There is a sunken rock just off the coast of the Hebridean island of Eriskay known by the Gaelic name Roc na Pollaidh.

Translated into English, the term means "the submerged rock of the Polly" - the Islanders' nickname for the SS Politician which ran aground there in 1941 with a cargo of whisky.

Following the event, immortalised in the film Whisky Galore, forty thousand cases of Scotch were plundered before the ship sank.

The fact the name reflects a relatively recent event in the island's history tells researchers something very important about the way communities, both past and present, view and label the places they live.

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A new bilingual booklet from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) cataloguing place names on Eriskay has found at least 300 on an island measuring just 2.5 miles long by 1.5 miles wide. Estimates suggest there could be as many as 600 names there.

Most of the place names gathered as part of the study for the booklet relate to the coast and surrounding waters and reflect the island's stories, past times and daily routines.

Some date from a much earlier time, although oddly, nothing remains of the period from around the ninth century when the Vikings started to expand across the North Sea from Norway to the north-west seaboard of Scotland, eventually settling in the Western Isles.

History records very little about this period in Eriskay’s history and, in fact, there is no evidence of Eriskay in the historical record until the island is mentioned in Monro’s Description of the Western Isles in 1549.

In the case of Eriskay's own name, like many island names in the west of Scotland, it dates back to the Norse era, most likely coming from Eriksøy meaning "Eric’s Isle" and passing into Gaelic as Èirisgeigh following the rebirth of the language in the Western Isles from around the thirteenth century.

However, while some names are very old, and others are relatively new, many names are born and die, living brief unrecorded lives.

A good example of this from the study is the rapid name change of a spruce tree which, until recently, was the only tree in Eriskay, planted by Father Allan MacDonald a century ago.

It is currently called Craobh Netty or "Netty’s tree" after a woman who died in 2010. The name of the tree changes, however, with each generation and in the past has been called Craobh Dhùghaill Eachainn or "Dougal Hector’s tree" and Craobh Ann or "Ann’s tree".

The new Gaelic and English guide has been produced in collaboration Ceòlas, one of Scotland's Gaelic culture, heritage and arts organisations, based in Uist.

Liam Crouse, Gaelic media and communications officer at Ceòlas, said: "Eriskay remains a Gaelic-speaking island, which has led to the retention of a great number of place names.

"If place names are not used, or have no use, they are forgotten, but the place names of Eriskay clearly continue to have relevance to the island's population.

"One of the things that the book does is demonstrate how people interact with their landscape and they do that through the names. The majority of the place names deal with the shore line."

Within the past century Eriskay had one of the largest fishing fleets in the Western Isles and a major part of community life was therefore based around the sea.

Mr Crouse said: "The land doesn't allow for you to grow that much so people had to rely on fishing and therefore a lot of the names have to do where people would keep their boats, but also places to fish.

"The other thing that is interesting is that when the people there talk about the names they use, they talk about names on land and sea and you can see that for them the island continues into the sea and that is an important illustration of how people view the fishing grounds around the island as part of Eriskay."

Robyn Ireland, Gaelic officer for SNH, said: "We're thrilled to be publishing our seventh title in the Gaelic in the Landscape series. The booklet is a celebration of people's inseparable link to our natural heritage through language."

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Eilidh Scammell of Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba, the national advisory partnership for Gaelic place names in Scotland which also took part in the project, added: "We are delighted to have been a part of this project, helping preserve these names for the future generations of Eriskay.

"The preservation of Scotland's Gaelic place names and understanding the connections between the language and the land is very much at the heart of our work."