Today in Welsh History: August 30th

tyddewi1In 1536, the Grey Friars of Caerfyrddin (Carmarthen) surrendered during the dissolution of the monasteries. The Grey Friars were Franciscans, holding to the teachings and spiritual beliefs of St. Francis of Assisi, and of his associates and many followers, such as St. Clare of Assisi (after whom the town, Sanclêr [St. Clears] to the west of Caerfyrddin is named), St. Anthony of Padua, and St. Elizabeth of Hungary, among many others. “Franciscan” is usually applied to members who also adhere to the Roman Catholic Church.

tintern2bHowever, other denominations also have members who describe themselves as Franciscans. They include Old Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran. Franciscans in Poland and Lithuania are known as Bernardines, after Bernardino of Siena. Grey Friars is now at the center of the Caerfyrddin’s shopping district which occupies the grounds of the ancient priory. The Franciscan order is also unique in its co-educational practice, following the established practice of religious orders in Cymru (Wales) from the early Middle Ages.

In 1937, from the sublime to the New York world of boxing, Welshman, Tommy Farr, of Tonypandy, lost by a narrow margin to Joe Louis, for the World Heavyweight Title.

And in 1940, eight Welsh citizens were killed in Gresford, near the north Wales town of Wrexham (famous for its football team) during a German air raid. On the next day, ten people died in bombing raids on Rhos and Penycae, also in Clwyd. Later in the war, Abertawe (Swansea) was nearly leveled by German bombing raids, much of the city’s ancient medieval architecture was destroyed, leaving only the remnants of the Norman castle wall in the city centre.

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Be Your Own Fiction Editor: A Revision Clinic

Workshop for Writers offered by Celtic Hearts Romance Writers, given by Alice Osborn

Details of the Course:

Are you frustrated that your fiction is not captivating agents? If you’ve revised and revised, but still no bites, then you might need the help of a good fiction editor. In this workshop, experienced freelance fiction editor Alice Osborn will offer tips and techniques for overcoming “revision fatigue.” She’ll discuss timelines, character motivation, dialogue, point of view, setting and more. Everyone will feel more comfortable with the publishing process and with using style guides. For those wanting to go into the fiction editing business, we’ll also discuss time management, communication, and other smart business practices. Come with questions and problems from your work-in-progress and Alice will help you help yourself.

Alice Osborn, M.A. is the author of three books of poetry, After the Steaming Stops(Main Street Rag, 2012), Unfinished Projects (Main Street Rag, 2010) and Right Lane Ends (Catawba, 2006) and is the editor of the anthology, Tattoos (Main Street Rag, 2012); her past educational and work experience is unusually varied and now it feeds her strengths as an editor who makes good writers great authors. Alice teaches creative writing all over the country where she uses sensory images and road-tested prompts to stimulate her students’ best work. Her pieces have appeared in the News and Observer, The Broad River Review, The Pedestal Magazine, Soundings Review and in numerous journals and anthologies. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband and two children. Visit her website at

Cost to Celtic Hearts Members: $10.00

Cost to Non-Members: $20.00

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Feasts and Festivals: July and August

Heol Awst is the main street of the ancient market town of Caerfyrddin. In the opening chapter of my forthcoming novel, 220px-Eisteddfod_1991Vengeance’s Son, the growing family of Huw Brodawel walks through the 10th Century street, avoiding the horses but unable to avoid an altercation with Heledd’s nemesis, Alys Talgarth.

Throughout Cymru and Iwerddon, the summer months of July and August are famous for their horse-trading events. Farmers gather in fairs from one end of the country to the other, but none is more renown than the gathering referred to as The Royal Welsh, held in mid Wales at Llanelwedd, near Llanfair-ym-Muallt.

However, in medieval times, another renown event was Gwyl Awst, held in Caerfyrddin — a horse show and market event that brought citizens from as far away as the continent to deal in horse-flesh. The same interest in horse trading and races takes place in Iwerddon in July – the Galway Races. My family and I were not as aware of the Irish event in July when we visited our Gaelic neighbors a few years ago. Accommodation was not readily available, even for a family with three hearty, sleepy boys.

Heol Awst is also known as Lammas Street. This name refers to Lammas Day, celebrated on August 1st, when the fields were thrown open for common grazing. Lammas is a corruption of “loaf-mass” – a celebration in the early church when the first loaves of the harvest were consecrated.

mererid2001No festival is as widely celebrated than the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol (National Eisteddfod) – a festival arising from the earliest bardic events. This takes place during the first full week of August. The EG is a celebration of all things Welsh and Wales, but especially the Welsh language (Cymraeg). Iolo Morgannwg is credited with having revived the bardic festival – a competition for money and patronage between poets. The EG has grown into an Arts Festival, larger than any other in the world and, together with its daughter festival in May for the young people and children of Wales – Eisteddfod yr Urdd, offers entertainment and creative competition in all forms of the Arts.

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Wales All Over England & Scotland, Part II

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:

road thru llanymdyfri

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.

stone porth sir gar

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.

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Wales All Over England (and Scotland)

CastellCennenWhile 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 shown phonetically 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), centuries prior to the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons.

Taking a circular tour of England, we find Ross-on-Wye which is a direct Anglicization of Rhos-ar-Wy (Gwy is the name of the river, mutated by the adjective ‘ar’) ‘Rhos’ means moor or plain.

Southeast of Ross, we reach Bath, a favorite tourist destination, especially for Jane Austen readers. In Welsh, this spa town is known as Caerfaddon, (‘baddon’ means bath and is mutated by the feminine noun, ‘caer’ meaning fort). The Romans created the baths which are now visited by millions every year. During the Roman occupation of Briton, this town became an outpost for soldiers, a fort (from cess and cest from the Latin for ‘rest’ and ‘girdle’ (surround). The Romans took over many hill forts (caerau bryn) from the Brythonic Celts (Cymry/the Welsh people). Roman occupation of Briton ended by 410AD and the Anglo-Saxons (Saeson) arrived on the eastern coast of Briton around 450AD.

Northeast of Bath, we come to Oxford, a direct translation of Rhydychen (‘rhyd’ means ford as across a river and ‘ychen’ means oxen), a place where oxen cross the river. East, along the Gwy, we arrive in High Wycombe. ‘Wy’ is the mutated name of the river, Gwy, (as above) and is the geographic marker for the M40. This motorway was placed along a thoroughfare constructed by the Romans who used an original tract used by the Cymry to drive oxen to market. High Wycombe is an adaptation of Cwm-uwch-Wy (narrow valley above Gwy) which, along with all the other major towns located on the banks of the Gwy River, was and is a market town.

CastellCennen3The string of market towns leads to London. Any cattle or other goods, not already sold along the route, were sold at Smithfield. This enormous livestock market is still a major destination for farmers throughout the countries of Britain. London was known to the Romans as Londinium, to the Cymry as Llundain — possibly from the Latin lun meaning crescent shape or moon(‘llun’ means moon and Monday in Cymraeg/Welsh). It was a bog but centrally located and easily defended, until Buddug (meaning ‘victory’) attacked in 60AD:

But this early prosperity wasn’t to last. In 60 AD, Boudica (Buddug – Ed.), queen of the Iceni tribe of Norfolk, chose Londinium as a key target for her revolt against Roman rule. Her timing was perfect – the Roman army was away, quelling an uprising on the Welsh island of Anglesey. Boudica and her rabble razed the whole 40 acres city to the ground, killing thousands of traders who had settled there. Her attack left a thick burnt layer of red ash in the soil which is clearly visible in archaeological excavations. It was the first great fire of London. (

Southeast of Llundain is the cathedral town of Canterbury, known by the Cymry as Caergaint.  ‘Caint’ is the Welsh for the county of Kent. Kent is an approximation of the original place name given to it by the Brythonic Celts (Cymry).

In my next post, we will go north – the rush is on to the next stop: the university town of Cambridge.


Filed under Cymraeg/Welsh Language, Cymreig/Welsh, Hanes Cymru/Welsh History