Blaeu Atlas of Scotland, 1654

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Name: Blaeu, Joan, 1596-1673  
Title: Lavden sive Lothien  
Pagination: 38-39
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Translation of text:

to east, but come together near Dalkeith, from where they flow into the Scottish Sea not far from Musselburgh. There are many other rivers of the same name as these in this island, especially two beyond the Tay among the Venectiones; the origin of the name is in the Hebrew mother tongue, in which iatsac is to pour, flow. Then comes the Medlan Burn, so called from Magdalene; to whom, in the time of the Roman religion, there was dedicated a chapel on its bank, near a stone bridge, where it is customary to cross (2) the burn. After this is found the Water of Leith, chief of the rivers of this region, flwoing from the south from higher ground towards the north, to the Forth; where it joins with that, there is the best known of all ports in our country. The land through which this river runs is most productive of grain, so that along its bank within a few miles you could count in excess of forty five corn-mills. The name of this river comes from the Hebrew leath, to pour, flow; as also the well-known River Lethe in Greece. The next noteworthy river is the Aimon, commonly called by poor linguists Almond; its name is a compound of Ai or Ay, which word means stream; so indeed a stream is called in our country in the Merse, and a small city on it Ayton, whence too the name of a noble family. The second part of the compound is Mon from the Saxon Mund, which means mouth or river-mouth: hence Aimun or Aimund is thus properly the mouth of the River Ai, which is called in another vernacular word Cramond, more correctly Cranmund; Cra is substituted here from Cran as in the well-known Craford for Cranford. Cranmund also means mouth of water, for Greek krana is fountain of water, whence Cran. The final river is the Avon, which flows down likewise from the south from higher ground and flows into the Forth. There are many other rivers of this name in this island; the origin of the name is also Hebrew ain, since it means source, as it is; so too are several other, smaller, rivers in this region; but all flow into these larger ones which have been mentioned, or are not of such great importance. One however must not be passed over, which I had almost forgotten: it flows past the village of Liberton, coming down from the Penlan mountains, and is taken into Duddingston Loch, whence it runs into the estuary of the Forth. This seems to have once been called Leber, under which name various rivers have been designated in our country, from Greek leibo, I disperse, pour through; on its bank is situated the village of Leberton. Today this stream is commonly called Fagot; this name is a diminutive from Greek phagos, by which name various rivers are designated, notably the famous Phagus in Elis; it is derived from pege or pagei spring, this from the Hebrew phacah, that is to flow, pour. Not far from this stream, near the church of the locality, is a spring from whose outflow oil bubbles up along with water, or a fatty, dense balsam, floating on the water. The local people collect this on fixed days and preserve it for several months, and then use it as an excellent remedy against distortions and pains in the limbs and against agria, a type of scabies. All the foresaid streams have, generally in more than place, stone bridges, by which they are crossed. This region is by far the leading one of all the Provinces of Scotland, whether you consider the supply of things necessary for human uses which are either created in it or are imported to it from elsewhere; or the beauty of the country, in which you may find valleys green with grass, fields producing grain, hills and raised places well stocked with herds of sheep. Now the inhabitants of this region, as they are much more numerous than of any other region in our country, even of much larger ones, so they are much more cultivated than others, and men here of every class are much richer than in any other Province; this partly results from the happy provision of things which are created here, partly too from the trade in commodities which is practised here more than elsewhere. For this region is not only the common market for the whole Kingdom, but also for foreigners. All the rivers abound in fish; and the sea near by provides its riches in abundance to the people, so that none of these fish of various kinds which the sea supplies at fixed times of the year are wanting.

At the beginning of autumn near Dunbar there is such a great catch of herring for some weeks, that not only are the poor of the neighbourhood fed on them at that time, but also they are salted and preserved for the use of the rich in the following seasons of the year. Further at a certain time of year, by the special beneficence of providence, sea-birds resembling geese, whence they are commonly called geese, fly here to us from foreign parts, and take up position on a rock in the estuary of the Forth, called the Bass; there they lay their eggs and when laid incubate them for a fixed time on the rock and hatch them; nowhere else in the whole of Europe will you find geese of this kind, except on a second rock in the Firth of Clyde to the west. There is such an abundance of them here, that the owner of the place makes no small profit from them; for not only is the flesh of these birds edible, but their feathers also serve for stuffing cushions. Amazing stories are told by our historians about these birds. They come to us about the middle of April in flocks and leave us about the middle of September. But before the coming of the flock they send some in advance like scouts and house-agents, who look out and assign their dwellings in advance. The goose lays only one egg at a time, which with great dexterity it fixes at one end on the rock and when fixed incubates with its foot, and never or very rarely leaves it until the chick is hatched. But if the goose should lift its foot from the egg and desert it and it should be moved from its place by a man, it is impossible by any means to replace it on the rock so that it remains fixed; therefore the goose starts again and lays another egg in place of the lost one, and puts it in the position of the first one. It is a peculiarity of these geese, that they cannot fly at all unless they can see the sea. This became known to men when on one occasion they realised they were trapped, having been by chance driven by a storm from the rock to the mainland out of sight of the sea, and trying by flight to escape the hands of those who would catch them, they clearly disclosed that they could not fly. When the chicks reach the size of domestic geese, then they are pleasant and ready for eating, but scarcely before then. The flesh of older geese is tough, meagre, and black, though the feathers are white. When they come to the Bass, they bring with them a great quantity of fish on which they feed there, and which sometimes get caught by the local people and serve as food. They also bring with them pieces of wood, of which they build their nests, and these too the inhabitants of the rock take and use for fire. These geese, with a vernacular name distorted, I believe, from Latin, are called Solen, which they wrongly pronounce Soland, that is yearly: for they come to us once only at a fixed time in the year. By some they are called in the vernacular Scouts, that is ota istai (3) , from the exquisite sense of hearing, in which all kinds of geese excel according to writers on natural history. But I should rather believe that Scouts is the term for the geese sent ahead, mentioned above. These are the main towns of this region: Dunbar or Baradunum on the Scottish Sea, where there is a harbour and above the cliff a ruined castle, formerly belonging to the Earls of March, who take their surname from this place. The name is a compound of Dun, i.e. mountain, and Bar or Baris, which means tower. The second town is Haddina, in the vernacular Haddington; it has this name because it is situated on the River Tyne, where there was once a famous monastery on level ground. The third town is Dalkeith, at the confluence of the two Rivers Esk with a castle and neighbouring domain. This town was for some ages the patrimony of the Douglases, but now belongs to the Scotts. It has its name from Dal, i.e. hill, and Keth, i.e. cover, roof. More or less a mile to the west from Dalkeith (4)was the famous Abbey on the Esk, on a low spot, called Newbattle, which is interpreted to mean new building. It is today the seat of the earl of Lothian of the family of Kers. The fourth town is Musselburgh, not far from the mouth of the Esk, so called because it was originally the home of poor fishermen, who devoted themselves to the gatherings of all kinds of shell-fish, in particular mussels.

Leith and Edinburgh are discussed separately. The last town about which we shall speak in this province is that which most appropriately our kinsman (6) generally calls Limnuch, with a Greek word limnoikon, i.e. village at the marsh: for oikos is village, and limne is stagnant water, as we shall show elsewhere. This town was in ancient times Lindum, from Lin, i.e. dwelling, and Dun, vernacular for hill; today it is called Linlithgow, by which name is fully given the rationale of the site; for Lin is dwelling, which occurs so often in place names, and Leth is water, as we have seen above, Gow is hill from the Hebrew gaah, to lift, raise, an elevated place: and in truth this city is situated at a medium-sized lake above a small hill. In this city is a royal palace and a church too of elegant construction.

Formerly, apart from the aforementioned towns, there were many fortified places, forts and castles, about which we shall at this point say nothing, as the passing of time and change of fortune have altered them all. Yet it has seemed right to mention here briefly one or two castles. There is a castle, even today very well fortified, of the Douglases, situated above a cliff steep on all sides and surrounded by the sea, except on the west, where the entrance to the castle is; and this part too is fortified with birch plantations. The Douglases had once built this castle to crush the tyranny of the Earls of March, who at that time vexed with their power all their neighbours, at least the weaker ones. This Castle is in the vernacular called Tantallon, corruptly, whence Latin writers have named it Tantallo: the rationale of the name is this: the masters of the oikodomoi or builders, or the principal masons, when the finishing touches had been put on the construction, obtained from the Lord of the place, as a reward for their labour and industry, that their names should be inscribed in capital letters on the most conspicuous places of the castle walls. Now the names of the oikodomoi were Thomas and Allan, for which our common people say Tom and Allon, whence was invented the compound name Tomtallon. This castle was for a long time besieged by King James V and long battered with bronze missiles, but with virtually wasted effort. Therefore after causing only slight damage to the walls the King was compelled to lift the siege. In the sea approximately one mile from this castle rises the Bass Rock, steep on all sides, whose summit is covered with grass, and right at the top is sweet water; the circumference of the rock is approximately one mile; the waves with their force have cut through the lower part of the rock almost from one side to the other; many sea-birds gather here to make their nests, especially the geese, those which have been mentioned above.

In a different part of this province on the Forth, above a high hill, is a ruined castle formerly belonging to the Douglases, now to the Hamiltons, named Abercorn, where there was in ancient times a famous monastery, which in those days they called Aberkernit. The rationale of the name is to be sought in the situation: since Aber or Keber, as in other places it is pronounced, denotes a building, whose diminutive is in French Cabaret. Corn or Kern or Kernig, as it was formerly pronounced, means an elevated place, and comes also from the Hebrew krn, which among other things denotes a raised place as does the Latin cornu.

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