Scottish Place Names
- Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Of the names of the 156 suburbs that have been identified to date in the Greater Bulawayo area, 38 (24.4%) can be found in Scotland or are based on Scottish family names. Of course, many of the names are used in other parts of the British Isles as well, but at least 15 of them (9.6%) are unique to Scotland, are based on Scottish family names or are readily identifiable with places in Scotland that are based on the same names.

It may surprise some readers to find Scottish names in this southern African city. This is a legacy of the days when Zimbabwe was known as Southern Rhodesia, the bulk of whose European population was British. A sizeable proportion of these settlers would have been Scots. The founder of the city of Bulawayo was in fact a Scotsman, Leander Starr Jameson (1853-1917), who was Cecil John Rhodes' right-hand man. It should be remembered that several explorers of 'Darkest Africa' were Scotsmen too, including the missionary-explorer David Livingstone (1813-1873), whose discoveries paved the way for later British colonisation of central Africa.

Suburbs and neighbourhoods with names that occur only in Scotland and not elsewhere in the British Isles, and/or are definitely or most probably of Scottish origin are:

Other suburbs and neighbourhoods with names that can be found in Scotland but that are not unique to Scotland and are therefore far less likely to have a Scottish connection are:

Hardly any suburbs appear to have been renamed since Zimbabwe became independent in the 1980s. Place name changes in and around Bulawayo seem to have been restricted to street names in the city centre and one or two suburban main roads. A map of the Bulawayo CBD in 1974 shows several streets with Scottish names (Jameson, Fife, Abercorn and Wilson) only one of which (Fife Street) has not been renamed. Jameson Street, for instance, originally named for Edinburgh-born Sir Leander Starr Jameson ('Dr. Jim'), now honours Herbert Chitepo. Chitepo, who was assassinated in Lusaka in 1975, was the first African in the colony of Southern Rhodesia to qualify as a barrister and was the first Chairman of ZANU during Zimbabwe's armed struggle for majority African rule. It has proved to be difficult for the author of this article to obtain a detailed, up-to-date map of Greater Bulawayo showing the names and locations of its outer suburbs. Any assistance in this regard from Zimbabwean readers would be greatly appreciated. See e-mail address below.


© Ian Kendall
Melbourne, Australia, April 2006
(Revised October 2007)

If you wish to contact Ian about his research, his e-mail address is

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