Gaelic Word of the Week – Falkirk East

Each week publish our Gaelic Word of the Week podcast which you can listen to at the link above. Here on the blog we add some extra facts, figures and photos for Gaelic learners who want to learn a little about the language and about the Scottish Parliament – Pàrlamaid na h-Alba.

This week we continue our journey around the different sgìrean – constituencies – of the Scottish Parliament – Pàrlamaid na h-Alba.

We are back in the Central Belt for Falkirk East – An Eaglais Bhreac an Ear.

Falkirk is an interesting name. In Gaelic An Eaglais Bhreac means the speckled kirk. This doesn’t make too much sense until we look at the Scots form Fawkirk – ‘faw’ meaning speckled.

Falkirk East – An Eaglais Bhreac an Ear is full of many fascinating placenames including California and Bo’ness or, to give it its full name – Borrowstounness.

By peter henderson, CC BY-SA 2.0,

There isn’t a Gaelic term for California – “the sunshine village” or for Bo’ness – but there is one for Kinneil, which you may have heard of if you are a rail enthusiast, since it is on the Bo’ness and Kinneil heritage railway. The name Kinneil comes from Ceann Fhàil – the head or end of the wall, referring to the Antonine Wall.

Train at Manuel Junction, Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway

Ceann appears in many placenames and is often anglicised as Kin in names such as Ceann Loch Liobhainn – Kinlochleven, Ceann Loch Raineach – Kinloch Rannoch.

Once connected with Ceann Fhàil by a long-closed railway is the village of Slammanan – possibly the most interesting placename in the Eaglais Bhreac an Ear constituency. It comes from the Gaelic Sliabh Mhanann. Sliabh means hillside, slope or moor. The second part is more intricate. One theory is that the Mannan part comes from Manannán mac Lir, a sea god of Gaelic mythology. It is from him that the Isle of Man – Mannin/Manainn gained its name! According to mythology, he wore impenetrable armour, carried an invincible sword and rode over the waves in a splendid chariot.

However, the more likely theory, accepted by Ainmean-àite na h-Alba, the national expert group on Gaelic placenames is that Sliabh Mhanann means the moor associated with the area of the Manu – a Brythonic-speaking tribe which was then part of the Kindgom of Gododdin.

So Falkirk East – An Eaglais Bhreac an Ear has ties to Wales – a’ Chuimrigh, Ireland – Èirinn, the Isle of Man – Eilean Mhanainn – and of course, in the US – na Stàitean Aonaichte to California!

Another settlement in An Eaglais Bhreac an Ear is Grangemouth. In Gaelic it is Inbhir Grainnse. This is a relatively new name which has become established through use in the Gaelic media. You will recognise Inbhir, meaning river mouth, from names like Inverness, Inverkip and more.

This week’s Gaelic Word of the Week is: An Eaglais Bhreac an Ear – Falkirk East.

This week’s Gaelic Word of the Week has been written by Alasdair MacCaluim, Gaelic development officer who is rather fond of railways and has had many happy visits to Rathad-iarainn Bo’ness is Cheann Fhàil!