*Crosgard

Context
According to the OS Name Books ‘This name is applied to a small pass which comes between the ridge called Buil Buidhe and Beinn nan Caorach (OS1/18/13/62). It is located in the mountainous eastern part of South Uist, south of Beinn Mhòr. The only surviving evidence that indicates that this site may have had ecclesiastical connotations is the place-name itself. The name Bealach Crosgard is a Gaelic formation which incorporates a pre-existing place-name coined in Old Norse: *Krossgarð(r). It is worth noting that the evidence for early Christian activity is generally scarce in the area around Loch Aineort, with the exception of Bealach Crosgard and another Norse name: Kirkidale.

Discussion
Place-names coined in Norse which indicate an association with Christianity provide valuable chronological evidence, but they are also problematic. Often, there is a lack of contextual archaeological evidence to shed light on the nature of the site and they also raise questions regarding the nature of contact between the Norsemen and pre-Norse population of the Hebrides and their conversion to Christianity.

Turning to the name *Crosgard, the second element ON garðr is fairly straight forward and is used to denote a yard or an enclosure. The first element ON kross means ‘a cross’. However, we cannot be certain that this actually means a Christian cross. Oluf Rygh (1898, 62), one of the key-authorities on Norwegian place-names wrote that: ‘Some of them [place-names with kross], especially the newer ones, denote a (road) fork, a crossroads [Endel af dem, især af de nyere, sigte til et Veiskille, en Korsvei]’. On the other hand, a significant number of cross-names do indeed appear to denote a Christian cross, often located in direct proximity of a church. They are also found in a variety of additional contexts, as memorials, burial markers, direction markers, or denoting church lands Oluf Rygh (1898, 62). Cleasby-Vigfusson record numerous Scandinavian names which appear to denote sites of ‘cross-worship’ such as Kross, Kross-á, Krossár-dalr, Kross-áss, Krossa-ness, Krossa-vík, Kross-holt, Kross-hólar, Kross-sund, and Krysi-vík (Cl.-Vig.).

If this refers to a Christian cross, this name may be comparable to Norse entries such as *Kirkibost. Interestingly, both *Crosgard and a Kirkidale are found in the same vicinity, located around Loch Eynort on the eastern coast of South Uist. Unfortunately, there is no obvious archaeological evidence for early Christianity here and no other place-names clearly associated with medieval Christian activity in the area (the closest important ecclesiastical site being Cille Donnain on the western side of the island). On the other hand, considering the later use of G bealach ‘a (mountain) pass’, and the fact that it would be topographically appropriate, it may be more likely that in this context ON kross refers to a (mountain) crossing.