HISTORIC tales of blood and gore, and seafarers’ knowledge of navigating treacherous Welsh waters are among some of the stories revealed behind many of Gwynedd’s place names.
A Welsh Place Names Map project was recently launched by Gwynedd Council’s Welsh language unit.
The project aims to create a living record of verbal, informal names of locations and geographical features in the county.
It is part of the council’s Indigenous Place Names Project in an attempt to create an easy to use resource for groups, schools and individuals.
The organisers want to encourage the public to get involved, to help record and preserve unique Welsh language names.
The scheme is all part of the council’s commitment to protect the Welsh language.
Place names often cast light on a community’s history, culture, geography, traditions, language and identity, as well as stories going back generations.
Did you know that Allt Goch, the local name for the long hill that is part of the road that links the A487 at Penygroes to the A499 has a colourful back story?
According to the mapping project, local legend has it that the part of the road was drenched in blood following a terrible horse and carriage accident many years ago .
It resulted in the death of the animals and passengers, hence the name ‘goch’ (meaning red ) for blood in the name.
Another name, Sianel Gw’r Nefyn, refers to a narrow channel in the seas off Dinas Dinlle and Belan.
The name features on a 1748 map by Lewis Morris, but never made it on to modern OS maps.
According to the project, the name is still in common use by some local fishermen.
The name was apparently used by fishing boats travelling to and from Nefyn, that required a short, safe passage without having to negotiate the treacherous Caernarfon Bar.
Another example is Cob Crwn, the local name for Llyn Bach, a tidal pool at the eastern end of Porthmadog, the area is still a popular walk amongst locals.
Ogof Chwythu refers to a cave in the rocks off Penrhyn Du, facing Ynysoedd Tudwal islands, on the South eastern coast of the Llŷn peninsula.
Other examples include: Llyn Tarddeni – the old name for Llyn Cwellyn.
Llwybr y Gath is a path along the Pared Mawr cliff that overlooks Porth Ceiriad, Llŷn.
Lôn Pwll Llan is the name for the lane that connects the villages of Sarn Bach and Llanengan.
StrydLlygod (mice) was the street that links StrydMoch (pigs) and StrydPenlan in Pwllheli, today now referred to as Mitre Place.
Place names can be passed down through families, or communities, and may hint to the people or families that founded or lived in a particular area or settlement.
They can describe the landscape, vegetation, condition, animals or an area’s economic or social use.
Mei Mac, Project Officer, said:
“There are numerous names for streets, areas, geographical features, bridges and field that never appear on an official map, and yet again they are used locally and vernacularly all the time.
“They are interesting names, and like all place names are rich in history and local heritage.”
With the recent roll out of the new Curriculum for Wales, the council also hopes the mapping projects will also offer “a valuable resource” to teachers in the classroom and community.
Pupils of Ysgol Sarn Bach recently took part in a project to trial the map.
Nina Williams, head of Ysgol Sarn Bach, said the children had “benefited greatly” and enjoyed learning about their local heritage.
“A lot of local names are being remembered and retained by the school children, and being part of the project has given them a real sense of identity.”
Another map also launched by the unit is the Gwynedd Welsh Language Clubs and Activities map
It provides information on activities, associations and clubs where people can use the Welsh language.
Gwenllian Williams, Gwynedd Council’s Language Adviser, said:
“These groups and clubs are key to maintaining the Welsh language as a living community language.
“This map is a way of recognising and helping to share information about these groups and clubs.”
Any group, club or society that meets regularly can record their activity and meeting and add their location on the map.
Councillor Menna Jones, Gwynedd Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for the Welsh language, said:
“The two maps are an exciting development that will promote the use of the Welsh language in our communities.
The Welsh Place names map is an opportunity for us to try to protect colloquial Welsh place names and ensure that they are remembered for generations to come.
“The Welsh activities map will help the people of Gwynedd to discover various Welsh-medium activities that are available throughout the county from surfing lessons to a local history societies.”
For information on how to contribute to the map contact the language unit on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01286 679629/679469.
The council can also organise workshops for schools and community groups to show how the map works and inputting information.