[From Mannin, #2, 1913]

The Saint's Name MAROWN in Wales.

THE Royal Commission on the ancient monuments of Wales and Monmouthshire, of which I happen to be chairman, has just published its inventory volume of those of Radnorshire. On page 39 a note occurs which may interest some of the readers of MANNIN, and in obedience to the urgent request of the editor, Miss Morrison, that I should contribute something to the pages of the new journal as a proof of my good wishes, I can not do better than reproduce here the passage to which I have referred. It is a propos of Creg-Runa or Creg-Rina, the name of a Radnorshire parish church, which is in the archdeaconry of Brecon in the diocese of St. Davids, not to mention that it is dedicated to St. David.

In the 13th century poem of Gwynfardd Brycheiniog in honour of St. David (Myv. Arch, 1, 271 = Gee, p. 194), where the poet enumerates the churches dedicated to the saint, this church is called Kreic Vuruna. The lines in point run as follows:-

'A Glascwm ae eglwys gyr alas uynyt
Gwyteluod aruchel nawd (read nawt) ny achwyt
Kreic vuruna dec yma [tee] ymynyt.'

And Glascwm, and his church by Glas-fynydd (?green hill)
The Goidel's abode, high sanctuary that fails not-
Muruna's fair Rock, here in the mountain.

[I have been informed that the word 'gwytelodd' is Middle Welsh for 'gwyddelfod', which has nothing to do with Goidel. It means 'place of refuge'.]

Kreic being feminine, Muruna undergoes the soft mutation into Vuruna Rice Rees writes the name of the parish "Cregruna or Craig Furuna" (p. 351), but in the Myvyrian list of parishes (11, 619a) it is Ceryg Runa, 'Stones of Runa.' In South Wales u is usually pronounced i, but even the phonetic spelling Rina does not make the name look like one of Welsh origin; and when we regard the prefix mu- (vu-) we see at once that we have here to do with a Goidelic compound with the friendly proclitic, which in Irish is mo 'my,' liable to be spelt also ma; and in Welsh I should have expected it to have assumed the form my, fy, and the whole to be My-Runa, mutated Vy-Runa and not Vu-Runa. There is analogy, however, for that, for instance, in medieval Welsh in mu hun, fu hun, for fy hun 'myself': see Professor J. Morris Jones' Welsh Grammar, p. 307. Similarly du hun= dy hun, kubudit= kybudit (Revue Celtique, XXX111, 241, 245), and yscumunetic= yscymunetic (Book of Llan Daf, p. 121). What the Radnorshire name at once reminded me of, was the Isle of Mann name Marown with ow as in gown, and with the stress accent on the o. So I turned to the second edition of Moore's "Manx Names," pp. 137 138, where one reads as follows:- "The parish church of Marown, Kirk Marown, in Manx Skeeylley Marooney, Marooney's 'Parish Church,' is dedicated to a saint called Maronog in the Irish calendars, Marooneg in the Traditionary Ballad, and St. Runi(gen. case) in the manorial roll of 1511 . .: . In a Bull of Pope Gregory IX, dated 1231 the church of this parish is called Kyrke Marona. The prefix mo, 'my,' and the affix og, 'young' in Maronog, or Moronog, are both expressive of endearment, and are frequently attached to the names of Celtic saints." It is needless to say that the Goidels used this kind of nomenclature even before their conversion to Christianity; for one of the instances goes back at least to the time of the geographer Ptolemy, whose floruit is usually fixed about the middle of the second century of our era. His Geography mentions a river on the east coast of Ireland in what now is either the county of Wexford or of Wicklow, under the name Modonnos, that is Mo-Donnos, an appellation doubtless of the river god: see the Revue Celtique XXI, 254. The modification of Goidelic ron into Welsh run, and later into nn is regular, and does not help us to delimit the date of the establishment of the name Cregruna in Wales. The day of the Irish Mo-Ronog is given as July 22nd.

Nothing, it will have been seen, is here said as to the question whether Marown was the same man who gave his name to Creg-runa or not, for the reason that I have no data for answering it. I am ignorant likewise as to how or when the dedication to St. David came in. These are matters I must leave in the able hands of the authors of the Lives of the British Saints," in process of publication by the Hon. Society of Cymmrodorion. But I may mention at least one more Goidelic name which is still current in Wales. I allude to Mlais from the Irish Mael Isa, 'tonsured slave of Jesus": it survives in the place name Llwyn Malis borne by a farm near Ystrad Meurig in Keredigion. Llwyn Malis means ''Malls's Grove or Bush;" but under what circumstances that name established itself, there is, as far as I know, no tradition to explain. Neither have we any means of deciding whether our Malis was a layman or a cleric, whereas in the case of Mu-Runa who left his name to Creg-Rana, the presumption is that he was a cleric, whether identical or not with the Manx saint Ma-Rown.

Jesus College, Oct. 25,1913. JOHN RHYS.


Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2000