As in many rural communities, place names in Assynt mean a lot more than merely words on maps. They indicate what is and was important to everyday life, and very often give a glimpse of how much more the land was used in times gone by. Alastair Moffat notes in one of his books that the landscape, in the form of place names, doesn't forget, and when we start tapping into this source of history, we can see what he means. For example, we have many names of Norse origin in Assynt, although no clear physical evidence of Norse settlement has yet been found, and, intriguingly, we have names that are an amalgam of Norse and Gaelic.
Over the years, a number of events and meetings of interest groups have been arranged about place names. We have a retired Ordnance Survey surveyor in the area, who led one event. And individuals with an interest in place names have compiled lists, especially of place names that appear on no map, but were once commonly used in the area. Almost every nook and cranny in the landscape has, it seems, been named. But we have already forgotten most of these names, and therefore their significance.
At a recent place names of Assynt event arranged by Assynt Leisure and Learning, we noted that it would be good to bring our knowledge together in a common place. It was possible to prototype such a system quite quickly using the Omeka archiving software, together with appropriate geo-location plugins.
The site is a work-in-progress, and it will be interesting to see how it is likely to be used, who is likely to contribute information, and why. You can have a browse yourself at http://www.tinslave.co.uk/AAA