Township: Balephetrish

Map Reference: Balephetrish 38

Name Type: sea

Meaning: On the face of it, this is a Gaelic construction, with sgeir 'skerry' and abhainn 'stream'. The folk etymology here is that this skerry lies opposite the place where An Fhadhail, the stream at the eastern edge of The Reef, has occasionally broken through the northern coastline of the island to divide it in two: ' The tide, when swollen and agitated by winter storms, has sometimes, though very rarely, been known to rise so high and run so far into the land that the sea from the south and north has nearly met and thus almost separated the island into two.' (New Statistical Account Tiree and Coll 1845, 196) This is highly unlikely to have happened in any substantial way since the Holocene Marine Transgression 6,000 years ago. ScG abhainn is a common element in Gaelic place-names, but it is rare without a definite article in a phrase name (see section 11.2.1), such as Geàrr na h-Aibhne 'enclosure of the river' in Carloway (Cox 2002, 285), or followed by an ex nomine onomastic unit such as Abhainn Depidale, on Skye (SP). A rare example is Caol Abhuinn on Islay (SP).
This is more likely to be Efjin 'the boggy place', with a post-positioned bound definite article attached to ON efja fem. 'mud, ooze' (CV, 115), 'boggy area' (Jakobsen 1936, 36). This is topographically appropriate, with an extensive area of wetland at the north end of An Fhadhail now known as A' Bhriolochanaich.
In Orkney, Evie (Efjusund in the Orkneyinga Saga), and Evadale (Sandnes 2010a, 96) derive from efja; Aven is a common place-name in Norway, occurring ten times, while Evjen occurs fourteen times (NG); and Aven in Høyanger derives from the Norse evje (NS).

Other Forms: Sgeir Abhaill - AC

Sgeir Abhainn - HMcP

Sgeir Abhuinn - ONB p54

Related Places:

Information:An Sgeir Abhann marks the northern end of An Fhaodhail - Handbook to the Islands of Coll and Tiree, Hector MacDougall and Rev. Hector Cameron, Archibald Sinclair, p84.

There is a mark on it to guide puffers onto the beach safely. It marks the spot where An Fhadhail came out on the north side of the island many years ago - HMcP.

Local Form:

Languages : Gaelic

Informants: OS

Informant 2: Hector MacPhail, Ruaig, 11/1993

Informant 3: Alasdair Campbell, Tullymet, 1/1994