Portencross, The Great Haffue?

We have recently been looking at the origin of Halfway Street, or the Haef Weg. In this 19th Century map we see that Halfway extended all the way to Portencross Castle and the harbour.

Where do we get the idea that Halfway derives from Haef Weg or “the way to the sea”?

In old Norse the sea is “hæf∂”

In Swedish it is “haf”, the Danish “hav” means the open sea.

In Shetland Scots we see this as “haaf” again meaning the open sea.

Derived from these languages are middle low German – “haf” meaning sea and old Frisian “hef”.

In 1266, the Treaty of Perth declared:

“…came at the instance and honor of the aforesaid lord Alexander, the King of Scotland, for Mann, with the other islands of the Sodors and all the ether islands of the south and west part of the great Haffue…”

Where was the great Haffue?

This is a proper noun with a capital letter,translated into Latin “magni Haffne”. A Haffue is a Danish (Vikingr) name for a port. So we are looking for a port called the great Haffue? This name would date back to the heydays of the viking era before our local Goidelic language took over and so we would probably be looking at around 700-900AD – perhaps even contemporary with the Hunterston Brooch.

Could the original Portencross Harbour have been the great Haffue? I don’t know, but as evidence continues to emerge, the coincidences in names do seem rather tantalising.

For more information on the Treaty of Perth as it relates to West Kilbride, click here.

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