULE BURN
Steeps-hall Burn

Possibly from Old Norse, hallr, slope, or big stone, (PHD)

RU9.1: NAMELESS WATER

RU9.2: NAMELESS WATER

RU9.3: NAMELESS WATER

RU9.4: NAMELESS WATER

RU9.4.1: NAMELESS WATER

RU10: HOBS BURN / MIDBURN
Enfolded Burn / Midburn

This first name was originally Hoppisburn; a hop or hope is an enclosed valley (DS). There are lots of instances of hop becoming hob in later forms, e.g. MW has: ‘HOBKIRK (Hbk): (86, 2 B): Hoppkirck, Blaeu. “Church in an enclosed valley”: ME hope-kirke’, (MS).

RU10.1: NAMELESS WATER

RU10.2: HAWTHORNSIDE BURN
Hawthornside Burn

RU11: BLACKHALL BURN
Blackhall Burn

RU12: CATLEE BURN
Wildcat-meadow Burn

This is part of the estate of Wolfelee, (DS). Cat may well be from wild-cat and MS notes that MW records ‘CADGILL (Hfm): Catgill(e), 1552 Bullock; 1590 RPC; Blaeu. ON katt-gil, “wild cat ravine”.’

RU12.1: WOLFEHOPELEE BURN
Wolfvalley-pasture Burn

RU12.1.1: NAMELESS WATER

RU12.1.2: NAMELESS WATER

RU12.1.3: NAMELESS WATER

RU12.1.4: NAMELESS WATER

RU12.1.4: CROSS SIKE
Cross Rill

RU12.2: MARCH SIKE
Boundary Rill

RU12.2.1: NAMELESS WATER

RU12.3: WIGG BURN / COMMON SIKE
Commonty Rill

Recorded in 1677 when the lands of Wauchope are described as on Southside of water called Wig, (DS). The upper part of Wigg Burn is named Common Sike. This name proved impossible to translate.

RU12.3.1: HASS SIKE
Gullet Rill

Has, n., arch. the neck, throat, (DS). Note two burns are named Hass Sike.

RU12.3.2: NAMELESS WATER

RU12.3.3: BRACKEN SIKE
Bracken Rill

RU12.3.3.1: NAMELESS WATER

RU12.3.4: COMMON SIKE
Commonty Rill

RU12.4: REDSTONE SIKE
Redstone Rill

RU12.5: NAMELESS WATER / HARDLEE SIKE
Hardland Burn

Some of the sheepfolds were made from the stones of the Hare Cairn, (DS). There is an area of “rough pasture” marked here in the OS Map, so hard must refer to the poor quality of the soil. Lee may mean simply grassland, (MW).

RU12.5.1: HARECAIRN SIKE
Boundary-cairn Rill

This could be hare, boundary, or the animal. The Ordnance Survey Name Book (in 1859) notes that although no trace of it survived, two cists had been found there. It lay on the path of part of an old road identified with the Wheel Causeway, (DS).

RU12.5.2: HASS SIKE
Gullet Rill

Has, n., arch. the neck, throat, (DS).

Note two burns are named Hass Sike.

RU12.6: SWIRE SIKE
Pass Rill

Swire: a hollow between hills or flat area near the top of a hill, frequently having a road through it, a hill pass, (DS). Swira, OE, neck, gives ModSc swire, a pass, (MW).

RU12.6.1: NAMELESS WATER

RU12.7: RUSHYRIG SIKE
Rushyridge Rill

RU12.8: BRACK SIKE
Brokenland Rill

Brack, a fall of snow or rain: ‘Where winds had swept an ebber [shallower] brack’, (DS). MS also noted the meaning in DSL: Ground broken up for cultivation; a division of land under the old system of rotation of crops. I opted for the latter meaning.

RU13: HARWOOD BURN
Harewood Burn

RU13.1: NAMELESS WATER

RU13.1.1: MILL LADE
Mill Lade

RU13.2: STONEDGE BURN
Stony Burn

Stonedge Burn was formerly Stanylech and similar, suggesting it is Old English stony leche, meaning stony stream, (DS).

RU13.2.1: CORBY BURN
Crow Burn

Corby, Sc, can refer to the raven or crow, (MS).

RU13.2.2: NAMELESS WATER

RU13.3: MILL LADE
Mill Lade

RU13.3.1: PINES BURN
Pines Burn

RU13.3.2: NAMELESS WATER

RU13.3.3: WHISKEY SIKE
Whisky Rill


RU13.4: LURGIES BURN
Bloodhound Burn

This may be a person’s name, perhaps a nickname; the Scots lurg dog, bloodhound (literally track dog) is suggestive of a possible link of some kind with the Gaelic lorg, track, (MS).

RU13.4.1: NAMELESS WATER

RU13.5: NAMELESS WATER

RU13.6: NAMELESS WATER

RU14: NAMELESS WATER

RU15: NAMELESS WATER

RU16: FORK SIKE
Forks Fork

RU17: NAMELESS WATER

RU18: NAMELESS WATER

RU19: OLD MARCH SIKE
Old Bounds Rill

RU20: WHITE SIKE
White Rill

RU21: SWIRE SIKE
Down-the-way Rill

Swire, discussed above, is hollow or declivity between hills (through which a road runs); a hollow or level place near the top of a hill; a neck (of land). My translation is no more than a sketch of the land form.

RU22: NAMELESS WATER

RU23: BLACKRIG SIKE
Blackridge Rill

RU24: FANNA SIKE

We failed to pick this lock.

RU25: CUDDIE SIKE
Pony Rill



DEAN BURN

DB: DEAN BURN
Valley Burn

DB1: HAWK BURN
Hawk Burn

DB2: NAMELESS WATER

DB3: NAMELESS WATER



KIRKTON BURN

KB: KIRKTON BURN
Church-farm Burn

KB1: NAMELESS WATER

KB2: NAMELESS WATER

KB3: NAMELESS WATER

KB3.1: BUCKSTRUTHER MOSS
Buck-marsh Moss

Sruthair, Gaelic, is stream, marsh, (MW).

KB4: NAMELESS WATER

KB5: NAMELESS WATER

KB6: NAMELESS WATER



SLITRIG

SL: SLITRIG / LANGSIDE BURN / FORE BURN
Cut-a-way River / Longside Burn / Fore Burn

SL1: SMAILE BURN
Small Burn

SL2: FLEX BURN
Flecked Burn
SL3: ACREKNOWE BURN
Acreknowe Burn

SL4: HORSLEY BURN
Horse-meadow Burn

SL4 .1  MARCH SIKE
Boundary Rill

SL4.2 : NAMELESS WATER

SL5: NAMELESS WATER

SL6: PAGTON BURN

DS noted that its interior is heart shaped and MS noted that Pagton is probably from another farm name, perhaps now lost.

SL7: BARNES BURN

This could be a personal name, or relate to barn, Sc, rock.

SL7.1: NAMELESS WATER

SL7.2: NAMELESS WATER

SL7.3: NAMELESS WATER

SL8: COG’SMILL BURN
Cogsmill Burn

This may relate to the physical object, cog’s mill, a wooden vessel made of hooped staves, or perhaps to a name, or even to the mechanics of the mill (MS).

SL8.1 : ADDERSTONSHIELS BURN
Eadreds-farm Sheepcot Burn

A stream that rises near Hoggfield Hill and runs roughly south-westerly to join the Cogsmill Burn near Cogsmill before flowing into the Slitrig Water. Adderstonshiels farm in the Slitrig Valley, near Stobs, with 2 hill-forts and other evidence of former occupation nearby, (DS). The name is something of the order of Eadred’s Farm’s Sheepcots Burn, (MS).

SL8.1.1: STELL SIKE
Stell Rill

Stell, a stall, enclosure, shelter for sheep or cattle, usually built from drystane dyke and often circular, with
an opening on one side, (DS).

SL8.2: NAMELESS WATER

SL8.3: NAMELESS WATER

SL8.4: NAMELESS WATER

SL8.5: NAMELESS WATER

SL9: GIBBY’S SIKE

Marked as Back Sike on the 1863 Ordnance Survey map; possible association with ‘Gilbert with the Golden Garters’, a familiar name for Gilbert Eliott of Stobs, (DS).

SL10: PENCHRISE BURN
Ringed Hill Burn

SL10.1: NAMELESS WATER

SL10.2: PEN SIKE
Conehill Rill

Pen, a hill, particularly a pointed conical one, (DS).

SL10.3: NAMELESS WATER

SL11: HOPE SIKE
Hollow Rill

SL11.1: NAMELESS WATER

SL12: LANG BURN / FLOSH BURN / KILN SIKE
Long Burn / Quagy Burn / Kiln Rill

Flosh: a piece of boggy ground, esp. one where water frequently lies on the surface, a swampy place, a pool of water in a field, (DSL). The upper Lang Burn is known as Flosh Burn.

SL12.1: BROWN’S SIKE
Brown Rill

The obvious meaning of Brown seems likely, though brown/brun in place-names can also mean a brown animal, (MS).

SL12.2: LEAP BURN
Lap Burn

An intriguing example of a slip in sound changing the meaning of a name.

SL12.3: ROPE SIKE

A difficult name to translate without visiting the location. MS suggested that if it’s notably long and thin it may be rope used metaphorically.

SL12.3.1: NAMELESS WATER

SL12.3.2: GREY MARE’S SIKE
Grey Mares Rill

SL12.4: NAMELESS WATER

SL12.5: NAMELESS WATER

SL12.6: NAMELESS WATER

SL13: HARDWOOD BURN
Wildwood Burn

Rises with the King’s Sike and Drowning Sike and joins Langside Burn between Stennishope and Shank-end, (DS).

SL13.1: NAMELESS WATER

SL13.2: KINGS SIKE
Kings Rill

SL13.3: DROWNING SIKE
Drowning Rill

SL14: NAMELESS WATER

SL15: BLIND SIKE

SL16.: MID BURN
Mid Rill

SL16.1: BACK BURN
Blind Rill



ALLAN WATER

AW
ALLAN WATER / SKELFHILL BURN / MASTER GRAIN
The Flowing Witter / Splinter-hill Burn / Master Fork

Allan Water - there are other rivers with basically the same elsewhere, and the suggestion is that the name is pre-Anglian, perhaps the same as the Ale Water, (DS). Nicolaisen considers Allan Water to be a possible candidate for inclusion in the group of river names derived from the Indo-European derived form *Alauna which he notes as ‘a very popular or fashionable name to call rivers by’, with the translation being ‘something like the flowing one, probably a synonym for “stream”’, (MS).

DS also noted the use of the definite article when referring to some water features.  E.g. it's always known as the Ailan locally, rather than Allan Water, with a strong preference for the use of "the".  Similarly for the Teviot, the Slitrig and the Borthwick.

A skelf is, of course, a splinter.


AW1: RAMPY SIKE
Rank Rill

May be from ramp, wild, but with the sense overgrown, (MS).

AW2: NORTH BURN
North Burn

Also sometimes known as Newbiggin Burn, (DS).

AW3: LOCH BURN
Loch Burn

AW4: NAMELESS WATER

AW4.1: NAMELESS WATER

AW5: NAMELESS WATER

AW6: GATEBURN
Gateburn

Depending on its age, this could be a modern gate (providing an entrance to something), but it may alternatively be an older, different gate, from Old Norse gata, meaning a road, track, way, (MS).

AW6.1: NAMELESS WATER

AW6.1.1: NAMELESS WATER

AW6.2: NAMELESS WATER

AW6.3: NAMELESS WATER

AW7: DOD BURN
Hill Burn

AW7.1: PYATKNOWE SIKE
Magpie-knowe Rill
Knowe, hill; pyet could also be magpie, or a nickname for a thief, (MS).

AW7.2: BARRY SIKE
Barry Rill

This is tenuously speculative, but could this be barrie, fine; big; smart in appearance. I wonder if it is an impressive waterway, (MS)?

AW7.3: NAMELESS WATER

AW7.4: NAMELESS WATER

AW7.5: NAMELESS WATER

AW7.6: HAWK SIKE
Hawk Rill

AW7.7: REDSIKE
Reeds-rill

See BO23.3: RED SIKE. Red is unusual as a colour for waterways; the meaning could be reed, (MS).

AW8: NAMELESS WATER

AW9: NAMELESS WATER

AW10: NAMELESS WATER

AW11: NAMELESS WATER

AW12: NAMELESS WATER

AW12.2: NAMELESS WATER

AW12.3: NAMELESS WATER

AW12.3.1: CAULD CLEUCH
Cold Cleft

AW12.3.2: NAMELESS WATER

AW12.4: CAT SIKE
Wildcat Rill

AW12.5: BRUNTSHIEL CLEUCH
Burnst-shieling Cleft

AW12.6: CAPEL CLEUCH
Chapel Cleft

AW12.7: NAMELESS WATER

AW13: NAMELESS WATER

AW14: PEN SIKE
Hill Rill

AW15: COW SIKE
Cow Rill

AW15.1: NAMELESS WATER

AW16: NAMELESS WATER

AW16.1: NAMELESS WATER

AW17: CARSEY CLEUCH
Carse Cleft

Carse, water meadow, a stretch of land along the bank of a river, (MS).

AW18: MASTERGRAIN
Masterfork



NORTHHOUSE BURN

NHB: NORTHHOUSE BURN / SOUTHDEAN BURN
Northhouse Burn / South-valley Burn

NHB1: CROMRIG BURN
Bent-ridge Burn

NHB2: CHAPEL BURN

This name was identified by DS using the 1860 edition OS map.

NHB3: FOULEDGE SIKE
Fouledge Rill

This is another example where the meaning could be foul, unpleasant, but may also be foul, bird, (MS).

NHB4: BAR SIKE

There are too many options to list, but could it be a rill with a notable build up of silt, sand bar(s), etc? A bar could also be a defence of some kind, or used of a gate or other barrier, (MS).

NHB5: NAMELESS WATER

NHB6: NAMELESS WATER



NEST BURN

NB: NEST BURN
Nest Burn

NB1: NAMELESS WATER

NB1.1: NAMELESS WATER



LIMIECLEUCH BURN

LB: LIMIECLEUCH BURN / WRANGWAY BURN
Lime-cleft Burn / Wrongway Burn

LB1: BINKS BURN
Cliff Burn
The word bink can mean a ledge or cliff, (DS). It could also be Scots bink, bench, local topography may provide a clue, (MS).

LB2: FROSTLIE BURN / LINHOPE BURN / DUNCAN'S GRAIN
Falls-valley Burn / Duncans Fork

I was unable to translate Frostlie. Linn, waterfall, cataract is a likely explanation of the second name, (MS).

LB2.1: PHAUP BURN
Mottled Burn

Phaup Burn is the same as Phawhope, or even Falhope, and may be from the Old English fah hop, variegated valley, (DS). MW has Middle English faw, Old English, fāġ, multicoloured’, (MS).

LB2.1.1: NAMELESS WATER

LB2.1.1.1 BEATHILL SIKE
Bundle-hill Rill

This may be related to beat, bundle of flax, either as the site of preparation of some physical resemblance of the hill to a bundle of flax, (MS). I was unable to form a satisfactory English name.

LB2.1.1.2: FELL SIKE
Crag Rill

LB2.1.2: TOD SIKE
Fox Rill

LB2.1.3: NAMELESS WATER

LB2.1.3.1: NAMELESS WATER

LB2.1.4: STRAIT SIKE
Straight Rill

LB2.2: CORRIE SIKE
Corrie Rill

LB2.2.1: NAMELESS WATER

LB2.3.1: MARE SIKE
Mare Rill

LB2.3: NAMELESS WATER

LB2.4: COMB SIKE
Ridge Rill

LB2.5: NAMELESS WATER

LB2.6: NAMELESS WATER

LB2.7: ELY GRAIN

This could be eely, abundant with eels, or iley, oily, maybe applied to sluggish water, (MS).

LB2.8: NAMELESS WATER

LB2.9: NAMELESS WATER

LB2.9.1: NAMELESS WATER

LB2.10.1: EARN HOPE
White-tailed Eagle Valley

Earn, white-tailed or sea eagle, (DSL).

LB2.10: NAMELESS WATER

LB2.11: RUSHY HOPE
Rushy Valley

LB2.11.1: NAMELESS WATER

LB2.11.1.1: NAMELESS WATER

LB2END: DUNCANS GRAIN
Duncans Fork

LB3: LIMIE SIKE
Limey Rill

LB4: SHORT HOPE
Short Valley

LB5: WISPMOOR CLEUCH

It is tempting to see a link with wisp, a rope or cord made of twisted straw, heather, or similar material, (DSL). In a farming context, perhaps relating to land use, though it may be more closely linked to the presence of heather; could also be wasp, (MS).

LB6: MERRYPATH SIKE
Lovely-path Rill

LB7: LANG HOPE
Long Valley

LB8: EWEN'S HOPE
Ewens Valley



TEVIOT (FROM TEVIOT STONE)

TE1: DEEP GRAIN
Deep Fork

TE1.1: NAMELESS WATER

TE2: NAMELESS WATER

TE3: MID GRAIN
Mid Fork

TE3.1: NAMELESS WATER

TE4: NAMELESS WATER

TE5 : WESTER CLEUCH
Wester Cleft

TE6: LANG GRAIN
Long Fork

TE6.1: YELLOW SIKE
Yellow Rill

TE7: MID CLEUCH
Mid Cleft
TE8: RASHIE GRAIN
Rushy Fork

TE9: RAMS CLEUCH / WORMS CLEUCH
Rams Cleft

We were unable to translate the second name.

TE9.1: MARCH CLEUCH
Bounds Cleft

TE9.2: AIKY GRAIN
Oaky Fork

TE9.2.1: HIGH GRAIN
High Fork

TE9.3: EWESDOWN SIKE / SHORTER SIKE
Ewes-hill Rill / Shorter Rill

TE9.3.1: NAMELESS WATER

TE9.4: NAMELESS WATER

TE10: MARE SIKE
Mare Rill

TE11: GIDDENS CLEUCH

This is probably a personal name, (DS).

TE11.1: NAMELESS WATER

TE11.2: NAMELESS WATER

TE11.3: NAMELESS WATER

TE11.4 : NAMELESS WATER

TE11.5: NAMELESS WATER

TE11.6: NAMELESS WATER

TE11.6.1: NAMELESS WATER

TE11.7: NAMELESS WATER

TE12: NAMELESS WATER

TE13: HARE SIKE
Hare Rill

TE14: NAMELESS WATER

TE15: BLACK CLEUCH
Black Cleft

TE16: NAMELESS WATER

TE17: NAMELESS WATER

TE18 = LB

TE19 = FB

TE20 = NB

TE21 = WS

TE22 = TB

TE23 = NHB

TE24: HOWDEN CLEUCH
Hole-dene Cleft

MW gives this as Old English hol denu, valley like a hole, (MS).

TE25: NAMELESS WATER

TE26: NAMELESS WATER

TE27 = VB

TE28 = NB

TE29 = AW

TE30: NAMELESS WATER

TE31: FENWICK BURN
Fen-farm Burn

MW has Old English fenn wīċ, farm by the bog, (MS).

TE32: NAMELESS WATER

TE33: NAMELESS WATER

TE34 = BO

TE35 = WB

TE36 = CB

TE37 = SL

TE38: STIRCHES BURN
Bullock Burn

Possibly a form of stirk, bullock, (MS).

TE39 = BB

TE40 = KB

TE41: NAMELESS WATER

TE42 = HB

TE43: NAMELESS WATER

TE44: HONEY BURN
Honey Burn

TE45 = DB

TE46: GRINDING BURN
Greenhill Burn

In one of those unexpected and delightful shifts of meaning MW derives this from Old English grēne dūn burna, green hill burn. The Grinding Burn comes down from the Eildon Hills, which are notably green, (MS).

TE47: NAMELESS WATER

TE48 = RU

Fleety Wud and the Slitrig Water (AF)

th’ fleety wud
alec finlay with gill russell, 2017

the project will culminate in a publication in Autumn 2017

photography: AF, Alec Finlay; KM, Kate McAllan

funded by Creative Scotland, and commissioned by the Borders Heritage Festival (co-ordinated/supported by CABN)

With thanks to Jenna Corcoran, Mary Morrison, Claire Pencak, and Paul Brough.



21.7.17

the watershed

th’ fleety wud, a place-aware mapping of the Upper Teviot watershed from the source at Teviot Stone to the Rule Water. The blog combines tributree drawings of tributaries of the Teviot with texts from the forthcoming book.



model of consciousness
watershed

 

unique vascular pattern
watershed


fixed arrangement of nouns
in constant motion
watershed





a watershed is an imperative:
which way will you flow?





each watershed has one length
and a wide variety of widths


 



take the arboreal form of the watershed as a hint





rivers are syntax
hills are grammar





the climate crisis is a watershed



if you neglect your watershed then be prepared 
to heap sandbags




you can walk up or down the river, like a ladder,
from confluence to confluence
 




the waters are so nearly alike in their differences


the valleys open and they have a river before them




the rivers joint:
confluence




a confluence is a focal point
and a vocal point 




the water flows past its confluence without
any sense of attachment
 



some walk the watershed by confluences
others go to the source of every tributary
 




th’ fleety wud 
alec finlay with gill russell, 2017

the project will culminate in a publication in Autumn 2017

funded by Creative Scotland, and commissioned by the Borders Heritage Festival (co-ordinated/supported by CABN)

with thanks to Douglas Scott, Kate McAllan, Maggie Scott, Andrew McKenzie, Jenna Corcoran, Mary Morrison, Claire Pencak, and Paul Brough.




 
 

13.7.17

th’ fleety wud


'A river separates water and so it should.' – Gertrude Stein

th’ fleety wud is a place-aware mapping of the Upper Teviot watershed from the source at Teviot Stone to the Rule Water. It’s a new project that continues my collaboration with Gill Russell; we’re working with assistance from Kate McAllan, and referring to Douglas Scott’s online survey, A Hawick Wordbook, as a resource.  In a wider sense the context for the work is the turn towards understanding or reading the landscape anew, which I call place-awareness – if this movement is a response to cultural nationalism, then it's also, more importantly, a concern to understand human dwelling and our relation to earthothers  in the context of the climate change crisis.

th’ fleety wud extends my work with place-name translation as a means to pursue ecopoetics, looking into the specific issues of the watershed and flooding. My friends at CABN coordinated the project as part of a wider body of work in response to the damaging floods of 2005, and it will evolve in tandem with those – in other words, we will all be worrying about public art and wishing we could plant more trees.


the river has water in it
the rain has flooding in it



The title comes from one of the place-names I found in Douglas Scott’s Wordbook: th’ fleety wud, or Fleety Wood, as the name appears on the OS map. The meaning is most likely The Flooding Wood. This post includes photographs from our first field trip, a walk down the Slitrig Water from Shankend, along the old railway line, to find the wood, understand the name, and map the tributaries (or, the tributaries, of the tributary, of The Teviot).

 Fleety Wood and the Slitrig Water (KM)
 
It’s not Fleety Wood that floods but the haugh below. The Slitrig Water is described as an idyll in the old Gazeteer, as 'a troutful rivulet with shelving descents, bold green heights, and little haughs tutted with woods'; but its spates are part of the flood problem in Hawick. In my mapping I give the name of this rith as cut-a-way water, derived from W.S. Robson:

Jeffrey in History or Roxburghshire derives Slitrig from OE slitan, a narrow cut or cleft, and rig, a back or high line of ground. He says the name Slitrig signifies a stream which runs through a narrow opening or slit in the rig or ridge of hills, but this derivation is unfortunately based on a corruption of the river’s name. The earliest form is Slitrith and rith is OE for stream. The first element in the name may be OE slite, a straight and narrow cut or incision, or it may be a shortened form of Slittrer, to slide, to glide. In the latter case Slit rith may signify a stream that seems to glide. In the former case the word Slit may express the action of the rith upon the hills, literally a rith or stream that cuts it way through.

Cogsmill Burn (AF)

This is Scott’s summary of the names, most of which we visited.

The river rises in several headwaters, Flosh Burn and Leap Burn meeting, becoming Lang Burn and being joined by Langside Burn where the Slitrig proper starts. After that it is joined by: Hope Sike; Penchrise Burn; Gibby’s Sike; Cogsmill Burn; Barnes Burn; Pagton Burn; Horsley Burn; Acreknowe Burn; Flex Burn and the Smaile Burn…

Acreknowe Burn (AF)

th’ fleety wud is a critical analysis of the watershed itself, and the models of culture and consciousness that arise from it.


a map of kinship
watershed

a model of consciousness:
watershed

a unique vascular pattern
watershed



The watershed is also an invitation to walk in a different way. As Kate and I made our way down the Slitrig over two days of cloud and sun we both felt our awareness slip from the road and views of the hills, into the details of waters and sykes, burns hidden among umbrellas of Burdock, glinting in pinewoods, or wittering in a meadow. We had first of all to find the burns, crossing and re-crossing the Slitrig, climbing wire fences, finding gates, figuring out how the road followed the river that made the valley.

The mood sounds idyllic, and it was, but the import was the delays of the burn; how they related to spated alluvials; how that quality of slowness, that richness of vegetation, were the obvious biodiverse solutions to flooding. The microtonal is opposed to the monocultural; the solution is rooted in the banks of the river.

Our second day ended with a crossing of the Slitrig to find flowerless yellow flags by the confluence with the Pagton, and then flowers beyond that, and a fleet hare. And a final leap across rocks to the tiny Smaile or Small Burn, opposite the housing estate at the edge of town.

Pagton (AF)

This toponymic mapping project continues work I’ve done on the river-names as expressions of the force of water in the landscape, which can, in turn, be related to the current transition to renewable energy – the road north and skying feature the old Modernist hydro project, in particular the ‘water-garden’ at Dalchonzie, and my ongoing gathering project in The Cairngorms, discusses new community micro-hydro schemes, such as Corriemulzie.


waters focus the weather’s forces

the waters begin again and again
and again

the waters are all so nearly alike in their differences

in its motion the water adds time to the landscape



water-mint on Acreknowe burn: ‘the mint / makes islands / of our tongues’, (AF)

Gill and I have explored the river walk as one of the defining concepts of what I, teasingly, call The New Walking. A model for this is the naturalist William MacGillivray, who, in his writings on Upper Deeside published 1850, suggested the botanically minded should walk alongside a river to its source, making digressions, using the returning journey to carry out closer inspections of objects of interest. The learning comes in the to-and-fro, in the tasty details of ramsons, sorrels and water-mint, which slow the walk down.


the road goes from A-B
the path follows the burn
from S-B, to N-U, and R-

some walk the watershed by confluences
others go to the source of every tributary



the Slitrig Water at Fleety Wood, or Fluty Wud

The flow of water was something Stonypathians were acutely aware of. I grew up with a moorland water supply that turned baths brown every spate, was blocked by frogs stuck in the pipes every spring, and froze every winter. The folk of Hawick see the Teviot differently since the floods. Listening leads to learning.

when the witter’s doon the bath’s broon


‘look: the river is a water / listen: the river is a witter’ (AF)

Scott’s emphasis on Borders speech gives witter: Sc, water, i.e. river or loch, especially 'a watercourse, bigger than a stream but smaller than a river', and the witter-gate, which refers to a watershed ; also witter craw, Sc, dipper. Local voices define a poetics of the ear and tongue that is also knowledge of how things work. This is ecopoetics, not poems about nature, but knowledge embodied in sound and motion.


look
listen

the river is
the river is

a water
a witter


 Langburn, before it becomes the Slitrig Water (KM)

th’ fleety wud is a work of wittering. It is through an understanding of names that we remember the river speaks, and learn again to listen.


the water never finishes what it has to say

sometimes the water cannot contain itself

the bends of the river are amplifications

an alluvial arc marks the spate



 Horsley Burn (AF)

In my Cairngorms work I’ve come to appreciate the Gaelic analysis of waters offered by such terms as caochan, allt, alltan, and feith. Now I am learning the alluvials of Brythonic and Old English of Borders Scots names, such as syke and hope.


names colour the watershed

a sike is a wetted crease hid in pale grass

place-names arise from nature
and are entirely artificial

names are best understood in their places



word-mntn (White Hill, AF)

The same set of local rules extends to hill names, as with pen, which is Welsh for hill; similar to the Gaelic ben, beinn. The languages are, of course, referred to as P and Q-Celtic. The pen element is rare, but occurs in names such as Penchrise Pen – a double hill – and Ettrick Pen.


The Law is a harder climb for some than others

mind your P’s and Q’s: a pen is a ben

a life is composed of howes and knowes 



Stell, Slitrig Water (KM)

I’ve come to think of the localism of language, or dialect, as a form of technology: names given in local elements and speech patterns impart specific meanings that speak to contexts, natural forms, and the potential of the landscape.

I grew up in hill farming country and behind Stonypath, on the route of our traditional family walk, there were three sheep fanks. Hereabouts, in the lands of Teviot, the names change, just like the shift from allt to burn, giubhais to fir or pine, that Ken and I recorded in Perthshire, in the road north.


a dividing wall: fank or stell

each glen wears the shelter of its stell as a lucky ring

there were fir-stells as well as drystane-stells



 the Upper Teviot watershed from Teviot Stone to Rule Water: Gill Russell, with Alec Finlay, 2017

The Upper Teviot watershed covers an extensive area so I decided to focus on a single tributary, the Slitrig Water, which flows directly into Hawick. Below I have listed the names, from the confluence with the Teviot to the source, with my initial translations for those that are not personal names, and which I was able to do.

Barnes Burn, near Stobs (KM)

SLITRIG WATER

SL01        SLITRIG WATER  cut-a-way river

SL02        SMAILE BURN  small burn

SL03        FLEX BURN  flecked burn

SL04        ACREKNOWE BURN  crop-patch knowe burn

SL05        HORSLEY BURN  horsegraze burn

SL05.1     MARCH SIKE  boundary rill

SL06        PAGTON BURN

SL07        BARNES BURN  barns burn

SL08        COGSMILL BURN

SL08.1     NAMELESS WATER

SL09        GIBBY’S SYKE

SL10        NAMELESS WATER

SL11        PENCHRISE BURN  ringed hill burn

SL12        HOPE SIKE  dent rill

SL13        LANDSIDE BURN  longside burn

SL14        LANG BURN  long burn

SL15        LEAP BURN  lap burn

SL16        FLOSH BURN  mire burn


Some notes: Paul Brough helped us locate the Smaile Burn, based on Scott’s description of it ‘running underground from the Nipknowes to Haggishaa, with the original course being over the Vertish, and on to the Slitrig’. Williamson gives the Flex Burn as deriving from Scots fleckit, referring to broken, variegated land. The Acreknowe is, Scott says, probably from the Old English acweorn cnoll, meaning acorn hill, and indeed, he says there are the remains of an old oak wood. In contrast, in her thesis published in 1942 May G. Williamson gives this as OE æcer, cultivated land, or local dialect, aiker, sharp, keen, pointed, applied to the hill face. For now I plumped for the crop-patch theory, though these disputes are the poetry of toponymic studies, as we try to listen in to the speech of a distant era. As discussed already, Penchrise Pen is, Scott says, ‘a curious double use of the ancient p-Celtic root ‘pen’… a rare local survival of the old Brythonic or p-Celtic ‘pen’.' He supposes that the name possibly means the hill with the girdle, referring to the Iron Age fortifications, although the origin of ‘chrise’ is not at all clear. The DSL gives flush, flosh: piece of boggy ground, especially one where water frequently lies on the surface, a swampy place, a pool of water in a field.


Slitrig Water by Little France (AF)

Wandering through the OS map and the writings of Robson and Scott, I’ve begun to open up some of the playful, mimetic, and symbolic meanings of place-names within the region, revealing aspects of ecology and class, privilege and power, loss and potential. To me the significance of the names is that they suggest approaches to remediation and transformation, and offer a meeting ground for negotiating change.


a transformation
Hagburn to Hawk Burn

a change of heart
from Staney Burn to Honey Burn

an alteration in attitude
Hangingside to Hawthornside

a shift in perception
Woollee to Wolfelee

Wauchope
there are always names that refer to ‘them’, or ‘the others’

Laird’s Hill, exactly where you’d expect it
between Rut Head and Eldrig

planted in the right place
Cherry Cottage on Sunnyside


Some notes: Hagburn: Douglas Scott records this name in his Wordbook, meaning bird cherry (gean or hag), now Hawk Burn on the OS, west of Rubers Law. Honey Burn: Scott records the former name of this tributary of the Teviot as Staney Burn. Woollee: the change of name probably arose in the nearby farm, Wolfhopelee; according to Tancred’s Rulewater and its People. Wauchope: possibly from the name local Old English speakers used to refer to local Welsh speaking tribes by; hope, Sc, howe or hollow, and wahl, Old English, foreigner, serf. Rut Head and Eldrig are names relating to deer-hunting; an elrig, elrick, or eilrig is a natural deer trap.

Horsley Burn (KM)

every town once had its commonty… immemorially

in The Wightman Era we remember The Common Riding was a radical political action

bourtrees mark boundaries

over time Lover’s Loan becomes Lover’s Lane

a political sign:
the British Railways Boards hereby give note that this way is not dedicated to the public


Langside Burn from the viaduct at Shankend (AF)

the hill burn toddles down and falls
toddles down and falls
and falls
s

break the skin of the river

put your face though the water
listen to it witter


Penchrise Burn, by the railway (KM)

As an experiment, to close this post, I’ve gathered some of the orthographic renderings of the names – again, using Scott’s Wordbook as a source – to let the sounds have prominence.


h ar-s ık
leep-burn


fleks-burn
h op-s ık


rool-wi’-ur
weenz-s̄ık


sli’-rik wi’-ur
hu-nee-burn


how-din-burn
has-in-deen-burn


waw-chup-wi’-ur
wool-fup-lee-burn





th’ fleety wud
alec finlay with gill russell, 2017

the project will culminate in a publication in Autumn 2017

photography: AF, Alec Finlay; KM, Kate McAllan

funded by Creative Scotland, and commissioned by the Borders Heritage Festival (co-ordinated/supported by CABN)

With thanks to Jenna Corcoran, Mary Morrison, Claire Pencak, and Paul Brough.