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Scottish place names: Jellyhill

Jellyhill was originally the name of a farm in Cadder Parish, North Lanarkshire. In the late nineteenth century, some of the land was acquired by the Carron Company to build housing for their workers at the nearby Cadder Colliery. In the early twentieth century the mining industry began to decline in the area, and this hamlet was gradually absorbed into the northern end of the growing town of Bishopbriggs.

Jellyhill is a rather exotic-sounding name in a landscape of mundane Miltons, Bogheads, Langfaulds and Whitehills. It appears erroneously as Jettyhill on some of the earliest Ordnance Survey maps, but is clearly marked as Jellyhill on earlier maps such as William Roy's Military Survey of 1747-55, and Thomas Richardson's 1795 map of the Glasgow district. One potential explanation for the name is that it was simply a hill shaped like a jelly (better known in the US as jello), but this is perhaps unlikely since the original farm considerably predates the popularisation of sweet jelly in distinctively shaped moulds which occurred in the Victorian era, and furthermore the expected Scots form of the word would arguably be jeelie rather than jelly.

Another possibility is that Jelly is a surname. G. F. Black' s The Surnames of Scotland reveals that the surname Jellie was first recorded in southern Lanarkshire in 1673, and local records indicate that there were certainly a number of families called Jelly or Jellie living in the north of the county in the nineteenth century. Against this theory, however, is the marked lack of 'surname + hill' toponymic constructions in the area, and the hills immediately surrounding Jellyhill have names such as Blackhill, Crosshill, Littlehill, Meiklehill, Dryhill and Bearhill (bear or bere being a type of barley). This would suggest that the initial element in Jellyhill is more likely to be a descriptive element.

There is a Scots adjective jellie or jelly which seems to be an appropriate candidate here. Originally meaning 'splendid, gay or light-hearted in appearance', its earliest occurrence in the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue is from James Dalrymple's 1596 translation of Leslie's Historie of Scotland in which he describes a woodland as being 'verie jocund and jellie'. The Scottish National Dictionary also records this word in the sense: 'Of things: pleasant, agreeable, fine, imposing', with numerous examples spanning the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. However, by the twentieth century, jelly was slipping out of use, with the last recorded example being found in Neil Munro's novel New Road in 1914. It seems likely, therefore, that Jellyhill is a purely Scots place-name, referring to a pleasant or imposing hill, incorporating an old Scots word which, like the hamlet itself, has not survived into the modern era.

This article was written by SLD's Dr Alison Grant. Feel free to contact her with any questions.