Little Duchrae and 'the Gaelic'
Currently there’s a resurgence of interest in Gaelic in the Glenkens, an academic conference is planned for 8th September 2018 and the origins of the name Little Duchrae is subject to some discussion. the owner of Little Duchrae Paul Scrimshaw tells me that Gaelic scholar Michael Ansell suggested to him that Duchrae comes from Dubh Ceathramh meaning the black quarter(sector) I’m not so sure. My rudimentary Gaelic suggests that the sound of the word ceathramhan would be something like Kee-ah-ra-yv-an (silent th in the middle and mh sounding v) whereas my understanding had been that a closer relationship might be found in the words Black Crag which is dubh creig (or creag) in Gaelic (which, spoken sounds very like Doo-cray) And as written, Dhu Creag looks pretty close to Duchrae. Though of course in modern parlance it's sounded DUH- CRAY rather than DOO- CRAY locally)
So for me, while Little Duchrae may well be in a ‘black quarter’ of Galloway (as I think is being proposed – or indeed this may be a much ‘older’ derivation) it seems more likely to me that the naming of Crockett's birthplace home is to do with the ‘black’ crags, quarry or hill all of which are obvious features around the house. The area of course was referred to as ‘the Duchrae’ and ‘Little Duchrae’ was not the main farm of the area.
But a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So I’m throwing this open to others with greater knowledge to discuss. It’s a fascinating subject and having looked through the archive it’s a question Crockett was asked in his own day by a Mr Archbold.
The Raiders archive contains a copy of a letter from Crockett to a Mr Archbold in July 1904 (I believe Archbold was an Australian publisher who may have had something to do with publishing Crockett's works in that country - but that's not confirmed) gives Crockett’s understanding. Here is a transcript:
Dear Mr Archibold,
I am glad you are so far on with the work which grows upon me as I consider it.
By the way we have always thought Dhu-chrae or Duchrae to be the Dhu- craig = Black craig or carg. There is no ‘clay’ on the farm so far as I know. Indeed I am sure. It is all craggy rough boulder land between the Black water of Dee and Woodhall Loch (Loch Grennoch)
I return Balmaclellan sheet. It is very well don indeed to act admirably as an index.
This is my ‘shivering’ day so you will excuse me. I am loading myself up with quinine till I have about fifty bumble-bees banging in my head,
I hope that Crockett’s ‘opinion’ will count for something in the discussion. Too often dismissed as a writer of 'popular' historical fiction (still a bête noir for some historians) it is often overlooked how much knowledge he himself had about history – it should be acknowledged that he owned a massive library of books, he researched widely into the periods he fictionalised, and he was friends with others who are ‘rated’ as authorities on the history of Galloway such as Sir Herbert Maxwell and Malcolm McLaren Harper. Not least he was a born and bred native of the Duchrae.
So I throw this one out – I won’t be at the academic conference – but I’m sure some of our Raiders will be and it would be nice if any in attendance would pick up the thread and bring Crockett into the conversation. The conference organisers want to ‘put Galloway on the map’ by their conference – encouraging tourists – which is a noble aim. And for my money, in any project either to promote tourism or local history/culture and certainly literature, not to mention projects involving nature, Crockett has a valuable part to play. He has so much to offer in his fiction and his other writings about the places and people of Galloway and especially the Glenkens it would be a shame if he is overlooked (again!)
Our aim at the Galloway Raiders is to promote Crockett and his works and primarily to share our knowledge and insight of his works to all – be they tourist or academic – who have an interest in Galloway, the Glenkens, its history, nature and stories. Sadly, all too often our open offer to chat Crockett, is met with either blank stares or disinterest. That should change. Crockett is not my 'pet project' – I am simply an advocate. Restoring his reputation is something we should all be working towards in whatever context we find ourselves.