IT is named after the King who ordered a fortress to be built after the first Jacobite rebellion to help control the West Highland clans.

Now, hundreds of people have suggested Fort William, should instead be known as it’s Gaelic counterpart –  An Gearasdan  (The Garrison) – in direct response to a Twitter row that re-ignited a long-running for and against argument about Scotland’s bilingual road signs.

HeraldScotland: Camley's Cartoon: Twitter row sparks name change call.Camley's Cartoon: Twitter row sparks name change call.

Effie Deans, who describes herself as a 'pro-UK Scottish blogger' on Twitter, complained that she couldn’t find her way to the Lochaber town because many of Scotland’s road signs are in both English and Gaelic. 

Her comments prompted a Twitter backlash with some questioning her driving ability, particularly given the relatively straightforward A82 route to the highland town.

READ MORE: Alistair Grant: Gaelic faces an uphill battle but is this the turning point?

Now, more than 788 people have signed a light-hearted petition which is calling for Fort William to be  known as An Gearasdan, “to avoid confusing people who can’t drive,” while others said it could also help further promote the language in an area with strong connections to the Gaelic language.

John Robertson, who is among the signatories, writes: “The name Fort William is a traumatic reminder of brutal imperial suppression” while another posted: “Give An Gearasdan its name back and promote Gaelic.”

In 1655, a fort was built in an attempt to curb the apparent lawlessness of the Gaels in the West Highlands. It was rebuilt under William of Orange nearly 50 years later, and named in his honour.

The village surrounding the fort was known as Maryburgh, after William of Orange’s consort and was also known as Gordonsburgh and Duncansborough for a time. 

According to David Dorward’s book Scotland’s Place-Names, An Gaearasdan was the name adopted by native Gaels.

Carol Hough, a historian at the University of Glasgow said: “It’s not unusual for the same place to have more than one name, particularly in Scotland, where the co-existence of Scots and Gaelic means that a number of places have alternative names in both languages, some of which are translations of each other, while others have arisen independently.”

READ MORE: Surge in online Gaelic learners in Coronavirus lockdown 

Responding to the Twitter row, Kate Forbes SNP MSP  for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: “If the blogger in question got lost, then one might wonder if she’s fit to drive at all.

"Thousands of visitors and locals alike travel these roads and use these road signs without much difficulty.  

"It never ceases to amaze me how exercised people get about road signs.

"At a time of global crisis, I can think of a long list of issues that are worthy of a blog post – Gaelic road signs aren’t one of them. 

“Ironically of course there are plenty of Gaelic-speaking, pro-union people in the Highlands and Islands who watch in disbelief as ignorant people like this blogger trying to turn their language into a constitutional issue.

"I’m sure they’d be delighted if bloggers like this dealt with real issues.”

Asked whether the signs should be in place in areas where people might not feel a strong connection to Gaelic, Ian Blackford, MP for the area, said: “Gaelic belongs to all regardless of where we come from.”