The True Dingesmere

In a recent post I have isolated the historical reference which puts to bed the near-hysterical claims by certain scholars that the Battle of Brunanburh took place on the Wirral peninsular. Despite all sources suggesting the battle could never have taken place on the Wirral, they have based their theory upon one single piece piece of onomastic evidence found in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which reads;

Gewitan him þa Norþmen nægledcnearrum,
dreorig daraða laf, on Dingesmere
ofer deop wæter Difelin secan,
eft Ira land, æwiscmode.

Departed then the Northmen in nailed ships.
The dejected survivors of the battle,
On Dingesmere, sought Dublin over the deep water,
to return to Ireland, ashamed in spirit.

The Wirral Set then declared that the name Dingesemere derives from the Viking Ting – i.e. political assembly place – at Thingwall on the peninisular, & placed their thoughts in a pleasant essay called Revisiting Dingesmere. It is an interesting & valid suggestion, for the name Dingwall in Scotland is also based on a Viking Ting. However, with the Battle of Brunanburh now firmly sited at Burnley, I mused upon the possibility that the Ting of Dingesemere could be be derived from a different place. Then it suddenly struck me that there was also a Viking Ting on the Isle of Man, which still meets today as the Tynvald, founded in the early 10th century, & is one of the longest running parliaments in the world.


After Brunanburh the chief Vikings fled to Dublin across the Dingesmere, which we can now see as the Old Norse name for the circular portion of the Irish Sea epicentred by the Isle of Man. Indeed, it was an important Viking location, being both the capital of the Kingdom of Man & The Isles, & sitting neatly between the Viking kingdoms of Jorvik (York) & Ireland (Dublin).


Despite the Wirral Set’s own paper telling us about the ‘mere’ element being, ‘In verse, as a simplex and as first element of many compounds, it means’the sea, the ocean,’ & the name Dingesmere appearing in a poem, they insisted on it meaning ‘wetlands/marshes’ & declared Dingesmere to be the marshy lands of west Wirral. On their essays’s publication in 2004 the story made the front page of the Times & even a slot on Granada Reports one evening interviewing concerned golfers about the ‘battlefield,’ being on their course.

However, analyzing the poetic techniques of the Anglo-Saxons, we should compare the line, ‘On Dingesmere, sought Dublin over the deep water,‘ With…

On the sea-flood over the cold water’ (Christ)

On the path of the whale, over the expanse of the seas (The Seafarer)

In this case in the first half of the line the sea is represented in a poetic fashion, followed by a simpler, more direct definition of that same sea. Thus all tradition dictates that Dingesmere should be a sea, rather than coastal marsh. Indeed, it makes so much more sense that the deep-watered ‘mere’ on which the Vikings sailed to Dublin was that around the major Ting upon the Isle of Man, rather than the much less important Ting on the Wirral.

There is another possibility, however, & that is the plural -es found in Dingesmere. Thus the name could mean, ‘Sea of the Tings,’ a waterway that connected all the Viking Tings. Indeed, there were Tings at Dublin (The Tingmote), at Tynvald near Annan in Dumfrieshire, at Little Langsdale in Cumbria, & in Liverpool.

2 thoughts on “The True Dingesmere

  1. “ding” means noise (din) but was used to refer to an estuary or “sound” [an inlet that gradually narrows causes otherwise tranquil waves to break, causing “noise”]; “es” implies belonging: “of the”; “mere” simply means river [not “sea” which is “deep water”] just as mær-es-ea (Mersey) means river-of the-border … so the ships were on a river-sound or estuary (you don’t sail ships on a marshland). It may have been the Dee, but I discount the association with Thing (except that both ultimately derive from þing=noise/sound, but the Thing in Thingwall comes from the clamour of voices at the meeting, whereas in dingesmere it is the sound from the sea at the estuary).
    My translation of the passage:
    Gewitan him þa Norþmen nægledcnearrum,
    dreorig daraða laf, on Dingesmere,
    ofer deop wæter Difelin secan,
    eft Ira land, æwiscmode.
    Then the Northmen, dejected battle survivors,
    left in nail-studded ships on the estuary,
    and over the sea sought Dublin,
    to return to Ireland, ashamed.

    1. Is it possible that Dingsmere was a place like Dingle in Lancashire just opposite bromborough pool, were the inlet of the dibbin and low ground was Ideal landing place for an invading army to rest before attacking the Wirral.
      Dingle also had ideal geography in low shores on the Mersey for fast tides from the Irish sea to come in and,and boats to lay up until ready for the attack on the opposite shore .at the mouth of the dibbin.

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