Of the Old North and other Vanished Kingdoms..

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I’m currently trawling through Norman Davies’s fabulous new tome – “Vanished Kingdoms” – Five stars in the (London) Telegraph’s review from Ben Wilson:

All the nations that have ever lived have left their footsteps in the sand,” writes Norman Davies. “The traces fade with every tide, the echoes grow faint, the images are fractured, the human material is atomised and recycled. But if we know where to look, there is always a remnant, a remainder, an irreducible residue.” In this brilliant, beautifully written book, Davies recovers those scattered vestiges of dead kingdoms, tracing the skeins that link modern political realities with ancient history. Vanished Kingdoms is a book about memory and loss, a journey down some of the least fashionable byways of European history.

And:

In the chapter on Alt Clud (Strathclyde), Davies takes us to Dumbarton Rock, a volcanic plug that guards the approach to Glasgow from the Firth of Clyde. For centuries, it was the capital of the “Kingdom of the Rock”, a stronghold of the Welsh Britons. Over time, the culture of the Britons was shaped by external forces, from the Romans, Picts, Norse, Normans and Gaelic Scots. Invasions and population movement submerged the Britons, until the kingdom of Strathclyde became part of Scotland.

At 22.17 here’s an interview with Prof. Davies by Vaughan Roderick on Radio Wales. Worth a listen (it’s only 8 minutes)  for the chapter entitled Éire, on a vanishing kingdom – that of the United Kingdom – the next on the list according to Norman.
The Independent Review, by Ian Thomson, is also a delight:

Norman Davies, a distinguished historian of eastern Europe, devotes a fascinating chapter to Estonia in Vanished Kingdoms, his exhaustive account of various “lost” kingdoms, duchies and nation states of Europe from medieval times to the present. Independent Estonia had lasted scarcely two decades from 1918 before it was subsumed into the Soviet empire and effectively disappeared from the map of Europe. Now it is the USSR that has disappeared: Estonia, the “diminutive David”, has stood up to and survived the “super-colossal Goliath”

That’s a couple of vignettes from two reviews – the book encompasses a mass of tales with the typical Davies inserts of poetry, song lyrics, maps and illustrations.
For me I always thought there was a bit of the Old North about William Wallace or “Uilleam Breatnach” (William the Briton) as he was known to his Gaelic speaking colleagues.
….Half way through and looks superb so far.

P.S. Some background from Wiki on our Northern Kingdoms… Yr Hen Ogledd (The Old North)

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  • sonofstrongbow

    I always suspected that Irish Republicans lived in the past but it’s a surprise even to me that they constantly reference the auld North as if it’s extant today.

    If you listen to them talking you’d be taken aback by how real life in “The North’ is to them. I’m awaiting their declaration that they find their way about using a map of Middle Earth, or Westeros or on the back of a giant turtle.

  • Dewi

    Don’t quite get your point SOS but as the reviewer points out:
    Davies traces the skeins that link modern political realities with ancient history. Just like interesting?

  • Reader

    Hmm, Vanished Kingdoms turned up in my Amazon recommendations a few days ago. Even though I almost never get hardbacks, I think I may move it into my wishlist, what with Christmas coming up and all.
    I always love the way that the deeper you look into history the more it demands that you shift your perspective. So a fractal dig into history like this one should be a joy.
    I still remember my shift in attitude when I stopped dismissing the people of long ago for their failure to be modern. Most people just get on with living the lives that are laid out in front of them.

  • Dewi

    “I always love the way that the deeper you look into history the more it demands that you shift your perspective”
    And no one demands a shift more than Davies to be honest. Off work tomorrow so will try and finish it.

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    Methinks sonofstrongbow misses rthe point (as Dewi politely declines to explain). Yr Hen Ogledd is today the stretch of north western Britain, all the way from the Dee to the Clyde. Hence the stories of “the men of the North”.

    I know he may not be the match of Norman Davies as an academic historian and controversialist, but look up the various works of Alistair Moffat, also on Amazon.

  • Dewi

    Super read this Malcolm – as you can imagine l liked the Welsh and Irish stuff but now into the kingdoms of Burgundia – fascinating. What’s best of Moffat (with Christmas coming as per Reader)?

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    Dewi:

    Good topic in Moffat. He’s the SNP lowlander pin-up. Ex-BBC, ex-Edinburgh Kulturfest. Just elected Rector at St Andrews.

    His numerous books ought to appeal alike to Scots-Irish diaspora and to true Celts.

    My problem here (outside NYC for Thanksgiving) is posting from an iPad. And I haven’t sussed how to get the flèche symbols for HTML links. Home over the weekend. I will do a track-back then.

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    And reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63. Up to page 562, with 300 to go.

    So not so intellectually-inclined as you.

    You must do a Christmas books wish-list.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Malcolm,

    Methinks you think erroneously. Did the reference to Middle Earth not give a hint of my humorous intent? No? Ok then.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Malcolm,

    “true Celts”?

    What/who are they? (genuine question)

  • Dewi

    You are who you feel Congal….

  • Drumlins Rock

    The British Isles, and much of “Atlantic Europe” are essentially one ethnic group it seems, usually called the Celts, various overclasses ruled and divided them, some of these were also Celts, Gaels, Britons, others were Saxons, Angles, Normans, Vikings, French, Roman whatever, usually they were a mix of these. They contirbuted to the DNA to a lesser but not insignificant extent, but molded the culture almost completely, as these overclasses changed so did the culture to extents, but usually they fused bits from each other. With influences strongest in different areas, the culture or ethnicity didn’t decide the boundaries, brute force usually did, the four Kingdoms we have now are as false as those that went before, but have taken on their own reality, sadly destroying the vareity of the smaller kingdoms, even here in Northern Ireland small “kingdoms” are merging into the new identity, which has evolved quite differently from its southern neighbour (only minutes from the border I see strong differences develop).
    Lets value our small knigdoms what ever their history and influence today.

  • Dewi

    DR – i’ve never been that interested in DNA and Genetics to be honest – usually tends to be a blind alley – indeed almost always misleading – linguistic, agricultural, burial patterns etc. tend to have more significance in understanding history (except at the extreme, genetic difference and language isolationism in Euskadi for example).
    On the other thread a secondary school in Ballymoney called Dalriada…what on earth would a man from Mars make of that. A tribute to one of the most successful Gaelic speaking Kingdoms in world history – that don’t even teach it…bizarre.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Dewi, I wonder if the Scots dimension to Gaelic were better know on both sides could some of the politics be taken out of it, for example should the Gealic taught in NI reflect the difference that historically existed. Saw a wonderful map once by a group promoting that with ireland and scotland tilted slightly and they appeared as one country almost.

  • Drumlins Rock
  • Dewi

    Map didn’t quite work for me DR but the point is got. Politics of identity is always a big part of politics wherever you are. With you due to history it has to be opposite I suppose. I suspect if the parents of Dalriada school where to think about what that name represented it wouldn’t last long…..Anyway from Aragon to Belarus…book just gets better.

  • JR

    The shadows of past kingdoms are very interesting. Such as the proximity of the black pigs dike build as a defensive system in the Iron age to the current Border.

    Or the discovery of most sacrifical bog bodies at the borders of the modern counties.

    It is rather ironic too that the last gaelic kingdoms in Ireland who were indipendant of England existed across the North, Victims of their own success really.

  • JR

    DR,
    Genetics has nothing to do with it really. But for twists of fate I could be marching through ballymena every 12th with an orange sash or you could be coaching hurling every weekend.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Dewi,

    “if the parents of Dalriada school where to think about what that name represented it wouldn’t last long”

    I don’t think so Dewi. I’d imagine most of them already do know. Just because they spoke gaelic doesn’t mean they were gaels – they weren’t. As far as I’m aware, the Dal riata have links to the errain, who came over from modern day Bristol before the Gaels arrived in Ireland. ie they’re not Gaels.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    The Dál Riata were as Gaelic as any other tribe, such as the nearby Dál Fiatach.

    The theory that the Érainn were pre-Celtic and came from Britain has long been discredited.

  • Dewi

    Congal – if it looks like a duck and talks like a duck..

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Scáth Shéamais

    I never said pre-celtic. I inferred pre-gaelic.
    Any links to the discreditation?

    Hi Dewi,

    So, you’re English then?

  • Drumlins Rock

    JR, thats what I was trying to say most of “atlantic europe” has common genetics so any divisions were not on “race” whatever labels you use. The Kingdoms old and new are creations of force one way or another. Going into the wider picture the patchwork across europe has greater bearings on Ireland than we imagine, even in my fav area of architecture, the French Scottish connection for example.

  • Dewi

    “So you’re English then”

    Well done – I’ll revise – “If in Llwyd’s time and for the bulk of history it looked and talked like a duck it was and probably still is a duck”

    Indeed slightly seriously Llwyd, who started this, used Celtic, Gaelic and Brythonic to describe linguistic families within a broader Celtic linguistic framework.
    Anyway – I don’t look English…

  • Drumlins Rock

    do you look like a duck?
    (picturing Hewi Dewi & Lewi)

  • Dewi

    Ho Ho Ho DR…

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Dewi,

    I’m confused. English or Celtic duck?

  • Dewi

    Perhaps. I. shouldn’t. have. started. down. the. duck. road.

    My point was that Llwyd didn’t bother much with genetics – his definitions were of linguistic families. The Dál Riata were Celtic and Gaelic by his definitions.

  • Dewi

    Anyway I’ve still 400 pages to go….

  • Drumlins Rock

    Have fun Dewi, let us know of some of the more interesting examples, speaking of ancient kingdoms, I hail from that almost forgotten kingdom of Oriel, although like many similar ones its boundaries and existance is rather fluid. However my paternal ancestry would suggest some connections with the Kingdom of Fife, as yet unproven, but sure I might make a claim someday!

  • gréagóir o frainclín

    I find it ludicrous when folk today try to justify their political position by using ancient history ……..and also by superimposing their political positon on such ancient history and peoples of times long past…ie …the ancient inhabitants of Ireland were not prods!

  • gréagóir o frainclín

    ….oh and make that ulster unionist prods!

  • JR

    DR,

    My ancestors were the Kings of Oriel, my of line name is that of a King of oriel so I have always taken a bit of an interest in it. I believe we wern’t exactly model rulers, though maybe we wern’t too bad for the those days.

  • Drumlins Rock

    JR, that make you a McMahon? if it does keep away from Errigal Kerog old Church, it has killed 2 McMahons and one more is needed to fulfill st Kerogs curse.
    My “clan” includes one of the most infamous ladies in British history/tradition, know by here married name usually.
    As for ancient Prods and Unionists, they wern’t very good Catholics either, (hence the Pope sending the Normans over) ironically it took the reformation to bring “native” Ireland under Romes control. Before that who knows. But they were quite good Unionist, look at Dalriada as mentioned, and the fact many Scots still speak Gealic, doh, Scots is an Irish tribe even. The ties with Wales & Cornwall are equally ancient if less recorded.

  • Dewi

    How about a post on the Vanished Kingdoms of Ulster DR?

  • JR

    Thar wouldn’t make you a Roberts would it?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Dewi, our local history group has been studying the early plantation maps, ie. what was there before hand, and it is amazing how the O’Neill era divisions are still intact, espically the towlands which are well over 90% the same as 400 yrs ago, including the names (with changing spelling of course) considering the O’Neills were also there 400 yrs it is likely they date back that far too, and more than likely they carried much over from before that too. So as you say the book suggest the shadows of these knigdoms remain.
    JR, i think this lady has been compared to the Ferous one, although no-one dare speak her name even today!

  • John Ó Néill

    The antiquity of some of the townland names is pretty spooky. Back in the late 1990s I did some work in Tipperary where townland names (like Derryfadda: the long oak wood) reflect features, in this case the oak wood, that could be demonstrated to have not been present since the Iron Age (we looked at pollen, peat morphology and a range of other things). In one case, a lengthy timber structure dating to the 6th-7th century AD in a peat bog coincided with the historic Munster-Leinster provincial boundary (in fairness, the bog was as wet as hell and, by their nature, they makw formidable nature barriers that can determine the limits of political territories). But the Iron Age townland names was not something we had figured on beforehand.

  • Drumlins Rock

    John, townlands should be given World Heritage Status, they are unique and something valued by both sides, and as you said they seem to predate both sides, with some names being pre-gaelic. Ironically the biggest threat I see to them is forcing a “re translation” (often mistranslation) back into modern standardised Dublin Irish, but thats another issue!

  • Dewi

    “with some names being pre-gaelic”
    Please – I’d love a link to any such names.

  • http://redfellow.blogspot.com Malcolm Redfellow

    Nice to see you guys enjoying yourselves, while I’ve had to endure a four-course Thanksgiving dinner (decent bottle of fizz, excellent Pinot Grigio, Cab Sauv, and I found my way to the Dalwinnie).

    I think, without checking, Moffat’s latest populist effort (“hint with faint praise, assent with civil leer…”) is about the DNA thing.

    By one DNA definition, my paternal ancestry is via the most “English” village in Britain. Among Sluggerdom, not a topic for boasting,

    Happy Thanksgiving. Tomorrow, chez No. 1 Daughter, is “Black Friday”. Credit cards to the ready, girls,

  • JR

    DR,

    I would like to see some examples of these re-translations.

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh

    I have read opinions like DR’s before. At first I just assumed that they were totally made up for the crack.

    Then I realised no, no, it is a sincerly held belief.

    But talk of ‘pre-Gaelic names’ and terms unknown to linguistics such as ‘re-translation’ and ‘Dublin Irish’ is perfectly understandable when you consider that the vast majority of Protestants are exposed to any Gaelic language study, or place-name study at all.

    Something fills the vacuum.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Ok lets start with the word itself, Geal, meaning stranger, as used in Donegal, it is an older celtic word that has found its way into numerous placenames.

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh

    ?

    DR – ‘geal’ means ‘bright’ as in a bright day.

    What are you talking about.

    Buy a dictionary – you will still be a unionist and after twenty minutes your sight will return to normal!

  • Scáth Shéamais

    Congal Claen:

    I never said pre-celtic. I inferred pre-gaelic.

    Okay, but even that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. It’s generally accepted now (based on surviving ogham inscriptions) that the Érainn used Goedelic, a mother language of modern Irish.

    Any links to the discreditation?

    Sorry, I don’t. I finished my studies a few years ago and don’t have access to the likes of jstor anymore.

  • Greenflag

    DR

    Gall pronounce Gowl as in howl means ‘stranger’ As in Dun na Ngall (Fort of the foreigners) or Fingal Fionngal land of the fair foreigners or Dubhgall (Ballygall -town of the dark foreigners . Dubhgall is pronounced Duvgowl or Dougal and is also the Irish for the common surname Doyle .

    Then there is the Gael Gall who historically were known as the mixed offspring of vikings and irish and others who lived in and around the new ‘cities ‘ which developed in the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries.

    Fainne Geal an Lae (Fawnyeh Gyahl uhn lay ) means the bright ring of the day or sunrise or in the earthy anglo saxon ‘crack of dawn ‘

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh

    ‘Érainn’

    Given that the Gaeil of Ireland still refer to themselves as the Éireannaigh and the Island as Éire I humbly suggest that this is getting silly!

  • JR

    DR,

    allúrach, coigríochach, coimhthíoch, danar, duine iasachta, eachtrannach and gall. all mean forigner. as has been pointed out to you geal does not. And to be honest if that is the best you can come up with as regards to a townland mistranslation you should give up the theory.

    You do realize you are like a german telling an english speaker (in german) that farmer and forigner are the same word.

    Do you know what these words mean? raiméis, amaidí, áiféis.

  • Greenflag

    @ Dewi

    Well damn and blast you Dewi ;). I had already intimated to the one who buys my one Christmas present that Niall Ferguson’s ‘Civilisation and the Rest ‘ was my first choice and now you introduce this Norman Davies distraction . I have his other tomes here about so it’ll be early 2012 before I can add his latest work -am running out of shelf space :(

    thanks for the link btw William Wallace a Welshman in the Brythonic sense -Scots will be miffed about that and its not as if they can eh take it out on the ‘rugby field’ against the Cymri is it ;) ? Not these days anyway.

    Walsh is Breathnach (brannock ) in Irish . Lesser known offshoots of the name would be Wallis , Brehony, Branagh, Brennock etc etc.

  • Dewi

    Before we get nasty I remember RG Cuan referring to Pre- Goidelic influences on the Irish Language – don’t think we got anywhere there but logically these would possibly be names in Irish for topographical constructions maybe. I know this is getting a little obscure but is there any evidence?
    (Malcolm – what was for afters?)

  • Dewi

    GF – …Kindle?

  • Greenflag

    ‘you are like a german telling an english speaker’

    You can always tell a German but you can’t tell them much .

    or so the Greeks seem to believe :)

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh

    Dewi,

    As Irish is a Celtic language and the further you go back the more similar Celtic languages become until you just run out of evidence.

    So that is is difficult question.

    But, large river names seem to be very old and are not normally understood by modern Irish speakers.

    They seem to be often named after Celtic godesses.

  • Greenflag

    Dewi ,

    I’m hovering on the edge of ‘kindle’ and other similar new ‘book ‘ media . perhaps it’s me but i still find it easier to plough through 100 pages of a book than a similar amount on line . the computer is great for research or getting though maybe a chapter or two of something of interest . Perhaps its the eyes or the mindset but I suspect the latter ? Wonder if others have similar issues .

  • Dewi

    Yeah Eddie – I meant pre-Celtic – I know these remnants must be very small but there there might be something. Are the names for your highest mountain, biggest lake etc all explicable? Would be great to find a trace from the pre-celtic mist!! I’ll see what we have in Wales…

  • Dewi

    GF – I have a Kindle but still buy books – Kindle good for “Classics”..

  • Greenflag

    Eamonn,

    ‘the further you go back the more similar Celtic languages become until you just run out of evidence.’

    And then you run out of Celtic languages and all the rest until you find yourself back in 10,000 BC wondering why is everybody speaking a language that if spoken in today’s Europe would seems closest to Lithuanian .

  • JR

    Dewi,
    Most of our oldest names come from godesses and animals, elements (water, fire) etc. I suppose if you sepperate the celtic godesses, element words and animal names into ones which also appear in Celtic france, Britain etc and the ones that only appear in Ireland you are probibly looking at words og pre celtic origon, especially if they bear any resembelance to any old words in arabic or some of the indian languages.

  • Greenflag

    ‘@dewi ,

    Seeing as you mention Kindle and ‘classics’ by which I assume you mean the works of Dickens , Shakespeare, Dumas , Bronte’s etc I wonder if you could tell me if any of these linked below are on kindle ? As a young teenager I read a lot of science fiction and you’ve probably heard of ‘Biggles’ .
    Capt W.E Johns also wrote Sci Fi which are long out of print but I recall them making a big ‘impression ‘ on a young mind which at that time was impatient to jump aboard the next space freighter to either Mars or Venus but not Ardilla .
    I wonder if they could still be okay for say a 12 or 14 year old to read or would they be too dated ? Are they on Kindle I wonder?

    http://www.wejohns.com/SciFi/

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Scáth Shéamais,

    The Errain did eventually use Gaelic. That doesn’t mean they were Gaels. The earliest ogham only goes back to about 300-400AD. The errain arrived before then. So, to go back to the original argument – that the parents of kids going to Dalriada wouldn’t like the name if they knew what it meant – I would imagine a large amount of them do know what it refers to and are quite happy about it. They would understand that just because the Dalriadans spoke Gaelic did not mean they were Gaels. In the same way I’m, and I’m guessing you’re, not English.

  • Dewi

    GF – By Jove Ginger – spiffing…I’m sure they are – I’ll have a look when I get home.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Pre-Celtic_Substrate_Language

    A bit too early to tell on pre-Celtic.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi GF,

    “And then you run out of Celtic languages and all the rest until you find yourself back in 10,000 BC wondering why is everybody speaking a language that if spoken in today’s Europe would seems closest to Lithuanian”

    Would you have any links or sources I could check out on the above? It seems amazing to me if linguists can do that. I can remember someone mentioning that Finnish is a really strange language with links to faraway cultures – India I believe. But, that may have been corrupted by my head since being told.

  • Dewi

    Every single living language in Europe bar Basque is classified into a language family.
    Most are Indo European but Hungarian, Finnish and Estonian are Uralic.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Languages

  • Drumlins Rock

    Don’t have the time and resources to go into it at the minute, hence a very quick short example, but what I’m saying is leave the names alone, we don’t know the origins of them all and in many cases there is some debate, not to mention the complete obliteration of post plantation names, I do not understand Irish but have learnt a large number of the root meaning words, enough to know its not black and white.
    Will finish with a local example, Clonaneese today exists as the name of two Presbyterian Churchs, but no townland of that names exists, however it shows up as a large area covering about twenty townlands on the early maps, spelt Claninis or some variant. Our local group has adopted the name and hence often discussed its meaning, with Dr Kay Muhr amonst others.
    The obvious meaning is Meadow Island, or something like that, and there is a geographical feature that could fit. However the alternative is it comes from Clan Innis, the family lands of McGuinness, although it was McDonald/O’Neill land preplantation. The Irish version of the name will be different depending on which story you plump for, but why choose? I could give many other examples locally, and thats in a small area of Tyrone.

  • JR

    Dr,

    I think your fear is quite irrational. If you have a genuine fear then you should learn Irish to become more informed on the Issue then you can participate properly in this discussion. Untill then you are totally dependant on someone elses oppinion.

    For us that speak Irish the beauty of the townland names in in their meaning. It is a real pleasure for me to read them as I drive through areas. It is one of the real benifits of driving in the South.

    It gives a real sense of place to know you are passing through, “the good pea road” or “the hill of the faries” or areas with names linked to wild boar or the wolf etc.

    Most residents of a townland know where the name comes from and I personally prefer to see the names written in legible Irish to phonetic english. They are the same names.

    Of the few very old townland names where the meaning may have two or more interpretations it is always evident anyway from the sound of the name. The information is not any more lost than it was when the name was written in English.

  • John Ó Néill

    Regarding pre-Gaelic placenames. There is a distinction between the etymology of words and the antiquity of actual placenames. For instance – the word tulach in Irish means a low hill and is generally understood (and agreed) to be closely related to the Arabic/Semitic placename root Tel (e.g. some tulach examples are given in a paper by G.B.Adams in Bulletin of the Ulster Place-Name Society IV.1 from 1956 although it over interprets the relevance to archaeological evidence). Just because Old Irish has a substrat word used for placenames doesn’t necessarily mean that the placename pre-dates the use of Old Irish.
    How you apply the interpretations of most linguistic or placename evidence tends to be in the eye of the beholder (the evidence is quite limited but allows for lots of interpretation). People have a tendency to see placenames, documentary history, archaeological evidence etc as all reflecting some holistic past – when they all relate to very particular aspects of the past in very different ways [hence, you could look at evidence for Yr Hen Ogledd, for example, in the archaeological record and conclude that no such entity is visible].

  • John Ó Néill

    Eh, meant to add that Tulach is typically anglicised as Tully.

    Also – DR’s point about Dublin Irish is a bit over-simplified – the OS recorded all placenames in an Anglicised form and they were then, at some point, written down in Irish. Re-translation isn’t the correct term here, since the OS recorded them in a sort of quasi-phonetic form and the later exercise tried to establish the words in Irish on which it was based. One classic example is Ballymount in Dublin – which was a phonetic rendering of a placename with the baile root plus the -mount element, which no-one really understood (and could not be located in any earlier historic documents). The reason is that it comes Bello Monte (an Italianised name for a late medieval house in the townland that was only given to it in the 18th century).
    So sometimes the Irish (or indeed, Italian) form of the placename has been obscured by poor quality phonetic renderings of the Irish by the OS. On other occasions, the person used by the OS as a source in the field may not have been completely familiar with the placename anyway.

  • Drumlins Rock

    John, thats what I was getting at the phonetic rendering often closer reflected the local pronunciation than the modern Irish used today. Although the local spellings can be more accurate again, could give my identity away here but no-one is reading, my townland is called Dergenagh, normally translated as Dearg Ennach (forgive the spelling but you catch my drift) Red Bog, but its a bloomin big hill with only a tiny bit of bog that isn’t very red. However the local spelling used by the Lodge Band etc. is Dergina, and interestingly the oldest maps have Dirrinagh, suggesting Oaks once again and possibly Ivy (interesting our house bore the name Ivy Hill, could it have been from an old root?)
    I have now given the two placenames that mean most to me and neither of them will translate easily into Irish due to doubt about their roots.

  • Greenflag

    @Congal Claen

    Finnish is the eponymous member of the Finnic language family and is typologically between fusional and agglutinative languages. It modifies and inflects the forms of nouns, adjectives, pronouns, numerals and verbs, depending on their roles in the sentence.;

    Just like Irish then in some respects .

    Finnish is an Ural Altaic language and the Finns along with the Basques , and probably the Hungarians and Estonians are the only European peoples so far as I know whose spoken language derives from a non Indo European source as Dewi says above. .

    Heres a few links

    http://www.lituanus.org/1969/69_3_02.htm

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finnish_language

    The link with India is via Sanskrit but then that could be said at least for many of the root common words even for English and Irish . Heres a link to an example

    http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/IE_Main4_Sanskrit.html

  • Drumlins Rock

    JR, i’m guessing the Irish language has changed much as English has in the last 1,000 years, so I’m not sure modern Irish wouls help a great deal, but as I said I know quite a few of the main root words, enough to know that if
    I’m looking for someone in a townland called Drum…. to look up for a ridge, and if they are from Moy…. to look somewhere lower, I enjoy it in much the same way as you do, but much of the fun is in guessing the roots not being given them and being annoyed by are they accurate or not!

  • Greenflag

    @Dewi ,

    thanks I’ll check back later on this thread -no rush .

  • JR

    DR,
    I have to disagree there. Here anyway local pronouciation is changing rapidly. Take Carnbane industrial estate in Newry for example. The townland is carnbane and years ago you would have herd old people pronounced the bane part to rhyme with “Man” as in bán. But this is now never heard. It always rhymes with rain.

    Or places with Leitrim in the name, It is pronounced by older people round here as Laytrim, phonetically identically to the Irish version but younger people would say leetrim.

    By the way your townland wouldn’t happen to have that redish clay soil would it? That would explain the Dearg and Eannagh is common as a common part of names in Drumlin country for places lieing at the bottom of a Drumlin, Often the upper part called Tully or Drum somthing the lower part called somthing Eannagh.

  • Greenflag

    @john o’neill,

    I guess this would be an example of what you are stating above . I used to believe that Newtownmountkennedy was the longest place name in Ireland but thats in English (19 letters). I guess this would be an example of how the ‘anglicisation ‘ of the original obscures or hides the meaning whereas the original Irish at least to those who speak or understand enough of the language to make a stab at interpreting would

    Her

    Muckanaghederdauhaulia Anglicisation of original Irish

    Muiceanach idir Dhá Sháile -Original Irish

    Pig marsh between two seas /briny inlets -actual English translation of place name

    It is a small protrusion of land into Camus Bay (Cuan Chamais) in the Connemara Gaeltacht directly west of Cinn Mhara on the R336 between Camus and An Cheathrú Rua, in County Galway,

    I have good reason to remember this place name as it was there or therabouts that my first and last and present wife took me ‘prisoner’ many moons ago ;)

  • John Ó Néill

    DR – more typically any name beginning Der- is likely to refer to an oak wood. As to -genagh there is one not very far away in Monaghan (see here) which goes back to the 17th century at least but the translation of it is uncertain, too. It may also have begun with gc in Irish and so its root is a word like -ceanna etc (which would mean something like chief).

  • Dewi

    Apologies for getting a bit geekish but while you are here JON – anything on pre-Celtic influence?

  • Dewi

    In Irish rather than place names in particular.

  • John Ó Néill

    Good reading list here Dewi, but we really are tottering off the end of the evidential scale. In Britain, we have some sense of post-Roman demographic movements and linguistic changes. For Ireland or Britain before that it is all speculative. There is a Semitic substrate to insular Celtic languages and English is a ‘celticized’ (in terms of syntax etc) Germanic dialect. That much we can say. We know pretty much when and how for English but we can’t really go far enough back to do it to, e.g. Irish. If you look for cultural parallels etc you can have great fun: Berber tribes are, like Irish provinces, designated as ‘fifths’, etc.
    Bob Quinn’s Atlanteans documentary for CineGael from the mid-1980s was a provocative post-modernist take on Atlantic cultures that has been studiously avoided by academics.

  • Dewi

    Hers’s your oral test JON – why on God’s earth is the Welsh name for fish the wonderfully Romance “Pysgod” – did we just tell the Romans your name is a bit more cool or didn’t we have a name for fish before? Astonishing.
    Don’t really think English is celticized in syntax much…I agree it’s great fun though (Welsh for arm is Latin derived “Braich” – how?)

  • Drumlins Rock

    John, was in Morocco few weeks back and when i saw Cashbah it made me think of Cashel, which i know are similar to Castle, a few other berber words made me wonder too.

  • Dewi

    I loved the Finnish funded study of the Celticity of English btw..

  • John Ó Néill

    @Dewi – I’ve no idea. It happens a lot. I guess it must reflect a cultural thing – if you looked at archaeological evidence for fishing in the pre-Roman Iron Age it may be mininal and the Romans did it on a more industrialised scale and their vocabulary became popularised. The Irish word iasc isn’t too far off.

  • Dewi

    But “braich” ?? We all had blasted arms didn’t we..? I love asking for Fish and Chips “Pysgodyn a Sglodion” – we just made up the “Sglodion” which sounds as Brythonic as you can get…can’t wait to read Slugger 800 years hence..

  • Dewi
  • Dewi

    Fascinating link btw JON – a semitic substratum – that’s new to me and poses a few great questions,

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh

    Dewi,

    Remember that the final componet of the Gael according to the annals was Milesus (Mil) who was from Iberia and who was married to a daughter of the pharaoh of Egypt.

    This is were the ‘q’ comes from but there are some words which seem to be semitic in Irish.

    For example, Ros – headland.

    “i’m guessing the Irish language has changed much as English has in the last 1,000 years”

    Nope.

    Modern Irish has existed in the alomst the same form for 800 years.

    ” Dergenagh, normally translated as Dearg Ennach”

    This is not a translation.

    Dergenach is a TRANSLITERATION of Dearg Eanach.

    The TRANSLATION into English is Red Bog.

    ” neither of them will translate easily into Irish due to doubt about their roots.”

    An Irish speaking three year old would disagree.

    Unionist have every right to be completely ignorant of the Gaelic language and even to celebrate that fact.

    However there are consequnces to all ignorance.

    One of which is that you cannot have a sensible conversation about the origin of townland names.

    No matter have attached you are to them, it is a closed book, perhaps in the future unionist will have the courage to learn about these things.

  • Greenflag

    Dewi.

    Thanks Dewi – Naturally as per the universal law the ones I was interested in are none of the ten that are on Kindle :( Biggles was a kind of Douglas Bader/Roy of the Rovers/ Sherlock Holmes combo mix never ending ‘hero’ = but I was more into sci fi at that impressionable age . Thanks again for trying. I’ll travel the Amazon road to see if I can find paperback or other copies of ‘Edge of Beyond, Death Rays of Ardilla etc .

  • Drumlins Rock

    Such condesending tripe Eddie, how dare you say towlands are a closed book to unionist unless we become fluent in Irish, it is narrow minded bigotry, like you are showing here, that has made Irish a hated language by many.

    I had a strong interest in Irish mainly from the viewpoint of placenanes, but not the time nor desire to learn it fluently, its seems however the latter is forbidden without the former. I have always discussed the finer points of undertanding the names with fluent speakers, who were always very helpful. Have never been told up to now to get lost its none of your business unless you learn Irish too.

    So its seems the subject is a closed book to me for ever, and I will from now one resist any attempt to promote the use of towland names in this area.

    Thanks Eddie and co.

  • Dewi

    Stick to it DR – not like you to get bullied by anyone. Really important on this that we stop throwing stones and keep in the abstract.
    Me I though those Israeli origin myths were all bullshit but…
    Hebrew traits in Welsh
    http://britam.org/language.html
    And apparently we all lack an external possessor.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brittonicisms_in_English
    Don’t know what one of those is but they are in German, but not in English, Welsh or Irish due to the semitic nature of the pre Celtic linguistic substrata passed to spoken Saxon because the celtic speaking massses couldn’ master the concept…hmm..

  • Drumlins Rock

    Dewi, was in Morroc as I said few weeks ago, and there was sometihng about the berber areas and people that seemed familiar, couldn’t put my finger on it and dismissed it at the time but there is a logic to following the atlantic seaboard right up. The arab influence dominates of course and some black african influences creep in but once you can sail the coast is a highway not a barrier.

  • sonofstrongbow

    We owe Eddie a vote of thanks for his honesty. This is after all at worst nothing more than a cultural supremacists wall-pissing contest. Irish speakers, I can’t comment if this holds true for Welsh language enthusiasts, use Irish as a thinly veiled put-down to non-speakers (particularly gleefully NI unionists) to signal their delusional belief in their own ‘cultural’ superiority and lineage. It’s then a short step to develop their argument that they are ‘true’ diddlee-dee Irish McCoy and not some of the culture-lite mongrel blow-ins (aka unionists). The comments on townlands is a classic example of this thinking.

    All this ‘race-purity’ baggage raises an unnecessary miasma and turns people away from an interest in the Irish language. I suspect that’s what it’s meant to do. As Eddie has hinted, unless you’re a wearin’o the green you’re not really Irish; so feck-off and leave ‘our’ language alone.

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh

    Of course I disagree with everything tha Strongbow says.

    But my point stands, you cant have you cake and eat it.

  • Dewi

    Come on – I was enjoying this – stick to the quest for knowledge and understanding mun.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Dewi,

    Didn’t want to rain on your parade but I dislike the ‘club’ approach (you can’t come in here you’re not wearing the correct tie kinda thing) to Irish that is an unpleasant adjunct to the language in Ireland.

    Anyway back to all things ancient, there is a programme on UK Channel4 tonight about ancient myths and ritual practices in Britain. Tony Robinson, not my personal favourite TV presenter, is fronting it. You may find it chiming with your interests.

  • Dewi

    Thanks – strange I also, despite his enthusiasm, find him irritating – which really isn’t fair. I like that Scots Oliver bloke best myself. Now I have to finish this blasted book !!!

  • Dewi

    But before I do:
    http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/celtic_internet_resources/98104
    Welsh monks responsible for Latin influences on Irish…

  • Seamuscamp

    “Nationalist” and “Unionist” are irrelevant to the meaning of placenames. Fluency in Irish is not essential to the understanding of placenames; but a reasonably comprehensive vocabulary is essential. Guessing the meaning of placenames when one doesn’t have the words is like guessing the effect of pills without looking at the label or advice notes or constituents. A bit of history is useful too.

    GF
    “Then there is the Gael Gall who historically were known as the mixed offspring of vikings and irish and others who lived in and around the new ‘cities ‘ which developed in the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries.”

    Near where I live (in England) is the village of Duggleby – said to have been founded by Dublin Danes (Dubh Gall By).