October 2016 saw members of the REELS team visit North Berwickshire en route home from attending a day conference in Newcastle organised by the Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland. Dr Simon Taylor and Dr Leonie Dunlop (formerly of STIT, the precursor project to REELS) contributed papers.
Our objective was to conduct fieldwork and to enjoy the view of the rolling Lammermuir scenery and areas to the south from the top of Dirrington Great Law, a conspicuous hill of 398m situated 2.49km SSE of the village of Longformacus LMS and from its nearby smaller twin, Dirrington Little Law (363m), some 2km to the SW. The forecast was not auspicious, but undaunted we briefly explored the mid-18th century parish church, with its simple Romanesque features and interesting gravestones, before journeying on to begin an ascent of the Great Law itself.
If you aren’t familiar with the hill-bagging terms such as Marilyn, Hump and Tump then the Online Database of British and Irish Hills is a good place to begin. According to the database, Dirrington Great Law qualifies as all these three types of hill, being higher than 150m on all sides and having a top separated from other tops by more than 30m. It is even distinct enough to warrant its very own Wikipedia page.
The earliest reference located so far to Dirrington Great Law and its smaller neighbour comes in a late 12th/early 13th century charter (1), which Dr Taylor translates: ‘also I have granted to them and by this my present charter confirmed the church of Horndean and certain sheilings in Lammermuir which are called (the) Diueringdounes…’ (2) Further charters supply the variations: Diueringdon (3), Dunrindun (4) and Duurindun(?) (5). May Williamson (6) adds to these: Diuiringdon and the later forms Deryngton (c1350), Derington (1478) and Derrington Law (1523). She writes:
‘An OE form *Divering, Difering may be a patronymic based on a much simplified form of Dyċġferð, Dyċġfrið, but compare the River Deerness, Du: Diuerness, c1200, which seems to contain the same base, which is W dwfr, seen in many other river-names (ERN, 118-9). On this, in the OE form *dyfer, an –ing construction may have been made, so that *Dyferingdūn is “the hill by the rivers”.’
Dr Taylor is keen to re-examine this theory, suggesting instead that Dye Water, the major watercourse nearby, may also contain the same element as found in the Dirrington laws.
Our expedition too had a somewhat watery ending as is evident from the picture below. Nevertheless it was a most enjoyable day out.
(1) Kelso Lib.i no. 140, dated 1198 x 1214.
(2) ‘concessi etiam eis et hac presenti carta mea confirmaui Ecclesiam de Horuerdene et quasdem scalingas in Lambermore que vocantur Diueringdounes…’
(3) Kelso Lib.i no. 143, dated 1203.
(4) Kelso Lib.ii no. 460, dated 1243 x 1254.
(5) Papal confirmation of Kelso Lib.ii no. 460, dated 1243 x 1254.
(6) Williamson, M. (1942) The Non-Celtic Place-Names of the Scottish Border Counties, p55. PhD. University of Edinburgh.