Scottish Place Names
- Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago
For comparability with other cities around the world, Port-of-Spain has been defined as the entire urban area extending from Chaguaramas in the west to Arima in the east and from the Northern Range in the north to the rapidly developing borough of Chaguanas in the south. This area takes in virtually the whole of the north-western corner of the island of Trinidad and includes, in addition to the core centres of Port-of-Spain and Chaguanas, the local municipalities of Diego Martin, San Juan-Laventille, Tunapuna/Piarco and Arima (the last three being known collectively as the East/West Corridor). Of the names of the 127 suburbs and neighbourhoods that have been identified to date in the Port-of-Spain/Diego Martin/East-West Corridor/Chaguanas conurbation, 15 (11.8%) can be found in Scotland or are based on Scottish family names. Of course, some of these names are used in other parts of the British Isles as well, but at least 9 of them (7.1%) appear to be uniquely related to Scotland.
Neighbourhoods, districts and outlying suburbs 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:
- Caledonia - Caledonia is the Latin name for Scotland and was loosely used by the Romans to describe any part of the country north of the Antonine Wall, especially the Scottish Highlands. The neighbourhood of Caledonia is situated in San Juan-Laventille.
- Cameron - there are places called Cameron in Fife, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire. Cameron is an ancient Scottish family name, the origin of which has been speculated to mean either 'curved hill-brow' (Old Welsh) or, more probably, 'crooked (or wry) nose' (Gaelic). The neighbourhood of Cameron is situated in Diego Martin.
- Edinburgh, Edinburgh Gardens and Edinburgh Village - these neighbourhoods in the borough of Chaguanas were no doubt named for Scotland's capital city, either directly or possibly indirectly through Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. It is perhaps relevant to note that Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip paid a state visit to Trinidad & Tobago in 1985, which was around the time that these neighbourhoods were established. The illustration here is of the skyline of Edinburgh, Scotland.
- Ellerslie Park - there is a house near Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire, called Ellerslie; there is also a place on the Isle of Man called Ellerslie House while Elderslie in Renfrewshire has appeared as Ellerslie on early Scottish maps. Ellerslie and Elderslie are interchangeable names, both meaning 'the field of the elder trees' in Old English. The popularity of this name in places around the world could be attributed to a character in one of Sir Walter Scott's novels, or to the reputed birthplace of William Wallace, the medieval Scots patriot. The up-market neighbourhood of Ellerslie Park is situated in Port-of-Spain.
- Glencoe - this name is etched into the Scottish psyche as the bleak glen in the Highlands where a party of MacDonald men, women and children was treacherously massacred by the Campbells (acting under government orders) in 1692. The neighbourhood of Glencoe is situated in Diego Martin. The picture here shows the "Three Sisters" peaks in Glencoe in winter.
- Montrose (Angus). One of the reasons for the popularity of the name Montrose throughout the English-speaking world may have to do with Sir Walter Scott's novel The Legend of Montrose, published in 1819. Alternatively, the name could commemorate the Duke of Montrose. The neighbourhood of Montrose is situated in Chaguanas.
- St Clair - in Scotland, this name is associated with the family name Sinclair. According to Scarlett (1975), this surname was derived from St Clare in Normandy, northern France during the 13th century. One of the most famous bearers of this name was Henry St Clair (Sinclair), Earl of Roslin, who founded Roslin Chapel near Edinburgh in 1446. The neighbourhood of St Clair is situated in Port-of-Spain.
Some of the following localities may also have a direct or indirect Scottish connection but these names are used in other parts of the British Isles as well. There is nothing obviously "Scottish" about any of these names, however, which suggests that the vast majority are probably either English or purely descriptive in nature.
- Alyce Glen - the name of this neighbourhood in Diego Martin has a possible Scottish connection because of the use of the word 'glen' (from gleann, the Gaelic word for a valley). No information has been found on the reason for this name (Alyce is both a first name and a surname).
- Beetham Estate Gardens - this neighbourhood near downtown Port-of-Spain takes its name from the Beetham Highway which, in turn, was named for the last British colonial governor, Sir Edward (Eddy) Betham Beetham (1905-1979) (Wikipedia article on Beetham Highway, retrieved in June 2011). Beetham is said to be a Scottish family name which originated in the northern English county of Westmorland (where there is a parish called Beetham). Information on Sir Edward Beetham's ethnic background has not been found.
- Belmont (Scottish Borders, Shetland Islands and South Ayrshire) also found in England, Ireland and Wales and was an extremely popular choice of name during the nineteenth century in all English-speaking countries.
- Green Hill (Aberdeenshire, Angus, Scottish Borders, Dumfries & Galloway, East Ayrshire, Fife, Moray, North Ayrshire, Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands, South Ayrshire and South Lanarkshire) but Green Hill occurs even more commonly throughout England.
- Mount Hope - Hope is an element in numerous Scottish place names, for example Hopetoun House in West Lothian (pictured here) and Hopefield in East Lothian. Hope is also a noble Scottish family name, the family being descended from John de Hope who probably came to Scotland from France in the 16th century with Magdalen de Valois, the wife of King James V. However, Hope is also considered to be an English family name from Derbyshire and many places in England have Hope as part of their name.
- Newtown (Aberdeenshire, Argyll & Bute, Highland, Falkirk and Shetland Islands) but is found even more commonly in England and, to a lesser extent, in Ireland and Wales and on the Isle of Man.
Compared with other cities and towns in the West Indies, the number of Scottish place names is relatively low. This is partly attributable to the comparatively high use of Amerindian, Spanish and French names. However, in relation to names associated only with the British Isles, the number of Scottish names appears to be relatively high.
Of the main roads in the metropolitan area, Munroe Road in Chaguanas seems to be the only one which has a Scottish name. It is nevertheless interesting to note that several streets in downtown Port-of-Spain have Scottish names (Abercromby, Duncan, Fraser, Gordon, Knox and St Clair) while one of the main parks is called Adam Smith Square. Close inspection of street names in the suburbs reveals a series of consecutive streets running off La Horquette Valley Road in Goodwood Park, all of which have Scottish, or Scottish-sounding names (from south to north these are: Highland, Kilbracken, Strathhaven, Strathmore, Gairloch, Loradale and Glenamon, with Glencoe close by). A second tight cluster of Scottish street names can be found in Caroni: Arbuckle, Buchanan, Gilbert, Grant, Kay, McKenzie and Walker, all of which are Scottish family names.
Information on the origin of place names in Trinidad is difficult to obtain. The author of this article would appreciate hearing from readers who have access to local resources on the subject.
- Black, George F. (1996). The Surnames of Scotland. (Birlinn Ltd, Edinburgh).
- Scarlett, James D. (1975). The Tartans of the Scottish Clans. (Collins, Glasgow and London).
- Maplandia.com and various websites on Port-of-Spain, Chaguanas and surrounding urban areas.
- Websites, placename gazetteers and published Ordnance Survey maps of British and Irish cities, towns, villages and counties.
© Ian Kendall
Melbourne, Australia, July 2011
If you wish to contact Ian about his research, his e-mail address is email@example.com.
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