Creating the Resource – Initial Stages

Coal Hutches beside the Barony A Frame (near Auchinleck) © Eila Williamson

It has been exciting to start work on the new place-names project for the Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership (CCLP). Our project is one of 22 which once completed will help to highlight the heritage of the East Ayrshire coalfield communities and enrich the lives of those who live and work there as well as those who visit its landscape.

Since I began working part-time on the project I have been assembling the head-names for our database using the Content Management System designed by Brian Aitken, our systems developer here at Glasgow. This is based on similar databases for other place-name projects centred on Berwickshire and Galloway, which Brian has also designed. Our head-names are the names which feature on the OS 6 inch 1st edn map sheets for Ayrshire (published in 1853–60) plus additional names from the later OS 6 inch 2nd edn Ayrshire map sheets (published in 1896–99) and the present day OS Explorer.

As a starting point Brian was able to incorporate into the database data from the GB1900 project which captured all the names from the OS 6 inch 2nd edn map series, recording the National Grid References (NGRs) and parishes. However, the NGRs that that project has used are for the first letter of each name rather than for the feature itself so in the majority of cases the NGRs need to be altered for the purposes of our survey. Unfortunately, too, there were some problems with the map projection used for the GB1900 project and this has led to the wrong parish being assigned to approximately one-third of the names.

Our head-names for the parishes of Auchinleck, Old Cumnock, Ochiltree and Dalmellington are now complete with the relevant NGRs and parishes sorted out and the correct code (e.g. R for Relief feature such as a hill or glen; S for Settlement such as a village or individual house; W for Watercourse such as a river or burn) assigned to each name. Once I have completed a similar process for New Cumnock parish and the extra names from Straiton, Dalrymple and Coylton parishes that are included in the CCLP’s area, I will be able to start searching systematically for early forms of the names from other historical maps and documentary sources.

Eila Williamson