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Last Saturday was International Mountain Day so my word this week is scurran. Dictionaries of the Scots Language (DSL) defines scurran as Gaelic in origin meaning, “a peak or pinnacle on a hill, specifically of Ben Rinnes, Banffshire”. It has only one example, from John Brown’s Round Table Club (1873):


“I hae thocht mony a time aboot that mysel' fin' I wis herdin' sheep, an' lookin' at the scurrans o' the hill-heid. The top of the mountain has been worn down by the weather leaving this scurran as a remnant”.



As far as our research shows, the word still refers to Ben Rinnes but sometimes with different names, as in this from the National of August 2017:


“As Gina and I tramped up the footpath that runs all the way to the quaintly named summit, the Scurran of Lochterlandoch, it didn’t seem too fanciful to imagine the basic elements of this uisge bheatha as the provision of the mountain – the melting spring snows, the roaring burns, crystal clear and cold, the rolling slopes of peat that were once used to fire the distilleries and the patchwork fields of barley below us in Glen Rinnes”.



There is also this observation from a birdwatcher in the Northern Scot of November 2020:


“Prior to that, a pair built a nest on a steep face on the Scurran of Well on Ben Rinnes, but failed to breed successfully for some reason”.


Of course, sometimes it’s just the Scurran, as in this earlier example, again from the Northern Scot of June 2012:


“The footpath is well-constructed and maintained thanks to the Friends of Ben Rinnes. It zig-zags up Round Hill and over Roy's Hill ... It passes the Scurran before reaching the summit at 840m or 2,756ft."


This Scots Word of the Week was written by Pauline Cairns Speitel, Dictionaries of the Scots Language