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Place-name of the week – searching for sheep

Published: 02 October 2020

As this is Shetland Wool Week, I have been thinking about all the dialect words associated with sheep and wool and particularly the place-names that reflect where sheep grazed, rested or were caaed (rounded up).

Lamb appears frequently.  Lamba is the lamb isle, Lambaness is the headland pasture for lambs and Lambhoga comes from hagi meaning a pasture. Lamtun/Lambatuns is the fenced plot or farmyard, Lambigarth the farm and Lambahevda is a promontory. Other lamb names include Lambali (slope), Lambcudda (rounded point of land) and The Lambs Knowe (hillock).

The spectacular Sheep Craig or Sheep Rock rises to 132 metres, adjoins Fair Isle by a steep but impassable rocky ridge called Da Whills. Used for summer grazing until 1977, crofters used ropes to haul the sheep from boats up a precarious path. Old Norse Saudr (sheep) gives Sobuls in Unst, Nether Sound, Whalsay and Da Sjobels in North Roe - the places where sheep rested. Soberli, Foula is the slope with good sheep pasture. Old Norse gimbr, ewe, gives Gimbregerts and fær, sheep, Da Feriklevens.

Shetland maps record sheep punds, retts and crös – enclosures or sheepfolds. These, usually stone, enclosures often made use of the topography and many punds are located at lochs or the cliff edge where promontories act as a barrier on two-three sides. Punds were used to pen sheep overnight in summer to prevent them getting into the crops, or to segregate animals. In place-names, the Scots term pund appears much more frequently than the earlier Old Norse rétt found in Da Retts, Rettaness and Rettatong. Crofts were often named after the nearby enclosure – many simply called Da Pund or Punds, but other names include Gopund, Moulapund, Glippapund, Sturapund, Catpund and Collapund. Pundshoull or Punchwel is the pund at the small hill and some lochs, like Punds Water and Pund Loch, take their name from the enclosure. Crös usually take their names from landmarks, and some houses are also called Crös, Croos, Crows and Fulacrö. If you can help pinpoint further sheep-related place-names, please contact placenames@shetlandamenity.org

 Eileen Brooke-Freeman, Shetland Place Names expert, October 2020


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