Monday, June 08, 2020

The Scots language origins of Stable Hole, Portavogie

“Stable Hole” is an obscure, but sometimes very beautiful, wee cove at the north end of Portavogie, to which I regularly walk our dog or else land the kayak in. It's not named on modern maps, but so many Ulster-Scots placenames aren't; they are found in whatever local oral tradition remains.

Stable Hole is often soft and quicksandy – my uncle John has told me that when he was a boy it was sometimes ironically nicknamed “Purgatory” because if you went in you didn’t know if you could get out. (Theologically, the Presbyterian, Methodist and Brethren locals would have found that nickname ironic and amusing).

Well it turns out that the word “Stable” in the Dictionary of the Scots Language refers very specifically to “the part of a bog in which a foundered horse is trapped”. There is more depth to Scots words than lazy assumptions that they are nothing more than bad English. And the wee places have something to say.