Yesterday afternoon Mary and I visited Mount Stewart, the National Trust Property on the shores of Strangford Lough. This magnificent house has undergone a major restoration and many visitors, including American tourists, were enjoying a beautiful afternoon in a beautiful property.
The estate was purchased in 1744 by Alexander Stewart (1697-1781), an Ulster-Scot who was born near Manorcunningham in county Donegal. He renamed his estate Mount Stewart and built a fine house which was later extended in several stages to become the present magnificent house.
In the first room on the tour there is a large Ordnance Survey map of the area and I noticed that one of the hills on the Newtownards side of the house was called Cattle Knowe. This is an Ulster-Scots word for a 'small hill' and it also appears in two north Belfast names, Fairyknowe and Sandyknowes.
From there we drove round the Ards peninsula and as we went through Cloughey we passed a street named Calhame. After I got home I checked on the internet and there is a Calhame Park in Cloughey, as well as a Calhame Gardens. Calhame is a combination of two Ulster-Scots words and means 'cold home'. It occurs as a place-name in many parts of Ulster and seems to refer to a homestead in an exposed position.
From there we went on to Millisle and turned left on to the Moss Road. This name derives from the Ulster-Scots word moss, which means a 'peat-bog'.
It was also good to see in some parts of the Ards peninsula, including Greyabbey, the incorporation of the older Ulster-Scots street names alongside the modern street names. These brown heritage signs are marked by the words lang syne meaning 'long ago'. Those words will be very familiar to most people from the Scots poem Auld Lang Syne by Robert Burns.
Most of our townlands in Ulster are of Gaelic origin but when we get down to a lower level, to hills, rivers and roads, the Ulster-Scots influence is greater than is often acknowledged.