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Tumbling to a Conclusion

A puzzle that invites speculation is the origin of the name Tumble. Ready made is the solution deriving from the fact that the place lies on a hillside, an explanation advanced by Dr. Melville Richards in a series of broadcast talks on Welsh place-names in the spring of 1964. Yet doubt persists despite the potent physical evidence.

But the question might be resolved if a clue in the first issue of the Carmarthenshire Local History Magazine should lead to an explanation commanding general satisfaction. In his essay on the History of the Mynydd Mawr, at page 13, Mr. Huw Owen refers to "the Tumbledown Dick, that is, the inn at Tumble". Could it be that the inn was familiarly known as The Tumble? This conjecture allowed, it becomes possible to conclude that the place, like many other villages, derived its name from the local inn.

If this is a well-founded thought, the explanation would account for the definite article in the Welsh version, Y Tymbl, used on the local road-sign. But this theory needs to fit the history of the name. How old is it? If the inn got its name from Richard Cromwell's sobriquet, the place-name could not be more than about 300 years old.

Speculation about the origin of place-names may easily encourage false assumptions and even wishful thinking, and it may be that there is no need to go beyond the obvious to discover the origin of Tumble's name. On the other hand, there comes to mind the case of Llanwrda, which at first sight suggests an allusion to some anonymous worthy. Obvious enough. But fortunately we know that the church is dedicated to St. Cawrdaf and we may conclude that Wrda is a contraction.

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