One of the reasons I love Edinburgh is that there always seem to be new things to discover about the city, new places to explore, and new stories to tell. This week I made one such discovery when I started looking into the curious name of one of the streets near the University of Edinburgh's campus buildings on the Southside of the city.
Having passed along Buccleuch Street many times (and having spent years trying to work out how to pronounce it!) I realised this week I'd never looked into the name 'Guse Dub' which is marked at the junction where the Buccleuch Free Church stands. I knew a little about Crosscauseway, the road which joins in from the eastern side, but nothing about this 'Guse Dub'.
A little light googling yielded some surprising results! Translated from Scots, the name 'Guse Dub' means, literally, 'Goose Puddle', and the junction historically was the site of a public wellspring and a small pond where ducks and geese congregated at a time when this area was rural territory, well beyond the limits of Edinburgh's city wall.
This approach from the south was one of the main routes into Edinburgh - there is some speculation that one of the roads leading up the Southside was a Roman road dating back to the second century - and so it's not hard to imagine this junction, with a small collection of properties, maybe an inn or a stable yard, being a convenient resting point for weary travellers making their way towards the metropolis of Auld Reekie.
The goose pond was a recognised landmark as far back a sthe seventeenth-century, and Walter Scott recalls the pond in some of his memoirs of childhood, days he must have spent playing in this area whilst his family had their home on nearby George Square.
Robert Burns lodged in a house on Buccleuch Pend (since demolished) a couple of doors down from this junction in 1784. The pond had been drained in 1715 - where did all the geese go, I wonder?! - although a public well and a horse trough remained on the site into the early 1900s.
West Crosscauseway, which runs from the eastern side of the junction, having crossed the main arterial road of St Patrick Street/Clerk Street, and nearby Causewayside, are both street names which feature an error of translation.
In Scots, a 'causey' was a street that was paved or which was more solid and established than an ordinary dirt track. In French, caucie meant a beaten or hardened surface, and with its many links to France, Scotland had taken the same concept and given it a Scots translation - hence, 'causey'.
So this main road - now the A7 into Edinburgh - was formally a causey, a paved road, and the road which ran parallel/beside it became Causeyside; the road which ran across it at right-angles was Crosscausey.
The road had been 'causeyed' in 1599, and the name Crosscausey was in use as far back as 1661.
Sometime in the nineteenth century, a process of formalising, or Anglicising, street names saw Causeyside unfortunately rendered as Causewayside and Crosscausey as Crosscauseway. But there never was such a 'causeway' as their names would suggest!
So, next time you stroll through the area near George Square and the city's Central Mosque, look out for Guse Dub and maybe if you stop for a moment, perhaps you might catch the sound of ghostly geese honking from their glory days around the long-gone pond...!
For more information about the Causey Development Trust, visit www.thecausey.org.
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