What’s in a Name ??
In the village of Penallt is an area called Pentwyn where the road from Monmouth becomes Lone Lane and is crossed by the road to Tregagle and Whitebrook. This cross-roads is called Croes Faen or Cross Vane. The reference books translate Croes Faen as the stone cross, and local wisdom has it that there was indeed a stone cross there until some vandal broke it up to repair a wall nearby.
Before universal education and increasingly after the Enclosure Acts of the early 19th century, English clerks working on legal documents and maps recorded Welsh place-names in phonetic English – hence Cross Vane. No problems there, you might think, except that I failed the find the word ‘faen’ in my Welsh/English dictionary of 1960. Several Welsh nouns are given as meaning ‘stone’ but ‘faen’ is not one of them. Nor does it appear in the Welsh language section. I have no doubt that to the Welsh-speaker the reason is obvious, but I do not have the language of heaven!
And then one day, as I glanced through the pages of a Welsh/English dictionary of 1861 (as one does), I found under ‘F’ a note which told me that the compiler understood the problems of the English. In brief, it said that ‘F’ (pronounced ‘V’ in Welsh) is often used as a mutation of ‘M’, (reflecting the spoken word). And both dictionaries tell me that ‘maen’ means ‘stone’. Now I can sleep easy – at least until a Welsh-speaker reads this and decides to put me right.
V.F.K Nov. 2012