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How Scottish Real Estate Investors Influenced Calgary Place Names

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By : Lina Horner    99 or more times read
When perusing a list of Calgary neighbourhood names, you will probably notice that a lot of them appear to be of Scottish origin. This is no coincidence, as the early years of Calgary saw heavy Scottish investment in the city – enough that companies and individuals who were developing neighbourhoods tried to influence Scottish real estate investors to buy their properties. From the beginning, the city of Calgary has had Scottish influence in its business and real estate.

People of Scottish origin have been involved with Calgary since Colonel James Macleod renamed the then-Fort Brisebois to Fort Calgary, after his family’s castle on the Isle of Mull. 

The word ‘Calgary’ itself has several possible origins. It could be a combination of Gailic words ‘caladh’ and ‘garaidh’, which translate roughly to ‘the haven by the dyke’. Another possible Gaelic origin is ‘Cala ghearraidh’ (‘beach of the meadow/pasture’). 

There are theories that espouse an Old Norse or Scandinavian origin. could also be from an Old Scandinavian origin – ‘Kali’ and ‘geiri’, translating to ‘Kali’s triangular plot of land’. There is another theory, that the Old Norse ‘kald’ and ‘gart’ (meaning ‘cold garden’) could have been a reference to the sometimes frigid temperatures of the Inner Hebrides. This may come from Norse and Scandinavian occupation of Scotland in times gone by.

The website says that 27.8% of Calgary neighbourhoods have Scottish origins. This can be traced back to the 1600s, when Scottish families were encouraged to settle in the ‘New World’. However, it wasn’t until the 1700s and 1800s that the Scottish presence in Canada grew significantly. By the early 20th century, it was obvious that many people hailing from Scotland had made a success of their ventures in Canada.

Most real estate marketing professionals know the importance of name choice when appealing to their target audience. The Calgary real estate professionals of 1900 were no different. They wanted people with money to spend it on their particular Calgary neighbourhood. 

By then, many Scottish surnames identified the city’s richest and most influential citizens and investors. The solution? Name your neighbourhood something Scottish to appeal to the people who had, in all likelihood, emigrated from Scotland some years earlier and still harboured an affection for the ‘auld sod’.

Names such as ‘Balmoral’ (after the famous Scottish residence of British royalty), ‘Glencoe’ (site of the infamous massacre of the MacDonalds by the Campbells in 1692) and ‘Highland Park’ (referencing the Scottish Highlands) were chosen to appeal to Scottish investors with money. Even if we were not in possession of early Calgary real estate records, the choice to name these neighbourhoods distinctly Scottish names makes a strong argument for heavy investment in Calgary by those of Scottish extraction.

The naming of Calgary places after Scottish places and people continues to this day. ‘Douglasdale Estates’ is named for the valley sheltering Douglas Castle in South Lanarkshire. ‘Elgin’, one of the most recently built Calgary neighbourhoods, references the early settlement of the Irish Scots in Scotland. Elgin’s sister neighbourhoods of Inverness and Prestwick continue the Scottish theme. Names such as ‘Cedarbrae’ and ‘Braeside’ aren’t directly from Scottish placenames, but are certainly evocative of them.

Scottish real estate investment directly influenced Calgary place names in the 20th century and continues to influence neighbourhood naming practices in the 21st. While many cultures have combined to make Calgary what it is today, it’s safe to say that the Scots have left an indelible mark on the city’s history.
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