How many miles, how many?
I know of two bilingual signposts that show Leominster with its Welsh name, Llanllieni. There’s one up on the A44 by the Fforest Inn, and the one in this picture on the Presteigne by-pass. There might be a few others, but I don’t know them.
I get a lyrical kick every time I pass them, because I get a little rhyme-worm, due to the old riddle, ‘How many miles, how many, from Leominster to Llanllieni?’
Yesterday, driving past the sign, my inner antiquary said ‘What old riddle, you idiot? Where did you hear that? Did you make it up?’ The answer is, I don’t know. I can’t remember how I first came across it, or when.
Top search engine searching by our research department has found four entries on the subject, but they all send you to this extract from ‘The Life of St. David,’ by A.W. Wade Evans, pub SPCK 1923
‘Leominster, Herefordshire, on the river Lugg ; the Welsh Life, erroneously placing it on the Severn, calls it Llan Llieni. Leland says, ” Limstre of sum is caullid in Walsche, Llinlini, of flex or hempe growing therabout.” The earliest reference to Leominster appears to be in the Saxon Chronicle at 1046, where mention is made of ” the Abbess of Leominster.” J. E. Southall in 1893 says (in Wales and her Language,), “The writer has heard an old Radnorshire woman, hailing from Abbey Cwmhir, near Rhayader, repeat the doggerel, which she had heard many years before: ‘How many miles, how many Is it from Leominster to Llanllieni ? ‘ and he is assured that Leominster is still known by some Welsh people as Llanllieni.”
So I didn’t make it up; but I still don’t know where I heard it. I’m glad I did though – it’s a lovely thing on the tongue. Try it.
‘How many miles, how many, from Leominster to Llanllieni?’
I find it beautiful but somehow makes me sad. I am emotionally disturbed though, these days.