LIFTE Research

‘St Magnus Houp’ – can you help us track down this elusive placename?

'St Magnus Houp' - can you help our research team track down this elusive placename? #thinkuhi #research #orkney
Extract from the 1672 document, showing Alexander MacDugall’s location as ‘St Magnus Houp’…

The Looking in from the Edge (LIFTE) research project is in full swing now, with information coming in from all corners of the globe.

One of the joys of researching is finding and solving mysteries. But this week, we’ve come across a reference that has us all scratching our heads.

In a 1672 contract between a Burray boat-owner and a Stromness merchant, one of the witnesses – Alexander Macdugall – is described as a merchant in “St Magnus Houp” (see picture above).

“Houp” is undoubtedly name connected with the Old Norse “hóp”, meaning a shallow bay. It is found in Orkney these days, as “Hope”, in placenames such as Longhope, Pan Hope, Kirk Hope, Chalmers Hope and St Margaret’s Hope.

The problem is there is no St Magnus Houp/Hope in Orkney (or elsewhere as far as we can see) and a trawl through the archives has revealed nothing that can help pinpoint Mr Macdugall’s location in the seventeenth century.

The handwritten contract clearly states “St Magnus Houp” and not “St Margaret’s” (as in St Margaret’s Hope) and we find it extremely unlikely that four local businessmen would sign an official document with a mistake in it.

So can anyone out there help us track down this elusive placename? Was it perhaps a name used locally that hasn’t made it into the records? Or an older name that has since been supplanted?

If you’ve come across the St Magnus Houp/St Magnus Hope name before, let us know by emailing