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Title: Orkney and Shetland Folk 872-1350
Author: Johnston, A. W.
Language: English
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  Orkney and Shetland Folk
  872-1350


  BY
  A. W. JOHNSTON


  LONDON
  Printed for the Viking Society for Northern Research
  University of London
  1914



ORKNEY AND SHETLAND FOLK, 872-1350.


  NOTE.--Unless where otherwise stated this paper is founded on
  _Orkneyinga Saga_ (Rolls Series, text and translation). Page
  references are to _Orkney and Shetland Records_, Vol. I. Fb.,
  _Flateyjarbók_. Hkr., _Heimskringla_. J.J., Jacob Jakobsen’s works.
  S.S., _Sturlunga Saga_.

This paper is an attempt to describe the mixed races which inhabited
Orkney and Shetland from the foundation of the Norse earldom, in
872, until the end of the rule of the Gaelic earls, _circa_ 1350,
and it is a first instalment of the evidence on which a paragraph
on “person-names” was founded, in the _Introduction_ to _Orkney and
Shetland Records_, vol. I.

The earliest inhabitants, of whom we have any record, were the Picts,
and the Irish papas and Columban missionaries, who must have brought
some Irish settlers with them.

It has already been suggested that the Norse must have settled in
Orkney and Shetland, _circa_ 664, among the aboriginal race, the Picts,
who would have become their thralls, and with whom the settlers would
have intermarried.

The first Norsemen who came to Orkney and Shetland would have been
adventurers, and not settlers with wives, families and thralls, such
as later went to Iceland and Orkney. Consequently such adventurers
who settled in the islands would naturally have intermarried with the
aborigines. This kind of male settlement may have gone on for some
time, before the actual _bona fide_ colonisation took place.

It has already been pointed out that Shetland was not so fully
colonised as Orkney, at the commencement of the Norse migration, which
appears to account for the older Norse dialect forms in Orkney, and
for the survival of more Keltic island-names in Shetland.

A stronger Pictish strain is thus, on that account, to be looked for in
Shetland. The Norse would select the easiest landing-places, while the
Kelts would occupy the inland and inaccessible places, as they did in
the Isle of Man. The two inland districts of Hara and Stennes in Orkney
are especially rich in the remains of the pre-Norse inhabitants--stone
circles, brochs, etc.; and Ireland, the only sea-board of Stennes, is
particularly inhospitable for shipping.

Besides the archæological and topographical proof of the continued
residence of the Picts in Orkney and Shetland, there is the much more
reliable evidence of anthropology, in the existence of a large strain
of the small and dark race in both Orkney and Shetland, representing
the aboriginal race, the later prisoners of raids and the later
settlers from Scotland. Allowance must also be made for thralls brought
from Norway.

Queen Auðr djúpauðga (deeply-wealthy) or djúpúðga (deeply-wise),
passed through Orkney, in the ninth century, on her way to Iceland,
with twenty freed Irish thralls. After this, Einarr, grandson of earl
Torf-Einarr, went to Iceland from Orkney with two Vestmenn (Irishmen).
_Írar_, Irish, occurs in place-names in Iceland, Orkney and Shetland,
in each of which latter there is an _Ireland_.

It will now be proved that there were only three possible pure-bred
Norse earls of Orkney and Shetland, viz., the first three--Sigurðr hinn
ríki, his son, GuÞormr, and his nephew, Hallaðr.

The first earl of the main line was Torf-Einarr, who was half Norse
and half thrall, his mother being probably of the pre-Norse dark
race. His son, the next earl, married a Gael, and after this, through
repeated Gaelic marriages, the succeeding earls in the Norse male
line were never more than a cross between Norse and Gael, sometimes
almost approaching pure-bred Gaels, if the rules of a modern breeding
society are to be observed. The same holds good of earl St. Rögnvaldr,
a Norwegian, who succeeded on the distaff side, his mother being of
Gaelic extraction. The Gaelic conversion of the earls was completed on
the succession of the Gaelic earls in 1139.

The next step will be to show that the leading families, some of which
were related to the earls, were also mainly of Gaelic descent, and in
some cases probably in the male line.

As the Gaels did not give up patronymics and begin to assume permanent
surnames (usually those of their chiefs), until after 1350, those
who settled in Orkney before that, and became Norse in language
and customs, of course adopted the Norse, in place of the Gaelic,
patronymic, _i.e._, _-son_ for _mac-_. This was done by the Gaelic
earls in Orkney, in precisely the same way as had been done by the
Irish settlers in Iceland.

In reply to a query, Sir Herbert Maxwell writes: “You ask me to fix a
date ‘when patronymics flourished and ceased in the Highlands?’ I think
it would be impossible to do so. There were few, if any, fixed surnames
in England or Lowland Scotland before the middle of the thirteenth
century, other than territorial ones, derived from the feudal tenure
of land. In the Highlands, the adoption of fixed names appears to have
been indefinitely deferred. Such counties as Perth and Dumbarton,
being nearest the frontier of civilisation, their people would find it
convenient to conform to the habit of their neighbours. In more remote
districts the shifting patronymic prevailed much longer, and when it
was abandoned individuals frequently assumed the surname of their
chief or the name of his clan, which accounts for the old patronymic
‘Macdonald’ being the third commonest surname in Scotland; Smith and
Brown being first and second.”

In the following description particular attention will be called
to personal appearance, character, habits, superstitions, etc., as
indications of descent.


THE NORSE EARLS.

Earl Torf-Einarr, 875-910, was the illegitimate son of the Norwegian
earl Rögnvaldr, by a thrall mother who was thrall born on all sides,
_í allar ættir þrælborinn_. He was therefore half Norse and half
thrall. His mother was probably of the pre-Norse small dark race, the
Finnar or Lappir, which may account for her son being ugly, _ljótr_,
one-eyed, _einsýnn_, but keen-sighted, _skygnstr_, an expression which
latterly meant second-sighted, and capable of seeing elves, etc. He
saw, what others did not, Hálfdán há-leggr, the self-appointed “king of
Orkney,” bobbing up and down on another island, and had a _blóð-örn_,
blood-eagle, carved on him.

His poetic genius may have been the result of the mixture of Norse and
Finn. He died of sickness, _sótt-dauðr_, equivalent to _strá-dauðr_,
straw-dead, died in bed, an ignominious death for a víkingr.

Nothing is known of his wife, but, as he had children before he left
Norway, she was, probably, a Norwegian.

His children were earls Þorfinnr, Arnkell and Erlendr, and two
daughters, Þórdís, born in his youth, in Norway (she was brought up
by her grandfather, earl Rögnvaldr, and married Þórgeirr klaufi,
whose son Einarr went to Orkney to his kinsmen, and as they would not
receive him, he bought a ship and went to Iceland), and Hlíf, who had
descendants in Iceland.

Earl Þorfinnr hausakljúfr (skull-cleaver), 910-963, was the son of earl
Torf-Einarr and an unknown mother, probably Norwegian, so that he would
be three-fourths Norse and one-fourth thrall in descent. He married
Grelöð, a daughter of Dungað (Gaelic _Donnchadh_, Duncan), Gaelic earl
of Caithness, and Gróa, daughter of Þorsteinn rauðr.[1]

[1] Hkr.

He is described as a great chief and warrior, _mikill höfðingi ok
herskár_, and died of sickness, _sótt-dauðr_, and was buried in a
mound, _heygðr_, in Rögnvaldsey _á Haugs-eiði_, at Hoxa. The Saga
reads _á Hauga-heiði_, wrongly; this isthmus would have been called
_Haugs-eið_, how’s isthmus, because the Norse found on it a large
mound, which covered the ruins of a pre-Norse round tower, in which the
earl may have been buried.

His children were earls Arnfinnr, Hávarðr ár-sæli (of prosperous
years), Hlöðver, Ljótr or Arnljótr, and Skúli, and two daughters. Three
of his five sons married, in turn, the murdress Ragnhildr, daughter
of king Eiríkr blóðöx and the notorious Gunnhildr. She killed her
first husband herself. The second husband was killed by his nephew
Einarr klíningr (butter), at the instigation of his aunt, who promised
to marry him, and for which deed he was thought to be a _níðingr_,
dastard. Preparatory to marrying the third brother, she got rid of
Einarr at the hands of his cousin Einarr harðkjöptr (hard-jawed), who
was in turn slain by the third and last husband.

One cannot wonder at the character of Ragnhildr, considering the
antecedents of her mother Gunnhildr, the reputed daughter of Özurr
toti, a lord in Hálogaland. She, probably a Finn, was found in a
Finmark cot, studying wizardry, and was brought to Eiríkr blóðöx, who,
struck with her great beauty, obtained her in marriage. She was held
guilty of having poisoned king Hálfdán svarti. Her life was spent in
plotting and mischief. She is described in _Heimskringla_: the fairest
of women, wise and cunning in witchcraft; glad of speech and guileful
of heart, and the grimmest of all folk. Fortunately, her daughter left
no descendants in Orkney.

Earl Hlöðver (Ludovick or Lewis), 963-980, was the son of earl
Þorfinnr hausakljúfr, and Grelöð, who was half a Gael, and so he was
five-eighths Norse, one-eighth thrall and two-eighths Gael. He is
described as a mighty chief, _mikill höfðingi_, and died of sickness,
_sótt-dauðr_. He married Eðna (Eithne), daughter of the Irish king,
Kjarvalr (Cearbhall). She was learned in witchcraft, _margkunnig_,
and wove a magic banner, _merki_, in raven form, _hrafns-mynd_, for
her son; and predicted that those before whom it was borne should be
victorious, _sigrsæll_, but it would be deadly, _banvænt_, to the
bearer.

Their children were earl Sigurðr hinn digri, and a daughter, Nereiðr or
Svanlaug, who married earl Gilli of Kola (Coll).

Earl Sigurðr hinn digri, 980-1014, was the son of earl Hlöðver and
an Irish Gael, and was 5/16 Norse, 1/16 thrall, and 10/16 Gael. He
was a mighty chief, _höfðingi mikill_, and a great warrior.[2] He was
killed in the battle of Clontarf, _Brjáns-bardagi_, in Ireland in
1014, with the fatal _hrafns-merki_ wound around him, as no one else
would bear his _fjándi_, fiend. He was converted to Christianity by
the sword-baptism of king Ólafr Tryggvason, although he expressed his
preference for the religion and carved gods of his Norse forefathers,
notwithstanding any Christian teaching he may have received from his
Irish mother beyond witchcraft. He gave up the confiscated óðul to
the Orkney bœndr (for one generation) in return for military services
rendered against the Scots. The name of his first wife is unknown,
and his second one was a daughter of Malcolm, the Scot king. His
children by his first wife were Hundi or Hvelpr (Gaelic, _Cuilen_, who
was baptised with the name of his grandfather, earl Hlöðver), Einarr
rang-muðr, stern, grasping, unfriendly, and a great warrior, Brúsi,
meek, kept his feelings well in hand, humble and ready-tongued, and
Sumarliði.

[2] Hkr.

Earl Þorfinnr hinn ríki, 1014-1064, was the son of earl Sigurðr digri
and his second wife, a Gael, and was 5/32 Norse, 1/32 thrall, and 26/32
Gael in descent. He was _bráðgjörr í vexti, manna mestr ok sterkastr_,
early in reaching full growth, tallest and strongest of men; _svartr
á hár_, black hair; _skarpleitr ok skolbrúnn_, sharp features and
swarthy complexion; _ljótr_, ugly; _nefmikill_, big nose; _kappsmaðr_,
an energetic man; _ágjarn bæði til fjár ok metnaðar_, greedy of wealth
and honour; _sigrsæll_, lucky in battle; _kænn í orrostum_, skilful in
war; _góðr áræðis_, of good courage. King Ólafr found that Þorfinnr
was _miklu skapstærri en Brúsi_, much more proud of spirit than his
brother, Brúsi. Þorfinnr gladly agreed with all the king’s proposals,
but the king doubted that he meant to go back on them, whereas he
thought that Brúsi, who drove a hard bargain, would keep his word,
and would be a _trúnaðar-maðr_, faithful liegeman. The earl married
Ingibjörg, jarla-móðir, daughter of Finnr Árnason. He made a pilgrimage
to Rome, got absolution from the Pope, and built the first cathedral in
Birsa, Orkney, where he died.

He was liberal, in that he did that _frama-verk_, honourable deed, by
which he provided his _hirð_, bodyguard, and many other _ríkis-menn_,
mighty men, all winter through, with both _matr ok mun-gát_, food and
ale, so that no man required to put up at a _skytningr_, inn; whereas,
kings and earls in other lands, merely made a like provision only
during Yule. Arnórr jarlaskáld sang to his praise in his _Þorfinns
drápa_, and noted his liberal fare.

His children were earls Páll and Erlendr, who were _miklir menn ok
fríðir_, mickle men and handsome, and so took after their Norwegian
_móðurætt_, mother’s kin, and were _vitrir ok hógværir_, wise and
modest; taking after their mother, a Norwegian, is in contrast to their
father, who was almost a pure-bred, black-haired, swarthy Gael.

Earl Rögnvaldr Brúsason, 1036-1046, was the son of earl Brúsi
Sigurðarson and an unknown mother, and the nephew of earl Þorfinnr
hinn ríki. The _fríðastr_, most handsome of all men; _hárit mikit ok
gult sem silki_, much hair, yellow as silk; _snimma mikill ok sterkr,
manna var hann gjörfiligastr bæði fyrir vits saker ok svá kurteisi_,
tall and strong, the most perfect man was he both in wits and courtesy;
_fríðastr sjónum_, most handsome in face; _atgervi-maðr mikill svá at
eigi fanst hans jafningi_, an accomplished man without an equal. Arnórr
jarlaskáld said that he was the _bezt menntr af Orkneyja-jörlum_, the
most accomplished and best bred of the earls of Orkney. From this
description one would imagine that his unknown mother and grandmother
had both been Norwegians. It is not stated whether he was married or
had any children.

Earl Páll Þorfinnsson, 1064-1098, was the son of earl Þorfinn hinn ríki
and Ingibjörg, a Norwegian, after whom he took--handsome and modest. He
was thus 19/32 Norse and 13/32 Gael in descent.

He married a daughter of earl Hákon Ívarsson and Ragnhildr, daughter
of king Magnús hinn góði. Their children were earl Hákon, and four
daughters, Herbjörg (ancestress of bishop Biarni), Ingiriðr, Ragnhildr
(ancestress of Hákon kló), and Þóra.

He was banished to Norway, in 1098, where he died.

From 1098 to 1103, Sigurðr (afterwards king Sigurðr Jórsalafari), the
eighty-year-old son of king Magnús berfœttr, was earl of Orkney.

Earl Erlendr Þorfinnsson, 1064-1098, was the son of earl Þorfinnr
hinn ríki and Ingibiörg, a Norwegian, and so was 19/32 Norse and
13/32 Gael in descent. He married Þóra Sumarliðadóttir, whose mother
and grandmother are not mentioned, but her father was the son of an
Icelander. The earl was banished to Norway, in 1098, where he died.

His children were, earl St. Magnús, Gunnhildr, who married Kolr
Kalason, whose son Kali became earl Rögnvaldr, and Cecilia who
married Ísak, a Norwegian, whose sons were Kolr and Eindriði. He had
a thrall-born illegitimate daughter called Játvör (fem. of Játvarðr,
the Norse form of Edward), who had a son called Borgar,--the earliest
record of this name, which, however, occurs in Norwegian place-names;
they were both, mother and son, rather disliked, _úvinsæl_.

Earl Hákon Pálsson, 1103-1122, was the son of earl Páll Þorfinnsson and
a Norwegian mother, and was 51/64 Norse and 13/64 Gael in descent.

He was _ofstopamaðr mikill_, a very overbearing man, _mikill ok
sterkr_, great and strong; and _vel menntr um alla hluti_, well-bred,
accomplished in every way. He would be the _fyrirmaðr_, leader, over
his cousins, and thought himself better born, being the great grandson
of king Magnús hinn góði. He always wanted the largest share for
himself and his friends, and was _öfund_, jealous, of his cousins. When
abroad he suffered from _landmunr_, home-sickness, and wanted _at sækja
vestr til Eyja_, to seek west to the _Isles_ (Orkney). He consulted a
wizard as to his future. He murdered his cousin, St. Magnús, in order
to get the whole earldom, and then made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
He ended by being a good ruler, and died in the Isles.

It is not known whom he married, if he was wedded at all; but his son,
earl Páll, appears to have had a mother other than his father’s known
_frilla_ or concubine. She was a Gael, Helga, daughter of Moddan, a
nobleman rolling in wealth, _göfugr maðr ok vell-auðigr_, who lived in
Dalir, or Dalr, in Katanes. The Gaelic name _Moddan_ may be connected
with the Irish _O’Madadhain_. This man’s family of daughters was a
disgrace even to the morals of the twelfth century. After earl Hákon’s
death, Helga, aided by her sister Frakök, attempted to murder her
step-son, earl Páll, by means of a bewitched garment, white as snow,
_línklœði hvitt sem fönn_, which they had sewn and embroidered with
gold, but which her own jealous son donned and paid the penalty. Earl
Páll, who naturally deemed that this precious article, _gersemi_, had
been intended for him, promptly cleared them, and their family and
dependents, _skulda-lið_, out of the islands.

It was the opinion of earl Rögnvaldr that Frakök was an old hag who
would not do anybody good, _kerling er til einkis er fær_. She was
burnt alive in her house by Sveinn Ásleifarson, for having instigated
her grandson Ölver rósta to burn Svein’s father in his house.
Moddan’s carlines and their offspring wormed themselves into Orkney
society. Frakök (a Gaelic name?) married Ljótr níðingr (the dastard)
of Sutherland, and their daughter married Þorljótr of Rekavík (in
Orkney). Another daughter married Þorsteinn fjaranz-muðr (dreadful
mouth). Þorleif Moddansdöttir was the mother of Auðhildr, the frilla
of Sigurðr slembi-djákn (the slim or tricky deacon), by whom he had an
illegitimate daughter, who married Hákon kló. Sigurðr himself, was the
illegitimate son of a priest, Aðalbrigð. When he and Frakök came to
Orkney a great faction, _sveitar-dráttr mikill_, took place. He took
part in the slaughter of Þorkell fóstri, a man much beloved in Orkney,
for which the deacon was promptly deported as an undesirable alien. As
the pretended son of king Magnús berfœttr, he, however, met a terrible
death with remarkable fortitude. Earl Hákon’s children were: earls
Haraldr slétt-máli (smooth-speaking) and Páll úmálgi (the silent),
Margrét, who married Maddadh, the Gaelic earl of Atholl, and Ingibjörg,
who married Ólafr bitlingr (the morsel), king of Suðreyjar.

Earl St. Magnús Erlendsson, 1108-1116, was the son of earl Erlendr
Þorfinnsson and Þóra Sumarliðadóttir. In descent, 51/64 Norse 13/64
Gael. In personal appearance he was, great of growth, _mikill at
vexti_; manly, _drengiligr_; intellectual in appearance, _skýligr
at yfirlitum_. The saga is voluminous in a description of his
good qualities, etc., _e.g._, he was a most noble man, _ágætastr_;
of good morals in life, _siðgóðr í háttum_; fortunate in battle,
_sigrsæll í orrostum_; a sage in wit, _spekingr at viti_; eloquent
and high-spirited and generous, _málsnjallr ok ríklundaðr_; liberal
of wealth and magnanimous, _örr af fé ok stórlyndr_; wise in counsel
and more beloved than any other man, _ráðsvinnr ok hverjum manni
vinsælli_; gentle and of good speech, with kind and good men, _blíðr
ok góðr viðmælis við spaka menn ok góða_; hard and unforbearing with
robbers and víkingar, _harðr, ok úeirinn við ránsmenn ok víkinga_;
he let murderers and thieves be taken and punished, high and low,
for robbery and theft and all bad deeds, _lét hann taka morðingja ok
þjófa, ok refsaði svá ríkum sem úríkum rán ok þyfsku ok öll úknytti_;
impartial in judgment, _eigi vinhallr í dómum_; he valued godly
justice, _guðligan rétt_, more than rank, _mann-virðingar_; munificent,
_stórgjöfull_, with _höfðingjar ok ríkis-menn_; but ever showed great
solicitude and comfort, _huggan_, for poor men, _fátækir menn_.
Along with his cousin, earl Hákon, he burnt a Shetlander, Þorbjörn í
Borgarfirði, in his house, and they slew their cousin Dufnjáll, without
any reason being assigned in either case.

St. Magnús, as a youth, accompanied king Magnús on his expedition in
1098, but refused to fight, because he said he had no quarrel against
any man there, and he took a psalter, _saltari_, and sung during the
battle. He married an unknown Scotswoman of noble family, he had no
children, and was murdered by his cousin, earl Hákon, on April 16th,
798 years ago.

Earl Rögnvaldr Kali hinn helgi, 1136-1158, was the son of Gunnhildr,
earl Erlends dóttir and Kolr Kalason, a Norwegian, and thus 115/128
Norse and 13/128 Gael in descent. He is described as a most promising
man, _efniligasti maðr_; of average growth, _meðal-maðr á vöxt_;
well set, _kominn vel á sik_; best limbed man, _limaðr manna bezt_;
light chestnut hair, _ljósjarpr á hár_; a most accomplished man,
_atgervi-maðr_. He numbered nine accomplishments, _iþróttir_, viz.,
_tafl_, chess, _rúnar_, runes, _bók_, book (reading and writing),
_smíð_, smith work, _skríða_, _á skíðum_, sliding on snow-shoes,
_róðr_, rowing, _hörpu-sláttr_, harp-playing, _brag-þáttr_,
versification, to which may be added a tenth, _sund_, swimming, as he
frequently _lagðist yfir vatnit_, in dangerous places. The king gave
him the name of earl Rögnvaldr Brúsason, because his mother said that
he had been the most accomplished, _görviligasti_, of all the earls of
Orkney, and that was thought to bring good luck, _heilla-vænligr_.

In 1134, he plotted with his disreputable Gaelic relative, Ölver rósta,
to oust earl Páll, but was not successful. Like a good víkingr he was
slain in 1158, and was briefly described as _íþrótta-maðr mikill ok
skáld gott_, a very accomplished man and a good skáld.

The name and race of his wife are unknown. He had a daughter, Ingigerð,
who married Eiríkr stagbrellr, in Sutherland (a grandson of one of
Moddan’s carlines, and whose mother had been the frilla of the slim
deacon), and their children were, earl Haraldr ungi, who was slain
in 1198, Magnús mangi (nobody; _Mangi_ is also a contracted form of
_Magnús_, which is sometimes spelt _Mangus_ in Orkney documents),
Rögnvaldr, Ingibiörg, Elin, and Ragnhildr.

Margrét, daughter of earl Hákon Pálsson and Helga Moddansdóttir, was
51/128 Norse, 77/128 Gael, and is described as _fríð kona ok svarri
mikill_, a beautiful woman and very proud. She married Maddadh, the
Gaelic earl of Atholl, as his second wife, and was the mother of
Haraldr Maddaðarson, who became earl of Orkney. After her husband’s
death she returned to Orkney and had an illegitimate son by Gunni,
Svein’s brother, for which he was outlawed. After that she eloped with
Erlendr ungi, of whom nothing is known.[3]

[3] He has been unaccountably confused with earl Erlendr, who would
thus have run off with his own aunt.


THE GAELIC EARLS.

Earl Haraldr Maddaðarson, 1139-1206, was the son of Margrét
Hákons-dóttir and Maddadh, Gaelic earl of Athole (Gaelic, _maddadh_,
a dog), and was 51/256 Norse, 205/256 Gael. When about twenty years
of age, he was _mikill maðr vexti ok sterkr, ljótr maðr ok vel vitr_,
a big man in growth and strong, an ugly man and well-witted. He was a
_mikill höfðingi_, great chief; _manna mestr ok sterkastr_, the tallest
and strongest of men; _ódæll ok skap-harðr_, overbearing and harsh.

He was twice married, viz., (1) Afreka, daughter of Duncan, Gaelic earl
of Fife, whom he repudiated, and (2) Hvarflöð (Gaelic, _Gormflaith_),
daughter of Malcolm, earl of Morhæfi (Moray). The names of the children
of the first were, Heinrekr (Henry), Hákon, Helena, Margrét, and by
the second, Þorfinnr, Davið, Jón, Gunnhildr, Herborg, and Langlíf. He
allowed a rebellion, against king Sverrir, to be hatched in Orkney, for
which he had Shetland taken from him in 1194, when it was placed under
the government of Norway,[4] and was not restored to the earls till
1379.

[4] Fb.

Here the _Orkneyinga Saga_ ends, and information about the succeeding
earls is derived from documents few and far between.

Earl Haraldr Maddaðarson was succeeded by his sons, earls Davið
Haraldsson, d.s.p. 1214, and Jón Haraldsson, slain, 1231, the latter
having been predeceased by his son, Haraldr Jónsson, who was drowned in
1226.[5] Earl Jón Haraldsson was succeeded by Malcolm, the Gaelic earl
of Angus, from whom the title was transferred to his kinsman (uncle or
cousin), earl Magnús, who was succeeded by his son or brother, earl
Gilbert (Gaelic, _Gilleabart_), who was succeeded by his son, earl
Magnús Gilbertsson, who was succeeded by his sons, earls Magnús and
John and another earl Magnús, after which the earldom passed to Malise,
(Gaelic, _Maoliosa_), Gaelic earl of Strathearn, through his great
grandmother, a daughter of earl Gilbert. After Malise, the earldom,
after an interregnum, passed to his daughter’s son, Henry St. Clair,
in whom the earldom was vested in 1379. His grandson, earl William,
after the wadset of Orkney and Shetland to Scotland in 1468-9, resigned
his right to the earldom to the crown of Scotland in 1472, when it was
annexed to the crown as a royal title.[6]

[5] Isl. Annals.

[6] _Scots Peerage._


THE GŒÐINGAR: EARL’S MEN.

The suggestion of Vigfússon in the Oxford _Dictionary_ that
the _gœðingar_ of the earls of Orkney were synonymous with the
_lendir-menn_ of the kings of Norway can be amply proved by the Saga.
One explicit instance gives a clue to the whole mystery, viz., that of
Kúgi, a gœðingr (of earl Páll), whom we find living in Hreppisnes, now
Rapnes, in Westrey. The bú of Rapnes, Swartmeill, and Wasbuster, were,
in 1503, described as _boardlands_ or _borlands_ of the old earldom,
paying no skattr. _Bordland_ or _borland_ is a Scottish loanword,
meaning, “land kept for the board of the laird’s house.”[7] The Oxford
_New English Dictionary_ states that the form _bordland_ is first found
in Bracton, c. 1250, by whom it is wrongly derived from _bord_, a
table, whereas it is from M. Lat. _borda_, a hut, cot, and was applied
to land held in _bordage_ tenure by a _bordar_, a villein of the lowest
rank, a cottier. The Gaelic _bòrlum_, royal castle lands, _borlanachd_,
compulsory labour for a landlord, must also come from the same source.

[7] _Scottish Land-Names_, by sir Herbert Maxwell, bt., 123, Macbain’s
_G. Dict._, s.v. _bòrlum_.

_Boardland_ in Orkney is, therefore, a translation of Old Norse
_veizlu-jörð_, land granted in fief for military service and for the
entertainment of the superior when on circuit. In accordance with the
_Hirðskrá_ of king Magnús Hákonsson, the earl, while prohibited from
disposing of the earldom lands, was permitted to grant earldom lands
_at veita_ or _at veizlu_, _i.e._, in return for military service and
entertainment. It seems certain that the same privilege was allowed by
the older _Hirðskrá_, which is now lost.

To return to Kúgi, he had the _upp-kvöð or útboð_, the calling out
of the levy, of ships and men, _leiðangr_, in Westrey. As he was the
instigator, _upphafsmaðr_, of a secret þing, _laun-þing_, in Westrey,
he probably acted as the representative of the earl in the district
assembly, _héraðs þing_. The localities of the other gœðingar support
the above conclusion.

Þorkell flatr was also in Westrey; Þorsteinn Hávarðarson Gunnason had
the calling out of the levy in Rinansey, and his brother Magnús that
of the adjoining island, Sandey, where there were the boardlands of
Brugh, Halkisnes, Tofts, Lopnes and Tresnes; Valþjófr Ólafsson was
in Stronsey, where there were skatt-fré lands; Sigurðr á Vestnesi in
Rousey, where part of Westnes was old earldom land; and this leads
to the conclusion that the gœðingar also held skatt-land as well as
skatt-fré land of the earldom _at veita_; Jón vængr abode in Háey,
where there is boardland. The earls also gave gifts, _veita gjafir_, to
their friends, the gœðingar.

_Gœði_ means, among other things, profits, emoluments, etc. It seems
certain that the _gœði_ in Caithness, which the king of Scotland
restored to Sveinn Ásleifarson, in 1152, were the _gœði_ of the
earldom, which he had formerly held as gœðingr.

The gœðingar of Orkney (and Shetland?) were thus the feoffees of
the earl of Orkney, from whom they received grants of earldom land,
_veizlu-jörð_, _at veita_ or _at veizlu_, in consideration of military
service and the entertainment of the earl, when on circuit. As the
feoffees of the earl’s _gœði_, or emoluments, they received the name of
_gœðingar_, corresponding to the _lendir-menn_, landed men, of Norway,
who were so-called because they held land or emoluments from the king
for similar duties. A distinction in nomenclature had to be drawn
between the king’s and the earl’s feoffees.

As was to be expected, some of the gœðingar were related to the
earls--remunerative government offices were then, as now, conferred
on the relatives and favourites of the rulers. Their military service
included the _upp-kvöð or útboð_, calling out of the _leiðangr_, levy,
the superintendence of the _vitar_, beacons, etc.

Their civil functions probably included attendance at the local
assembly, _héraðs Þing_, the nomination of delegates, _lögréttumenn_,
to the jury, _lögrétta_, of the law-thing, and generally the
representation of the executive in their respective districts.

As the callers out of the levy of ships and men, the gœðingar were
necessarily located at strategical points, with easy access to the sea
and in close touch with the beacons.

Mr. J. Storer Clouston has suggested with regard to the Orkney
place-name, _Clouston_, older forms, _Cloustath_ and _Clouchstath_,
which probably represent an original *_kló-staðr_, claw-stead, that
_kló_ is “the original proprietor’s name--possibly Hákon kló of the
Saga.”[8]

[8] _Sandey Church History_, by Rev. Alex. Goodfellow, Kirkwall, 1912,
p. 78.

Now Hákon kló, who flourished _circa_ 1150, was a gœðingr, and was
presumably connected with the islands of Sandey and Rinansey, over
which his brothers were gœðingar, and there is no historical or
traditional evidence associating him or his family with Clouston, in
any way.

Dr. Jakob Jakobsen has pointed out that _kló_, f., a claw, denotes, in
Norse place-names, something projecting, curved or pointed. It occurs
in a large number of place-names in Shetland, including an identical
name to that in Orkney, viz., Klusta, *_Kló-staðr_, _-staðir_, a
district situated on a headland between two bights. Now the bú, or
principal farm, of Clouston, from which the whole township takes its
name, is also situated on a ness; and directly opposite to the house is
a claw-formed or curved tongue of land which projects into the Loch of
Stennes, which leaves no possibility of a doubt as to the true origin
of the name.

With regard to nicknames, those which are person forenames in
themselves, such as _brúsi_, buck, and personifications such as
_hlaupandi_, landlouper, etc., are used in place-name formation; while
nicknames which merely point to an eccentricity in personal detail and
are attached to forenames, such as _kló_, finger-nail, _flat-nefr_,
flat nose, _rang-beinn_, _-eygr_, _-muðr_, wry-legged, squint-eyed,
wry-mouth, etc., do not lend themselves for place-names, _quasi_,
“flat-nose’s farm.” But even if such nicknames were detached from
their forenames and applied to places, they would be in the genitive
case, _e.g._, if Hákon kló had been known as kló (of which there is
no evidence) then his farm would have been called *_Klóar-staðr_,
Claw’s farm, not *_kló-staðr_, claw-farm, which could only point to
a claw-formation in the place, such as we actually find in Clouston
itself, and hence the name.

Circumstantial evidence is against Hákon kló, a gœðingr, with the
_uppkvöð_ of the _leiðangr_, levy of ships and men, being landlocked
in one of the very few inland townships in Orkney, situated from two
to three miles from the nearest easy landing place. Earl Haraldr
Maddaðarson in going from Grímsey to Fjörðr (Firth) by way of (Clouston
and) Orkahaugr (Maes-howe), chose Hafnarvágr (Stromness harbour) as his
landing place, and the same choice would be made now.

The nearest coast to Clouston is that of Ireland, which is quite
unsuited for shipping, owing to its exposed position, shallow water,
extensive beach at low water--a place to be avoided by sea-going craft.
Moreover, it has been shown that the gœðingar were in the occupation
of earldom lands, of which there were absolutely not a penn’orth in
Stennes, and next to none in the adjoining inland parish of Hara.
This lack of earldom land in these inland districts, corroborates
the supposition (p. xx), viz., that the earldom estate was formed of
the confiscated estates of the leading víkingar of 872, which would
naturally be situated on the seaboard with easy landing places, which
is a characteristic of the earldom estate; while the two inland and
inaccessible districts of Stennes and Hara are remarkable for their
wealth of Pictish remains and dearth of earldom lands.

The last notice we have of the gœðingar is in 1232, when a shipload
of them, _gœðinga-skip_, were drowned. Possibly the eighteen men of
Haraldr Jónsson, son of earl Jón Haraldsson, who were drowned, along
with him, on June 15th, 1226, were also gœðingar.[9]

[9] Isl. Annals.


INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES.

In 1106, Dufnjáll (Gaelic, _Domhnall_, Donald), son of earl Dungaðr
(Gaelic, _Donnchadh_, Duncan) was a first cousin once removed on the
father’s side, _firnari en bræðrungr_, of earls Hákon and Magnús,
by whom he was slain. Dufnjáll’s grandfather must have been an
illegitimate son of earl Þorfinnr hinn ríki, who lived mostly in
Caithness, and was almost a pure Gael.

In 1159, Jómarr, a kinsman of earl Rögnvaldr, is mentioned in
Caithness, and his name may be the Norse form of some Gaelic name.

In 1116, Gilli (Gaelic, _gille_, servant) was a _dugandi-maðr_, a
doughty or good man, with St. Magnús, and probably a relative of the
earl’s Gaelic wife.

Kúgi (G., Cogadh), 1128-1137, was a wealthy bóndi and a gœðingr of earl
Páll, and lived in Hreppisnes, now Rapnes, in Westrey, which he would
have held as _veizlu-jörð_. Nothing is told of his family or relations.
He is described as a _vitr_, wise man, and had the _uppkvöð_, calling
out of the levy, in Westrey. As a schemer himself, he smelt a rat
when the invading earl Rögnvaldr played a clever trick in getting the
Fair Isle beacon lit; and his pawky _eyrendi_, speech, thwarted the
internecine complications which that deed was designed to arouse. Earl
Rögnvaldr, however, unexpectedly, landed in Westrey, whereupon the
_eyjarskeggjar_, the “island beards,” _hljópu saman_, louped together,
to get Kúgi’s _ráð_, advice, which was that they should at once get
_grið_, peace, from the earl; and he and the Vestreyingar submitted to
the earl and swore oaths to him. One night, however, the earl’s men
caught Kúgi napping at a secret meeting for _svíkræði_, treachery,
against the earl. He was promptly put _í fjötra_, in fetters. When
the earl arrived on the scene, Kúgi fell at his feet and _bauð_,
offered or left, all his case in God’s hands and the earl’s. He then
tried to shift the blame on to others, and asserted that he had been
brought to the þing, _nauðigr_, unwilling, and that all the bœndr had
wanted him to be the _upphafsmaðr_, instigator, of the _ráð_, plot.
The Saga states that Kúgi pleaded his own cause _orðfærliga_, with
great elocution or glibly. Fortunately for Kúgi’s life, the humour of
the situation tickled the earl’s poetic fancy to such a degree that
he could not resist the temptation of letting off steam in one of his
habitual improvisations, stuffed with scathing ridicule; a lasting
punishment, more severe than the decapitation, or sound drubbing,
which the object of his poetic flight so richly deserved.

The earl referred to the fettered man before him as a _kveld-förlestr
karl_, a night-journey-hampered carl or old duffer, and advised him,
in future, never to hold _nátt-þing_, night meetings--which Vigfússon
says were not considered proper. The earl, further, admonished him that
it was needful to keep one’s oath and covenant. _Grið_, peace, was
given to all, and they bound their fellowship anew. Exit Kúgi, of whom
nothing further is related, beyond the one line which is preserved of
_Kúga drápa_, in praise of Kúgi, and which runs:

  _Megin-hræddir ro menn við Kúga, meiri ertu hverjom þeira._[10]
  All are afraid of Kúgi, thou outdoest them all.

[10] _Skálda._

This can only have been intended as biting sarcasm. His name and
character indicate that he was a typical bad Gael of his class.


SVEINN GROUP.

The next persons to be described are the family, relatives and
companions of Sveinn Ásleifarson.

Ólafr Hrólfsson was a gœðingr of earl Páll, and owned Gareksey
(Gairsey) in Orkney, and another bú in Dungalsbœr á Katanesi. He was
a most masterful man, _mesta afarmenni_, and his wife, Ásleif, was
wise and of great family, _vitr ok ættstór_, and most imperious, _ok
hin mesta fyrir sér_. In 1135, Ólafr had a great suite, _sveit mikla_,
á Katanesi, which included his sons Sveinn and Gunni, and Ásbjörn
and Murgaðr, sons of his friend Grímr of Svíney. His wife also lived
in Caithness at this time. Their children were Valþjófr (an English
name), Sveinn, Gunni, all well-bred men, _vel-menntir_, and a daughter,
Ingigerðr. Ólafr had a brother Helgi, who lived Þingvöllr in Hrossey,
now Tingwall in Mainland of Orkney, where the þing was held.

Sveinn Ólafsson, after his father’s burning, was called Ásleifarson,
after his mother. He married Ingirið Þorkelsdóttir, a kinswoman of earl
Haraldr Maddaðarson, and the widow of Andrés of Suðreyjar or Man. Their
children were, Ólafr, and Andrés, who married bishop Biarni’s sister,
Fríða, and was the father of Gunni, whose son, Andreas, was in Iceland
in 1235 (SS). Sveinn was a wise man and prophetic, _forspár_, about
many things, unfair and reckless, _újafnaðarmaðr ok úfyrirleitinn_.
When drinking with his karlar he took to speaking, _hann tók til orða_,
and rubbed his nose, _ok gneri nefit_, and remarked, “it is my thought”
about so and so, and then mentioned his foreboding, _hugboð_.

As an illustration of Svein’s masterful unfairness may be mentioned his
expedition against Holdboði. He asked the earl for _lið_, assistance,
and got five ships, of which the captains were Þorbjörn klerkr (a
grandson of Frakök and a brother-in-law of Sveinn), Hafliði son
Þorkels flettis, Dufnjáll son Hávarðs Gunnasonar, Ríkgarðr (Richard)
Þorleifsson and Sveinn himself. However, Holdboði judiciously fled,
but they slew many men in Suðreyjar and plundered wide and burnt and
got much booty, _fé_. On their return, when they were to share their
_herfang_, war spoil, Sveinn said that they should all share equally
except himself, who should have a chief’s share, _höfðingja-hlutr_,
because, he said, he alone had led them, and the earl had given them
to him for help, _til liðs_, and he alone had a quarrel with the
Suðreyingar, and they none. Þorbjörn thought that he had worked as much
and had been as much a leader, _fyrirmaðr_, as Sveinn. They also wished
all the ship-captains, _skipstjórnar-menn_, to have equal shares,
_jafnir hlutir_. But Sveinn would have his own way, _vildi þó ráða_,
and he had more men in the Nes than they had. Þorbjörn complained to
earl Rögnvaldr about Sveinn robbing them of their shares, _göra hlut
ræningja_. The earl said it was not the only time that Sveinn was an
unfair man, _engi jafnaðarmaðr_, and the day of retribution would
come for his wrong-doing, _ranglæti_. Although the earl made good
what Sveinn had cheated him of, Þorbjörn declared himself divorced
from Svein’s sister. The declaration made by him, _segir skilit við_,
corresponds with old Gulathinglaw, “ef maðr vill skiliast við kono sína
þa scal hann sva skilit segia at hvartveggia þeirra mege heyra mal
annars oc have við þat vatta.” The consequence of this was hostility,
_fjándskapr_, between them, which had its advantage, as it was now a
case of “Foruðin sjást bezt við”--the wrongdoer can best detect his
fellow. In contrast with the above is Svein’s sportsmanlike treatment
of earl Rögnvaldr. When earl Erlendr and Sveinn were at feud with earl
Rögnvaldr, on the latter’s return from his crusade, they captured his
ships and treasures. Sveinn claimed earl Rögnvald’s treasures as his
share of the spoil, which he promptly sent back to the earl. Being
a keen-sighted man, he probably anticipated that his drunken ally,
earl Erlendr, would ultimately be defeated by earl Rögnvaldr, whose
treasures from the Holy Land may have been curios and relics of no
great market value in the eyes of a víkingr.

Sveinn is further described as of all men the sharpest-sighted,
_skygnastr_, and saw things which others could not see. It was the
opinion of Jón vængr, junior, that Sveinn was a truce breaker,
_grið-níðingr_, and was true to no man. When earl Haraldr advised
him to give up roving and twitted him with being an unfair man,
_újafnaðarmaðr_, Svein’s answer was _tu quoque_, and there the
discussion ended. The Saga sums him up as “mestr maðr fyrir sér í
Vestrlöndum,” the most masterful man in the West, both of old and now,
of those men who had no higher _tignar-nafn_, rank, than he.

Of Svein’s relatives may be mentioned Eyvind Melbrigðason (Gael.,
_Maelbrighde_, servant of St. Bride or Bridgit). He was one of the
_göfugir-menn_, great men, with earl Páll, and superintended the earl’s
famous _Jóla-boð mikit_, great Yule feast, at which Sveinn killed
Sveinn.

Eyvind schemed to make his kinsman Sveinn Ásleifarson quarrel with his
namesake, Sveinn brjóstreip, and having succeeded in this, he then
plotted with Sveinn to kill Sveinn, and arranged an artful manœuvre, by
which the second Sveinn, before he died, killed his own relative, Jón,
the only other witness of the murder. Magnús Eyvindsson, by Eyvind’s
arrangement, took Sveinn by horse and boat to Damsey, where Blánn
sheltered him, and took him afterwards secretly to the bishop. Blánn
(Gael., _flann_, red), took charge of the castle in Damsey. His father,
Þorsteinn of Flyðrunes, his brother Ásbjörn krók-auga (squint-eye), and
himself were all _údœlir_, overbearing, men.

Jón vængr, senior, a relative of Sveinn, abode in Háey á upplandi.
He was a gœðingr. His brother Ríkarðr (Richard), abode in Brekka í
Strjonsey; they were notable men, _gildir-menn_. They burned Þorkell
flatr, a gœðingr, in the house which their kinsman, Valþjófr, had
owned. The earl had given Þorkell the house for finding out where
Sveinn (the brother of Valþjófr) had fled to, after the murder for
which he had been outlawed.

Jón vængr, junior, was a systur-son of Jón vængr, senior, and became
earl Harald’s _ármaðr_, or steward. He had two brothers, Blánn (Gaelic,
_Flann_) and Bunu-, or Hvínu-Pétr; (_buna_, a purling stream, and
_hvína_, to whistle or whine). These two were ignominiously disgraced
by Sveinn in a mock execution, to shame their brother Jón, who had
given Sveinn a bad character.

Of Svein’s companions may be mentioned Grímr, in Svíney, a _félitill_,
poor, man, and his Sons Asbjörn and Murgaðr (Gael., _Murchadh_,
Murdock). Sveinn, who was sýslumaðr for the earl in Caithness, on one
occasion, in his absence, deputed his office to Murgaðr, who turned
out _sakgæfinn_, quarrelsome, and _áleitinn_, provocative, and was
_úvinsæll_, unpopular, for his _újafnaðr_, tyranny. Along with Sveinn,
he did much _úspektir_, uproars, _í ránum_, in plunder, in Katanes.

As has already been mentioned, Ólafr Svein’s father was burnt in his
house in Caithness at the instigation of the hag, Frakök, whom Sveinn,
in turn, burnt in her house.

Svein’s father had estates both in Orkney and Caithness, and as he
resided in Caithness, where he had the _yfirsókn_, the stewardship,
of the earldom, and where Sveinn was afterwards sýslumaðr, the family
appears to have been a Caithness one, and the Caithness Clan Gunn claim
to be descended from Gunni Sveinsson. This, taken in conjunction with
the personal characteristics and the numerous Gaelic names of members
of the family, relations and friends, makes it probable that these
families were all of Gaelic descent in the male line.

Sveinn brjóstreip, _circa_ 1136, had a kinsman Jón, of whose family
nothing more is known. He was a hirðmaðr of earl Páll, by whom he was
well esteemed, _metinn vel af honum_. He spent the summer in víking
and the winter with the earl. He was a _mikill_ man and _sterkr_,
strong, _svartr_, of dark complexion, and rather evil-looking,
_úhamingju-samligr_, he was a great wizard, _forn mjök_, and had
always sat out at night (as a wizard), _úti setið_, in order to raise
_troll_, ghosts, which, in accordance with Old Gulathinglaw, was
_úbótaverk_, an unfinable crime punished by outlawry. He was one of
the earl’s forecastle men, _stafnbúi_, and was the foremost of all the
earl’s men in battle, and fought bravely, _barðist all-hraustliga_.
Sveinn preferred “sitting out” to attending midnight mass on Yule.
The bishop hailed his slaughter as a cleansing of the land of
miscreants, _land-hreinsan_. It was the opinion of Ragna of Rinansey,
that the earl had little scathe in Sveinn, even though he were a great
warrior or bravo, _garpr mikill_, and that the earl had suffered much
unpopularity, _úvinsældir miklar_, through him.

There can be little doubt as to the race of the swarthy wizard Sveinn,
notwithstanding his Norse name. With him compare the Icelandic-named
Gaelic witch, Þórgunna, in _Eyrbyggja Saga_.

Hávarðr Gunnason, _circa_ 1090, was a gœðingr, who married Bergljót,
daughter of Ragnhildr, daughter of earl Páll. Their children were
Magnús, Hákon kló, Dufnjáll (Gael., _Domhnall_, Donald) and Þorsteinn.
Hávarðr was on board earl Hákon’s ship, on the way to the last meeting
with earl St. Magnús; and when he was informed that Magnús was to be
killed, he jumped overboard and swam to a desert isle, rather than be
party to the martyrdom.

Dufnjáll Hávarðsson and one Ríkarðr (Richard), were worst in their
counsel against Sveinn, when he was in trouble with the earl about
Murgað’s goings on. His brother, Hákon kló, married the illegitimate
daughter of Sigurðr slembidjákn, by a daughter of one of Moddan’s
carlines. The names Gunni and Dufnjáll appear to point to the Caithness
origin of this family, as well as does the Caithness marriage of Hákon
kló.

Þorljótr í Rekavík, 1116-26, married Steinvör digra, (the stout),
daughter of Frakök Moddansdóttir and Ljótr níðingr (the dastard), in
Suðrland. Their son was Ölvir rósta (the unruly); a great and powerful
man, _manna mestr ok ramr at afli_, turbulent, _uppivöðslumaðr mikill_,
and a great manslayer, _vígamaðr mikill_. He, at the instigation of
his grandmother, Frakök, burnt Ólafr, Svein’s father, in his house.
Their other children were Magnús, Ormr, Moddan (Gaelic), Eindriði, and
a daughter, Auðhildr. The whole of this nest left Orkney with Frakök,
in her repatriation, under whose evil influence they were reared.

Notices of Shetland, in the Saga, are to all intents and purposes
nil. We find among the Shetlanders who were taken to be healed at St.
Magnús’ shrine two bœndr, viz., Þorbjörn, son of Gyrð (O.E. Gurth),
and Sigurðr Tandarson, who abode in Dalr, in north Shetland, and who
was _djöful-óðr_ or _ærr_, possessed or mad. Tandr, or Taðkr, is
E.Ir. _Tadg_, and the Shetland Tandarson = Gaelic _M’Caog_, Ir., _Mac
Taidhg_, MacCaig, son of Teague.

The Irish Gaels, who settled in Iceland in the ninth century, proved to
be desirable and enterprising colonists, the admixture of whose blood
helped to form the Icelandic genius in saga and song. They readily
adopted Icelandic patronymics and names, and gave up their Christianity
for the Norse religion. Their presence is commemorated there to this
day in Irish place-names and in the continued use of Irish person-names.

The Scottish Gaels who settled in Orkney were, in accordance with the
Saga, in some cases undesirable adventurers, of evil reputation, loose
habits, glib, mischief-makers, oath-breakers, witches and wizards.
They do not appear to have endowed their offspring with traits other
than their own, combined with a personal appearance which is usually
described as unattractive.

Gaelic names of residents in Orkney first make their appearance in
the late eleventh century in the family of Hávarðr Gunnason, who was
probably a Caithness Gael.

The differentiation between the Norwegians and the mixed Gaelic-Norse
race in Orkney, is unmistakably brought into prominence in the middle
of the twelfth century, when the Norwegian contingent of the famous
crusade, which wintered in Orkney, got on so ill with the islanders
that it resulted in murder and bloodshed about love and mercantile
affairs.

The earls who were of Gaelic descent in the female line, while
exhibiting Gaelic features, were also good rulers and great warriors,
whose exploits provided good copy for the _Orkneyinga-Saga_, which was
probably written down by Icelanders. The Gaelic admixture of blood in
Orkney does not appear to have produced any literary or poetic talent
such as it did in Iceland.

As mentioned in a previous paper,[11] the _Orkneyinga saga_ consists
of only two complete sagas, viz. (1) _Jarlasögur_, earls’ sagas, the
history of earl Þorfinnr hinn ríki and his joint earls--his brothers,
and his nephew, Rögnvaldr Brúsason, 1014-1064, and (2) _Rögnvalds saga
hins helga_, the story of earl St. Rögnvaldr, 1136-1158, brought down
to the death of Sveinn Ásleifarson, 1171. The first of these sagas is
prefaced with a summary of the sagas of the preceding earls, 872-1014,
of which none have been preserved, while the second is prefaced with a
summary of the sagas of the earls, 1064-1136, the period between the
first and the second sagas, of which we have preserved St. Magnús’s
saga, 1108-1116. The saga of earl Haraldr Maddaðarson, 1139-1206, is
partly preserved in the second saga, and in _Flateyjarbók_.

[11] _Saga-Book_, 1914.

As regards Orkney poets, earl Torf-Einarr, the skáld, was a Norwegian
by birth and family, with a thrall mother, probably Finnish, from
which admixture of Norse and dark races he probably derived his ugly
appearance and poetic genius.

Earl St. Rögnvaldr, the skáld, was also a Norwegian by birth, and
the son of a Norwegian father, while his mother was an Orkney woman
of Gaelic extraction. Bishop Biarni, the skáld, was the only Orkney
born poet, but his father was also a Norwegian, and his mother an
Orkney woman of Gaelic extraction. It is just possible that these two
last-named skálds derived their poetic inspiration from just the right
dash of Gaelic descent.

All the other poets, whose compositions are recorded in the saga, were
Icelanders: Arnórr Jarlaskáld, Hallr, etc. It goes without saying that
Orcadians and Shetlanders must have been, like their fellow Norsemen of
the period, improvisers, whose verses, although referred to, have not
been preserved.

There were only two Orkney saints, viz., earls Magnús and Rögnvaldr,
the one was martyred and the other assassinated, and both of them had
very little Gaelic blood.

It is a question whether Orkney and Shetland, with their Christian
Picts and heathen Norse, in the seventh, eighth and ninth centuries,
were the birth-place of some of the Edda lays; and whether any of these
lays were current there, as oral tradition, and taken down in writing
in the twelfth century by earl St. Rögnvaldr and his Icelandic skálds.
The solitary preservation and use of many Edda poetic words in Shetland
is significant. The first notices we have of writing in the saga are in
1116, when Kali Kolsson, afterwards (1136), earl Rögnvaldr Kali, in a
verse, numbered among his accomplishments, _bók_, reading and writing,
and, in 1152, when earl Erlendr produced king Eysteinn’s _bréf_,
letter, at the þing in Kirkjuvágr.

With regard to person-names, it will have been noted that the Norse
earls in the male line, although half Gaels, always gave their children
Norse names, while the Gaelic earls, who were only of slight Norse
descent, gave their children Norse, Gaelic and English names. So that
the gœðingar and other leading families of the late eleventh and early
twelfth centuries, who also gave their children Norse, Gaelic and
English names, were therefore probably, like the Gaelic earls, also of
Gaelic descent in the male line. This is also in accordance with the
known practice of other Gaelic settlers in Iceland, etc.

The non-Norse characteristics of persons of Gaelic descent are most
pronounced--black hair, swarthy complexion, quarrelsome, given to
witchcraft, pawky and glib, oath-breakers, etc., which perhaps point
to the Iberian element rather than to the true Gael; and that in
comparison with the Norse--fair-haired, accomplished and well-bred,
generous, makers of hard bargains, which they, however, kept, true to
their word, etc.

It must be remembered that these comparative characteristics are the
observations of the Norsemen themselves, who wrote the saga, probably
Icelanders, and therefore, presumably, exaggerated in their own favour.
They are valuable, however, in placing beyond doubt the large strain of
non-Norse people who lived in Orkney.

It has been shown that the Gaelic earls, 1139-1350, adopted Norse
patronymics, and that all persons in Orkney and Shetland before 1350
used Norse patronymics, including the numerous Gaelic families, which
must have settled in the islands. There was no other alternative,
just as it was, conversely, the case in the Hebrides, where the Gaels
predominated, and where their language prevailed, and was adopted by
the Norsemen. Here the Norse _Goðormsson_ became Gaelic _M’Codrum_,
_Þorketilsson_: _M’Corcodail_, _Ivarsson_: _M’Iamhair_, etc., etc.
Compare also the case in Ireland.

Gaelic names in Orkney and Shetland in their Norse form have already
been dealt with.

The blending of Norse and Gael in the Hebrides does not appear to have
been more successful than in Orkney, since we find, in 1139, that earl
Rögnvaldr said that most Suðreyingar were untrue, and even Sveinn
Ásleifarson put little faith in them.

The use of Norse names and patronymics by the leading Gaels in
Caithness, who are alone mentioned in the Saga, is accounted for by the
fashion set by their Norse earls, as well as through the influence of
Norse marriages. While the leading people must have been bilingual,
speaking Norse (the court language), and Gaelic, the _almúgi_, or
common people, appear to have maintained their native Gaelic. This is
indicated in two striking instances in the Saga. In 1158, earls Haraldr
and Rögnvaldr went from Þórs-á up Þórs-dalr and took _gisting_, night
quarters, at some _erg_, which “we call _setr_.” The local Gaelic name
of such a shieling was _àiridh_, E. Ir. _airge_, _áirge_. In 1152, earl
Haraldr, who was living at Víkr, dispersed his men _á veizlur_, _i.e._,
quartered them on various houses, in accordance with the obligations
of the householders, during Páskar, Easter; then the Katnesingar said
that the earl was on _kunn-mið_. Vigfússon suggested that this word was
some corrupt form of a local name; Dasent translated it “visitations,”
and Goudie “guest-quarters,” which is correct, as _kunn-mið_ must be
Gaelic, _comaidh_, a messing, eating together, E. Ir. _commaid_; _cf._
Gaelic _coinne_, _coinneamh_, a supper, a party, to which everyone
brings his own provisions, E. Ir. _coindem_, _cionmed_, quartering. In
both these cases the E. Ir. spelling comes nearer to the Norse than the
Scottish Gaelic does, and corresponds to the Scottish Gaelic of the
twelfth century.

The fact that the earl had the right to quarter his men in Orkney and
Shetland, is preserved in the tax, _wattle_ < _veizla_, which was paid
in lieu of actual entertainment. This tax continues to be paid to this
day.

“The Inhabitants of Orkney and Shetland after 1350,” will be the
subject of a future paper; meanwhile it may be emphasised that the
Gaelic earls of Orkney failed in the male line before the Scots began
to assume permanent surnames. The Gaelic earls were succeeded, in
the female line, by the Lowland-Norman family of St. Clair, bearing
a hereditary surname, about the time of whose arrival began the
Lowland-Scottish settlement of Orkney, to the influence of which must
be attributed the assumption of the Lowland Scottish language and the
adoption of place-surnames, and not fixed patronymics, in Orkney, by
the Norse-Gaelic inhabitants. Shetland, being far removed from the seat
of government and fashion, continued the use of patronymics until the
nineteenth century, when they became fixed.

The great number of persons in Orkney and Shetland bearing the names
of Tulloch and Sinclair appears to indicate that the ancestors of some
of them may have been tenants of the bishopric and earldom who, in
accordance with Gaelic custom, assumed the names of their lords of that
ilk. The Tulloch bishops ruled, 1418-1477, and the Sinclair earls and
lessees, 1379-1542, the period during which patronymics were giving
place to hereditary surnames in Orkney. Tulloch and Sinclair may also
have been Christian names which became stereotyped as patronymics and
the “son” termination afterwards dropped, as in the case of Omondson,
> Omond.

Shetlanders pride themselves in their geographic detachment from Orkney
with its Scottish people and customs, and claim to be regarded as purer
Norsemen as compared with the Scots of Orkney. Perhaps it is owing to
this qualified humdrum purity that the Shetlanders did not achieve any
deeds of sufficient interest to be recorded in the Saga. However, from
an anthropological point of view, the Pictish and small dark strain is
as much in evidence in Shetland as in Orkney, and perhaps more so.

In the twelfth century even an ordinary Shetland _bóndi_, farmer, had
his thrall, and _manfrelsi_, giving a thrall his freedom, is mentioned
as an ordinary transaction. The thrall element must therefore have
formed a large proportion of the population, and intermarriage must
have taken place between the Norse and the thralls. We find the earls
had children by thralls, and intermarriage between the bœndr and
thralls, especially the freed thralls, must also have taken place.

Persons of mixed racial descent are usually very loud in an exaggerated
appreciation of the heroic line of their ancestry, especially when it
is on the distaff side, usually coupled with an inverse depreciation
of the other ascent which is represented by an inappropriate and
inconvenient surname.

There would be no necessity for a genuine Norse islander to crow
himself hoarse on his native rock; and, to do so, would indicate that
there were grave doubts as to the purity of his strain.

Hitherto the Norse traditions of Orkney and Shetland have been solely
espoused by outlanders and by natives bearing surnames which leave no
doubt as to their foreign origin.

The most voluminous history of Shetland was written by an English
tourist, Dr. Hibbert, afterwards Dr. Hibbert Ware. But then, the
English are noted for their greater interest in the history and
antiquities of countries other than their own, which may be accounted
for by the exceptional variety of races which they represent.

But after all the land makes the man. If it had not been for these
northern islands there would have been no _Orkneyinga Saga_ with its
verses and narratives of stirring events.

Dr. John Rae, first honorary president of this Society, was a Scottish
Gael born in Orkney (where his father had settled), an Orkneyman of
Orkneymen; and to his youthful training, experience in boating, and
his environment in these islands, he attributed his success in Arctic
exploration.

And, moreover, it is well known that Orkney and Shetland supply the
British Navy and mercantile marine with a deal more than their due
share of personnel, and have given the British colonies a good supply
of useful pioneers and settlers.



Transcriber's Note


The following apparent errors have been corrected:

p. 3 "_circa_," changed to "_circa_"

p. 12 "slaugher" changed to "slaughter"


The following are inconsistently used in the text:

Atholl and Athole

Ingibiörg and Ingibjörg

seaboard and sea-board

sir and Sir

slembidjákn and slembi-djákn

Svein and Sveinn

uppkvöð and upp-kvöð





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