~ Gregor Lamb ~
A — Z of Orkney Placenames

Gregor Lamb's A-Z of Orkney Placenames, Orkneyology Press

Gregor Lamb ~ conserving language and lore

Gregor Lamb, Orkney Islands, Scotland

Gregor Lamb has been delighting Orkney folk and far-flung lovers of the Orkney Islands for decades. He's written and co-written an abundance of valuable books and articles, all working together to preserve Orkney history, dialect and lore.

His latest study traces the origins of the placenames of Orkney - hills, coastal forms, farms, cottages and fields  - to a degree never before attempted. The descriptions Gregor provides are both scholarly and hugely entertaining, including elements of local and ancient history, geology, customs and folklore throughout.

Gregor's A — Z of Orkney Placenames is a glossary that reads like a chat with a knowledgeable and humorous friend. An introduction and an appendix round out the more specific main glossary with extra articles of related interest.

What's in a name?


Ever wonder who Cubbie Roo was? Or where the name Maeshowe came from? And who was this "Fin" of Finstown?

Have you been charmed and intrigued by the placenames you've come across on Orkney maps: Dwarfie Hammars; Fokkers Gill; Gump o Spurness; Gentlemen’s Ha; Kame o Stews ...?

Gregor Lamb's A - Z most likely has an answer to these Orcadian curiosities ... altough by his own admission, he's "limited" the entries to 8,000!

A short exerpt from the appendix:


It means ‘enclosure’ — which in Orkney can be a very small area, approximately 3 x 3 metres, or it can be a large area encompassing half a parish. Its origin lies in Norse kví pen and in its Icelandic home was usually associated with milking sheep.

There are many problems with this name which lie in its orthography. Since there is no initial ‘kv’ in Scots, ‘qu’ was adopted instead, hence the form ‘quoy’, but there was further confusion with the adoption of a ‘qu’ form, since ‘qu’ can itself be pronounced ‘wh’.

Take this example: there was a quarry in Birsay, Northside, which produced flat roofing slates. When I came to Birsay, I was told by a local man that the slates on my roof had come from the ‘Whys o the Hill’. I could not understand this at first until I realised that ‘Whys’ was another form of ‘Quoys’.

Released in spring of 2024!


~ Also from Orkneyology Press ~

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