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British place names point silently to a new understanding of history

Glastonbury Tor.

Tor is Celtic for a tower or pinnacle of rock. In the 10th century, Dunstan, who established the constitutional covenant between king and people, studied on the tor with Irish monks.

Along with hundreds of other Celtic words - bog, cairn, crag, avon - tor points silently toward a new understanding of history.

It was once thought that Anglo-Saxons had forced ancient Britons to the "Celtic fringe". The living presence of so many Celtic words in British place suggests otherwise.

Here is one example. Esk and uisge mean water in Gaelic. These two words are found in many different forms and place names in Britain, sometimes clearly, sometimes mistily - Es, Esk (the River Esk in Lothian), Usk (the River Usk in Wales), Ash (found all over), Exe (Exeter), Ouse (the River Ouse) and the Wash, where King John lost all his crown jewels. Es slips into the word Thames, and to a poet - silver-streaming Thames - makes all the difference.

The evidence of linguistics and DNA now suggests that the ancestors of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon people were living together in Britain more than three thousand years ago and intermingling.

Anglo-Saxon invasions in the 5th century AD, found men and women in Britain speaking a language related to their own - English. Were there cultural differences and struggles for power between Gaelic and English speakers? There must have been - they were human.

Personally I am grateful for the rich inheritance created by Celtic and Anglo-Saxon cultures, apart and together. It's interesting - can it be true? - that "In 2001 new genetic research confirmed that the majority of Britons living in the south of England share the same DNA as their Celtic' counterparts. . ."

Comments (1)


What a beautiful picture. I must visit that some day.

I wonder how much of the similarity of DNA between the southern English and the Celts derives from common intermixing with the Vikings who, if I recall, made a number of visits to both areas after Lindisfarne.

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