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Exploring Annan’s place names

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By Fiona Reid
Annan and Eskdale
Exploring Annan’s place names

A FASCINATING talk exploring the origins of Annan’s place-names, will be presented by Dr Colin Mackenzie next week.

It takes place on Tuesday evening, at Annan Old Parish Church Hall and is part of a winter talks programme organised by Annan the History Town.

Dr Mackenzie, who is a primary teacher and passionate place-names researcher, currently shares the intriguing meanings of local place-names and the stories behind them on Twitter (@dgplacenames), and through his meticulously researched blog (https://dgplacenames.wordpress.com/). Behind the scenes, he has been busy working on a project to study and catalogue the field-names around Annan.

He will talk about the languages that were used to name Annan’s landscape and what place-names can tell us about the history of the area.

In addition, he will introduce the Field Names of Annan project and how people can get involved. He will explore how place-names record the various peoples who lived in our area and the unique linguistic character of the Solway Basin; what the oldest name in the area is; how understanding place-names let you read the landscape; why new names are just as important as old names; and how to record and preserve local names

Offering a taster, Dr Mackenzie said: “Every place-name records a story. Annan shares its name with a Celtic goddess; the kirk in Barnkirk has nothing to do with churches; Solway tells us how the Vikings navigated. Taken together these stories allow us to piece together history which would otherwise be lost. We can learn who lived here before us, what languages they spoke, and what was important to them by understanding the names they gave to the landscape around us.”

With reference to the River Annan, his research has uncovered a “long, meandering history that flows in and out of languages”.

And he said: “1300 years ago, in northern Italy, an anonymous cleric compiled a list of 5000 places from Ireland through to India. This sprawling collection of names is known as the Ravenna Cosmography, after the city it was written in. In the British section of the text, among a list of rivers, we find the name ANAVA. This is almost certainly an early form of Annan.”

Encouraging everyone along, organiser Kathleen Cronie said: “He is an incredibly engaging speaker, whose enthusiasm for the subject of local place-names positively shines. I know our guests are in for a real treat! We invite them to bring along any information that could enhance Colin’s extensive database.

“We are proud to be hosting such an exceptional speaker and feel sure the event will be both insightful and inspiring, encouraging others to discover more about their local area, and the people and places that influenced it.”

  • The talk starts at 7.30 pm and entry is free

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