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Sunday, 19 November 2017

Place names in the "Rocky Mountains"

The crags of Carn Meini / Caer Meini / the Ragged Rocks

Following my earlier post on "Caer Meini" and other place names in the eastern parts of Preseli, I have found another old book -- long since out or print --  by ET Lewis, called "Mynachlog-ddu -- a guide to its antiquities."  In it, he makes many interesting points, while displaying rather too much respect for the "expertise" of assorted "experts"......

Anyway, he says some very interesting things about place names. He refers to Carn Meini / Caer Meini as "the remarkable mountain called the Ragged Rocks" and also refers to the area as "the Rocky Mountains" --- maybe with tongue in cheek.  He cites a tourist called HP Wyndham (1774) as his source -- and maybe these labels were used informally by English-speaking visitors to the Preseli area.

Lewis speculates that the name "Caer Meini" arises from the fact that the summits "appear circular and like the stupendous ruins of a castle wall."  That's an imaginative interpretation, but it raises the issue of the AGE of some of these names.

Carn Goedog seen from the east.  A place of great slaughter?

In his text on the meanings of some of the other tor names, Lewis mentions that Carn Goedog means "the wooded carn" or "woodland carn" -- and I have no problem with that, since there is a copse of splendid mature trees not far away at Hafod Tydfil which suggests that without human interference / clearance and animal grazing, mature woodland would indeed be the climax vegetation here on the north flank of the mountain.  There is no reason why that should not also have applied in the Mesolithic and Neolithic, and right up to the time of the Celtic settlement and the naming of familiar places.  On the main ridge, and on the more exposed southern and western flanks of the uplands, the woodland might have been more scrubby.  There are bluebells growing in the Carn Goedog area, and as I have pointed out before, these plants are very good indicators of past wooded environments because they like heavy shade for the summer and autumn seasons.

The Welsh word for "forest" or "wood' is "coedwig" -- so "coedog" could simply be a mis-hearing, mis-spelling or corruption of that word.

More interesting by far is the suggestion by Lewis that "Goidog" or "Goidiog"may be related to an old Welsh word for "slaughter" or carnage. (The modern word is quite different.)  So, given the suggestion that the Battle of Mynydd Carn in 1081 might have occurred on the plateau of Talfynydd, less than a kilometre away from Carn Goedog, might this name have been given to the carn as a remembrance of that bloody conflict?  Indeed, might some phases of the battle have occurred around the carn itself?

1 comment:

TonyH said...

The placename "Slaughterford" occurs quite a lot in Southern England.

Also, Silbury Hill was modified in Saxon times to make it more of a secure fortification, probably around the time of two battles locally with the Vikings, in 1006 and 1010.