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March 10, 2020
5:12 pm
Forum Posts: 27
Member Since:
December 16, 2015

Reading Taylor and Markus' "Place Names of Fife", I was surprised that the earliest record left to us of this form is as late as c1390. But one hundred years earlier the name was Petincreher. These are by no means the same word.

If we turn to Welsh (as we should) we find that "crehyr" means 'heron', so I was delighted to learn that herons are to be seen in Pittencrieff Park to this day. Herons prefer to cluster their nests together in a 'heronry'. So we may now understand that in Pictish times this was "the estate by the heronry". The incoming Gaelic-speakers could not understand this and were too arrogant to find out, eventually corrupting it to Pittencrieff – "the estate by the tree".

Because the original name is Pictish and NOT Gaelic we can be sure that the farm estate existed a long time before 850AD.

While I would not advocate the park changing its logo, it would be good if a way could be found to celebrate the heron.

March 25, 2020
11:59 pm
Forum Posts: 27
Member Since:
December 16, 2015

Dr Simon Taylor rightly takes me to task for an elementary gaffe: I failed to notice that the only Pittencrieff which came up when I searched the web version of his vast tome (https://fife-placenames.glasgow.ac.uk/placename/?id=2700) is a farm 1.4km north of the site of Cupar Castle. There is no real scope for herons here. He seems willing to dismiss the spelling variation as idiosyncratic However referencing a tree (or even a copse) in this area is hardly the sort of identifier to help the would-be visitor/delivery man.

Kindly he also offers that the earliest extant record we have for the Pittencrieff in Dunfermline dates from 1291 in the form "Petyncreff".
So we are left with the question of what to make of this Pittencrieff before the Gaels overran the area c850?
It is possible that there was "nothing" there apart from the fort and it is true that the riverbank is veritably smothered in trees. But for his explanation to work, these trees would need to have been remarkable in some particular way.

There is a possible solution to this: Perhaps the Pittencrieff near Cupar is a name transferred from Dunfermline (we do know that some people held parcels of land all over the county/kingdom) – the 1294 form retaining/betraying the old spelling of the Dunfermline Pittencrieff!

I acknowledge that the lack of data plunges us into speculation here – but this is the logically more simple solution and it remains remarkable that the form "creher" means "heron" and that there are herons at Pittencrieff Park. I am also of the view that some other placenames in Scotland with a "crieff" element are also corruptions.

March 28, 2020
3:14 pm
Forum Posts: 27
Member Since:
December 16, 2015

The reason for the problem on the Place Names of Fife website is that one is listed as Pittencrieff and the other as Pittencreiff – even though both have been standardised as Pittencrieff for well over 150 years.Frown

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