Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Skating on Thin Ice

Carmarthen's town guide - who appears to be a human being rather than a pamphlet - has written to the Western Mail pointing out a few inaccuracies in a recent article in the paper about Knucklas Castle. Read it here. Well I'm all for historical accuracy, but then the guide spoils it somewhat by bragging up Carmarthen's Arthurian connections at the expense of, well, Knucklas.

The Welsh name for Carmarthen is Caerfyrddin - Myrddin's fortress - or Merlin the Magician as our English friends like to call him. It's also well known that this is etymological nonsense. The name actually derives from the Roman civitas Moridunum (meaning sea fort) - good heavens, there's a wikipedia article explaining the whole process. Well good luck to Carmathen and it's town guide.

Meanwhile that Carmarthenshire bard Lewis Glyn Cothi - and the bard's really are the experts when it comes to this Arthurian business - was quite certain that one of the most note worthy facts about Maelienydd (the district that later made up North East Radnorshire) was that "Yndi'r oedd, hyn adroddir, neithior yr hen Arthur hir." - Herein was, this is reported, the wedding feast of tall Arthur of old.

At the end of the sixteenth century Morgan Meredith of Bryndraenog provided board and lodging to the scholar Sion Dafydd Rhys, who recorded some interesting folk tales linking Arthur and Knucklas Castle. Some giants had captured Gwenhwyfar's brothers and were holding them, north of the River Teme (Tyfediad in Welsh) at Bron Wrgan in the parish of Llanfair Waterdine. Arthur killed the giants and brought the brothers back to Knucklas. In order to cross the Teme he used a giant's skull as a stepping stone, declaring "tyfed yr iad yn yr afon yn lle maen" - meaning that the skull had taken the place of a stepping-stone. Henceforth the river was known as Tyfediad. Complete nonsense of course, just like Carmarthen meaning Merlin's town!

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