-> 2008 -> Rhinns or Rinns of Islay?

Monday, 31/Mar/2008

Rhinns or Rinns of Islay?

Scan of a map with the incorrect spelling Rhinns of Islay

If you like me own both an old and a new version of the Ordnance Survey maps of Islay (in this case in particular the Islay North (Explorer 353) map) you will notice a subtle but important difference between the two versions:

The older version (mine says ‘Edition - A, Revised 2001’) labels the western part of Islay the ‘Rhinns of Islay’, whereas the newer map (mine says ‘Edition - A1, Revised 2001, Revised for selected change 2006’) now calls it ‘Rinns of Islay’. Notice the difference? Rhinns -vs- Rinns, with and without the h.

Scan of a map with the correct spelling Rinns of Islay

The version without the h is the correct one, as the h was only introduced around 1900 when attempts were made to Anglicise Gaelic words. I'm not sure when this first started to show up in maps, the Ordnance Survey maps have existed for a long time. Assuming the practice started around 1900 it has been around for over 100 years.

I guess it will take quite a few years until the correct spelling is the dominant version, as there must be a lot of older maps, books, websites and other publications with the incorrect spelling still out there. I've started to use the correct spelling more and more often again after learning about the differences, although it creates a slight dilemma: If I use only the correct spelling anyone still searching with the ‘old’ spelling might not find my pages. And I'll have my work cut out finding the incorrect versions on my various pages and correcting them.

PS: The final inspiration/ motivation for this entry (I had the idea in my head for a while) was this 1995 (!) page from the New Scientist where it says:

But they weren't right. Ian Fraser of the School of Scottish Studies in Edinburgh tells us that "Rum" is a Gaelic name, and was used in all records about the island up until around 1900. At this point, scholars who were attempting to Anglicise Gaelic words decided, for some reason, to add an "h" after a whole swathe of place names beginning with "r", including the Rhinns of Islay, Kells and Galloway, and Rhu in Dunbartonshire, none of which had the "h" before. The original spelling, however, is the right one and is being increasingly used again by those in the know.

And the Ordnance Survey? They have now agreed there should be no "h" in "Rum", and all their future maps will be amended accordingly. A rum do, eh?

Took them a while to update the Rinns then...

PPS: Just noticed another difference: The new version highlights Bruichladdich Distillery as ‘Other tourist feature’, which was missing on the older map. Nothing to do with spelling, just a nice touch after the distillery was reopened.

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