August 2011

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12 Aug Dumbarton

One does come across the most interesting stories in the course of research.

At one point in The Flower Reader, Queen Mary and her household go off on a summer progress which includes a stop at Dumbarton Castle. My friend and long-suffering Scots beta reader Leslie Thomson pointed out to me that in the sixteenth century both the castle and the town would have properly been called Dunbarton, from the Scots Gaelic Dùn Breatainn, Fortress of the Britons. It turns out that only in the last hundred and fifty years or so has Dunbarton become Dumbarton, all due to a misprint on a nineteenth-century map. There are even old street signs still in existence—see image at right.

I’m going to leave it as Dumbarton in the story, because modern-day readers would probably pounce on “Dunbarton” as a mistake. But “Dumbarton” itself sprang from a mistake. The lesson has to be: watch out for those darn typos, because you never know how long they’ll last!