Kinglassie KGL PS NT227985 1 363 75m
(church of) Kilglassin’ 1127 x 1159 Dunf. Reg. no. 92
(church of) Kilglessin 1152 x 1159 NLS Adv. ms. 15.1.18 no. 82 [o.c.]
(church of) Kilglassin 1160 x 1162 Dunf. Reg. no. 93
(church of) Kilglessin 1165 x 1169 Dunf. Reg. no. 596 [o.c.]
(church of) Kilglassin’ 1165 x 1178 Dunf. Reg. no. 94
(church of) Kinglass’ c.1180 x 1188 Dunf. Reg. no. 98
(church of) Kilglass’ 1198 x 1206 Dunf. Reg. no. 110
(church of) Kilglassin 1226 Dunf. Reg. no. 257 [rubric]
(church of) Kinglassin 1226 Dunf. Reg. no. 257 [text]
(church of) Kinglassin 1234 Dunf. Reg. no. 107
(land of) Kinglass’ 1235 Dunf. Reg. no. 179 [rubric],
(land of) Kilglassin 1235 Dunf. Reg. no. 179 [text]
(Thomas Dereth of) Kynglassy 1240 x 1252 Dunf. Reg. no. 234
(church of) Kinglassy 1245 x 1255 Dunf. Reg. no. 313
(church of) Kilglassi 1245 x 1255 St A. Lib. 33
apud Kyngl’ 1332 x 1350 NLS MS.Adv.34.1.3a, fo. 38r–v [printed Dunf. Reg. nos. 326–31; repeated several times to mean both at the place Kinglassie, as well as at Kinglassie kirk; see also KGL Introduction]
(Ale ander de) Kylglassy 1430 CSSR iii p. 142
(Ale ander de) Kynglassy 1430 CSSR iii p. 150
Kynglassie schyre 1561 Dunf. Reg. 428 [with list of lands contained therein, one of which is Kinglassie toune]
Keanglassie 1642 Gordon MS Fife
Kintlaw 1654 Blaeu (Pont) West Fife [east of Strarudy, or is this a corruption of Ryelaw? There is also a Kintley on this map at or near OS Pathf. Kinninmonth]
Kinglassie K<irk> 1654 Blaeu (Gordon) Fife
Kinglassie 1775 Ainslie/Fife
Kinglassie 1828 SGF
G cill + ? G glais or ? pn Glas + –in
The earliest forms indicate that the first element of this name is G cill ‘church’, which is gradually displaced by G ceann ‘head, end’, or, more likely, through phonological change Kil- becomes Kin- in a Sc-speaking context. This interpretation is further supported by the fact that Kinglassie was functioning as the parochial and pastoral centre of the territory called Goatmilkshire from its earliest appearance in the record. The more intractable question is the origin and meaning of the second element.
The usual naming pattern of churches in cill is the addition of a saint’s name in the gen. case. In Kinglassie it may be that we have a saint’s name, but it is hard to know who the saint might be. Watson (1926, 320) discusses the question, but concludes that ‘the real saint of Kinglassie is unknown’. We should not accept at face value the Aberdeen Breviary’s indication under 30th January of the feast of St Glascinanus, ‘who is honoured as patron at Kinglassie in Fife’ (qui apud Kinglassie in Fif pro patrona habetur), since this probably represents a medieval attempt to explain the place-name, a piece of place-name lore, not a genuine reflection of an early saint’s cult.
Nevertheless, a saint Glaisne is recorded in a list of Irish saints (CGSH 705.140), and it is not impossible that this name is represented in Kinglassie, as it may be in Irish place-names such as Kilglass (Cill Glaisi, Cil glais, Co. Longford), Kilglass (Co. Sligo) and Kilglassan (Co. Mayo), all listed in Hogan (1910, 194). There is also a Kilmaglass in Strachur on Loch Fyne ARG. There is another Kinglassie in Fife (an old church site in SSL), but this does not shed any light on the dedication of Kinglassie KGL.
However, cill- churches were sometimes named after topographic features, and this may be true of Kinglassie. It could be ‘place of the church by the burn’ (G cill + G glais ‘burn’ + in) or ‘church of the small burn’ (G cill + G glaisín). If Kinglassie is named after a burn, it would appear to be the burn which flows from the north very near the western edge of the old kirkyard. The burn is referred to as the Glassie by the OS Name Book, although this may be a back-formation from the name Kinglassie. There is a well c.300 m north-east of the church and this may have been a focus of a cult of some sort, since it is known as St Glass’s Well (Watson 1926, 320), while the OS records it as Finglassins Well. The OS Name Book describes Finglassins Well thus: ‘A spring well at the foot of a brae, a short distance North of the Glassie, from which flows a small stream that supplies part of the inhabitants with water.’
To add to this confusion, there is the name of Finglassie KGL some two miles to the east, q.v. Is this a name imported from Kinglassie where there is a Finglassins Well, or was Finglassins Well formed under the influence of nearby Finglassie? We need accept neither of these explanations, of course. Finglassie may be an entirely unconnected name, formed on the basis of the name of a stream there called *Fionn-ghlais (‘white or holy burn’), which happens by chance to be close to Kinglassie and Finglassins Well. G fionn was an especially productive element in KGL, as witness, besides Finglassin and Finglassie, Finmont and Kinninmonth, for more on which see PNF 5, Elements Glossary under fionn.
With the information available to us to date, it is impossible to say whether a stream gave its name to the church, which then gave rise to a fictional saint’s name, or whether a real saint gave his (or her) name to the church and to the local well.
For other ancient religious sites in Fife possibly named after burns, see Kilgour FAL and Kinglassie SSL. If the specific of Kinglassie KGL is a saint’s name, then it is probably the same one found in Kinglassie SSL.
The following are all to be heard locally: /kɪnˈglasɪ/, /kɪnˈglɛsɪ/, /kɪŋˈglasɪ/ and /kɪŋˈglɛsɪ/; and more recently /kɪŋˈlasɪ/.
This place-name appeared in printed volume 1