Wuffa & Urfai
I’ve been up Scotland way for a month or so now – reviewing Eden festival for the Mumble & starting up Tinky Disco once again, I’ve had a right old ball. Lancashire beckons, however, & with that a brand new 18-part series of Dark Age investigations which I have called Candles. Seeing as I’m in Edinburgh right now, I thought I’d commence with a fascinating discovery I’ve recently made regarding a connection between Edinburgh & the Anglo-Saxons who went on to dominate the British islands. As ever, its a little complex, so I feel it is better to go through the data, step-by-step.
1 – In the B recension of the Y Gododdin poem, translated by Gwyn Thomas, we read;
It was usual for the son of Golystan
(Though his father was no king)
To be listened to when he spoke.
It was usual, for the good of Mynyddawg,
To have shattered shields & a red spear
Before a lord of Eidyn, Urfai.
In recent years a number of scholars have suggested that Golystan was an Anglo-Saxon name, but went no further. Instead, let us now look for a tally between Urfai son of Golystan in the other Anglo-Saxon records. This leads us to a certain ‘Uffa son of Guillem Guercha’ as found in the Historia Brittonum, one of the earliest kings of East Anglia. In another version of the lineage – the East Anglian dynastic tally in the Anglian collection – we find Wuffa son of Wehha, which leads us onto a certain Weohstan as found in the Beowulf poem. Now let us assemble the following babel-chain.
Wehha — Weohstan — Golystan — Guillem Guercha
Wuffa Urfai Uffa
Weohstan is an interesting figure who turns up in Beowulf. It has long been recognized that the ship burial described in the prologue to ‘Beowulf’, i.e.;
In the harbour stood a ring-prowed ship,
icy, outbound, a nobleman’s vessel;
there they laid down their dear lord,
dispenser of rings, in the bosom of the ship,
glorious, by the mast. There were many treasures
loaded there, adornments from distant lands;
I have never heard of a more lovely ship
bedecked with battle-weapons and war-gear,
blades and byrnies; in its bosom lay
many treasures, which were to travel
far with him into the keeping of the flood.
…is describing a similar one found at Sutton Hoo, in the very heartlands of the East Anglian Kings. In the Beowulf poem we read that Weohstan & his son, Wiglaf, ‘lived among the Geats,‘ & so it is unlikely that Weohstan is the same man as Wehha / Golystan / Guillem Guercha. However, the shared name implies a shared culture, which is in this case confirmed by those textual & actual ship-burials as given above.
2 – The conclusion we may make here is that the East Anglian King, Wuffa, was at some time the Lord of Edinburgh. Another way to connect this lineage with North Britain is through the name Guillem Guercha, the latter bit sounding rather like a certain Gwrgi, who is found alongside his brother in the Annales Cambrae & the Descent of the Men of the North
Gwrgi & Peredur are the sons of Eliffer of the Great Retinue son of Arthwys son of Mar son of Keneu son of Coel (DMN)
580AD: Gwrgi and Peredur – sons of Elifert – died (AC)
The Anglian Collection tells us that ‘Wehha was the son of Wilhelm, who was the son of Hryþ.‘ The Thorn or þorn (Þ, þ) is a letter in the Old English, Gothic, Old Norse and modern Icelandic alphabets, pronounced as ‘th.’ This means that Hryþ sounded like Hryth, which through the chispological medium of rhotacism may become ‘hlyth,’ & thus the Eleuther of the Harleian genealogies;
[G]urci ha Peretur mepion Eleuther
3 – All that remains here is to somehow connect Peredur & Gwrgi to Edinburgh, & we will be able to see perfectly well how Urfai, the son of Gwrgi (i.e Golystan) was seen as a Lord of Edinburgh. The answer comes through looking firstly at the Mabinogion, in which Peredur’s father is given another name, as in;
Earl Evrawc owned the Earldom of the North. And he had seven sons. And Evrawc maintained himself not so much by his own possessions as by attending tournaments, and wars, and combats… the name of his seventh son was Peredur, and he was the youngest of them.
Evrawc is a Welshified version of Ebrauc, i.e. Ebraucum, the Roman name for York. The name also appears as a personage in the jumbled history of Big Geoff, who writes that Ebraucus, ‘built the city of Alt Clud towards Albini, and the town of mount Agned, called at this time the Castle of Maidens,‘ i.e. Ebraucus built both Dumbarton & Edinburgh. Interestingly, his other name, ‘Eliffer’ is the son of a certain Arthwys, who could well have given his name to Edinburgh’s Arthur’s Seat.
We can conclude here that Eluether/Ebrauc, the father of Pheredur & Gwrgi, is also remembered as the man who built the cities of Dumbarton & Edinburgh. It also makes sense, now, that his grandson Urfai was described as a Lord of Edinburgh in the Gododdin poem. I believe he took up the position on the death of his father, which according to the Annales Cambrai took place in 580AD. Fascinatingly, according to the 13th century chronicler Roger of Wendover, Wuffa ruled in East Anglia from 571 to 578. In Dark Age chronological terms, 578 & 580 are near enough to be the same time, & so we may conclude that after Gwrgi’s death in the north of Britain (his tombstone is to be found at Yarrow, near Selkirk) his son left his seat in East Anglia & took up the lordship of Edinburgh.