In my previous article, I introduced my premise that the Brythonic Celts were the first and significant occupants of three of the five countries that now make up the island nations of Great Britain and Ireland:
Along the drovers’ route to Llundain through eastern Sir Gâr/Carmarthenshire
While I have been working on my second series, The Inheritors, I have been reviewing the first segment of this family saga, The Conquerors. The second book of the first segment, Salvation, takes place in Cwmdu (Black Valley) and I thought about how the pronunciation of Cwmdu could be illuminated for non-Welsh speakers. I came up with COOM-dee. Most of us will recognize ‘combe’ pronounced ‘coom,’ since it is found in place names all over England.
Among those place names is further evidence of Welsh occupation of the country now known as England (as well as the country to the north now known as Scotland).
We went east from Cymru/Wales to Caint/Kent and Caergaint/Canterbury. Many of these places were the forts (caerau) established by the Brythonic Celt tribes, consequently taken over by, first, the Roman invaders, reclaimed by the Celts once the Roman Empire collapsed. Within the few following centuries, these centers of civilization were relentlessly attacked and sacked by further invaders: the Vikings, Danes, Angles and Saxons. Each invasion and assault left its mark on the history and lore of the island of Britain, and with the exception of the north in Efrog, none more lasting than the Anglo-Saxons, and eventually, the Normans.
Remains of a porth/portcullis of a caer/fort in western Sir Gâr/Carmarthenshire
Far from obliterating the Brythonic Celts, the Anglo-Saxons assimilated notable aspects of the Celtic culture and communities. The Celts were, over time, themselves assimilated but not without trace. The east coast of Britain is evidence of the ancient struggle between the Brythonic communities and the Teutonic invaders.
To the north of Caergaint, on the coast is the seacoast town of Margate. ‘Mar’ is a variation of the Welsh word for sea: ‘mor’ as well as the Latin ‘mare’. Gate is the English translation for the Welsh ‘porth’ and the Latin ‘porta’.
Across the Thames Estuary (Abertafwys), one of the biggest cities on the North Sea coastal flatlands is Colchester. ‘Chester’ is the Latin for the Welsh word ‘Caer’. We’ve seen this in place names throughout the country known as England (Lloegr). The Latin ‘cest’ meaning ‘girdle’ has remained a significant feature in place names, replacing the Brythonic ‘caer’. ‘Col’ is Welsh for ‘corn’ which is used as a general term for any variety of grain. Colchester is at the center of what is referred to as the ‘bread basket’ of Britain.
Northwest of the wheat fields is the famous university city of Cambridge. ‘Cam’ means ‘step’ as well as ‘injustice’ and ‘crooked’. Whichever of those meanings best described the city in ancient times is a mystery (at least to me) but the modern name for Cambridge is ‘Caergrawnt’. ‘Grawn’ is another word for ‘grain’ – again the wheat fields effect. Or the other possible origin is ‘crawn’ meaning ‘pus’ or its now obsolete meaning ‘treasure’. Because ‘caer’ is feminine and causes a soft mutation of words it modifies, ‘crawn’ is probably the more likely candidate.
To the northwest of Cambridge is the smaller town of Kettering. Although there seems little connection between this obviously Anglo-Saxon word, ‘ket’ is actually a Anglicization of the word ‘coed’ meaning wood. Similarly, we have Ketteridge and Kettlethorpe, all of which are within the vast forest regions, as well as Cheddleton and Cheadle. Further west and north is another university city, Leicester, again taking the ‘caer/cess/cest’ approach I mentioned in Part I. The city’s known in Welsh as ‘Caerlŷr’ from Llŷr, the Brythonic king who inspired Shakespeare’s tragic Lear.
Perhaps one of the most familiar of the northern cities is Manceinon. Never heard of it? Does Manchester sound more familiar? ‘Man’ means ‘place’ and ‘ceinion’ is associated with ‘cain’ meaning ‘beautiful’. ‘Ceinion’ are ‘works of art’, ‘gems’, ‘jewels’. In ancient times, Manceinion must have been an extraordinarily beautiful place to live. More recently, it is associated with industry, mining as well as two of the most famous sports teams, Manchester United and Manchester City.
In Part III, we will investigate the origins of Efrog which inspired the name of the largest city in the United States and Caeredin or Dinedin as it is also known.