SNAPSHOTS FROM THE PAST
ORIGINS OF THE NAME
the origins of place-names anywhere in Scotland is no easy
task and this is no less so in the northeast of the country.
Place-names are frequently descriptive based, for example,
on physical characteristics but they may also refer to an
event of historical significance or on an association with
an important person or institution. Difficulty arises with
language: Scotland has had at least four languages all of
which are still evident in place-names throughout the country.
The languages of the Picts and Britons (P-Celtic) and Scots
(Q-Celtic) along with Old Norse (or possibly Old Danish)
eventually lost out to the advance of the Anglian-based
'Scots' and English, but all have left evidence of their
existence in place-names with some having an amalgam of
languages. Local pronunciation and etymology compound the
problem of interpretation.
derivation of the name 'Brechin'is almost certainly Celtic
but its meaning is lost in antiquity. There are, however,
several plausible suggestions including:
Named after a Druid leader, Broichan.
Druidical centre of justice - Brehon. (These two suggestions
possibly relate to the Druids after the Romans expelled
them from Wales and their consequent exile in Angus. Association
of Brechin with similar names in Anglesey and elsewhere
in the principality can be made.)
Named after an Irish prince, Brychan, who also had a connection
with Wales and, possibly, after whom Brecon was named.
(It is not outwith the realms of possibility that Broichan
and Brychan are the same.)
Reference from Gaelic, Bri-achan, meaning 'the place of
slopes or braes'. In his History of Brechin to 1864, acknowledging
opposition of Gaelic scholars to this theory, David D.
Black nevertheless mentions it and draws another comparison
with Brecon. Both towns are built on the sloping bank
of a river and he refers to the Gaelic bruach abhainne
meaning 'bank or brink of a river'.
is quite easy to infer from suggestion 2 and, to some extent,
from suggestions 1 and 3 that Brechin in ancient times was
a place of considerable importance. Indeed, it is argued
by some that Brechin, if not the capital of the whole of
Pictavia, was certainly that of a sub-kingdom.