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Pomona or Mainland?

"It follows, therefore, that “Pomona,” should be banished from the geography of the Orkneys..."
George W. Dasent - Icelandic Sagas Vol 3

The Latin name "Pomona" can still be seen, sometimes, on the occasional modern map and encyclopaedia article about Orkney.

But the name "Pomona", which is also the name of the Roman goddess of Fruit and Plenty, has never actually been used by Orcadians. Instead, its use is stems from a mistranslation of an early Roman passage.

It is generally agreed that George Buchanan (1506-1582), a Scottish scholar of Latin, mistranslated a passage by the Roman author Solinus.

Solinus, referring to Orkney (Orcades) and Thyle (Thule), wrote:

“Ab Orcadibus Thylen usque 5 dierum ac noctium navigatio est; sed Thyle larga et diutina Pomona copiosa est.”

The correct translation of this passage is:

“Thyle, which was distant from Orkney by a voyage of five days and nights, was fruitful and abundant in the lasting yield of its crops.”

However, when Buchanan read the passage he assumed that "Pomona" referred to a second island and that it read: “Thule is large and Pomona is rich and fertile."

From this he concluded that this "Pomona" had to be the main island of Orkney, and subsequently, in his Rerum Scoticarum Historia, he wrote:

“Orcadum maxima multis veterum Pomona vocatur,”

Which translates as:

"The biggest isle of the Orcades is call’d by many of the ancients Pomona."

Thus by a mere scholarly blunder the name "Pomona" became firmly attached to the Mainland. And outside Orkney, the name stuck - although it was generally only used on official documents such as maps, accounts etc.

The term eventually fell out of widespread use by the early 1800s, but clings on tenaciously and can still be found, here and there, today. A mistake that has never been corrected.