“Brogar” no more and farewell to “Maes Howe”

Picture: Sigurd Towrie

Soon to be replaced - Historic Scotland's "Brogar" signpost

Historic Scotland is to start referring to two of Orkney’s best known monuments by their rightful Orcadian names.

The government agency is to stop using the name “Ring of Brogar” when referring to the Ring of Brodgar in Orkney’s West Mainland.

In addition, they are to revert to the local one-word spelling of Maeshowe, doing away with the “Maes Howe” spelling that does not reflect the Orcadian pronunciation, mayz-ow or mayz-oo.

The splitting of the name and subsequent mispronunciation first began to appear in the late 80s and has since gradually crept into use outside Orkney.

Although “Brogar” is technically correct – from the Old Norse brúar-garðr meaning “Bridge Farm” – the name is no longer found in this form in Orkney. Recorded in 1563 as “Broager”, it seems likely that it’s local pronunciation (broa(d)yeur), led to the gradual inclusion of a “d” when the name came to be written.

Historic Scotland’s decision to use “Ring of Brogar” for the Brodgar henge was based on the name that appeared on Ordnance Survey maps – which are notorious for corrupting Orkney placenames. However, although they always referred to the stone ring as “Brogar”, they would refer to the other related placenames as “Brodgar” – Ness of Brodgar, Brodgar Farm, Brig of Brodgar, etc – a fact that caused considerable confusion among visiting tourists and even academia.

The decision to switch to the relevant Orcadian names was made at a recent Historic Scotland management group meeting.

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