The Names of Rheged

Place-name expert Professor Andrew Breeze is giving the annual James Williams Lecture in Dumfries on 2 December 2011. His topic will be ‘The Names of Rheged’.

This event is organised by the Dumfries & Galloway Natural History & Antiquarian Society who will be publishing the lecture as a paper in their Transactions. In the meantime, those of us who are unable to attend will hopefully be able to read a summary on the Society’s website at a later date.

Information about time and venue can be found via this link.

For background information on Rheged I recommend Michelle Ziegler’s blogpost in her Lost Kingdoms series.

* * * * * * *

25 comments on “The Names of Rheged

  1. badonicus says:

    Wish I could attend that Tim! Unfortunately I’ll be on an ‘plane flying back from Austria.

  2. Don’t suppose anyone will video this? Audio? No? Sigh…

  3. esmeraldamac says:

    I do hope we’ll be able to read this in the end! At least someone’s working on it, I guess…

    • Tim says:

      It’s a prestigious lecture series so maybe a local newspaper will run a summary. If not, the earliest report is likely to be on the Society’s website.

  4. Henry Gough-Cooper says:

    Professor Andrew Breeze, ‘The Names of Rheged’ (DGNHAS James Williams Memorial lecture 2011):


    Identification of Rheged through the place-name evidence of the early Welsh poems (Llyfr Taliesin, etc).

    Rheged: ? W. *rheg, ‘gift’.
    Dunragit: (name flagged up, but passed by without comment).
    Aeron: Ayr, or the river Ayr, in Scotland, not the river Aire in Yorkshire (which ‘Lagentium’ shows was from British *Lagentia, ‘sword river’).
    Llwyvenydd: Lyvenet, tributary of the Eden.
    Yrechwydd: ‘fresh water’ (- ref. to article by AB published last year) the 60 mile water gap between Trent and Ouse.
    Gwensteri / Gwenystrad: River Winster in South Cumbria.
    Rossed: ‘from Rome to Rossed’ (Taliesin XIII, ‘The Chair of Taliesin’ – and another ref?), Rossett at NGR NY295065, in Great Landale (and Rossett Pike). AB: “Could be the ‘Dinas Powys’ of Rheged?”
    Derwynedd (Aneirin): Derwent – ‘the falls of D’: the Lodore Falls.

    AB’s Conclusions:
    1. Urien’s Rheged stretched from York to Ayr, and included the Solway region.
    2. The heartland of the kingdom was in Lakeland.
    3. Archaeologists should concentrate on out-of-the-way places: in Wales, the dark age caputs avoid Roman settlements. Carlisle unlikely to be the capital of Rheged (ref. to Mike MacCarthy’s excavation reports).
    4. Much more work to be done on the early Welsh poetry: we should all learn Welsh.
    5. The people of Dumfries & Galloway should take the same pride in being the home of the earliest vernacular poetry as they do in Rabbie Burns.

    This investigation shows the promise of further discoveries to come. Warm tribute to the late James Williams, editor of TDGNHAS, who was corresponding with AB on editorial matters only two weeks before his death following a long illness.

    Refs: W.F. Skene (‘Four Ancient Books of Wales’), W.F. Watson, Morris Jones, Ifor Williams (contra Iolo Morganwg), Rachel Bromwich, Kenneth Jackson (Antiquity 1959, and ‘Language and History’), Hansen (‘St Patrick’ – AB: Banavem Taburniae = Banwen in Somerset), David Dumville (all the evidence is rubbish), Tim Clarkson (‘The Men of the North’), Mike McCarthy (Carlisle), Ken Dark.

    The lecture should be published in a forthcoming TDGNHAS.

    • badonicus says:

      Thanks for the Summary Henry. His view is very different to Tim’s, I have to say.

    • esmeraldamac says:

      That’s brilliant – thank you very much. As Tim said in an aside to me, I’m sure Rheged the shopping-centre-cum-tourist-attraction will be thrilled to hear that there is more support for them being at the centre of an historical Rheged.

      I used to wish that I’d learned latin at school – it would have helped with the history degree! – but now, I wish I could speak Welsh. If nothing else, I could show proper respect to these historical characters by promouncing their names properly.

      Tim: we all know you like to remind us that Rheged is ‘lost’… so where would you put instead?

      • Tim says:

        I’m hoping to post a pronunciation guide for the names of Strathclyde kings quite soon. It will be a fairly short post due to the frequent appearance of the names ‘Dyfnwal’ and ‘Owain’.

        For Rheged, the three key people (and their pronunciations) are:
        Urien (pron. ‘Irri-yen’)
        Owain (pron. ‘Oh-wine’)
        Taliesin (pron. ‘Tal-yessin’)

        A Welsh speaker could no doubt refine these phonetics somewhat.

        Diane, if I had to put Rheged anywhere I’d tentatively opt for Upper Tweeddale, specifically around Peebles, even more precisely the part where the Lyne Water joins the Tweed. This is simply an inference based on the geographical spread of Urien’s battle-sites, in so far as these can be identified at all.

  5. Henry Gough-Cooper says:

    Just spotted a typo: the tributary of the Eden is the Lyvennet, with two ‘n’s not one. Also, the references at the end were some of those given during the lecture by Professor Breeze.

  6. Henry Gough-Cooper says:

    And Watson should be W.J., not W.F. (‘History of the Celtic Placenames of Scotland’).

  7. Tim says:

    Thanks for posting your notes from the lecture, Henry. As is often the case with Rheged, we’re left with a bundle of interesting ideas to mull over.

    Mak’s right about my view being different from AB’s. I remain pessimistic about our chances of pinning Urien’s kingdom down to a specific area.

  8. Hesiodos says:

    My wife was very impressed, which has led me here to thank all commenters, and specially Mr Gough-Cooper for the summary and the anticipation of reading the lecture when it appears.

    Ed Iglehart

  9. andrew breeze says:

    I am Andrew Breeze, just wish to thank all the above for their kind remarks, and promise to send the text of the talk in an expanded version to the Society’s editor within the next two months.

    I also wish to express once more my thanks to the Society for hospitality in Dumfries. Staff at the Dumfries Museum spoke of the town and the Scottish Enlightenment two centuries ago; but it seems that the people of Dumfries are even now some of the most enlightened people in Scotland.


    • Tim says:

      Thanks for sending this update about the text version, Andrew.

    • esmeraldamac says:

      Hello Andrew – I just wanted to add how useful the reports of your lecture content have been for me, a lowly blog writer in Cumbria! I wished I could have engineered a way to get up to Dumfries for your lecture, but it wasn’t to be. Hopefully another opportunity will come up.

      …and of course, I’m very grateful for those that passed the information on.

  10. […] Further note: Professor Andrew Breeze, who recently lectured on The Names of Rheged for the Dumfries & Galloway Natural History & Antiquarian Society, is a key proponent of the Lodore Falls theory. I am thankful to Tim and his band of commenters – including the professor – for drawing this to my attention. […]

  11. Tim says:

    A brief synopsis of Professor Breeze’s lecture is now available on the DGNHAS website. It basically repeats the info kindly provided for us by Henry Gough-Cooper in December (see Henry’s comment above).

  12. Regarding the name Rheged, some instances of the name give Reged (without the ‘h’). Does this reflect a change in spelling over the centuries from Cumbric to Welsh? Or is simply an artefact of translation in the mss ?
    If we are able to allow ‘Reged’ is there any possibility of a link between the names Reged and Erechwydd. I have seen the letters ‘c’ and ‘g’ interchanged in Welsh/British spellings (Reged – Reced?) and as I understand it* Cumbric may not have used the ‘dd’ ending, leaving Erechwyd, and with the mediaeval ‘w’ replaced – Erechuyd ? (* My understanding of the differences between Cumbric and Old- and later Welsh spellings is severely limited).
    Or does the fact that ‘-wydd’ appears to be a qualifier of some sort leave me pointlessly comparing Reged with Erech ?

  13. I recently questioned whether there was any relationship between the names Rheged (in its form of Reged) and Erechwydd in a putative early form of Erechuyd (i.e. reged = recet and erechuyd = (e)rechuyd). I have since been reading John Morris-Jones’ contributions in Y Commrodor wherein he notes that the Erechwydd is Er – echwydd, the ‘er’ being a prefix of a sort. This of course precludes a equation of the two names.

    • Tim says:

      Re your earlier question on the spelling of Rheged with or without the ‘h’, it is my understanding that Reged/Reget are medieval Welsh while Rheged is modern Welsh.

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