Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Gwenddydd and the Daystone at Dawston: A Reappraisal

Dawston Rigg, Liddesdale, Home of Gwenddydd and Her Brother, Myrddin

Not long ago I wrote the following rather rambling piece, a sort of loose, unorganized approach to the possible equation of Degastan/Dawston with a stone dedicated to Gwenddydd.

Since then, I've done a significant amount of new research on the Dawston area.  My conclusion has been, in brief, that Dawston as the 'Day Stone' or, more properly 'Day's Stone', is probably an English rendering of a non extant standing stone deemed sacred to Gwenddydd ('White day' or 'White like the day').  She was likely a British goddess or a sacred queen. 

A thorough treatment of the Dawston site and its possible association with the Degastan battle was written in the 1800s.  Although replete with the usual antiquarian errors, it is still worth reading.

Murray, A D. (1896) 'A famous old battlefield', Trans Dumfriesshire Galloway Natural Hist Antiq Soc, 2nd, vol. 11, 1894-5. See Pages 89-96.

The location of Dawston Rig(g) was also a bit hazy until I realized, upon further exploration, that its name had come to be replaced by the modern Hudshouse Rigg.  Here is a Blaeu map (17th century) showing the ridge, here called 'Dasten'. Hudshouse can be clearly seen just below it.

Some later county maps, like this one by Tennant (fl. 1835-1850, Map of the County of Roxburgh), also still show Dawstone Rigg:

As for the "British camps" supposedly once present on the rigg, these are only shown on later maps.  Here is a very modern one from CANMORE.

CANMORE also has an excellent description of these forts or "settlements":

NY59NE 2 582 983.

(A: Centre : NY 58199836) FORTS (NR).

(B: centre - NY 58249838)

OS 6" map (1923)

Settlement, Caddrounburn Culvert. The remains of a small settlement are situated on a gentle slope facing SE, 200 yds. SW of Caddrounburn Culvert and at the SE end of the dykes described under No.129 (RCAHMS 1956). The settlement, which is 160 yds. from the right bank of the Liddel Water, at a height of 640 ft. OD, consists of two separate enclosures (Fig.130). The larger is a three-sided enclosure with rounded corners, which measures 170 ft. from N to S by 140 ft. transversely. It is formed by a drystone wall, the debris of which is spread to a width of as much as 25 ft. and stands to a height of 5 ft. on the SE side. No facing-stones are visible, but the wall was probably about 7 ft. in thickness.

There is a single entrance, 7 ft. wide, in the SE side, immediately within which the ground is depressed and marshy. In the SW part of the enclosure an area of about one-third of the whole is cut off by the ruins of a cross-wall of similar proportions to that of the enclosure wall itself. It runs from NW to SE with a gap between each end of it and the enclosure wall. There are no features within the part of the enclosure that lies SW of the cross-wall, but in the remainder there are four circular hut-foundations, of stones covered with turf but with no apparent entrance gaps; the walls of these huts are 2 ft. 6 in. in thickness and a few inches in height. The westernmost hut is 19 ft. in diameter, the other three 14 ft. A length of ruined wall runs SSW from the side of the northernmost hut for a distance of about 30 ft., then becoming lost in marshy vegetation.

The smaller enclosure lies a few yards ENE of the larger. It is an enclosure of irregular shape, measuring 110 ft. from E to W by 80 ft. transversely. It is formed by a drystone wall, once probably about 5 ft. thick but now spread to a width of up to 15 ft.; a well-preserved portion in the SE side, just SW of the entrance-gap, stands to a height of 2 ft. The entrance is about 8 ft. in width; it has been disturbed by a drain which passes through it to carry off water from the boggy interior. Within the entrance there is a depressed marshy area and immediately to the N. of this a natural terrace on which there is a circular hut-foundation 19 ft. in diameter with a low wall 2 ft. 6 in. in thickness. Like those in the larger enclosure this hut shows no sign of a doorway.

RCAHMS 1956, visited 1949

As described above.

Visited by OS (JLD) 7 October 1960

In my opinion, if Gwenddydd does lie behind the Dawston name, then these forts/settlements on the south flank of Dawston Rigg are, in all likelihood, the home of Myrddin.  Being on Liddesdale, his reputed lord was Gwenddolau, who ruled from Carwinley at the foot of the valley.  This is assuming, of course, that Myrddin was a man and not a demoted version of the god Lleu.  I've elsewhere shown that the Tweeden Burn, a tributary of the Liddel, was later mistakenly identified with the Tweed much farther north in Lowland Scotland.  The Powsail Burn of the Tweed (not Drumelzier Burn) means 'Willow Pool' and is a transferred site from the Willow Pool on the River Esk between Carwinley and the Liddel Strength.  In short, everything points to Dawston as Myrddin's place of origin.

It is a shame that the famous Day Stone or Day's Stone has suffered the fate of so many ancient megaliths.  Did it tumble into the burn?  Or was it removed by a farmer?  Was it broken up and used for building material.  Who knows.  We can only say that once a holy stone stood on Dawstone Rigg, a monument to Gwenddydd.  

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