Flisk FLK PS NO313224 1 40m
ecclesiam de Flisk 1189 x 1194 RRS ii no. 339 [= Arb. Lib. i no. 34, which has Flisk’; in the territory of Abernethy; see FLK Intro., Church]
ecclesiam de Flisk’ 1189 x 1194 Arb. Lib. i no. 35 [as preceding]
(William parson of) Fliske c.1230 x 1246 St A. Lib. 268 [St A. Lib. Syll., 21]
ecclesia de Flische 1242 MS Paris BN latin 1218 [dedicated by Bp David]
ecclesia de Flisk c.1250 St A. Lib. 34 [‘church of Flisk with a chapel’ (cum capella); 26 merks, taxation]
rector ecclesie de Flisc 1275 Bagimond’s Roll, p. 35 [2½ merks]
ecclesia de Flosk 1276 Bagimond’s Roll, p. 64 [33 s. 4 d.]
(Andrew Leslie rector of) Flysk 1503 RMS ii no. 2725
apud Flysk 1503 RMS ii no. 2725
Mr James Balfour, persoun of Flisk 1566 Assumption, 60
<F>lisk <W>oode 1590 x 1599 Pont MS 54B [MS damaged]
K<irk> of Flisk 1590 x 1599 Pont MS 54B
W: E: Flisks 1590 x 1599 Pont MS 54B [for W. Flisk and E. Flisk]
Fliskes Eister et Wester 1613 Retours (Fife) no. 1547 [John earl of Rothes, together with advowson of the kirk of Flisk]
Fliskis Eister et Wester 1642 Retours (Fife) no. 618
minister of Phliske 1649 Lamont’s Diary 9 [‘in the presbetrye of Cuper’]
E. Flisk 1654 Blaeu (Pont) East Fife
K<irk> of Flisk 1654 Blaeu (Pont) East Fife
W. Flisk 1654 Blaeu (Pont) East Fife
Wood of Flisk 1654 Blaeu (Pont) East Fife
Flisk 1654 Blaeu (Gordon) Fife
Flisk K<irk> 1654 Blaeu (Gordon) Fife
Flisk Cottoun 1654 Blaeu (Gordon) Fife
Flisks Eister et Wester 1682 Retours (Fife) no. 1205 [countess of Haddington]
(advowson of the kirk of) Flisk 1682 Retours (Fife) no. 1205 [ditto]
E. Flisk 1775 Ainslie/Fife
Flisk Manse and Kirk 1775 Ainslie/Fife
East Flisk 1828 SGF
Flisk 1828 SGF [wall enclosing manse, kirk and graveyard]
East Flisk 1855 OS 6 inch 1st edn
West Flisk 1855 OS 6 inch 1st edn [= OS Pathf. West Flisk]
Despite the fact that this name has remained unchanged in form since it first appeared in the twelfth century, it does not lend itself to a straightforward analysis. What is so unusual about this name amongst the medieval parish-names of Fife is that it is formed from a simplex or single element without the addition of a locational or other suffix. In this it is practically unique, most other parish-names consisting either of a simplex with suffix (such as Abdie, Leuchars, Scoonie, Tarvit or Wemyss), or of two elements (such as Aberdour, Crail, Dunbog, Forgan, Kilconquhar or Markinch). The only other exceptions to this are Cults (earlier Cult) and Cupar.
If the name has a G origin, then the underlying element may be related to G fleasg (f.), OIr (OG) flesc (f. ā-stem) ‘rod, wand, stick (cut off a tree); also wattle or lath’ (DIL). This word was also sometimes used to refer to a threshing-stick or flail, while a flax scutching rod was flesc lín (Kelly 1997, 481–3, including a medieval Irish MS illustration of two men wielding flails). The vowel in the place-name is consistently represented as i, but in OG both the accusative and dative singular would be fleisc or flisc. The name might therefore have arisen because rods were grown and produced there, perhaps from willow (osier). There was also a tenurial or land-holding dimension to this word, since in early medieval Ireland flesc láma, literally ‘rod of (the) hand’, meant ‘land held in full fee; patrimony, domain,’ perhaps originally land reclaimed by one’s own labour, possibly from the idea of the use of a stick in measuring land, cf English and Scottish land-measurements roods (‘rods’) and poles, or (less likely in my opinion) ‘because the extent of jurisdiction was measured by the cast of a flesc thrown by a youth ?’ (DIL).
The adjective OIr flescach (G fleasgach), which DIL defines as ‘abounding in shoots or branches, made of twigs, wattles or osier’, as a m. ō-stem noun came also to mean ‘youth, stripling’, in G ‘young man, bachelor’, the idea being of a stick cut off a tree, a sapling.
From place-name evidence Angus Watson has identified a diminutive *fleasgan, earlier *flescán with a similar meaning to fleasgach, i.e. ‘young man’, which he also suggests might have meant ‘younger son’. “Fleasgach, then, and probably fleasgan, can convey the concept of subsidiarity yet at the same time relatively high status, such as ‘younger son (of a relatively high status family)’, ‘head of a cadet branch of a kin group’” (A. Watson 2002, 456). He bases this suggestion on an examination of Achleskine, Balquhidder PER (Auchinleskane 1511 RMS ii no 3668; Auchleskin 1541 RMS iii no 2448) and Auchlinsky, Glendevon PER (Ovir-Auchinlesky 1484 RMS ii no. 1576; Over-Auchinlosky 1512 RMS ii no. 3754; Auchlanskie 1621 RMS viii no. 472) (A. Watson 2002, 23). The element may also appear in the parish-name Boleskine INV (NH51 22 by Loch Ness) (Buleske c.1227 Moray Reg. nos. 73, 74; Bulleskyn 1441, ibid. no. 193), and perhaps also in Leskine, Killin PER (NN53 29). For fleasgach in a place-name, see Lochan an Fhleasgaich, Lewis ROS (NB44 48).
In OIr there would also appear to be rare word flesc ‘rain, wet ?’ (DIL). This is from the late ninth-century Sanas Chormaic (Cormac’s Glossary), which has Fleasc .i. fliuchud (§582), a verbal noun (fliuchad) meaning ‘the act of wetting’. This must lie behind definition no. 8 in Dwelly under fleasg, which he gives as ‘moisture’, marked as coming from Armstrong’s Gaelic Dictionary based on Mid-Perthshire usage. Whether this is based on genuine Perthshire Gaelic usage, or has itself been taken from Cormac’s Glossary, I do not know. While generally speaking Flisk must be one of the best-drained of any parish in Fife, lying as it does on the steep north-west flank of the Ochils as they rise up from the Tay, there is in fact immediately east of the old parish kirk an area which, before the construction of large drainage ditches, must have been one of the few boggy areas in the parish. The local minister, Rev. George Marshall, writing in the mid-nineteenth century, had clearly found this same definition, which led him to speculate that the name Flisk was ‘possibly connected with the word fleasg, signifying in the Irish language wet or moist – a description applicable to the former state of the soil’ (NSA ix, 595–6).
There are several rivers (and one well) in Ireland called Flesk, for which see Hogan 1910, 425–6. Either of the above-discussed meanings might apply here (if ‘wet’, then it is likely to refer originally to lands along the banks).
The site the parish kirk is not marked on OS Pathf., but OS 6 inch 1st edn (1855) shows ‘Church’, ‘Graveyard’ and ‘Site of Church’ at the NGR given above, as well as a manse, which is OS Pathf. West Flisk. This is confirmed by NMRS (NO32SW 7), which locates the old church site at NO3138 2248: ‘The old parish church of Flisk, which stood nearly in the centre of the graveyard, was taken down in 1790 and replaced by the present church, a few yards to the NE (at NO3139 2249) ... At the published site there is only a slight platform’.
See also East Flisk, West Flisk, Wester Flisk and Flisk Wood. OS Pathf. also shows Fliskmillan, Fliskmillan Hill, Flisk Point and Flisk Seabraes.
This place-name appeared in printed volume 4