[Spellyans] Falmouth

Jon Mills j.mills at email.com
Mon Apr 28 13:09:00 BST 2014

Would it be correct to say that  /Arwennek/ is only a part or district of present day Falmouth. If so, it might be better to use  /Falmeth/ for the whole of present day Falmouth.
----- Original Message -----
From: Craig Weatherhill
Sent: 04/28/14 12:40 PM
To: Standard Cornish discussion list
Subject: Re: [Spellyans] Falmouth

It isn't, Nicholas. None of the currently use Aber- names are. They date only from the revival, probably in the 50s (definitely within Nance's era). Aber- although found in Scotland, Wales and Brittany, is not found as a Cornish place-name element, and is only listed in the OCV, with meanings such as "gulf, whirlpool, confluence", but NOT "estuary, river-mouth".

However, the Signage Panel agreed that <Arwennek> was more historically valid, but wanted to continue using <Aberfal> which they felt to be well established after half a century or more of use. I did get them to slightly amend this to <Aberfala>, to be more representative of the river-name's historic forms. They agreed to that.


Note: The town of Falmouth did not exist before the mid 17th century, just a couple of small scattered settlements/farms such as Smithick (Eng. name). Earlier references to "Falmouth" only described the haven. It was Sir Peter Killigrew of Arwenack Manor who sought and gained (in 1661) a Charter from Charles II to develop the town, which was largely built on Arwenack estate lands. That the town had the name of "Pennycomequick", supposedly derived fromCornish, is a rather absurd myth. Frequent claims that was "pen-y-cwm (Welsh spelling?)-gwyk" are not viable. Cornish place-names are not constructed in that manner, not does it make much sense in translation. It was, in fact, a very briefly used English nickname for a then flourishing port where you could make your fortune (or, at least a decent living) quite readily for a while.

On 2014 Ebr 28, at 11:33, Nicholas Williams wrote:
I was listening a Cornish broadcast recently and heard the placename Aberfala for Falmouth. 
This isn't attested in traditional Cornish as far as one can see. 

The attested names are 
1  *Falmeth* (rag ma dro da deux mill Hosket whath in  *Falmeth*, Oliver Pender to William Gwavas, August 1711) or
2  *Arwennak*/ *Arwednak* (an enys hag  *arwennek* OM 2592; Ha an Castel Broas es en  *or Widnack*; James Harry 1705). 
Compare Arwennack Street in Falmouth itself. 

My preference is for Arwennak/Arwednak.

Where does Aberfala originate? According to Padel there is no evidence that the element aber 'estuary, river mouth' was ever attested in Cornish.


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Dr. Jon Mills, 
University of Kent
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