Maiden Hair

Maiden Hair ANR C NT659987 1 364 0m

Maiden Hair 1855 OS 6 inch 1st edn 28

It is the name of a rock which is covered at high tide (OS Name Book 1, 13). Nearby OS 6 inch (1855) shows Maiden’s Bed at NT660988, also shown on OS 1:10,000 map (2004), which, according to OS Name Book, is ‘said to have derived the name from a vessel called the Maiden which was wrecked here’ (1, 17). It may therefore be that Maiden Hair derives from the name of this same wreck. Another possibility is that the movement of the sea-weed on the rocks here, resembling the movement of long hair, inspired the name, a metaphor re-inforced by the above-mentioned wreck. Maiden hair is also a plant name (of several species), but this is scarcely relevant in connection with a tidal rock.

Eggeling records a quite different tradition (which he does not accept) regarding the origin of some of the names on the May with maiden and lady: ‘The legend of St Thenaw [mother of St Kentigern] is perpetuated in some of the place names of the May. The small cave under the cliff edge at the South End, beyond the Cross Park, known as the Lady’s Bed or Maiden’s Bed, and the Lady’s Well within it, are named after her. So are the Maiden Rocks and the Maiden’s Hair’ (1985, 29). For traditions relating to nearby Lady’s Cave, see Pilgrims Well ANR, below. This plethora of traditions linking women with the May probably derives ultimately from the association of the island-name with OSc may ‘maiden, damsel’ (DOST).

This place-name appeared in printed volume 3