Corpus Refs:Macalister/1949:1033
Discovery:first mentioned, 1789 Gough, R.
History:Westwood/1876, 158: `The stone of St. Cadvan preserved in the church of Towyn[1] is, as regards its philological elements, the most important of the ancient Welsh stones, containing on each of its four sides an inscription in the oldest form of the language of the country. It was described and figured by Dr. Taylor in 1761, and by Edward Lhwyd in Gibson's Camden, p. 622; Gough's Camden, iii. p. 172, tab. IX. figs. 1--5 ; Pennant's Wales, ii. p. 93, supp. tab. V. fig. 3, but the inscription was so inaccurately given in these works as not to be intelligible. In 1848 casts of the stone were presented to the museum at Caernarvon by W. W. E. Wynne, Esq., during the Meeting of the Cambrian Archaeological Association in that town, who also kindly placed in my hands a series of rubbings of the stone. These materials enabled the Rev. John Williams (Ab Ithel) and myself, after many hours' labour, to prepare a memoir with figures, which appeared in the Archaeologia Cambrensis, 1850 (pp. 90-100), being also referred to in the Report of the Caernarvon Meeting (Arch. Camb., 1848, p. 364).

[1] In the Cambro-Briton, ii. p. 121, it is said at that time to decorate the grotto belonging to a gentleman who took the liberty of removing it. It subsequently stood in a field close to the road-side, about half a mile from Towyn, on the road to D˘llgellau'.

Macalister/1949, 167: `The monument at first stood and afterwards lay in the churchyard, from which it was removed early in the 18th century by one Dr. Taylor, and turned into a gatepost. It was afterwards restored to the church, and, when I first saw it, lay prostrate in a wooden box, which made it impossible to study any of the sides except that which happened to be uppermost. It has now been erected at the W. end of the N. aisle, so that the whole inscription can be examined with ease, except for a space of 2" on each side, concealed by an iron collar which holds the stone in an upright position. As the building is not very well lighted (or at least was not, at the time of my second visit), an electric torch is desirable'.

Nash-Williams/1950, 172: `Formerly used as a a field close to the road-side, about half a mile from Towyn'.

Dimensions:2.18 x 0.25 x 0.2 (converted from Macalister/1949)
Setting:in display
Location:on site
Macalister/1949, 168: `It has now been erected at the W. end of the N. aisle'.

No current location given by Nash-Williams/1950.

Westwood/1876, 158: `The stone itself is about 7 feet long and about 10 inches wide on the two broadest sides, the other two sides being considerably narrower. In the accompanying figures the sides are arranged as the observer walks from right to left, B being upon that part of the stone which is represented in shadow in A, and C in the shaded part of B, whilst D is in like manner on the shaded part of C, and joins the unshaded part of A'.

Macalister/1949, 167: `A pillar...with a narrowed lower end, having an appearance as though it had been prepared to stand in a socket'.

Condition:incomplete , some
Macalister/1949, 167: `The stone is broken in two at a little over 1' above the lower end'.
Crosses:1: latin; linear; straight; expanded; plain; none; none; plain; n/a
2: latin; linear; straight; expanded; plain; none; none; plain; n/a

Macalister/1949, 168: `A cross potent fitchÚe is cut at the top of each of the sides A and B, that on side B having a hole 3 inches deep drilled through the intersection: this, and a similar hole on the same side, further down are doubtless marks of the gatepost stage of the stone's history'.

Nash-Williams/1950, 172: `On the front and rear faces the lettering is preceded by an incised linear Latin cross with barred upper terminals'.



TWYN1/2/1     Pictures


Ceinrwy(PN) wife of Addian(PN) (lies here) close to Bud(PN) (and) Meirchiaw(PN). Cun(PN) wife of Celyn(PN): grief and loss remain. The memorial of four, a memorial of the three.
Williams/1980 33--40 reading only
The body of Cingen(PN) lies beneath. Egryn(PN), Mallteg(PN), Gwaddian(PN), together with Dyfod(PN) and Marchiau(PN). The tomb...four. [--].
Nash-Williams/1950 172 reading only


Orientation:mixed directions
Position:many ; more ; below cross ; undivided
Nash-Williams/1950, 172: `inscription on all four faces, in six lines reading vertically downwards and upwards, with interpolations at the bottom of the right-hand face, and bottom of the rear face respectively'.
Nash-Williams/1950, 172: `very coarsely picked in clumsy style'.
Date:600 - 899 (Nash-Williams/1950)

800 - 800 (Sims-Williams/1991)
Sims-Williams/1991, 22--23, argues for a date of circa AD 800.
725 - 775 (Williams/1980)
Williams/1980, 26, suggests a date circa AD 750.
Language:Brittonic (rbook)
Ling. Notes:Williams/1980, 33--40, `My attempt at the whole inscription on A-D is thus: Cengrui (or Tengrui) cimalted gu(reic)


ant erunc du but marciau.

`Ceinrwy wife of Addian (lies here) close to Bud (and) Meirchiaw.' I suggest that Bud and Meirchiaw were the children of Ceinrwy, buried before her in the same holy ground. She was laid to rest as near as possible to her dear ones.


On B Morris-Jones and others before him have read CiNgeN celen `Cynien's corpse.' On the stone itself, however, I read the fourth letter as a b, a fine example of the curving Hiberno-Saxon b of the Book of St. Chad, or the Lindisfarne Gospels. I have examined the stone on several visits, have taken rubbings of this letter, and traced every curve with my finger! It was a b when first seen, and it remains a b. I have seen it and felt it! So far as I am concerned, this Cingen is worse than dead: he never was.

And then Cinben worried me much. Was the name Cynfyn? The cinmin of the Book of Llan DÔv and the Bodmin Manumissions with its -min instead of -bin ruled that out very definitely indeed. The solution, when it came, was simple. Sir John held that the uncial N's of his ciNgeN favoured an earlier dating of this BC inscription than could be given to the one on sides AD with its minuscule n's. (No sort of pun is intended!) He consulted Professor W. M. Lindsay on this point, and this is the expert's reply : "that an inscription with two uncial n's and the remaining n half-uncial must be older than an inscription with all the n's half-uncial is not impossible but by no means certain. For scribes found half-uncial n an awkward letter sometimes. In particular the combination in was so like m that some Insular scribes preferred iN (with uncial n) while others wrote In (with tall i). In short, if an uncial letter is to show its face in half-uncial script, one may expect the letter to be n'. [43]

So N is possible in late inscriptions to save the bother of cutting an n with its curving second stroke. But the BC sculptor cut three excellent n's: why then did he write ciNbeN? It was not for lack of skill: he revels in curves, as you can see from the illustration. Furthermore, the Black Book of Carmarthen was written five centuries later than the presumed date of our inscription; and a study of the facsimile showed quite a large number of N's, e.g. kyffrediN, vebiN, huN, eituN, GugauN, KadwallauN, prideiN, keiN, maelguN. Evidently N was a favourite for the final position! The Old Welsh boundaries in the Book of LIan DÔv provided similar instances, e.g. L.L., p. 173, rudlaN, 174 ceciN, hafreN, 222 bruiN, 246 ElmoiN, 255 pennicheN, 272 bronN. These lists suggested to me that we had here a possible clue to the word division on side B and that the N's were to be taken as

final letters. Well, this key fitted the lock. Cinben dissolved into Cin ben very readily.

One other correction in the reading had to be made. Checking up on the stone itself once more I found that the in in Cin was a ligatured UN, i.e. after cutting U the carver used the second digit of this letter as the first stroke of an uncial N, and added a diagonal and the second downstroke. The first word is thus CUN, and others had so taken it. To quote Morris-Jones again: `Westwood took the IN in Cingen to be a ligatured UN; and in Pennant's figure the bottom of the I is actually joined to the N. . . On the other hand Westwood's drawing shows no connexion, so that it seems safer to read Cin as HŘbner does. Rhys also reads Cin'.[44] On the stone, I repeat, the letters UN are `actually joined', and we can with confidence read B as

Cun Ben Celen

followed by two crescents, to show that the inscription is not complete, and that the continuation is to be looked for elsewhere, i.e. on side C. I should like to point out here that ben is cut on a higher level than cun, cf. above on cimalted. This too is a possible sign of word division.

cun. As a common noun cun occurs frequently in early poetry for lord or chief:[45] cun Gwynedd, cun Rheged, etc., and the well-known name Cunedda. Welsh u comes from Celtic -au, -eu, or -ou, when followed by a consonant, and so we can connect cun with such Celtic names as Caunos, Caunae (used of mountains), Caunus, Counos, a man's name; Cauna (Caune), a woman's name.[46] On the Pentrefoelas stone Macalister reads Brohomagli Iatti Ic Iacit Et Uxor Eius Cavne.[47] Here we have a certain Brochfael's wife called Caune, for Caunae, the genitive in the later inscriptions often replacing the nominative. Indeed, this -e became the usual feminine ending in Latinized Welsh names, for instance hancarate `Angharad'.[48] This Caune bore the same name in the sixth century as the Towyn lady in the eighth (or later), but the British form by then had become the Welsh Cun.

I should like to derive caun-, cun, from the root keu-[49] seen in Greek kuew `I grow big'; kupios `lord'; Gaulish kauaros, Welsh cawr `champion, giant', etc.

ben `wife, woman', Old Irish ben, Cornish ben-en `wife', Greek yuvn, English queen; Welsh ben-yw `female'. I know of no other instance of ben in Welsh, so that this is specially welcome.

celen. The e in the final syllable, as elsewhere on this stone, is equivalent to y in Modern Welsh, so that celen corresponds to our Celyn, now used for `holly' only. In the medieval period it could also be used as a man's name, as for instance Celyn son of Caw,[50] cf. Coll, Collen `hazel', with the saint's name in Llan-gollen; Gwern `alder' and a boy's name in the Mabinogion; so also Gwernen; Onnen `ash', and a girl's name as well; Eithin `gorse', Eithinin, a warrior of the Gododdin tribe. Holder has Betuus, Betua as masculine and feminine personal names, though bedw is used only of the birch nowadays. With the diminutive ending seen in Eithinin, we have Celynnin as a man's name. There is a Llan-gelynnin quite close to Towyn, and it is tempting to identify the Celyn of the stone with the `little Celyn' of the church, cf. Llansadwrn in Anglesey, with the Saturninus of the old inscription inside, `Sadyrnin'.[51] If it be argued that our Celyn had a wife and therefore could not be a saint, my answer would be that marriage might have made him one. And what of the sancta coniux `holy wife' of Saturninus commemorated at Llansadwrn? Anyhow, nothing is known of the Towyn Celyn and nobody can tell how many men called Celyn lived their lives, saintly and otherwise, in this district. Does the name, I wonder, survive in a local place name, a charter, or other early document? Later generations might easily have made a `holly bush' of his name.

Early examples of e = y occur in the Juvencus englynion of the ninth century, with leder (llyther); remedaut (rhyfeddawd), celmed (celfydd); Ox. 1[52] emedou, plural of emed `efydd', written emid in Martianus Capella.[53] So Celen may be a ninth-century form of celyn, though i is the common symbol for our y in that period. I cannot prove that e was written for our y in the eighth; it may have been, but I have no dated document to prove that it was.

The rest of the epitaph is on side C.


tricet nitanam. I wish I could translate these two words `May she rest in peace!' But Sir John is surely right[54] in taking tricet as a 3rd. sing. pres. indic., not a 3rd. sing. imperative `let her stay' like triged nowadays. In early Welsh the 3rd. pres. indic. often ends in -it, -yt,[55] when it begins a sentence, so that trigyt would be normal here. We have already found e = y in celen, so tricet may be for later trigyt, Modern Welsh trig. Morris-Jones translates the whole inscription `Cynien's body lies beneath', for he takes nitanam as ni `under': tan as Welsh dan in o dan `under': and -am as an adverbial ending.

Against this interpretation one may stress the irregularity of having the long form in -et (-yt) in the middle of the sentence: and further, trigo to my knowledge never means `lie', but `stay, remain, dwell'. I should prefer to take [lies here] as something understood, and begin a new sentence with tricet, as the syntax demands. What that new sentence is to be, I am not so sure!

At the moment my best guess is that nitanam may be the subject of tricet; it can be explained as a compound of synonyms, nit and anam. Nit can be the cognate of the Old Irish nith `a mortal wound': Modern Irish nioth (nÝoth, nith) `mortal wound, loss, affliction', so Dinneen.[56] Anam `anaf' (cf. Old Welsh anamou, gloss on mendae)[57] is explained by Dr. Davies as mutilatio,[58] by Anwyl as `blemish, defect, wound': Old Irish anim, Modern Irish aineamh `blemish, defect'; the adjective is aineamhach `blemished, maimed'. Combining nit and anam, we have in both elements the meaning `wound, hurt', but anam `anaf' stresses that it is a wound that maims : it is a mutilation, an essential limb has been lopped off.

If nid-anaf is the right analysis, then tnicet nit-anam means `the pain, the hurt, and the sense of loss remain'. Cun has passed away, but the cruel loss remains, the mortal wound can never be healed. Such a contrast would be in keeping with all we know of Early Welsh poetry: the primitive bards, the Cynfeirdd and Gogynfeirdd, delighted in such contrasts, which they expressed with masterly brevity and force. The compound noun and compound adjective were an integral part of their technique. No chieftain's household in the old days was complete without a bard: in Celyn's hail there was, I think, a true poet.

I read the whole inscription on B-C then as

cun ben celen : tricet nitanam

Cun, wife of Celyn : grief and loss remain.


The two main inscriptions are thus fairly straightforward. Two `footnotes'---if I may. use the word---were added, one on A and one on C, both at the foot of the pillar. Though A is certainly the earlier, that on C must be tackled first, for a correct interpretation of it is essential, if we are to make sense of the cryptic letters on A.

The C footnote is nicely cut in rounded lettering...Then follow




Rhys read this as moltcic petuar.[59] The last word is obviously Old Welsh for pedwar `four', and he took the molt he saw in the first line to be mollt `a sheep' and cic in the second to be cig `meat, flesh'. Combining the two, he evolved his molltgig, `which means either "the mutton flesh of four", or "a wether (is) flesh of or for four"'. He goes on: `I need hardly say that I have considerable misgivings as to this stone. Perhaps inscriptions 1 and 2 (= B and A) are genuine; but I can hardly think the rest is so, or divine its meaning. The former may have served as models for the lettering of the rest.' The `mutton flesh' evidently disagreed with him -- and no wonder.

Morris-Jones read mol, and identified this with moll in an obscure poem in the Black Book of Carmarthen,[60] which he thought might mean `tomb'. He then took the following t to be the initial of Tegryn (tengrui), c the initial of Cynien (his cingen), the i as 7, the symbol for et `and', and the following c as ceteri. His interpretation of the whole is `the tomb of Tegryn, Cynien, et ceteri four (and four others)'. `The four others would be Malted, Guadgan, Dubut, and Marciaun, leaving anterunc as a connective.'[61]

I challenge the reading molt. The third letter is not an l but the r found in early MSS. after round-backed letters like o. The first element of R was a curving downstroke, and the scribes, in order to save space occasionally made use of the last curves of o and similar letters as the first element in R, and added what was left of the R (closely resembling the figure 2). I suggest that the author of this footnote wrote 02 (=or) in the copy he made for the stone cutter. What the latter made of it was o and something which looks like z. Rhys indeed remarks that the I on the stone has become `almost a z in the word molt'. If he had only recognized this z as the r symbol, he would have been rid of his `mutton for four', and his misgivings about the authenticity of the inscription. Lindsay, in his Early Welsh Script, has a facsimile of the Cambridge Univ. Lib. Ff. 4.42, Juvencus (dated ninth century by Bradshaw),[62] Plate VI, p. 51. You will see there a good example of the r symbol (mentioned above) at the end of line 7, cruore. Plate VII gives the top of the first folio of this MS.; the third line from the bottom begins comorat: after the o here too we get a fine example of this r. On the Martianus Capella, dated the end of the ninth century, Lindsay remarks, `The by-form of r normal after o (really a majuscule r without the shaft) is used not only after o but after e in this MS.' He notes this as favouring a later date, not mid-ninth but late ninth century.[63] In our inscription, the r `normal after o' occurs in mort. How early this r was introduced, I cannot tell. The Juvencus was written about 850, and we started with a vague idea that the lettering of the Towyn inscriptions suggested a date about 750.

mort cic or mortcic. The t stands for th (cf. c=ch in marciau above). After r in Welsh t and c are aspirated, becoming th, ch. The final c corresponds to modern g as a rule in our early documents, but in the Book of Llan DÔv -c sometimes varies with ng. Archenfield in Herefordshire (Ariconium) is given in Welsh as Ergin, Ercic, Ergic, Ercicg, and Ercig.[64] So mortcic may be morthgig in later Welsh, or morthging, or morthgin. Or even mort c.x (for crux !).

I hope to deal with mortcic in full later on, so I will only say this now, mort may be connected with Latin mort- `death' (mors, mortis, mortuus), or be from the same root as mor in Latin memor; morthcin(g) could be a borrowing from Latin morticina;[65] cic may be cig `flesh', or the cing in gweilging, perging, Erging. This bunch of linguistic problems calls for a very full, detailed (and boring) discussion, which we can postpone until another day. So I shall content myself now with just giving my opinion, that mort cic must mean either `death pillar' or `memorial stone', or `mortal remains', and with your permission I shall use memorial for it--until another example turns up on vellum or stone, to correct me.

So I read mortcic petuar as `the memorial of four', viz. Ceinrwy, Bud, Meirchiaw, and Cun. Now, we can go back to the untidy footnote on A. This, with the help of Lhwyd's drawings, can be read



The mc is certain. The first letter of line 2 looks to me like an uncial E with the mid-horizontal used as part of a following r (er ligatured), but it may be a ; so Er or Ar. Then t from Lhwyd's copy: the curve at the bottom of the downstroke is all that remains of it, beyond the break in the stone. Then r is clear. After that I see a faint i. These letters are of the same type as those in the main A inscription; and are as badly arranged as the rest.

It has been suggested above that gu on this A face is an abbreviation or suspension of gureic. I am quite convinced that the cryptic mc too is a similar abbreviation of mort cic, the compound you have permitted me to translate for the nonce as memorial.

If ertri be read, the er can stand for the definite article, usually written ir in Old Welsh (even before consonants), our yr (with the r dropped before consonants). If artri be read, ar too maybe a variant of er (yr) ; cf. above on the ant (=ynt) in anterunc, and on e =y in celen.

tri is our tri `three'. And so the meaning of the A footnote whether we read mc er tri, or mc ar tri, is `This is a memorial of the three', viz. Ceinrwy, Bud, and Meirchiaw.

Why was it added? Was it because the A sculptor found that he had left out the conjunction ac `and' after But? He wanted to make it quite clear that this was a memorial of the THREE, hence the postscript, untidy, but well-meant, After Cun's burial, the second craftsman had no option : he had to-cut in his turn another footnote to emphasize that the mortcic was now the memorial of four, not of three. The two footnotes supplement one another, and the later helps to explain the earlier: mc er tri `a memorial of the three'; mort cic petuar `a memorial of four'.'

Palaeography:Nash-Williams/1950, 172: `round half-uncials'.

Williams/1980a, 25: `letters, comparable with those familiar to us in the manuscripts of the eighth century'.

Williams/1980, 38, also suggests that the lapidary confused an R for a Z in the word MOZT, correcting this reading to MORT.

Carving errors:1