The Howe Of Fife


    Laigh of Fife 1834 x 1845 NSA 9, 38–9 (Monimail)
    the How of Fife 1854 OS Name Book 54, 39
    Stratheden 1854 OS Name Book 54, 40 [applies ‘to the valley or flat land on both sides of the River from its Rise near Strathmiglo to its junction with the sea at St Andrews’]
    the Leigh of Fife 1854 OS Name Book 54, 40
    Valley of Eden 1854 OS Name Book 54, 40
    How of Fife 1856 OS 6 inch 1st edn

Sc laich or Sc howe + Sc of + en Fife

‘A stretch of low-lying ground (laich), or hollow (howe) of Fife’. Sc laich (a noun from the adjective laich ‘low’) seems to have been an unfamiliar term to the OS sapper in 1854, who assimilated it to English leigh. He records four different names for the feature; and to add to the confusion he had difficulties in establishing exactly what the name referred to. In a long entry running to two pages he first described it as extending west-to-east from Strathmiglo to the Cupar road near Crawford Priory, a distance of c.13 km, though admitting that the boundary is ‘of very undefined limits’. He reports that ‘a small natural formed hollow in a field in Collessie parish near Trafalgar Inn is also called the How of Fife’, although he also notes that the Collessie minister, Rev. Mr Williamson, objects to this, saying: ‘It is quite wrong ... to call the above hollow by the given name [i.e. How of Fife], as the district above described gets the same name’. He concludes with the following: ‘Among those confusion [sic] of names vague in themselves and almost figurative as well as the particular portion of the County to which they apply Mr Thomas Shaw, writer at Cupar, would recommend that none of them would be written on the Ordnance Plans ... I have given it in pencil to show the conflicting local opinions’ (OS Name Book 54, 39–40). In spite of this confusion and the urgings of Mr Shaw of Cupar, the 1st edn OS 6 inch map opted for How of Fife, which has continued to appear (as Howe of Fife) on OS maps to this day. Of the above-listed alternatives, the Howe of Fife is still current and in frequent use (often shortened locally to The Howe), while Stratheden is now used only for the psychiatric hospital near Springfield, and the Laich of Fife and the Valley of Eden are never used.

/ðəˈhəuəv faif/; it is always used with the definite article.

This place-name appeared in printed volume 4