Scottish Place Names
- Harare, Zimbabwe

Of the names of the 216 suburbs that have been identified to date in the Greater Harare area, 44 (20.4%) can be found in Scotland or are based on Scottish family names. Of course, some of the names are used in other parts of the British Isles as well, but at least 13 of them (6.0%) are unique to Scotland, or are readily identifiable with places in Scotland that are based on the same names.

It may surprise some younger readers to find Scottish names in this southern African city. This is a legacy of the days when Harare was known as Salisbury, the capital of Southern Rhodesia, the bulk of whose European population was British. A sizeable proportion of these settlers would have been Scots. It should also be remembered that several explorers of 'Darkest Africa' were in fact Scotsmen, including the missionary-explorer David Livingstone (1813-1873), whose discoveries paved the way for later British colonisation of central Africa.
Picture of Hararare via Wikimedia.

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:

Glen Norah also has a Scottish ring about it but there is no trace of a place by this name anywhere in the British Isles.

Hardly any suburbs appear to have been renamed since Zimbabwe became independent in 1980. Place name changes in and around Harare seem to have been restricted to one or two topographical features (e.g., Lake McIlwaine to the west of the city is now Lake Chivero), to street names in the city centre and, of course to the name of the city itself. A map of the Harare CBD in the 1950s, when the city was still called Salisbury, shows a large number of streets with Scottish names, equalling those of English or Welsh origin: Abercorn, Bute, Cameron, Colquhoun, Fife, Forbes, Gordon, Grant, Jameson, Livingstone, Moffat and Orr. Several of these commemorated Scots missionaries and explorers. The names of at least four of these streets (Forbes, Gordon, Jameson and Moffat) have subsequently been renamed to commemorate African politicians and statesmen. Jameson Street, for instance, originally named for Sir Leander Starr Jameson, a Scotsman who was Cecil John Rhodes' right-hand man, now honours Samora Machel, the first President of neighbouring Mozambique.

It has proved to be difficult for the author of this article to obtain a detailed, up-to-date map of Greater Harare showing the names and locations of its outer suburbs. Any assistance in this regard from Zimbabwean readers would be greatly appreciated. It is also probable that some suburban names may have been obliterated from the face of Harare as the result of internationally condemned government action during 2005 in levelling some of its shantytowns.


© Ian Kendall
Melbourne, Australia, July 2005
(Revised March 2006)

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

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