CLAN ESTATE OR PLACE NAMES
by James E. Fargo, FSA Scot
In previous years I have been asked by visiting clanfolk at the celtic festivals I attend, for the derivation of the name ‘struan', as in Robertson of Struan. As we get ready for the 2017 games season, now is a good opportunity to cover this subject.
In Gaelic Scotland, estate names were based upon a description of the main characteristic of the land comprising that estate. Struan in Gaelic means the ridge at the confluence of two streams, in this case, the rivers Erochty and Garry where Struan Kirk is situated. On the road to Struan Kirk is the former estate of the Robertsons of Kindrochit which in Gaelic ‘Ceann-drochaid' meant bridge end. The main house is situated at one end of a stone bridge over the Erochty River.
Before there were hereditary surnames, noblemen's names were originally derived from a place name and thus included the Latin (and French) prefix ‘de' as part of the name itself. The name Duncan ‘de Atholia', our first chief, meant he was Duncan ‘of Atholl'. The lower non-landowning ranks of the clan would not generally have had a surname prior to the 15th century and would have been styled for example Robert, son of Duncan, son of Angus, etc. This was all that was necessary in the Gaelic culture to identify a person, his ancestors and his place in the community.
Below the noblemen rank were the landowning lairds of the clan community who were known by the place name of the estate where they lived. Examples are: Robertson of Auchleeks, which in Gaelic ‘Achadh-leac' meant the field of flat stones; Robertson of Fearnan which in Gaelic ‘Fearna' meant a forest of Alder trees; Robertson of Lude which in Gaelic "leothad' meant land of the sloping grounds; MacInroy of Shierglass which in Gaelic ‘Sgoir-glas' meant land of gray pointed rocks; Reid of Straloch, which in Gaelic "Srath-loch' meant valley of the loch or lake.
This also applied to towns and villages. The village of Kinloch Rannoch is sited at the downstream end of Loch Rannoch and Kinloch in Gaelic ‘Ceann-loch' means either the head of or the end of the loch.
Robertson, James A. "Gaelic Topography of Scotland", 1869, pp 189, 346, 349, 404, 463.