Wednesday, 11 March 2009

The Hidden Place

Places are often hidden behind their names. We see a name on the map or drive past a road sign and think we know the place. Of course, real knowledge is a slower process. Yet hidden within each name is a sense, the original meaning of the name, which may offer a clue to a place’s particular identity. To know the meaning of a name is to begin to reveal the uniqueness of a place.

door of the forest
slope of watching
burn of the birches

The Hidden Place is a project initiated by the poet Thomas A Clark, supported by Falkland Centre for Stewardship. Its aim is to install road signs throughout Scotland, giving the meaning of the local place name.

loch of the showers
place of splinters
fort of the two oars

Place names are repositories of local stories. They tell of old cultures, history, geography, industry, religion and myth. Scottish names have their origin in several languages; Gaelic, Pictish, Norse, English, French, Latin and Scots. Each name is a piece of condensed folk poetry.

blue cairn
corrie of the snows
green lochan

It changes our perception of a place to learn that Glasgow is a green hollow, Greenock a sunny hill, that Milngavie is a windmill, or that Pollockshaws is a little pool in the woods.

height of the fire
meadow of the yellow cattle
place of the cave

By the simple intervention of the road sign, The Hidden Place will make these meanings accessible to everyone who passes by. It will change perceptions of the map of Scotland. The Hidden Place will eventually amount to one long poem about the land and its people.

isle of the offering
church of the arrows
house of the fold

Thomas A Clark, 2008

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