Arts In Berwick -- Ballads and Poems
A Lost Language
When the Romans far to the south, speaking and writing in Latin, were
carving altars and tombstones along Hadrian's wall, the Votadini tribe
occupied the coast and the Tweed valley.
They spoke a dialect of what is known as 'P-Celtic'. The closest we can
get to this unwritten lost language is in Medieval Cumbric. This survives
in traditional Cumbrian sheep-counting words like "hevera, devera,
dick" (i.e. 8,9,10) which seems to have inspired the nursery rhyme
"hickory dickory dock". The Welsh epic poem Y Goddoddin attributed
to the bard Aneirin seems also to be an adaptation of a Cumbric original.
Aneirin was probably court poet to one of the last British kings based
in Edinburgh, part of whose realm had been lost to the Anglian chief Ida
at Bamburgh in 558.
The royal house of Bamburgh extended their realm until Northumbria stretched
from the Humber to the Solway Firth. As the kingdom expanded so the Northumbrian
dialect of Anglo-Saxon replaced the Celtic tongue.
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