December 16, 2015
This is generally /hitherto universally supposed to mean "fairy hll".
The two key renditions are:
(a) Pont: HYIE
(b) Roy: AY
We may now positively assert that the correct original form is Ben na h' aighe (a two syllable feminine noun).
There remains a problem with the meaning - for Dwelly allows that this could be "heifer, young cow" or "hind, fawn" or "ox, bull, cow".
The deer-based argument is supported by the nearby presence of Loch an t' Seilg and by the name Ben Hee applying to the whole massif rather than just one peak. The problems are
(i) that it is hard to work out why one should focus on the the youth and femininity and
(ii) that Loch an t' Seilg used to be called Loch na Dealachd.
The "ox, bull, cow" argument is supported by the nearby Loch an Loaigh Aird etc. (albeit now renamed Loch an Aslaird). The problem is that animals need water and so it is normal to find such a farmed animal associated with a particular glen even for summer grazing. This argument applies even more to heifers which would not be expected on the very roughest ground of the mountain top.
So the problem is solved in the sense that we may discount any relationship to the Perthshire "shee"s and we can be confident in the Gaelic, but more knowledge of the details on the ground (and reasons etc. for the name changes established) before a firm opinion of the specific animal can be settled on with confidence.
Other place names in the immediate area tell of serious friction between people - and this would benefit from being unpicked. If I were to plump it would be for the cows over the deer.
Thanks to my Gaelic Place Names mentor, Neil Macgregor, who has indulged me with a LOT of time on the phone.
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