This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 26th October 1998, reproduced by kind permission of the author, the late Desmond Holden.

The “What's in a Name” series was a regular feature in the Advertiser over the period 1993‑2004, taking a refreshing look at the derivation of some typically Derbyshire surnames.

Articles are confined to the origins and meanings of surnames, and do not indicate any particular interest on Desmond's part in the genealogy, descent, or family history of individuals bearing the surnames featured.

Editor's Note: Articles are provided for general interest and background only. They are not intended to provide an exhaustive treatise for any individual family history - investigations of which may yield quite different results. Or, in Desmond's own words:

“In the end it must remain with individual bearers of the names to draw upon family traditions and to seek out such documentary evidence as is available to decide the matter for themselves.”

WHAT'S IN A NAME … Are you called TRINICK?

A reader living locally has expressly asked for this name in connection with the Marie Cure Cancer Fund Event sponsored by the Rotary Club.

It is an extremely uncommon name, even in Cornwall where it most certainly originated. Reference has been made to all the available lists of surnames which between them cover more than 70,000 names but it is not included. When this omission has been previously encountered with regard to other surnames, it can be easily accounted for as being a misspelling of a verifiable name - as, for example, "Colledge" is a misrendering of the place-name "Colwich" in in Staffordshire.

Cornish surnames however present a problem. They are very poorly documented and furthermore, the overwhelming majority of them are based on place-names: nick-names and occupational names are not often met with. However the Ordnance Survey Gazeteer, which lists every site which appears on the official maps was consulted and, disappointingly for all concerned, "Trinick" is simply not included.

Even so, when this situation has presented itself to the Peak Advertiser it has been resolved by checking the possibilities that the particular name has been derived from the name of a "lost village". (This occurs in the case of "Hamilton" which will be appearing in a future issue).

An enormous number of place-names in Cornwall are comprised of two units. The first is the prefix "Tre-" which signifies "farm, settlement, village etc." Occasionally it appears as an alternative with "Tri-" as in the case of "Trispen/Trespan" (4 miles north of Truro) and, sometimes, even merely as "Tr-" as in the case of "Truro" (but?). Sometimes "Tri-" has been interpreted as "three" but it is submitted that this meaning cannot be extended to "Trinick" because "three" implies a plurality and the Cornish ending of a plural word was "-ow" which often reduces simply to "oe" or just "-o".

The second units of names beginning with "Tre-" are variable and they very often defy explanation. In most guide books they are passed over in silence. And it isn't always small and obscure places or surnames which are affected. Even the units of "Truro" cannot be accounted for with certainty and the well-known name "Trelawney" is subject to the formula: "of uncertain form and origin".

However the Peak Advertiser is prepared to take a plunge and suggests that the second unit in "Trinick" could be the remnant of a personal name. There are two contenders: a Welsh name "Enog" and a Cornish one, "Ninnoc". The first, "Enog", is know to have been borne by a Welsh chieftan in Anglo-Saxon times, but could have been much earlier used. Although it was quite common in Wales it wasn't all that popular elsewhere. Communication between Wales and the south-west was frequent and the name could have made its way there. A man called "Enog" or "Enock" could have had a small settlement named after him, as "Tre-enock" which could have modulated into "Trencok" then to "Trinick". Possibly the habitation disbanded for some reason or other and the people dispersed, taking the name with them.

The alternative - "Ninnoc" is slightly more favoured by the Peak Advertiser. It is assumed that the site was originally called "Treninnoc". The "-i-" in the middle is stressed somewhat and in the fullness of time this emphasis could have brought about the assimilation of the preceding "-e-" and the following "-o-" and a foreshortening of the name altogether, yielding "Trinic" (later "Trinick").

This is a Saint's name "Ninnoc". Very little is known about her, other than that she was possibly of Welsh ancestry. She is believed to have come into Cornwall early in the 5th Century, then crossed over to Brittany where she established a Nunnery and was the Abbess. She died c. 467 A.D. and is commemorated 4th June. Of course it is perfectly possible that the "Ninnoc" embodied in the place-name was not the same person, but another Holy Person who adopted the name at a later date.

Equally so it could just as easily have been borne by a lay-person, but the religious association would be a little more likely since farms and settlements tend to be identified with men's names - though not invariably.

Allowing for a little inspired speculation it could have been that the site was originally occupied by a very small religious community, especially venerating St. Ninnoc (of whom images still survive). For some reason it folded up. The religious personages transferred to another community (perhaps in Brittany) and the few lay-workers simply moved away to find work elsewhere. Amidst their new neighbours they were known as "the men from Trinick" (i.e. "St. Ninnoc's Place").

As time went on memories of the community faded. If the men moved far away the name would have been unrecognisable and especially if the site was totally abandoned and all vestiges vanished. Since surnames at that period were of no great importance it was convenient for most of them to adopt others and only a few, for whatever reason, retained "Trinick".

That may very well account for the few survivals today. There are only two entries in the local Cornish Directories and less than a dozen listed between Bristol and Land's End. One example has been traced in inner London and three in adjacent regions. Absolutely no entries occur for Northumberland, Durham or Tyneside. There is one in Warrington. The pattern is repeated across the Country. As might be expected there are no bearers of the name in the Standard Biographies.

The Peak Advertiser acknowledges the assistance of a correspondent in Cornwall in seeking to find an explanation of this puzzling name. However, like the Advertiser he was obliged to share its regrets that no really positive explanation could be produced.

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From "The Peak Advertiser", 26th October 1998.

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