THE NORTHERN KINGDOMS
To give some idea of the political landscape of Arthur’s Britain, it might be helpful to examine some of the “Men of the North” and the kingdoms they controlled.
The most northern of these kingdoms was, of course, the ancient territory of the Votadini or Gododdin, which in the Roman period is believed to have stretched from the Wear or the Tyne through Northumberland and the Lothians to the Forth.
The term ‘Lothian’ appears to have been of Dark Age origin, which as we have seen stands for an original Lleudiniawn, ‘Place of the Fort of [the god] Lugus’. There is an eponymous king recorded in the Life of St. Kentigern called Leudonus, i.e. Lleuddun, and his kingdom in Welsh was known as Lleuddunion. He was supposed to have ruled from Traprain Law, which was earlier called Dunpelder, the ‘Fort of the Spear (shaft)’.
In the late 6th century, the king of the Votadini was, apparently, one Mynyddog Mwynfawr. He is said to have ruled from Din Eidyn or Edinburgh and was the son of a certain Ysgyran, and probably succeeded Clydno Eidyn. The Gododdin poem implies that the Britons who fought the English at Cattraeth assembled at Mynyddog’s court at Edinburgh. Clydno Eidyn, in turn, was the son of Cynfelyn son of Dyfnwal Hen. Myynyddog is also given the epithet ‘Eidyn’ meaning, undoubtedly, ‘of Eithne’. Once again, Eidyn is likely the British form of Eithne, mother of the god Lugh in Irish tradition.
Pabo Post Prydain, the ‘Pillar of Britain’, is the son of Ceneu son of Coel Hen, both famous chieftains of the North. Pabo is spelled Pappo in the genealogies appended to the HB. Coel Hen’s name is believed to be preserved in Kyle in Ayreshire.
A son of Pabo is Dunod Fwr, who is probably the chieftain who fought against the Rheged princes in Erechwydd, which itself is usually placed somewhere in Cumbria. We may relate this Dunod to Dent in NorthWest Yorkshire, his lands here being termed the ‘regio Dunotinga’, kingdom of the descendents of Dunod. From John Morris’s The Age of Arthur:
“DENT: regio Dunotinga is one of four districts of north-western Yorkshire overrun by the English in or before the 670s, Eddius 17 [Life of Wilfrid]. The passage is overlooked in EPNS WRY 6, 252, where the early spellings Denet(h) are rightly related to a British Dinned or the like, and Ekwall’s derivation from a non-existent British equivalent of the Old Irish dind, hill, is properly dismissed. EPNS does not observe that Dent was, and still is, the name of a considerable region, and tha thte village is still locally known as Dent Town, in contrast with the surrounding district of Dent…. Regio Dunotinga plainly takes its name from a person named Dunawt, Latin Donatus, as does the district of Dunoding in Merioneth, named from another Dunawt, son of Cunedda.”
The regio Dunotinga was associated with the Ribble and other places in the north of the West Riding. As the Dent River is a tributary of the upper Lune in Lonsdale, and Upper Lonsdale seems to have been within the canton of the ancient Carvetii tribe, it is likely that Dunot was himself descended from the ‘People of the Stag’. The Carvetii (see Cerwyd/Cerwydd below) ruled over what we now think of as Cumbria and adjacent areas.
Bran son of Ymellyrn is associated with both Dunawt of Dent and Cynwyd of Kent (see below for the Cynwydion). The patronymic here is transparently from Old Norse a, river, plus melr, sandbank, identifying his region with Ambleside in Cumbria just to the west of the River Kent.
Another son of Pabo’s is Cerwyd or Cerwydd, who is otherwise completely unknown. This name is transparently an eponym for the Carvetii tribe. We have just seen that Dunod’s Dent seems to have been a part of the territory once covered by this ancient tribal kingdom.
The form Cerwydd as a direct eponym for the Carvetii is not possible; we would need Cerwyd for an exact linguistic correspondence. However, as Cerwydd means ‘stag-like one’, we can say with a fair degree of certainty that he does represent the People of the Stag.
As for Pabo, father of Dunod, we may situate him at Papcastle (Pabecastr in 1260), the Derventio Roman fort in Cumbria. Pap- is thought to be from ON papa, papi, for ‘hermit’, but this seems an unlikely name for a ‘ceaster’. Instead we should look to early W. pab, ‘pope’, i.e. papa, pl. pabeu, and Llanbabo church of St. Pabo in Anglesey. Pabo's Chester would seem to do quite nicely. We could then locate Pabo within the Carvetii kingdom of his sons Cerwyd/Cerwydd and Dunod.
I would add that Pabo’s epithet ‘Post’ or ‘Pillar’ is possibly a reference to the Solway, which is believed to be from OScand. sul, ‘pillar or post’, and vath, ‘ford’. It has been proposed, quite reasonably I think, that the pillar or post of the Solway is the Lochmaben Stone at Gretna Green. A ‘papa’ or ‘father’ of the post/pillar named for the Divine Son Mabon makes for an interesting combination of place-name elements!
However, it is true that the Papcastle fort is not on the Solway. The name of the Roman period fort here – Derventio – was named for the river Derwent, the ‘oak-river’ or ‘river in an oakwood’. As the oak was a very sacred tree to the early Celts, it is possible the ‘post’ or ‘pillar’ that gave its name to Pabo was an oaken one and thus an indirect reference to the place-name.
Sawyl Benisel ("Low-head"), yet another son of Pabo, is dated c. 480 CE. On the Ribble, not far south of ‘regio Dunotinga’, is a town called Samlesbury. The place-name expert Eilert Ekwall has Samlesbury as ‘Etymology obscure’, but then proposes OE sceamol, ‘bench’, as its first element, possibly in the topographical sense of ‘ledge’. A.D. Mills follows Ekwall by saying that this place-name is probably derived from scamol plus burh (dative byrig). However, sceamol/scamol is not found in other place-names where a ‘ledge’ is being designated. Instead, the word scelf/scielf/scylfe, ‘shelf of level or gently sloping ground, ledge’ is used.
I would suggest as a better etymology for Samlesbury: ‘Sawyl’s fort’. There are, for example, Sawyl place-names in Wales (Llansawel, Pistyll Sawyl, now Ffynnon Sawyl). Sawyl is the Welsh form of the name Samuel.
Dr. Andrew Breeze of Pamplona, a noted expert on British place-names, agrees with this proposed etymology:
“I feel sure you are right. The form surely contains the Cumbric equivalent of Welsh _Sawyl_<_Samuel_. Your explanation of this toponym in north Lancashire is thus new evidence for Celtic survival in Anglo-Saxon times.”
Now that we have placed Pabo and his descendents on the map, we need to investigate what has been explained as an intrusion on their pedigree.
An Arthwys and his father Mar are both inserted into the Pabo genealogy. Instead of Pabo son of Ceneu son of Coel Hen, we have Pabo son of Arthwys son of Mar son of Ceneu, etc. This same Arthwys is made the grandfather of a Cynwyd of the tribal group known as the Cynwydion (of the Kent river in Cumbria - Kent being from Kennet, which in Welsh is Cynwyd), of Gwenddolau of Carwinley (Caer Gwenddolau just a little north of Carlisle) and father of Eliffer (Eleutherius) of York. Eliffer in another pedigree is the son of Gwrgwst Ledlum (Fergus Mor of Dalriada) son of Ceneu son of Coel Hen.
Mar is made the father of Lleenog, father of Gwallog of the kingdom of Elmet (a small kingdom centreed about Leeds, probably from Welsh elfydd, ‘world, land’), but in another pedigree it is Maeswig Gloff, i.e. Maeswig ‘the Lame’, who is father of Lleenog.
Mar, whose name is also written Mor, is once again Fergus Mor (also spelled ‘ Fergus Mar’). Proto-Celtic *maro-, ‘great’, is found in Old Irish as both mar and mor, although in OW this is maur, and in MW mawr.
Maeswig Gloff (Masguic Clop in the Harleian genealogies) was, presumably, a ruler of the vast Plain or Vale of York. His name appears to be from *Magos-vicos, ‘Fighter of the Plain’. However, I should not neglect to point out that the Roman fort at Burrow Walls, Workington, Cumbria, was named Magis, formed from British *magos, ‘plain’. Papcastle of Pabo is on the Derwent only a few miles east of Magis, itself at the mouth of the same river.
The name Arthwys has frequently been brought into connection with that of Arthur/Artorius. This name is from Arth-, ‘Bear’, + –(g)wys(*weyd-so- 'knowledgeable'), which in the early period was comparable to Irish fios, ‘knowledge’. Hence he was the ‘Knowledgeable Bear’. Dr. Andrew Breeze has made a case for the river Irthing containing the word Arth, ‘bear’. From his article “Celts, Bears and the River Irthing” (Archaeologia Aeliana, 5th series, volume XXXII):
Irthing, which has early forms Irthin, Erthina, and Erthing, would also make sense as ‘little bear’, with a Cumbric diminutive suffix corresponding to Middle and Modern Welsh –yn (Old Welsh –inn), as in defynyn ‘droplet’ from dafn ‘drop’ or mebyn ‘young boy’ from mab ‘boy’. As the th of Arth is pronounced like that of English bath, but that of Irthing like that of brother, the process of voicing here would take place after borrowing by English, not before.”
The claim has been made that Arthwys should be Athrwys, as this spelling is found in later sources. The argument would seem to have some support as the name Athrwys is found in Wales. If it was Athrwys, the first element would be W athro 'teacher' (< PIE *pH2tro:w- ‘uncle’). However, as Professor Ranko Matasovic has pointed out to me via private correspondence, while we have plenty of examples of Arth- or bear names, other than the presumed Athrwys, we have absolutely no other extant names containing athro.
[NOTE: Arthwys can be interpreted as a territorial designation, rather than strictly as a personal name. Welsh has a -wys suffix, which derives from Latin –enses. A discussion of this suffix can be found in John T. Koch's Celtic Culture, among other sources. Regedwis, for example, is 'people of Rheged' - or maybe better, 'inhabitants of Rheged'. The entry for -wys (1) in the University of Wales Dictionary confirms it as a Latin borrowing and as a nominal plural ending, giving the examples of Gwennwys, Lloegrwys and Monwys. Could –wys, then, be a suffix used for the people who live on a certain river? Like on an Arth or Bear River?
When I put this question to Dr. Delyth Prys of the place-name experts at The University of Wales, Bangor, he replied: “I've no independent evidence for this, but river names are sometimes used as the name for a more general area and by extension it could be the people of the Arth (area)." Now, if the Irthing is not from ir-t, but from erth/arth +inga (belonging to, not descendents of), it would be the 'tun belonging to Arth' or belonging to the bear. But if the river itself were originally the Arth/Erth, then the tun itself would belong to the river.
Alan James of BLITON states that river-names can sometimes be also the names of adjacent regions, or - probably more correctly - some river-names may have originally have been regional names (or vice versa). This may have been the case with Llwyfenydd/ Lyvennet of Urien. The kind of river-names that seem to double as district names tend to be ones that refer to local terrain, etc., but that may just because such topographical names are more obviously linked to the area. Again, rivers were sometimes boundaries, but they're as likely to flow through a territory perceived as one as to divide such a territory into two. A hypothetical Arth/’Bear’ region could have included both the Irt and the Irth of Irthington, not necessarily been bounded by them.]
Arthuret near Carwinley was the scene of a great battle featuring Myrddin, among others. This famous hero (see my THE MYSTERIES OF AVALON) belonged at the twin hills of Ardd Gurrith and Ardd Errith, from which the Arthuret and Arderydd names derive. Arf-derydd, ‘weapon fierce’, is actually a poetic descriptor for the battle, and Derydd is probably the original British name of the Liddel Water at Carwinley. Dreon son of Nudd, another famous hero at the Arthuret battle, is likely a son of the Nudd mentioned on an early 6th century tombstone at Yarrow Kirk.
Not far west of the Carwinley of Gwenddolau on the coast of Galloway is the fort of Caerlaverock. The name of this fort is referred to in Welsh tradition as the ‘Lark’s Nest’ and it is said to have been the cause of the Battle of Arfderydd (Arthuret). But ‘lark’ is itself either a mistake or pun for the personal name Llywarch, in this case Llywarch Hen son of Elidir Lydanwyn. Llywarch was first cousin to Urien Rheged. Caerlaverock is, therefore, Caer Llywarch.
There is another interesting reference to a place in Cumbria that I might mention. In the ‘Cambridge’ group of Historia Brittonum MSS., an interpolation tells us that Vortigern is said to have built “Guasmoric near Carlisle, a city which in English is called Palme castre.” Palme castre has long been erroneously identified with the Old Carlisle Roman fort one mile south of Wigton in the parish of Westward. There is a double-error in the Historia Brittonum, for Guasmoric itself is not the same place as the Palme castre fort.
Guasmoric must be Gwas Meurig, the “Abode of Meurig or Mauricius.” This is clearly an attempt at rendering the Gabrosentum Roman fort in Cumbria at Moresby. According to both Ekwall and Mills, Moresby (Moriceby, Moresceby) is Maurice’s By, Maurice being a Norman name and -by being Old Scandinavian for “farmstead, village, settlement”. Whether we can propose an original Welsh Meurig underlying Maurice is questionable. In all likelihood, the interpolation is late and Guasmoric represents Maurice’s By. If originally a Meurig place-name, this may commemorate the 6th century Meurig son of Idno son of Meirchion, who married a daughter of Gwallog of Elmet. Cynfarch son of Meirchion may have left his name at the Mote of Mark in Dumfries.
As for Palme castre, this is a place now called Plumpton (Plumton, ‘tun where plum trees grow’; see Ekwall) in Cumbria. Directly between Plumpton and Plumpton Foot is the Voreda Roman fort. Rivet and Smith (The Place-Names of Roman Britain) list the fort as being “at Old Penrith, Plumpton Wall, Cumberland, beside the river Petteril”. Voreda means ‘horse’ in British.
As archaeology has shown us, there were two main centres for the Carvetii kingdom. One was the ancient tribal centre near Brougham, the Roman Brocavum, with its triple sacred henges at Eamont. One of these henges is actually called King Arthur’s Round Table and another the Little Round Table. There is evidence in the form of a concentration of inscriptions at Brougham that the primary Carvetii deity worshipped at these henges was a horned god (doubtless a stag, given that Carvetii means ‘People of the Stag’) named Belatucadros.
But there was also an important region called variously Erechwydd or Yr Echwydd, mentioned in connection with Urien, his sons, Gwallog son of Lleenog of Elmet and with Dunod Fwr. No wholly satisfactory identification of Erechwydd has yet been made, but it would seem to be somewhere in or close to Cumbria.
What we do know about Erechwydd is that the Er- prefix is not the definite article yr, even though the name is sometimes wrongly written ‘yr echwyd’ in the poetry, but a form of Ar-, as found in other place-names, e.g. Arfon. Ar- as a prefix originally meant ‘in front of’. But it came to have the senses of ‘upon, on, over, at, in, across from’.
The National Dictionary of Wales defines echwydd as ‘fresh (of water, as opp. to salt); fresh water’. However, although this meaning has been extrapolated from the contexts in which the word is used, no good etymology had yet been proposed.
I asked Graham Isaac if the word could come from ech, ‘out of, from’, plus a form of the Indo-European root *ued, ‘wet’. His response was:
“The etymology echwydd < *exs-wed-yo-, or *exs-ud-yo- (either would probably do it) seems plausible enough.”
The literal meaning would then be the ‘out-water’, but the sense of the word would be simply ‘flowing, fresh water’. Again, the Welsh texts which use this word leave no doubt that we are talking about fresh water emerging from springs or lakes.
So where was Erechwydd/Yr Echewydd, the ‘Place by the flowing, fresh water’? Our clue lies not only in the name of the region, but in the battles fought there between Dunod Fwr of the Dent region and Gwallog of Elmet against Urien’s sons. These engagements are recounted in the Llywarch Hen poetry. Given that Urien Rheged seems to have had his origin in Galloway (where we find Dun Ragit, the ‘Hill-fort of Rheged’), and both Dunod and Gwallog had kingdoms in southeastern Cumbria and just southeast of Cumbria, respectively, the most logical place to seek Erechwydd would be the twin valleys of the Eden and Petteril.
A Roman road led from the south up through the valley of the river Lune right past Dunod’s Dentdale. This road continued north to the Eden Valley. Another Roman road led west from Leeds and joined with the Lonsdale road. Gwallog could have taken this route to the Eden or he could have gone north up Dere Street and then cut over through the Pennines at Stainmore.
The Eden and Petteril Valleys were the heartland of the ancient Carvetii kingdom. Not only did the twin valleys provide the obvious natural route from Carlisle towards Lancaster and York, the area has been shown to have supported a widespread and occasionally dense pattern of rural settlement in the Roman period.
It is even possible that Erechwydd as a regional designation can be more precisely localized within the Eden and Petteril Valleys. The headwaters of the Petteril lie just west-northwest of Eamont. We have already discussed the importance of Eamont with its sacred henges. The river Eamont (a back-formation from the name Eamont itself, from AS ea-gemot, ‘river-meet’, i.e. confluence) and Lowther join at Eamont Bridge and continue for a short distance eastward to the Eden. There was also, of course, a nexus of Roman roads at Eamont.
In my opinion, the Anglo-Saxon place-name ea-gemot/Eamont may overlie an original British Echwydd. Ekwall thought Eamont refers to the confluence of the Eamont and the stream from Dacre, although given the location of the Brougham/Brocavum Roman fort at the juncture of the Eamont and Lowther, it makes much more sense to see this ea-gemot as the confluence of the latter two rivers. If I am right, then Arechwydd was the Eamont area, specifically the land at and around the Brougham fort and the three Carvetii henges. The ‘out-water’ would be a reference specifically to the Eamont, which is formed by the outflow from the Ullswater, the second largest lake in Cumbria.
Just a few miles south-southest of Eamont is the Lyvennet Beck, a tributary of the Eden. This has been identified with the Llwyfenyd over which Urien is said to have been ‘ruler’ (Welsh teithiawc).
A Note of Godeu of the North and Urbs Giudi
A very important region in the North of Britain was called Godeu. This place is mentioned in two of the Taliesin praise-poems of Urien. In both cases, Godeu is paired with Reget, i.e. Rheged. Yet Godeu has remained unidentified.
Locating Godeu is complicated by its use in an ancient battle poem called Kat Godeu, the ‘Battle of Godeu’. Because this battle poem tells of the god Gwydion’s magical activation of an army of trees, it has in the past been assumed that Godeu meant ‘forest’, cf. Welsh coed/goed. However, the word godeu or goddeu/goddau actually existed in early Welsh. The National Dictionary of Wales has as the meaning of this word ‘intention, design, purpose, object or aim, end in view.’
There are some clues about where we might find the Godeu of Kat Godeu. Firstly, we know Gwydion was most firmly associated with Gwynedd. One other character mentioned in the poem – a certain Peblig, can be put in Gwynedd. The only Peblig known to Welsh tradition was the saint of Llanbeblig, the parish church of Carnarvon. This Peblig is involved in the actual battle in Godeu, at a fort called Caer Nefenhir.
In the Mabinogion tale Math Son of Mathonwy, Gwydion fights Pryderi of Dyfed in Gwynedd. The battle was fought over some magical swine Gwydion had stolen from Pryderi. Pryderi had gotten these swine from Arawn, king of Annwm, the Welsh Otherworld.
A 17th century account of the Battle of Godeu tells us that Amaethon son of Don, Gwydion’s brother, had stolen a white roebuck and a whelp from Annwm. The battle was between Arawn and Amaethon. On one side was Bran, a god regularly associated with Gwynedd. In another Taliesin poem, we are told that Lleu also took part in the battle. He, too, was a figure frequently placed in northwestern Wales.
All the clues seem, therefore, to point to Gwynedd as the location of Godeu and Caer Nefenhir.
The fort in question looks to me to be Caer Nefyn Hir, the Fort of Nefyn the Tall (cf. Cai Hir, ‘Caius the Tall’). This points strongly to Nefyn on the Lleyn Peninsula, not far from Peblig’s Carnarvon. There are two forts at Nefyn.
The first is the hill-fort of Garn Boduan or Bodfuan, the ‘Cairn of the Dwelling of Buan’. Buan was a saint in the area. The second fort at Nefyn is the promontory fort of Dinllaen, the ‘Fort of the Laigin’ or Leinsterman.
But if Nefyn is the location of Caer Nefyn Hir, where is Godeu?
The secret, I believe, lies in the meaning of Godeu – a meaning which will allow us to have not only one Godeu– that which was in or of Gwynedd – but two Godeus, including Urien’s region of that name in the North.
The Gododdin kingdom of the North, later called Lothian, derives from a tribal name Votadini. The latter is found in early Welsh documents as Guotodin. Votadini is believed to derive from a personal name or word cognate with Irish Fothad. In Old Irish, Fothad or fothad means ‘basis (?), foundation, founding, support’. But Irish fothad itself is from a root fotha, which has among its meanings ‘basis’, ‘cause’, ‘charge’, ‘foundation’, ‘reason’.
I would, therefore, propose that early Welsh Godeu or godeu represents a cognate to Irish fotha and that, as such, it is effectively an abbreviation for Gododdin. Other abbreviations are found for places in the early sources. One example is the ‘Aloo’ used in the St. Patrick letters to Ceredig of Strathclyde. ‘Aloo’ here represents the first component of Alclud, the ‘Rock’ of Clyde.
But if Godeu = Gododdin, what is a Godeu doing on the Lleyn Peninsula in Gwynedd?
The answer to that question is simple: according to the earliest Welsh authority (Nennius in his HB), the founders of Gwynedd, led by the great Cunedda, came down from Manau Gododdin. By calling Gwynedd ‘Godeu’, then, the poets were ackowledging that Gododdin warriors had supposedly established a kingdom in northwest Wales.
Urien’s Godeu is Gododdin in the North. The Godeu of Kat Godeu is Gwynedd.
And this brings up a related and important point: the true etymology and location of the Venerable Bede’s urbs Giudi on the Firth of Forth. Giudi is found in the epic Welsh poem The Gododdin as Iodeo. The 9th century HB spells the place-name Iudeu. Finally, the Middle Irish Mothers of the Saints mentions muir n-Giudan, where muir is ‘sea’, a reference to the Firth of Forth.
It has become customary, for no really good reason, to identify Giudi or Iodeo with Stirling Rock.
[Stirling can be derived from the Welsh. In the Gododdin, for instance, we find stre or ystre for "border, bank; boundary, district, region; boundary dyke, rampart" (the GPC has ‘battle-front’ as well). Welsh stre for the first part of Stirling would leave us with –velin/-veling/-velyn/-welin to figure out. I would put forward the Welsh word gwialen, gwyalen, 'spear', found in the Gododdin poem, whose meaning (see http://www.wales.ac.uk/dictionary/pdf/GPC0018-05.pdf) is “rod, twig, withe, sapling, cane, stick, also trans. of spear, arrow, etc.”
When I proposed this etymology to Alan James of BLITON with the Scottish Place-Name Society, he responded:
“I remain very cautious about wialen, or weilein (which would be the plural of wail > gwaell but meaning much the same, some long pointed things), but I accept *[i]stre-weilein or similar is a sensible proposal.
I think, as I said last night, in a probably early name, [i]stre- is most likely to refer to a solid defensive work of some kind (rather than an abstract boundary), and, as you've mentioned, the root-sense of -wialen (and -*wailin) would have to do with sticks, stakes, etc. (especially pointed ones). So I'd interpret *[i]stre-weilein as 'a defensive work of stakes', perhaps a bank topped with a palisade, or a setting of chevaux-de-frise, most likely blocking access to the top of the rock, though I suppose there might have been some defences to control the river-crossing.”
The ancient name of the Traprain Law hill-fort in the Gododdin kingdom was Dunpelder, ‘Fort of the Spear-Shafts’. According to Kenneth Jackson in his 1958 paper on St. Kentigern, the volcanic formations in the Traprain summit resemble spears. Thus the spears of Stirling may also be metaphoric for the basaltic cliff.]
Andrew Breeze likens the root of Giudi to Old Welsh iud, Middle Welsh udd, ‘lord’, and thus interprets the name as meaning ‘lord’s place, place possessed by a lord’. As a purely formal etymology, this is quite acceptable.
However, as Breeze himself notes, G- has ‘the sound of y in English yes.’ This being so, we can take The Gododdin form Iodeo and suppose that this name entered the poem via an English source. In other words, the spelling was originally Godeo or, rather, ‘Godeu’. Thus we can be fairly certain that Bede’s Giudi is also Godeu. The urbs Giudi would be the ‘city of the Gododdin’.
Now Bede says that urbs Giudi is ‘in medio’ of the Firth of Forth. This does not mean, of course, that the city is in the middle of the Firth, but rather that is it situated in the middle of the shore of the Firth in the Gododdin region. This geographical fix immediately eliminates the traditional Stirling from consideration.
However, Din Eidyn, the Dark Age capital of the Gododdin, is itself in the middle portion of the shore of the Firth. I suspect the ‘city of the Gododdin’ is, in fact, Din Eidyn. We need not look for urbs Giudi at Stirling or at any of the other places it has been sought (Cramond, Inveresk, etc.).
The Home of St. Patrick
A great deal of controversy still exists over the whereabouts of the home of the famous Saint Patrick. I will not here go over the various candidates, none of which have convinced the scholarly community. Instead, I will make my case for just one of these candidates, as I think new evidence can be provided in support of it.
We are told that the saint was born at ‘uico [vico – “town”] bannauem taburniae (variants taberniae, thaburinde), ‘where three roads meet’ and that this place is ‘near the western sea’. This town is otherwise known as Uentre (variants Nentriae, Nemthur).
It has long been recognized that the form ‘bannauem taberniae’, i.e. bannaven taberniae, shows an incorrect division of this place-name. Instead, it should read
Banna Venta Berniae
Venta is best defined thusly (from “Brittonic Language in the Old North”, The Scottish Place-Name Society):
“In all the cases mentioned, a sense ‘a market, a trading-place’ is quite plausible, but the apparent similarity to Latin vendere, ‘to sell’ and its Vernacular Latin and Romance derivatives is probably misleading. Both *Bannaventa and *Glannoventa, as topographical names, might incorporate the suffix seen in the river-names above, or be based on lost river-names with that suffix. Nevertheless, Sims-Williams in APN p119 includes *Bannaventa and *Glannoventa along with the Venta group, under the sense ‘market’.”
Banna’s etymology is as follows (also from “Brittonic Language in the Old North”):
“Non-IE *ban-, *ben- > Early Celtic *banno/ā- > Brittonic, Gaulish banno/ā-, also Gaulish benno- (in place-names) > Old Welsh bann- > (in place-name Banngolau AC s.s. 874) > middle - modern Welsh ban > middle Cornish ba[d]n > Cornish ban (see CPNE p. 16), Old Breton bann > modern Breton ban; Irish, Gaelic benn > (and Gaelic, manx beinn).
Primarily, 'a horn, prong, antler-time', so also 'a drinking-horn, a sounding-horn'. In Celtic place-names generally 'a point, promontary, spur', and in Brittonic and Pritenic place-names 'summit, top', a use which shaped the Gaelic and manx development of the dative (locative) singular beinn to an independent noun, especially in hill-names.: see G. Barrow in Uses, p. 56 (however, given the rarity of ban[n] in surviving hill-names, the influence of unrelated pen[n] may also have been a factor).
To me, it is fairly obvious that 'Uentre', first found in the Life by Muirchu, is merely a duplication in slightly corrupt form of Venta. Venta as 'market town' is a sort of Celtic substitution for Latin vicus, which has come down to us through Anglo-Saxon as wic or wick, 'market town'.
The Roman fort of Banna on the western end of Hadrian's Wall has often been pointed to as this particular Bannaventa (since the one in central England is not near the sea). The vicus or civilian settlement that surrounded the fort was quite large, so there is no problem with the vicus/venta portion of the name.
The problem is the 'Berniae', which no one has been able to make anything sensible out of. This is plainly a reference to the Tyne Gap, a narrow but distinct corridor running east-west through a lowlying gap between the uplands of the Pennines visible to north and south. The Gap spans the distance from the Tyne in the east to the Irthing in the west, and Banna/Birdoswald is right there at the western end of the Gap.
From the Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language on the Irish word for 'gap':
berna beirn berne bearn Bernai bernad bearnaidh bearna
Keywords: Gap; breach; pass; defile; position; defence; attack; refuge; breach; occupied; warrior; undefended; weak; position; defence; attack; position; danger; strait; fight; gap; break; flaw; drinking-horn; ungapped
ā, f. also berna iā, d and n. as. B. Chon Culaind, RC viii 54.20 ( LL 13397 ). ds. b.¤, Sitzb. , v 93 § 30 , beirn, LL 17995 , gs. berne, FM v 1636.9 . bearn f., IGT Decl. § 39. as. Bernai, Corp. Gen. 206.17
gs. cacha bernad, LL 8030. berna f., IGT Decl. § 4. as. bearnaidh, Éigse xiv 98 § 29. gs. bearna, § 28 .
gap, breach; pass, defile; hence weak position in defence or attack: dot luid i mbernai (ar berna, v.l. ) ar-mo chenn-sa thou camest into the breach against me , Sc. M² 13. is b.¤ ina coṅgaib catha a breach in their battle position , CRR 57.
do coimét na mbernd cumung robui ag techt aran slia[bh], ZCP vi 56.10 . annsa mbeirn = in the gap , Ez. xxii 30. aon- fhear faire re seasamh gach beárnan, Keat. Poems 463. nī fhūicēb-sa an b.¤ (bern-, v.l. ) sin dom c[h]onāch gan caithem, ML² 1412. bearna as mo ré `a part of my life-span ', Dán Dé xvii 8 . ar bearna an bháis, DDána 30.6 . ? berna a eric, Laws ii 98.6 .i. ar in fechiumh nos gaibh, uair do rochuir ní di, 13 Comm. b.¤ na ngrás gur daingen duid refuge, IGT Decl. ex. 411.
In phrr. b.¤, berna churad, ¤míled etc. breach made or occupied by a warrior, etc.: ruc beirnd curad . . . dar cath na nAnmarcach, Cog. 188.23 . ra briss beirn míled i cath naṅGréc, LL 32300 ( TTr. 1488 ). do bris b.¤ céit isin cath i n-urc[h]omair a aigthi `made a breach of a hundred ', Fianaig. 90.30 . berna cēt, TBC² 3672. Phr. b.¤ báegail undefended or weak position in defence or attack: aḟágbáil ar bernadaib bǽgail nó ar doirrsib aideda, Mer. Uil.² 99. ni b.¤ bægail in læch fuil and `no easy victim ', Aen. 750. See G 7.27 . Hence b.¤ position of danger, strait; fight: iarṁbrath na mb.¤, Rawl. 69 a 27 . suan ón bheirn `from fight ' (Vocab.), O'Hara 2609. re ndul san mbeirn, Dán Dé xxv 21 . gap; break, flaw in general: (expl. Bernán Brigte, name of saint's bell) foceirt forru co mmebaid ass a bernn `its gap broke out of it ' (i.e. a piece broke off), Trip. 114.14 . (of a drinking-horn) sēt blāith cen beirn `ungapped', Measgra Uí Chl. 150 § 19. an bhearn do-cháidh san chloinnse `the gap thus broken in her family ' (by a death), Aithd. D. 13.10 . dar bernadaib in inair sin, Acall. 5808 n . tar beirn na luirige, BB 435 b 46 . Compds. trias na beilgibh bernbriste dorónadh las an ordanas broken into gaps , FM vi 2300.2 . See berrbróc. beilge berncairrgidhe na banBhoirne, Hugh Roe 242.13 .
Just as importantly, the early name of Patrick in Tirechan is Magonus. The god Mogons (and variants) is found on Hadrian's Wall, especially the western half/end - where the Banna Roman fort is located. According to Celticist John Koch, the alternative name of Patrick, Magonus, might be related to this god name.
Finally, thanks to the paper by Dr. Andrew Breeze of Pamplona ("St.Patrick's Birthplace", Wlsh Journal of Religious History, 3, 2008, pp. 58-67), I have learned of the 3rd century (?) inscription, apparently from Corbridge but now at Hexham Abbey, by a Q. Calpurnius Concessinius. Martin Charlesworth of Cambridge noticed that this Roman-period name contained both the family names of St. Patrick, whose father was Calpurnius and mother Conchessa. Q. was a prefect of an unnamed cavalry unit celebrating the slaughter of a tribal group called the Corionototae. This stone thus places both of the names of Patrick's parents near the Wall, where Banna/Birdoswald is located.
Morgan Bwlch and Bernicia
According to the Historia Brittonum, Urien of Rheged was murdered at the instigation of Morgan Bwlch, the whereabouts of whose kingdom is unknown. Several unsupportable guesses have been made.
Bwlch means ‘gap, pass, breach’. It is possible, therefore, the Morgan was ‘of the breach’ in a heroic, military sense. However, I’ve demonstrated that the Tyne Gap of St. Patrick’s Banna Venta (the Birdoswald fort on Hadrian’s Wall) was called ‘Bernia’. Kenneth Jackson long ago proposed tht Bernicia is from Celtic *Bern-acci- (cf. Irish bern, berna, ‘gap, pass’). Archaeology has shown us that Bernician settlement began in the Tyne Valley. Thus in all likelihood Morgan Bwlch was a British ruler of the Tyne Gap, whose kingdom was superceded by that of the Bernician English.
Din Guayrdi/Din Guoaroy
According to the Historia Brittonum, the British name for Bamburgh was either Din (“Fort”) Guayrdi or Din Guoaroy. The name has remained a problem for philologists and no satisfactory etymology has been proposed.
I would suggest the Welsh word gwyar, ‘blood’, plus an ethnonymic suffix. In this case, Gwyar is a proper name, possibly the mother of the famous Arthurian hero Gwalchmai. Alan James has informed me that the medial syllable would have been syncopated, so we could expect a form such as *Gwyardi. This fits Guoaroy better than, say, Welsh gwaered, ‘declivity, downward slope.” In the case of Guoaroy, the 'o' could be a miscopying of 'ꝺ', 'insular d'.
Din Gwyardi, the ‘Fort of the People of Gwyar.’
William of Malmesbury said that Gwalchmai had been buried at Ros (Rhos) in Wales. This may be a relocation for Ross Low at Bamburgh.
The Welsh Triads place Gwalchmai’s grave on the Parret in Somerset, but this is doubtless because Gualganus, a form of his name, was wrongly linked to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’s Cenwalh, who fought the British at that river.