Township: Balephuil

Map Reference: Balephuil 6

Name Type: hill

Meaning: The element grian is very productive on Tiree, being the specific in at least four names. We can be fairly confident from the topography here that it derives from OI grænn meaning not only ‘green, of verdure [grass]', but also having the sense 'hopeful' and 'fresh' (CV, 218; see Biggam 2012, 218). The phonetic development æ > i-a is common on Tiree (see section
There is a Grianaisgeir by Fladday (MacKay 2013, 188); Grinnabreck on Rousay, Orkney, is derived from grœnn-brekka (Marwick 1995 (1947), 53); Græn- occurs as a specific twenty-five times in Iceland (another landscape where pockets of green stand out), for example Grænahlíð, with six examples of Grænhóll (SAM). The generic is ON hóll ‘rounded hill’: Grænhóll.
Icelandic grænn had developed from the Old Norse grœnn. This form is seen in the six examples of Grønholen in Norway, although græn- is also quite common, as in Grænvika (NG); in the Shetland names Gruna Taing and Houllna Gruna (SP); the Orkney names Gurness and Howeena Gruna (Sandnes 2010a, 202 and 209); and the three examples of Grønabrekka in the Faroe Islands (KO). For some reason, the Tiree phonetic development resembles that in Iceland rather than those in the Northern Isles and much of Norway.
There is an Eilean Grianal on Skye and a Grianal in Stornoway (SP). Its closest Gaelic equivalent is An Cnoc Glas 'the green hillock' of which there is one local example in Barrapol. The Scots Greenhill is quite common, for example in Sadell, Argyll, and Hoy in Orkney (SP).

Other Forms: Cnoc Grianal - ONB, p224, "significance 'Sunny Hill'."

Related Places: A' Chachaileith Bheag

Information:Extracts from 'The Gaelic Otherworld' by John Gregorson Campbell, Edited with commentary by Ronald Black, (Edinburgh; Birlinn, 2005) p56:

"A herdsman at Balephuill, in the west end of Tiree, fell asleep on Cnoc Ghrianal, at the eastern base of Heynish Hill, on a fine summer afternoon. He was awakened by a violent slap on the ear. On rubbing his eyes and looking up, he saw a woman – the most beautiful he had ever seen – in a green dress, with a brooch fastening it at the neck, walking away from him. She went westward and he followed her for some distance, but she vanished, he could not tell how."

The elves sometimes took care of neglected children. The herd who tended the Balephuil catttle on Hynish Hill sat down one day on a green eminence (cnoc) in the hill which had the reputation of being tenanted by Fairies. His son, a young child, was along with him. He fell asleep, and when he awoke the child was away. He roused himself, and vowed aloud that unless his boy was restored he would not leave a stone or turf of the hillock together. A voice from underground answered that the child was safe at home with its mother, and they ('the people') had taken it lest it should come to harm with the cold.

There are two ruined houses, tobhtaichean, and a well on the top of Cnoc Ghrianail. David McClounnan, Balphuil, 3/2007.

Donald MacArthur (Domhnall a’ mhinisdeir) and Bodach na Cuiltean went up to Cnoc Ghrianail and buried their pipes when they became Christians. David McClounnan, Balephuil, 6/2005.

On the east shoulder of Ben Hynish, on Cnoc Ghrianail there are traces of the foundation of an ancient building. People suspect this must have been the site of Mo Bhì's chapel - Bailtean is Ath-Ghairmean, Niall M Brownlie, Argyll Publishing, 1995, p82.

A group went up to Cnoc Ghrianail, a green square, every Sunday to sing hymns and say prayers. Morag MacFadyen, Balephuil, 9/1994

Seonaid Brown, Balephuil: behind her house, 5/2020

Ditto. It was a favourite Sunday picnic spot for their family, and he has never heard of a religious 'service' there. Going for a Sunday afternoon walk was very popular in the 1930s. Donald Archie Brown, Balephuil, 5/2020

Local Form:

Languages : Norse, Gaelic

Informants: Eilidh Kennedy (Eilidh bheag), Balevullin, 2/1994

Informant 2: OS

Informant 3: SA1973/135/A18