Our history gets a look-in on BBC Radio Cumbria

Yesterday, Dr Tim Clarkson, who has been kind enough to dig me out of many a comprehension hole without making me feel stupid, got a slot on the Mike Zeller show on BBC Radio Cumbria.

Tim Clarkson is an expert – possibly the expert – on the kingdom of Strathclyde, that is to say, the Brythonic (early Welsh)-speaking, ‘dark age’ kingdom that stretched from Glasgow to northern Cumbria, including the sub-kingdom of Rheged, between roughly the 5th and 10th centuries.

You can hear Tim’s bit on the radio show for another 6 days on the BBC i-player on the internet. (Slide the slidey thing along to 48mins 10 seconds to reach this bit).

He talks about:

The meaning of the word, Cumbria and its predecessor, Cumberland, and its ancient links to Wales (home of the ‘cymry’).

The language of Cumbria up until the Norman invasion, which was Cumbric, a dialect of Brythonic, itself a version of early Welsh.

Rheged – here is a guest blog piece on early medieval Cumbria  (he’s not that keen on the locating of Rheged in Cumbria, or at least, not all of it) that Tim Clarkson was kind enough to let me filch from him for this blog.

Urien – the 6th century Cumbria ‘hero’ who led an alliance of northern, Brythonic-speaking kingdoms against the invading Angles, but lost in the end when he was betrayed by an ally.

The Battle of Arthuret – which is the story of Gwenddoleu, and his bard, Lailoken.

Merlin – or, at least, one of the historical bards known as Merlin – who was, in fact, Lailoken.

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01.04.2014

Lailoken, or Myrddin, or Merlin

Six hundred years after the death of a wild man in the woods of southern Scotland, Geoffrey of Monmouth assembled some scraps of poetry written in the intervening years and added him to his History of the Kings of Britain as King Arthur’s right-hand man, Merlin.

Merlin and Arthur by Gustave Dore

Merlin and Arthur by Gustave Dore

There are several different sources in old Welsh literature for Myrddin, or as we usually spell it, Merlin. Some, referring to events in Wales itself, mention Merlin Ambrosius or Merlin Emrys, and these took place at the end of the Roman era. Others were linked to the Cymry of northern Cumbria, entangled as a by-line in the story of the Battle of Arthuret, which took place a couple of hundred years later. This Merlin was Merlin Wyllt, or Merlin Silvestris, or Merlin ap (son of) Madog Morfryn. Continue reading

One ring to rule them all… the 9thc Kingmoor Ring

Picture time!

Kingmoor Ring copyright British Museum

Kingmoor Ring copyright British Museum

I bet you’re thinking, ‘ooh, that looks a bit like the ring in Lord of the Rings’. Well, you wouldn’t be far wrong. This ring is 9th century and made by anglo-saxons, and JRR Tolkien was an expert in anglo-saxon language and literature. I don’t doubt he knew the Kingmoor Ring very well.

It’s called the Kingmoor Ring because it was found at Continue reading

Loki: Cumbria’s man in chains

One of the joys of having your own blog is the statistics. I know that doesn’t sound riveting, but look at this collection of Google search terms that apparently led people to my blog:

How long does ham keep in the freezer1

Loki stone at Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria

Loki stone at Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria

Blimey – usage history2

What to call colour which shines every colour3

Is eveling a word?4

Mistress with man in chains5

I’ll gloss over the first four, but the fifth reminded me very much of the 10th-century, viking-made Loki stone at Kirkby Stephen in the Eden Valley (which should tell you plenty about the way my mind works). It was found in 1870, and after a short sojourn on display in the churchyard, it was moved inside the church to protect it from the weather. This is a hefty chunky of sandstone with a carved figure with horns, a beard, a belt, and chains. He doesn’t look too happy about it, but then, according to Norse mythology, those chains are actually his son’s entrails. Continue reading

The Treaty of Eamont Bridge in 927CE

The UK news today is dominated by a meeting between the UK prime minister and the Scottish first minister about the possibility of Scotland declaring independence. There is much talk of the 1707 Act of Union, and of James VI/I, but in fact the first union between the English and the Scots was negotiated right here in Cumbria on 12thJuly, 927CE.

Athelstan from All Souls College Chapel, Oxford

Athelstan from All Souls College Chapel, Oxford

At this point in history, it wasn’t about England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. There was Mercia and Wessex; Northumbria and Dublin; Strathclyde and Cumbria; the Scots; various Welsh provinces and a whole lot more. There was no concept of a combined Britain, never mind UK. Continue reading

Dinogad’s Smock: a 6th-century Cumbrian lullaby

About 1400 years ago, a Cumbrian mother sang a song to her new baby, a boy called Dinogad.

Page from the Book of Aneirin

Page from the Book of Aneirin

Dinogad’s smock is pied, pied –

Made it out of marten hide…1

So our baby boy is wrapped in pine marten furs; perhaps he was born on a cold, wintry day like today. The poem goes on to describe how Dinogad’s daddy went out with his dogs, Giff and Gaff, to catch fish, deer, boar and grouse, presumably to provide a very rich dinner for a very large household. Continue reading

Guest Post: Tim Clarkson on early medieval Cumbria

Men of the North by Tim ClarksonTim Clarkson knows his stuff. With a PhD in Medieval History and an MPhil in Archaeology under his belt, he’s written a couple of splendid books that master that trickiest of things: they are proper works of academic history, but you can sit down and read them like a novel. I wholeheartedly recommend The Men of the North as your route into the Northern Britons who lived in Cumbria and Scotland.

Tim recently wrote this post on his very interesting blog, Senchus. It’s such a perfect summary of all that tricky early medieval stuff here in Cumbria, that I’d rather you read this than any second-rate mumblings I could produce! Read, enjoy, and go over to visit his blog.

Many thanks to Tim for giving his kind permission to reproduce his words below. Note that copyright is entirely his; contact Tim at his blog if you wish to quote any of it.

Terminology Topics 5: Cumbria

To many people, the name ‘Cumbria’ means the English county created in 1974 from an amalgamation of Cumberland and Westmorland Continue reading