Scottish Place Names
- Johannesburg, South Africa

For comparability with other large cities around the world, Metropolitan Johannesburg can be regarded as the Greater Johannesburg-Ekurhuleni-Mogale City area. This urban area comprises the entire Witwatersrand from Randfontein in the west to Nigel in the east, and Ennerdale in the south to Midrand in the north - an area popularly referred to simply as "The Rand" or "The Reef". Of the names of the 1,305 suburbs in this large metropolitan region, 158 (12.1%) can be found in Scotland or are based on Scottish family names or Scottish words. Of course, some of the names are used in other parts of the British Isles as well, but as many as 82 of them (6.3%) appear to be have a definite connection with Scotland, either directly or indirectly.

The picture of Johannesburg business area is via Wikipedia.

Suburbs with names that occur only in Scotland and/or are definitely, or most probably, of Scottish origin are:

It is interesting to note that suburbs with Scottish names form a continuous belt in Johannesburg's affluent northern suburbs, stretching across nearly 10 kilometres (6 miles). This belt starts with Blairgowrie and Craighall in the west. It then proceeds through Dunkeld, Rosebank, Melrose, Birnam and Abbotsford, and ends with Waverley and Highlands North in the east, with many other suburbs bearing Scottish names, such as Atholl and Morningside, slightly detached to the north of this belt. These suburbs represent a "Scottish island" almost completely surrounded by the very English sounding suburbs of Bramley, Kew, Sydenham, Oaklands, Houghton, Saxonwold, Parkhurst, Ferndale, Hurlingham, Sandhurst, and Hyde Park plus one from the "Auld Alliance", Bordeaux! This tight cluster of suburbs with Scottish names is possibly one of the largest clusters in any city outside Scotland.

Some of the following suburbs and neighbourhoods are also likely to have a direct or indirect Scottish connection, but these names are also associated with other parts of the British Isles.

A third category of suburban names comprises places that definitely exist in Scotland, but the likelihood that the Johannesburg counterpart was named for Scotland, even indirectly, is greatly diminished because these names are far more commonly associated with other parts of the British Isles.

A final category of suburban names comprises places that can be found in Scotland, or that are based on Scottish family names but which, in Johannesburg's case, definitely or most probably have no connection with Scotland.

Other place names in Greater Johannesburg that have a mild "Scottish ring" about them, but that have not yet been established as having a connection with Scotland include:

Cason, Dunswart, Edenglen, Glenadrienne, Glenanda, Glen Dayson, Glenhazel, Glenvista, Larrendale, Lea Glen and Rabie Ridge.

Some of these names may simply have been coined to sound Scottish or possibly even Irish. Swart is an Afrikaans surname with the result that Dunswart possibly represents a Scottish-Afrikaans combination of place name elements. Edenglen could prove to be an inversion of Gleneden in the Fife Regional Park. Inversion of place name elements has occurred before in Johannesburg's history, for example the Edenvale suburb of Dowerglen (a name with a Welsh connection) was originally Glendower, the anglicised name of the medieval Welsh patriot Owain Glyndwr. The suburb of Cason in the Boksburg area takes its name from an old goldmine. One genealogical website suggests that Cason is a variant of the Scottish family name of Carson, first found in Dumfries-shire, but it is also said to be a Spanish and Italian family name. In this same website, Rabie is considered to be a Scottish name but in South Africa its origin is more likely to be Afrikaans. It is tempting to conclude that there is a definite Scottish link with Glenadrienne since all but one of its streets bear Scottish names. However, this is merely a continuation of the street-naming theme for neighbouring Hurlingham (a suburb with an English name whose street names are nearly all Scottish!).

Most of Johannesburg's suburbs with distinctly Scottish names were established between 1902 and 1940, i.e., the period between the close of the Second Anglo-Boer War and the start of World War II. This coincides with the period when British control of the economy of the city - an economy based on the world's largest and richest goldfields - was at its height. The Scots certainly played an important part in establishing this relatively young city (Johannesburg was founded as recently as 1886). This is evident, for instance, in the substantial proportion of "Randlords" and other leading citizens of early Johannesburg who were Scottish. Randlords was a name given by the London press to the newly rich mining magnates in Johannesburg. The Randlords and other wealthy and influential citizens of early Johannesburg built hundreds of mansions in the Parktown area. Of 41 former Randlord mansions that are now open to the public, at least seven (17.1%) were built for Scotsmen and/or have Scottish names:

An eighth Randlord mansion, "The View", built in 1897 for Sir Thomas Cullinan who was the chairman of the mining company that discovered the world's largest diamond, is now the headquarters of the Transvaal Scottish Regiment. There are also other reminders of the once strong Scottish presence in Johannesburg. The names of several well known roads in central Johannesburg are distinctly Scottish: Anderson Street, Athol Road, Carse O' Gowrie Road, Gleneagles Road, Glenhove Road, Gordon Road, Maclaren Street, Melrose Street, Perth Road, St Andrews Road, Scott Street, Stuart Drive and possibly Highland Road in Kensington.

Scottish Horse Memorial, Johannesburg There are also many parks and sports grounds dotted around the metropolitan area with names that look distinctly Scottish. These include Alexander Park (Malvern), Bill Stewart Reserve (Bedfordview), Caledonian Sports Ground (Germiston), Dixon Park (Cyrildene), Donald Mackay Park (Berea/Yeoville), Elizabeth Sturrock Park (Milner Park), Hunter McLea Sports Ground (Mayfair West), Jock Whyte Park (Sandringham), Keith Flemming Park (Linden), MacKie Niven Park (Bellevue Central), McDowell Park (Northmead), Moffat Park (South Hills), Paterson Park (Norwood), Phineas McIntosh Park (Brixton), Robert Scott Gardens (Brakpan), Ross Skinner Park (Roodepoort West), Simmer & Jack Sportsground (Germiston), Sir William Dalrymple Park (Rossmore), Sir William Hoy Park (Sydenham) and William Watt Park (The Hill). Murray Park (Belgravia) sounds Scottish enough but George Hedley Murray, after whom it was named, was born in County Durham in the north of England and grew up in Natal. R.H. Henderson Park (Melrose Estate) is another Scottish sounding name but Robert Hugh Henderson's ancestry was Northern Irish. Balfour Park in the Highlands North area was once a park but is now a major suburban shopping centre.

Yet another tangible reminder of the role played by the Scots in early Johannesburg is Caledonia Hill, that portion of the Kensington Ridge on which the Scottish Horse Memorial stands. This prominent landmark to the east of the CBD (pictured here) is a memorial that was erected in 1905 to the soldiers of the Scottish Horse who fell in the Boer War. Built of Aberdeen granite, the memorial is a replica of the one erected on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle. There are in fact two Scottish military memorials in Johannesburg, the second being the Transvaal Scottish Memorial in the Brixton Cemetery.


© Ian Kendall
Melbourne, Australia, June 2004
(Revised October 2009)

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

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