Monday, August 12, 2013

Radnorshire Picts?

Take an interest in the historical uses of DNA and you soon learn not to get too excited about the latest headline.

Humans and Neanderthals never interbred says one piece of research, oh yes they did say subsequent articles; the Welsh and the English have quite different DNA says one, no they're remarkably similar says another.  Throw in the tendency of the media to sensationalize and the best thing to do is take things with a pinch of salt and await further developments.

A couple of months ago we were told that a Pictish marker had been isolated, see here for example.  All very interesting and who knows it might even turn-out to be true ...... possibly.  One of the flies in the ointment of this Pictish theory is a possible hotspot that shares the same marker, L1335+, which is said to be centred in Radnorshire.  It's even got a name "Wales II Cadwgon."

Why Cadwgon?  Well here it get's a bit daft.  The marker turned up in some fellow called Miles whose ancestor took part in Radnorshire's Quaker migration to Pennsylvania in the 17C.  With a complete misunderstanding of how Welsh surnames are formed, this Miles was then assumed to be linked to the Miles family of Kinnerton* - who by the way preserved the Book of Taliesin for posterity.  The Kinnerton Miles family traced it's ancestry to the 11C ruler of East Central Wales, Cadwgan ab Elystan Glodrydd, hence "Wales II Cadwgon."

Of course this may all be true.  We're talking about male-to-male Y-chromosones here, and although democrats like to think they're the direct descendant in the male-line from some hardy medieval peasant, chances are they're not.  Bottlenecks ensure you're far more likely to be a male-line descendant of a roguish prince or baron, someone like Cadwgan ab Elystan Glodrydd.

So let's accept for a moment that Pictish ancestry can indeed be identified and that the Radnorshire examples are also descendants of Picts.  Is there any historical evidence?  Now I've posted a theory that minor kingdoms like Gwerthrynion and Arwystli were formed to protect the headwaters of the Wye and the Severn from 5C Irish expansion - see here.  Who better to add a bit of backbone than to import a few warlike Pictish mercenaries to the area.  Of course that's just my outlandish theory, so here's something a bit more  substantial from the Jesus College MS 20 genealogies: 

Einyaw a Katwallawn llawhir Deu vroder oedynt. Ac eu dwy vam oedynt chwioryd merchet y didlet brenhin gwydyl fichti ym pywys.

The relevant bit translates as "Didlet king of the gwydyl fichti in Powys." The gwydyl fichti meaning either Irish Picts or wild Picts but definitely Picts.

Radnorshire Picts?  Perhaps our friends at Llwyth Elystan need to get tested, perhaps they already have?

* That's Kinnerton in Radnorshire not the one in Flintshire


Jac o' the North, said...

The Roman practice of using mercenaries was of course continued in Romano-Welsh Britain, with catastrophic results. Though seeing as the Germans were recruited for defence against Picts raiding down the east coast and then heading inland, it would be odd, to say the least, for Picts to be entrusted with such a vital inland territory.

Unless of course they were captives, given the choice between fighting for the Welsh or being executed. But in that case, they certainly wouldn't have been allowed to have their own 'king'.

If the references are correct, that there were Pictish mercenaries with their own leader, then someone needs to explain the inconsistency of, on the one hand, heading them off at the coast with German mercenaries, while elsewhere, settling them inland.

That the threat from the west was Irish, makes the scenario slightly more plausible, but what guarantees could there have been that the Picts would not join with the Irish? Picts in Radnorshire sounds as implausible as the Germans in WWII employing Russian PoWs to fight on the Western Front.

radnorian said...

History shows that there are always those who are willing to earn a few bob by supporting the powers that be.

The Picts would have had their renegades, their inter-tribal rivalries etc just as there were Welsh opponents of Owain Glyndwr or Llywelyn Ein Llyw Olaf or Pathan opponents of the Taliban.

I can't see anything improbable in a small contingent of Picts being employed as feoderati against the Irish. No need for it to have involved any substantial population movement to have a genetic consequences

The possibility doesn't mean it happened though, and gwydyl fichti could just as easily refer to an Irish king, after all Brycheiniog had plenty.

If you look at a map of Irish placenames it's significant that there are next to none in Rhwng Gwy a Hafren with the exception, perhaps significantly, of Cnwclas (Knucklas).

Jeremy Jones said...

Hi Radnorian
Did you know the Welsh meaning of Radnorshire (Sir Faesyfed), it means maes (Field) yfed (Drink), in English Drink Field. Joking aside, I was surfing the net for info for one of my history project that I am working on, and came across your web page, and found it so interesting, I thought I would drop you a line and comment on the Radnorshire Picts?
Not to worry lads and lassie you are safe from Pictish blood. The Jesus MS is mentioning the mothers of Einion the Gate (Einyaw Yrth) and Cadwallon the long hand (Katwallawn Llawhir), who were sisters and they were the daughter of "Tithlym" (Didlet) or most probably Túathal Máelgarb (reign 528-38). However, the anonymous author (probably a cleric monk or pries) of the MS made some errors. The author states that Einion and Cadwallon are brothers/brodyr/vroder, when in fact Einion was the father of Cadwallon as their reigns indicate: Einion Yrth (Gate/Gateway) (reign c. 470- c. 480) was the father and they were not brothers/of Cadwallon Lawhir/Long hand (reign 500-34). The information for the above was taken from: Einyaw a Katwallawn llawhir Deu vroder oedynt. Ac eu dwy vam oedynt chwioryd merchet y didlet brenhin gwydyl fichti ym pywys.[Lines 5,6,7, and 8, Jesus College MS 20, p.38r]
I say the author was a church cleric for he used the Latinize word Fichti (Latin: Pictii) and not the ancient Brython (Welsh) name for Picts, which is Brithwr (sing.) Brithwrwyr (pl), which means the speckle man or men, referring to their painted and tattooed bodies.
On the question of the "Y” Chromosome evidence for Anglo-Saxon mass Migration v Welsh, or at least the North-Walians, the evidence is overwhelming that the Welsh/Gauls/Celts have a very different “Y” chromosome to that of the Germanic peoples Anglo-Saxon and Norse invaders.[ ]
On the subject of the modern Scottish people having 10% Pictish blood, 50% is Welsh/Brython, 20% in Scotii-Gaels, and 10% Angle/10% Norse (Germanic). One must not for get that the Picts territory consisted only the area north of Glasgow in the west and Stirling in the east, the rest what is Scotland today were the Brython kingdoms of Strathclyde/Lothian, etc., known in the Welsh annuls as “Gwyr y Gogledd” or “Hen Ogledd.”[ ]
The very best regards

Jero Jones Mab Cymru

radnorian said...

Thanks for the reference to Túathal Máelgarb will have to check him out

Jeremy Jones said...
Prynhawn da/Good Afternoon and Hi
This is a link to the Irish king I mentioned in my comment, who flourished at the time of Cadwallon Lawhir, with the only name comparable to Tithlym (Didlet).
Jero Jones Mab Cymru