Thursday, 4 February 2010

Welsh place names and a little bit of history thrown in...

Hi, a more educational grown up blog today!!  Some interesting things I learned about the area I now live in from my second week at the Language Centre.

Maenclochog means 'ringing stones' (maen = standing stone + cloch = bell + og = fast\sharp).  It is thought the name refers to a large stone, several tons in weight, nicely poised upon three small upright stones.  It vibrated with the slightest touch, and when struck it sounded like a bell: this curiosity was destroyed by some of the inhabitants, who thought they might find some hidden treasure underneath it.  They blew it up with gunpowder.  Some rocks on the Preseli hills do have curious resonant properties. Was it this characteristic that made the bluestones special, explaining why some were believed to have been taken to Stonehenge?

All villages with Llan at the beginning and there are a few, is because llan means church.  So for example Llan-y-cefn: llan = church\parish + y = the + cefn = ridge\back.  Another little common one, cwm = hollow\deep valley, so for example Cwm Gwaun: cwm = valley + gwaun = moor\low-lying marshy ground\meadow.

Llysyfran
llys = court\manor house\hall + y = the + fran (mutated form of brân) = crow\raven i.e. court of the crows.


Pentre Ifan
Pentre = hamlet, village + Ifan = person's name.  Ivan's village was a settlement in the parish of Nevern,  North Pembrokeshire.  It contains the largest (the capstone weighs over 16 tons) and best preserved neolithic dolmen in Wales dating from approximately 3,500 B.C. and was used as a communal burial ground.

Mynydd Carningle
Mynydd = mountain Carn = rock.  Carn Ingli is a small mountain\hill near Newport in Pembrokeshire.  It's less than 400 meters high but it is near the coast and dominates the surrounding area.  It's always had sacred associations; according to legend in the 5th centuary Saint Brynach used to climb to the summit to find tranquillity to pray and to talk with the angels.

We learnt a little about The Merched Becca - The Rebecca Riots which took place between 1839 and 1843 in South and Mid Wales.  They were a protest against high tolls which had to be paid on the local turnpike roads. 
Roads were especially bad in Wales. To remedy this turnpike trusts were set up here (as they were in Britain). A number of people (known as trustees) made up the trust and they improved the roads. In return for this they erected toll gates and collected charges from road users (similar to crossing the Severn Bridge today). Farmers were hard-hit by this as they used the roads to transport lime to their farms to improve the soil.  The rioters, many disguised as women, destroyed the tollhouses and gates. Each leader was known as ‘Rebecca’ and followers were ‘her daughters’. They took their name from the biblical prophecy that the seed of Rebekah would ‘possess the gate of those which hate them’ (Genesis 24, Verse 60).  The riots ceased prior to 1844 because the act to consolidate and amend the laws relating to turnpike trusts in Wales was passed.

There is a belief that Preseli Bluestone, (some 480 million years old, a dolerite found in the Preseli Mountains) was 5000 years ago moved some 200 miles to Salisbury Plain, where they form the inner circle at Stonehenge. Legend has it that Merlin himself moved the bluestones from an older circle to Stonehenge by magically lifting them into the air.  Although there is now debate that the bluestone (a "generic" label of more than 20 different rocks, rather than a geological term) did not originate from a single source, but from widely spread locations in North Pembrokeshire, but I'm an old romantic and like to believe in Merlin.

1 comment:

Preseli Mags said...

Apparently the ancients believed the bluestone had healing properties which is why it's found with bodies. Fascinating stuff - and the place names too.

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