Identification: the Water of Luce, Dumfries and Galloway

It seems quite clear that this river-name was earlier Abrabandion, a river-name of the kind having a river-prefix, here a compound of the river-letters b and r, attached to a place-name, here Bandion. Bandion is a place-name in the hill-letter n1 and will refer to a hillfort founded in the 3rd or even 4th century BC. The Band element means ‘high hill summit’, so the hillfort will have been on the summit of a high hill close to the river. There is an earthwork close to the river at the village of Glenluce, though it is thought to be of medieval date (see the Canmore website of Historic Environment Scotland). There is also a hillfort a little to the north on Cruise Back Fell (NGR: NX 179 622), the hill dropping down to the east bank of the river. The Water of Luce is the main river nearest to Ptolemy’s Novantarum peninsula, presumably the Rhinns of Galloway, and to his Novantarum promontory, presumably a promontory somewhere on the Rhinns of Galloway (Ptolemy gives the peninsula and promontory the same coordinates). It is helpful here to consider the tribal name Trinovantes, which will be derived from a river-name of the form Trinobandion, this being substantially the same name as Abrabandion, there being merely a slight difference in the river-prefix. The place called Bandion  in the case of the Essex river will have been a hillfort or settlement up on the top of high ground close to the river Pant/Blackwater (Pant will be derived from Bandion). But the important point to note is that the river-prefix Tr in Trinobandion comes complete with an in ending. One sees this ending in a number of river-names. It is seen as an after the Tris element of Trisantona and as en after the Derb element of Derbentio. We can therefore be quite confident that the Celtic form of Abravannus had actually been Abranobandion, with an an ending after the river-prefix Abr. The people who lived around the river would then be called the Abranobandae, which form, with omission of initial Abra and the common changes b → v and d → t, yields the tribal name Novantae. In the case of the Essex river Trinobandion the people living around the river will have been called the Trinobandes. The change d → t yields the form Trinobantes, which is actually recorded by Caesar and Tacitus. The further change b → v yields the better known form Trinovantes. Going back to Ptolemy’s river Abravannus, this form was derived from Abranobandion by omission of no, the change b → v and the change nd → nn (cf. Gabaglanda Amboglanno).


[This page was last modified on 16 January 2021]



[NB. Detailed information as to the different river-letters and as to how they were combined to form compound river-names, together with information as to the four categories of Celtic river-names, is given in Chapter 19: the rivers of Roman Britain. Detailed information as to the different hill-letters is given in Chapter 1 and information as to how the hill-letters were combined to form compound place-names is given in Chapter 2]


[Navigation tip: simply close this window to go back to Chapter 19, if that is where you came from. Click on Prev below to proceed to the notes for Loucopibia. Click on Next to go back to the notes for Iena. Click here on Romano-British place-names to go to the Contents page.]