Monday, 23 February 2015

Douarnenez and the 'Two Islands'

When I was researching the origin of the name Douarnenez I was particularly interested in whether it might be derived from the Breton: daou, ‘two’ [in Welsh: dau/dwy] and Breton: (an) enez, ‘(the) island’ [Welsh: ynys; Cornish: ennis/enys; Irish: ennis; Scottish: innis/inch].
The second part of the name is the most obvious. This ancient place name element can refer to a peninsula (a 'quasi'-island) as well as a real island and this matched the topography of Douarnenez. The element Ynys/Ennis/Innis can be found in the names Anglesey/Ynys Mon, the Isle of Bardsey/Ynys Enlli, Enniskillen (N. Ireland) and Inchmarnock (Scotland).
The daou/'two' element was pushing it a bit, but conceivably we could view the peninsula (or even both 'banks') and the Isle of Tristram to the north as the two 'islands' in the name.If you are looking for myth it is interesting to note that another island may have existed off the coast at Douarnenez. Breton myths tell of a submerged island city called (Ker-) Ys or Is built by King Gradion. Could this be the missing second island?
The alternatives -Breton: douer, ‘ground’, 'land' [Welsh: daear; Cornish: doer] and Breton: dour, ‘water, 'river' [Welsh: dwr; Cornish: douer]-  cause more confusion than 'two islands': Douarnenez does not look much like a 'river island' and it is not terribly clear what is meant by 'land' island although it may be that Douarnenez is described as an 'inland' island (like Ile de France) simply because it is surrounded by water [see Belle-Isle].
                                             
There is a last possibility: the name comes from St. Tutuarn [Tutuarn-Enes] a.k.a. St. Tudwal/Tugdual, a 6th century monk more usually associated with Tréguier (where he is the patron saint) and Saint Tudwal's Islands (Welsh: Ynysoedd Tudwal) near the Isle of Bardsey. But since there are no monastic remains on the Isle of Tristram (Douarnenez) this is still speculative and the 'inland island' is still the most likely origin for the name.
                               


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