Glasgow-based writer and poet Jim Ferguson has written an excellent short story about one of the queens of Strathclyde. The setting is Govan in 975, the year when the elderly King Dyfnwal died while making a pilgrimage to Rome. Dyfnwal was a major player in the volatile politics of tenth-century Britain, having commenced his reign in the years following the famous battle of Brunanburh (937). His moment of greatest crisis came in 945 when an Anglo-Welsh army under the command of King Edmund of Wessex invaded Strathclyde. During the campaign two of Dyfnwal’s sons were taken captive and blinded by English soldiers. Meanwhile, the Scots of Alba – whom Dyfnwal’s father had aided against the English at Brunanburh – stood on the sidelines as Strathclyde was ravaged. Jim Ferguson’s story makes reference to these events in a way that brings us closer to the people involved. Through the eyes of Dyfnwal’s queen we see Govan as it was a thousand years ago, at the height of its first era of greatness, when it was the capital of a powerful kingdom. We see a landscape still recognisable today, even after the dramatic changes wrought by the industrial era. Thus, when the queen of Strathclyde looks out from the summit of the now-vanished Doomster Hill, her gaze takes in the ancient church (where the gravestones of her people are still preserved) and the great river that connects Govan’s past with its present and future.
Jim’s story was written for the public art project Nothing About Us Without Us Is For Us and read aloud beside the Clyde at the main NAUWU event on 28 April 2012.
The Bride of King Dyfnwal by Jim Ferguson
* * * * * * *
King Dyfnwal appears as a character of folklore in the English county of Cumbria where he is known as ‘King Dunmail’. Diane McIlmoyle provides a good summary of these traditions at her Cumbrian blog.
* * * * * * *