This section looks at the use of names for places and areas near where we live.
The name survives today as part of the Dumfries & Galloway Region in South West Scotland.
Galloway includes the old county of Wigtownshire and the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright.
The boundaries of these areas have changed over the years, probably to equalise populations throughout local government areas, but Galloway nominally starts at the River Nith in Dumfries and is bounded by the sea to the south and west and by Ayrshire to the north (the Galloway Hills being the dividing line).
People from Galloway are usually called Gallovidians although the term Galwegian is also used. Galwegian is also the term used to describe the form of Gaelic spoken in the area until about the 16th century A.D.
The name Galloway (gall gaidel in Gallwegian Gaelic) is believed to mean ‘foreign’ or ‘stranger Gaels’. It probably refers to the Norse Gaels who settled here between the 9th and 10th centuries A.D. These people had influence over a wide area around the Solway Firth, including the Isle of Man and coastal parts of Cumbria.
Stewartry of Kirkcudbright
The old county of Kirkcudbrightshire was more correctly known as the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright.
At one time the name 'stewartry' applied to any district where a High Steward was appointed by the king to collect his revenues. The first Steward of Kirkcudbrightshire was Walter Fitzalan who was appointed by David I of Scotland around 1150. The position became hereditary and the name Steward or Stewart was eventually used as a surname. The 6th Lord High Steward, Walter, married Marjory, the daughter of Robert the Bruce, and so founded the Royal House of Stewart.
Annandale, in the east of Dumfries and Galloway, was another Stewartry.
In time, other areas of Scotland e.g. Wigtownshire, became administered by hereditary sheriffs who had much the same powers as a steward including upholding the law in their area. These administrative areas became shires.
Kirkcudbright was the only area in Scotland to retain the title of Stewartry into the modern era. The shires and the Stewartry were dissolved with the local government reorganisation in 1975 although many of the old names are still in use today.
For a short while the Stewartry District operated within the Dumfries & Galloway Region and now the Stewartry is a sub- area of the Dumfries & Galloway Region.
A Lord-Lieutenant is the Queen's representative for a particular area. Lt. Col. Sir Malcolm Ross is the current Lord Lieutenant for the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright [as of 2014].
Girthon is a large parish in area, covering about 16 miles north to south from the River Dee, near New Galloway, to Fleet Bay, and between 2 and 5 miles east to west.
The River Fleet marks the boundary between the two parishes of Girthon and Anwoth.
One suggestion of the derivation of the name Girthon is that the river may previously had the Gaelic name 'amhuinn' which is pronounced similarly to the word 'avon' and means water or river. This may have been combined with an Old Norse word 'garth' which can mean a shallow stretch of shingle in a river where it can be crossed easily. Before a bridge was built over the River Fleet there was a ford nearby which would fit this description.
However 'garth' can also mean an enclosure for catching salmon or a house with the land attached.
Girthon is surrounded by seven parishes - Anwoth, Kirkmabreck, Minnigaff, Kells, Balmaghie, Twynholm and Borgue. Movement between parishes was common, and this should be borne in mind when searching for ancestors.
The original Girthon Kirk was at the Clauchan of Girthon and is now a ruin. A new Girthon Church was built in Gatehouse in 1818, after the town had become the main centre of population in the parish. The churches of Girthon and Anwoth combined in 1975 and c.1990 Borgue was also linked. The combined churches title became ‘Gatehouse of Fleet Parish Church’ in 2005.
Anwoth Parish is smaller than Girthon in land area being about 6.3 miles from the hills in the north to Fleet Bay in the south and about 2.3 miles from east to west.
At one time there was a separate parish of Kirkdale to the west. Most of this parish was later included in Kirkmabreck but a small portion joined with Anwoth.
In some old documents Anwoth is sometimes spelled Anworth.
Old Anwoth Kirk at the Clachan of Anwoth was built about 1627. It was used until 1825 when the new Anwoth Church was built a little further to the west of the clachan. Although Anwoth and Girthon parishes combined in 1975, Anwoth Church continued to be used until 2002.
Anwoth has only two neighbouring parishes - Kirkmabreck to the west and Girthon to the east.
One suggestion of the derivation of the name Anwoth is similar to that for Girthon: that it may be derive from the Gaelic word 'amhuinn' which is pronounced similarly to the word 'avon' and means water or a river. The 'woth' part of the word could mean 'wath '- a ford, or 'wyth' - width (of river), or 'wyve' - to weave (N.B. prior to being straightened, the river had several meanders or loops which wove across the flood plain).
Given the above origins of name for Girthon and Anwoth the River Fleet may have originally been named the Avon from the Gaelic word for a stream 'avon' . The name might later have been changed to the Norse-based Icelandic word 'fljot' which has a similar meaning.
Gatehouse of Fleet
Gatehouse of Fleet is a planned estate village dating from the late 1700's. Prior to this date, there were probably small clachans around the area with similar names. Documents about a visit by Edward 1 to the area in 1300 mention ‘Gerton of Flete’, while Pont's map of the 1580's shows ‘Gouhous’.
For hundreds of years various roads such as Roman roads, drove roads and pilgrim routes had crossed the River Fleet by ford around where the bridge now stands. Dates on the present bridge suggest that there has been a stone bridge there since at least 1730 but there was probably a wooden bridge as early as 1661.
It is believed that for many years Gatehouse consisted of a toll house to pay to cross the river (believed to be the Gaithous in Ann Street), an inn (probably on the site of the present day Murray Arms Hotel) plus maybe a farm and some scattered dwellings.
'Gait' is believed to mean road way, so the Gaithous would have meant a house on the road - maybe where a toll was taken to cross the river - hence Gatehouse of Fleet.
In 1795 Gatehouse was given the status of a 'Burgh of Barony', and as such was allowed to hold markets and hiring-and-firing fairs and to have a Town Council to run its affairs. Gatehouse of Fleet had become a town.
Place Names around Gatehouse
This section will contain anecdotes about various buildings and hopefully why certain names have been used for them, and when their names have been changed.
Such descriptions are already available for parts of Anwoth & Girthon that are outside the Burgh of Gatehouse. These can be found on www.kirkcudbright.co
We would also like to add information and photographs about the railway that used to serve Gatehouse.
We have also acquired some old farm maps which name individual fields. We have come across references in censuses to families living in a named old building in the middle of a field somewhere, but the building is now delapidated or non-existent. Often the fields still retain the names used for these old buildings and are therefore important for social history purposes.