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Margam, Neath Port Talbot. Between the busy dockland of Port Talbot and the sands of Porthcawl runs a stretch of untrammelled shore called Margam Burrows. Looking down on it from a height of rather over 1,000 ft is the Mynydd Margam, standing beside its twin, Mod Ton-Mawr. Christopher Saxton, going that way in the first decade of the 17th century, thought better to write the name Margan and so emphasize its possible meaning of sea-margin. Between Mynydd Margam and the shore are early camp sites; and near to them is Margam Abbey. It was old enough in Saxton's time, but he looked for something older. He found an old stone by the wayside between Margam and King's Henge, obviously Roman, for it bore an inscription, which he sets out in his book; though worn by time, it seems to say that it commemorated one Pompeius Carantopius. “The Welsh Britons,” he comments with an unusually acid note, “by adding and changing letters read and make an interpretation” that altered it to an account of the murder of Prince Morgan, from whom this country took its name, “who was slaine, as they would have it, 800 years before Christ's nativity. But Antiquaries know full well that these Characters and forms of letters be of farre later date”.

But on the exact watershed of Margam hill he noted and illustrated the famous stone, squared and on its upper side incised with a cross, which reads: Boduoc hic iacit filius Cato Tigirni pronepos Eternali Uedomau. The script is as strange as the Latin in which it is written. The as are in fact upside-down to our modern eyes. It clearly belongs to the sub-Roman period in Britain and is assigned to A.D. 520. Pronepos means great-grandson; who Eternalis was we cannot be sure, but, as at least four generations must have passed between Boduoc and his great-great-grandfather, Eternalis must have lived about A.D. 390, when Rome still kept effective footing in Britain. Cato Tigirn is unlikely to have had a Roman name. On the contrary, he has a title of Tigernos that takes us back to native Celtic royalty and later resulted in Catigern and similar forms. “War leader” is the meaning of what for him was probably a personal name. What other memorial that family of rulers may have had upon this shoreline, as vital to the 5th and 6th centuries, as it was in Norman times, is most probably lost like the city of Kenfig, buried by Margam Burrows in a catastrophe of the 16th century, under the sands for which, as Saxton puts it, Neath in his day was infamous.

Nor is there anything left to show whether the Abbey had a forebear of the time of Catigern and Boduoc; it was founded in 1157 by the Norman Robert of Gloucester. and his work persists in the nave of the church and various fragments of the monastic buildings. The chapter house is 13th century, a lovely structure twelve-sided from without but circular within, rounded about a central pier, its vestibule beautifully vaulted. Some evidence of Margam's earlier history is preserved with a large collection of crosses and inscribed stones from the area in a separate building. But the church is remarkable for the memorials it keeps of the Norman family of Mansel. One of them was involved in a tale as romantic as that of the Nest whose abduction by Owain son of Cadwgan, Lord of Ceredigion, set Wales afire with flames like those of Troy. Oddly enough, the heroine of this tale was also called Nest. It is a tale of Sir Walter Mansel of Margam who loved the daughter of Elidr the Black, but who, unfortunately, was himself loved by her cousin Gwladys. The love-affair between Walter and Nest was not only seen with disfavour by this other woman but also by Griffith, Nest's brother, who loved Gwladys without hope of return except at a price. The price was the death of his sister and of her lover, which he brought about by finding them near the cliffs above the sea and sending an arrow through Walter's heart. Nest threw herself into the waters after the dead man. Her white ghost haunts the bridge at Pont y Gwendraeth (White Sands), close to Kidwelly.

Nearby cities: Swansea

Nearby towns: Maesteg, Neath, Port Talbot, Porthcawl

Nearby villages: Aberdulais, Aberkenfig, Bettws, Blaengarw, Blaengawr, Bridgend, Briton Ferry, Bryn, Brynmenyn, Cornelly, Cwmafan, Cymer, Duffryn, Ewenny, Garth, Glyncorrwg, Kenfig, Llandarcy, Llangynwyd, Newton Nottage, North Cornelly, Nottage, Pontrhydyfen, Pontycymer, Port Tennant, Pyle, Skewen, South Cornelly, Taibach, Tondu

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