by Willie McLaughlin

I was speaking with a very smart elderly lady from Drumry a few years back and we were discussing the gatehouse building that had subsided at the entrance to Kilbowie Cemetery.

The building was slowly absorbed under the ground and disappeared eventually, much to the alarm of local residents.

She told me that Drumry was a modern name for Druim-righ, meaning “Hill of Shale” in Gaelic. This she said was the reason that the building had collapsed as the ground was unstable with unpredictable water courses deep beneath the surface.

I have no way of confirming these details but it made sense and also made me think that we are surrounded by historical place names that come from the Scottish Gaelic language. Dalmuir for instance means “the big meadow” and Dumbarton means “the fort of the Britons”.

Gaelic words on road signs have been visible since the 1970s and I remember wondering just where Crianlarich was and what a wonderful place it must be. Then I went there. I now realise why the Gaelic language refers to it as a “withering little site”.

Local places like Duntocher, Boquhanran and Kilbowie have unique names and histories of their own. The 64 bus used to go from Dalmuir to Auchenshoogle. These names have endured while others have disappeared or have been replaced by their modern English versions.

There is an archaeological site in Clydebank where a large Druid Circle was investigated and then re-covered. Old Kilpatrick and Goldenhill were the locations of Roman forts.

A look into the history of our area reveals many influences from numerous cultures including Scandinavians, Normans, Celts, Anglo Saxons, Picts and Scots. My own name means “son of the Scandinavian”. Some languages came and went while others merged and exist today on the streets of our towns.

Nowadays the Gaelic language belongs to the people of the Western Isles and the coastal communities of Argyll and the Western Highlands. It’s a shame that the native speakers are reducing year on year and governments should take steps to ensure its survival especially in the places where it is still spoken.

Gus an ath thuras. (Until next time)