Babbet KBS CRA S NO591141 2 10m
in Ballebotl' 1205 RRS ii no. 469 [o.c.; King William grants to John Waleram the land which William Carpenter held in Babbet]
de Ballebotlia 1205 RRS ii no. 469 [o.c.; every 5th rig of whole half of Babbet; see discussion below]
Balbot 1413 RMS i no. 944 [in sheriffdom of Crail]
Balboit 1464 RMS ii no. 779 [to William Monypenny; in constabulary of Crail (Carale)]
Babot 1517 Fife Ct. Bk. 67 [Wiilliam Monypenny (Monepenny) of Pitmilly (Petmoly) KBS enters Thomas Mynmyne as suitor of court for his (Monypenny’s) lands of Babbet etc]
Banbot 1517 Fife Ct. Bk. 397 [17th c. copy]
Bawbot 1518 Fife Ct. Bk. 94
Balbot 1521 Fife Ct. Bk. 227
Bawbet 1549 RMS iv no. 312 [David Monypenny of Pitmilly (Petmillie) KBS, the lands of Babbet and Drumrack (Drumrawak) CRA]
Bawbett c.1560 s Purves 153
Baba< >ness 1684 Adair/East Fife [the missing letter, presumably t, is illegible]
Bawbett 1694 Retours (Fife) no. 1350 [Alexander Monypenny of Pitmilly (Pitmillie) KBS, the land of Babbet and the lands of Drumrack (Drumraik) CRA]
Babbet Ness 1855 OS 6 inch 1st edn
G baile + ?
While the first element is clearly G baile ‘farm’, the second one is problematic. G. W. S. Barrow suggested that it contains a loan-word into Gaelic from OE boþel, botl, bold or OSc *bothel (1973, 64), and I explored this idea further in Taylor 1994. If this is indeed the case, then it indicates how strong the influence of Scots was at a time when G names were still being coined in this part of east Fife. This Sc influence would probably have been emanating from the rapidly growing community of Scots-speakers in the royal burgh of Crail from the second half of the twelfth century, as well as from the settling of royal officials on crown lands throughout the sheriffdom of Crail, which included KBS (see CRA and KRY Introductions, above, for more details). It is in just such a context that Babbet first enters the record, when in 1205 King William granted every fifth rig (literally ‘the fifth rig’) of the whole half of Babbet (Ballebotlia’) to John Waleram. These had formerly been held by William Carpenter, who had witnessed several charters of Malcolm IV with no east Fife connections, and probably as a royal sergeand (see RRS ii p. 434, note to no. 469). This grant of ‘every fifth rig’ is a good example of an early runrig tenement, probably the earliest recorded north of the Forth, with lands being divided up into strips so that every tenant received a share of land of every available quality.
It is perhaps also relevant to mention here the close tenurial links, both royal and ecclesiastical, between Crailshire and Haddingtonshire (now East Lothian), where there were important boþel-names such as Bolton (parish) and the royal manor of Eldbotle, Dirleton. Such links were especially prominent in the time of Ada de Warenne (died 1178), for details of which, see CRA Introduction, Lands and Burgh, above.
OE boþel etc is defined by Smith (1956, s.v.) as a superior dwelling-place or mansion (Beowulf), while the OE Bede translates villa regia (‘royal estate’) as kyninges bold. However, VEPN (Á–BOX) under boðl (with variants botl and bold) states: ‘it is used in OE texts of dwellings both ordinary and exceptional’ (135). This word gives rise to a compound *boðl-tūn ‘house-enclosure, house-farm’, which according to VEPN (Á–BOX) is frequent in the north of England, although ‘its precise significance is unknown’ (137). This latter develops into the place-name Bolton, found also in southern Scotland (e.g. the parish-names Bolton ELO and Tarbolton AYR). It is possible, therefore, that Babbet might represent a partly Gaelicised version of, or calque on, *boðl-tūn.
If OE boþel, or its early Sc equivalent, was borrowed into lowland Scottish Gaelic, it does not seem to have left any other toponymic trace, at least on the east coast. There is a place called Knokynbotil’ in Buittle parish KCB, recorded in 1321 (Morton Reg. ii no. 32). While this is clearly a G name (containing G cnoc ‘hill’ + the G definite article, or possibly G cnocan, the diminutive of cnoc), the specific element is likely to be the existing parish- and settlement-name Buittle, which itself derives from OE boþel (see Maxwell 1930, 51).
The name Babbet survives in OS Pathf. Babbet Ness on the coast near Boghall farm, c.2 km east of Boarhills.
Aerial photography has revealed an enclosure and cultivation remains at NO590138, on the lands of Boghall just beside Babbet Ness, which may be the site of Babbet (NMRS NO51SE 49).
This place-name appeared in printed volume 3