compiled by Mark Valentine
More on Water Monsters
Chris Lovegrove, responding to the query in Source (First Series) issue 6 comments that ‘Nucker is from the Saxon nicor, a kind or water monster. Beowulf has its hero fighting such a beast on a long distance swimming race in the Baltic and evading them when jumping into a mere to fight Grendel’s mother. The avanc is a Welsh version or the same, etymologically apparently a beaver, but clearly more a kind or freshwater crocodile from its description – King Arthur encountered one, needless to say! It sounds as if Powys was being literary in calling the Sussex monster an ‘avanc’ this is a purely Welsh word, afanc.’
The Oxford Dictionary authorities gave a similar answer to Chris.
St Catherine’s Well, Swell
John Michell and Christine Rhone write; ‘In his Notes on Somerset Holy Wells (Source (First Series) issue 2), Jeremy Harte mentions St Catherine’s well at Swell near Fivehead which in Horne’s Holy Wells or Somerset “….is said to have existed there.” On a recent tour of St Catherine shrines in Southern England we visited the little church of St Catherine, Swell, now enclosed in a farmyard. Afterwards we enquired about the holy well and were told by Mrs Hoover of the Old Rectory, Swell, whose husband is the local historian, that its probable site had been rediscovered about ¾ mile west of Swell and ¼ mile outside Fivehead on a bend in the road between the two villages. Another holy well, the Monk’s Well, is located opposite the Old Rectory. The supposed St Catherine’s Well is delightfully sited on the edge of a grassy triangle where a lane meets the road. It has been cleaned out and tended by local ladies, and clear water flows into a ruined stone cistern from which it falls over rocks through stone-lined pools of watercress. Though it is so near the road, the well breathes tranquillity. Its sensitive restoration has resanctified the spot and made a worthy shrine to St Catherine, the type or ideal purity, whose hill-top chapels guarded the old pilgrim routes and were resorted to by young women on the saint’s feast day, November 25th. We are interested in (fascinated by) all holy wells and chapels dedicated to St Catherine or Alexandria, and would be grateful for notes from readers who know of examples.
Any Information on Some North Wales Wells?
James Rattue writes; ‘I saw in a guidebook to North Wales (which I no longer have) a sketch map of the Lleyn Peninsula showing the holy wells on the pilgrims’ routes to and from Bardsey. Some are known to me, some are not. Can anyone in Source’s readership provide details of the others? There are St Beuno’s, Clynnog Fawr; St Cybi’s, Llangybi; one between Llithfan and Llanaelhaern; one south of Tudweilog; one north of Y Rhiws; one north or Mynytho; and one east of Abererch. Finally, one lies between Criccieth and Pentrefelin.’
Text © the respective correspondents (1987)
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