SHETLAND, THE ORKNEYS, AND CAITHNESS.
The two groups of islands, in which the events narrated in the Orkneyingers Saga for the most part happened, are widely different in their geographical confirmation. While the Orkneys lie like Cyclades round Hrossey or the Mainland, and are tolerably equal in size and shape, Shetland may be said to be altogether overpowered by its Mainland, which is larger than all the other islands put together, only two or three of which are of any importance. Added to this the Orkneys are, with the exception of a part of Hoy, “the tall island,” generally flat; and the hills even in Hrossey rarely rise to any great elevation. When we have named Wideford Hill, the Keely Long Hills, the Ward Hill of Orfir, and the uplands of Rowsay, we have almost exhausted the hills of Orkney. In Shetland, on the other hand, the Mainland is full of high hills and headlands culminating in North Mavin at the extreme north-west of the island in Ronas Hill. Between the two groups politically united in the days described in the Orkneyingers Saga, but thus physically distinct, lies the waste of waters called Sumburgh Roost in modern times, and “Dynraust,” or Dynröst, that is the “thundering, roaring roost” by the Northmen who saw in its wild waves and rushing tides an apt occasion for the name. In the midst of this Race lies the Fair Isle, the Friðarey of the Saga, an isle shunned by travellers and steamers at the present time, and memorable in the story of the Armada for Spanish shipwrecks, but not so inhospitable in older days when its bays and creeks afforded frequent shelter to the small craft in which the Northmen ran from one group of islands to the other. There is probably no part of the British Isles which now plays a less part and is more rarely heard of than the Fair Isle or Fair Hill as it is sometimes incorrectly called, but there was certainly none which in the time of earl Rognvald-Kali was more conspicuous in Orkney story. Then Friðarey formed the point on which the earls operations against the Orkneys turned, and it was on Friðarey that the beacons were to have been lighted which were to warn earl Paul and his adherents that mischief was threatening them from Shetland. The Fair Isle, therefore, forms in the Saga a geographical link between the two groups of Orkney and Shetland, and we can hardly understand the story unless we keep the position of Friðarey on the map steadily in view.
Having thus roughly sketched in outline the two groups and their connecting link, let us enter more fully into the geographical description of the two groups themselves, and let us begin with Shetland, as the group which the Northmen first made as they ran over from Norway, and which we may be sure was known to their vikings and sea-rovers before the more westerly group.
Whatever may be the case with the name of Orkney, it is certain that the name which Shetland bore before the Northmen called it Hjaltland or Hjaltaland is lost. Some, indeed, have thought with Munch that these islands never had any fixed population before the Northmen, except those Papæ or Irish Anchorites and Hermits, whose cells are found on all the islands of the west as far as Iceland. But it is clear that this view is unfounded. Not to mention the existence in Shetland of those burghs or castles, of which that on the isle of Moussa alone remains in something like its full proportions, the underground dwellings and “weems” in which the Shetland as well as the Orkney Isles abound afford evidence to prove that both groups of islands were inhabited in early times by one, and probably two distinct races, to one of which the subterranean earth dwellings and underground weems are to be assigned, while to the other and more advanced race the burghs and castles, which tower above the soil like Moussa, are due. What these races were, whether the first which dwelt underground, in what the Icelandic Sagas call “jarðhúsa,” were Esquimaux of Turanian race, while the burghs, or castles, or Picts houses, are the handiwork of that mysterious race of Picts so long the terror of British antiquaries, may be matter of doubt. But certain it is, from the evidence of our eyes, that both the dwellers in the earthhouses and weems and the builders of the burghs existed long before the arrival of the Northmen. How those races perished and passed away is also a matter of which we are in complete ignorance. It would seem from the silence of the Sagas, and still more perhaps from the fact that the anchorites referred to only chose the waste places of the earth for their ascetic abodes, that the Northmen really found those islands empty and desolate, and that it was not before their swords that the ancient races vanished away. If so this only throws these questions further up the stream of time. Who were the races who built these subterranean dwellings and these towering burghs? By what name did they call the country? And how did they vanish, leaving no trace of their nationality behind?
As soon as the Northmen came they gave the new found land a name, and they called it “Hjaltaland,” or “Hjaltland,” from “Hjalt,” the knob or guard of the hilt of a sword. It is idle to ask why the name was given, for the Northmen, as Munch well says, gave names to places from the most trivial accidents; as when Auda, the Deeply-wealthy, who passed from Scotland to Iceland by way of Shetland, called a headland or “ness” “Kambnes,” or Combness, because she had lost her comb there. In the same way Shetland may have been called “Hjaltland,” or “Hjaltaland” because some sea-rover lost the pommel of his sword there. It is easier to show how the modern Shetland ---not Zetland, which is a barbarous distortion--- arose out of the ancient Hjaltland. First of all the pronunciation of the word went over in Norway itself to Hjeltland and Hjetland; the inhabitants of Shetland were called by their Norwegian cousins, “Hjelter” instead of Hjalter; and even at this day we have the authority of Munch for saying that boats built in Norway for sale in Shetland are called “Hjeltebaade,” while the northern entrance to Bergen Sound, the point for which ships from Shetland usually steered, is still called “Hjeltefjord.” At the same time, as the pronuciation of “Hj” in many Norwegian dialects is very nearly “Sh” or “Sch,” the name of the group must have sounded to Scotch and English ears as “Shatland” or “Shetland,” and thus “Hjaltaland” or “Hjeltland,” written phonetically, would have become Shatland or Shetland, and so passed into legal deeds and documents. Just in the same way the supposed name of the Orkney Island, “Hjálpandisey,” was turned into “Shapandsey,” “Shapensey,” and “Shapinsay.” It can also be shown that this change of name occurred early, for in a deed of the year 1289, given in Rymers Fœdera, I. 2, p. 706, we find the name of Thorvaldus de Shetland, and in a letter of the year 1319, in the Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol. I., and also printed in the Diplomatarium Norwegicum, II. No. 114, the form “Syettelandia” occurs. In the same way the ponies which come from Shetland are called “Shelties,” which is only another form of the word “Hjelte” or “Hjalte,” and means “Shetlander,” just in the same way, as Munch well observes, Norwegian horses are called “Norbagger,” that is, “Norwegians,” and horses from Arabia “Arabs.” In another point of view the form “Sheltie” is curious as retaining the “l” of the original name, which is thus preserved in common speech, though it has dropped out of the name of the country itself.
Passing from the common appellation of the whole group of islands to each in particular, we find the principal islands mentioned in our Saga, or in old deeds and documents to be the following: --- Meginland, Mainland, Jalda, or Ála, the modern Yell; Örnist or Örmstr, the modern Unst; Fetilar or Fætilör, the modern Fetlar; Hvalsey, the modern Whalesay; Nös, the modern Noss; Brúsey, the modern Bressay; Mosey or Morsey, the modern Moussa; two called Papey, the big and the little; Glumsey; Fugley, the modern Foula; and Friðarey, the modern Fair Isle or Fair Hill.
Of these after the Mainland, the ancient Meginland, Jala is often named as well as Jalasund or Álasund, the modern Yell Sound, which arose out of the ancient name by a very natural corruption. Munch has pointed out that as the form “Jala” occurs in a list of islands and firths given in Skálda, and printed in the Ann. for North. Archæol. 1846, p. 86, it is probably the true form, and not, Ála, in both of which the final –a is another of those old indeclinable endings in –a which also occur in “Gula” and “Aga,” and must not be confounded with the feminine ending –a which forms u in the genitive. The Saga, p. 107, speaks of Álasund, and not Jalasund, on the authority of a good MS., 325. As to the original meaning of the word we have no information, but any one who has lain in Yell Sound and seen the rush of its tideway and heard the roaring which it makes both in flood and ebb, will acknowledge that the modern “yell” is very suggestive of the character of its waters. It was in Álasund that earl Paul seized the ships of his rival earl Rognvald, Tr. p. 114.
We next come to Örnist, or “Onyst,” or “Örmstr,” as our text of the Saga gives it, p. 93. This island is the modern Unst. In the list given in Skálda the form “Ormstr” occurs. While Munch decides for the form Örnist, which he thinks may be derived from the Eagles Örn, which may build in the high cliffs of Unst, the Saga, as well as Skálda, speak for Örmstr. Unst is mentioned in the Saga, and it is remarkable that several of the cures at the shrine of St. Magnus were worked on afflicted persons who came from this island. In this island lies Haroldswick, the ancient Haraldsvík, said to have been called after Harold Fairhair, who lay there on his expedition to the Hebrides. If he lay there at all, it is more likly that he lay in Baltasound, which forms a splendid harbour. Ballastead, Ballastaðir, is mentioned in the Saga, p. 93, in the accounts of the miracles of earl Magnus; but as the modern name of the “sound” is Baltasound it is not unlikely that the true reading should be Baltastaðir.
Fætilör, the modern Fetlar, occurs in the list from the Skálda, but the short Saga of St. Magnus reads “Fetilar,” as we have corrected the false reading “Færeyjum,” of the Cod. Flat. Saga, p. 91. Munch thinks the name is derived from fót, leg or foot, and that the “lör” of the ending should be “laer,” a thigh, in which case the name might come from a fanciful resemblance in the shape of the island to a human thigh.
Passing over the minor islands, we come to Brúsey or Brúsis island, the modern representative of which is the modern Bressay, which helps to make the magnificent harbour of Lerwick off the Mainland. It perhaps takes its name from Brúsi, one of the earlier Orkney earls, and earl Rognvalds father.
The two islands called Papa Stour and Papa Little recall the anchorites, recall the anchorites, who have left evidence of thier ancient occupation of them in those names. Papa Stour means the big Papa, as Papa Little means the small Papa. In the Icelandic they would be Papey Stora and Papey Littla.
The Mainland of Shetland though preponderating in size over all the other islands, plays no such part in the Orkneyingers Saga as that assumed by Hrossey of the Mainland of Orkney. That was the abode of mighty earls who had their seats at various times in different parts of the island. But the Mainland of Shetland, so far as the Orkney Saga is concerned, seems rather to have been used by those great chiefs as a house of call or a harbour of refuge. So it was that Harold Fairhair and a long line of kings of his race who followed him steered for Shetland on their voyages west, and after laying in Bressay Sound off the modern Lerwick, or in some other convenient haven for a while, passed on to conquest or piracy further west. The case was nearly the same with the Orkney earls and with the chiefs and bishops who passed west from Norway. When earl Rognvald-Kali, the kinsman of Saint Magnus set out on his expeditions against earl Paul Hacons son, he twice made Shetland his halting place, once to return inglorious to his politic fathers house, and once again to pass on victorious to the Orkneys. So again when earl Paul had been seized and carried off, and when earl Rognvald at the height of his power resolved on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he sailed for Shetland from Norway in his two ships Help and Arrow and lost them both in the breakers of Gullberwick near the modern Lerwick. (Tr. p. 154, 155.) The loss of his ships delayed him long in Shetland. The Saga expressly says that “the earl stayed very long in Shetland” that autumn, and it was then that the romantic episode occurred which is described in the Story of Earl Rognvald.
On other occasions when we hear of any of the earls going to Shetland it is only to stay there for a comparatively short time, and never with a view to a fixed above. It follows from this that but very few Shetland names are mentioned in the Saga even on the Mainland, and though we can in most cases restore the old Norse names from their modern equivalents, we can but rarely point to the old names themselves in the pages of the Saga. One of these cases in which we can fix the locality of the ancient name with certainty is Borgarfjörðr now Burrafirth on the Mainland, of which we read at p. 75 of our Saga, Tr. p. 76, that while earl Hacon and earl Magnus held the joint wardship of the land, they made an expedition to Shetland and put to death Thorbjorn, a nobleman in “Burrafirth.” On a holm near the “voe” stands the ruins of the “Borg” or “Burgh” which gave a name to the Firth, which seems to have been a castle of the same kind as that on the isle of Moussa, and if so erected long before the arrival of the Northmen in Shetland. (1) Munch supposes that it was in this castle that the noble Thorbjorn lived when he was cut off about the year 1100 by the cousins, and that from its strength he must have made a long resistance. But the Saga simply says that the two earls went against him together and put him to death.
Another place to which we can assign its ancient name is Gulberwick, not far from Lerwick, which is a town of comparatively modern origin. This, beyond doubt, is the Gullberuvík of the Saga mentioned in p. 151 as the place where, at the house of a man named Einar, earl Rognvald-Kali and twelve of his men were hospitably received after his shipwreck.
But perhaps the most interesting place in all Shetland is the burgh of Moussa which lies near Sandwick (Sandvík) in the southern part of the Shetland Main. Here, on a little island, stands the “Burgh” of which we have already spoken, and the only one of those ancient castles which exists in tolerable preservation. It was famous for its strength before the period of which the Saga treats, for in the Egils Saga, ch. 32 and 33, we read that about the year 900 Björn the freeman from Aurland in Sogn, in Norway, who had run away with Thora Hladhand, the sister of Thorir, a hersir or baron from the district called the Firths, and was on his voyage with her to Iceland, suffered shipwreck in Shetland, and took refuge in this castle while his ship was being repaired. In that Saga it is called Morseyjarborg or Moseyjarborg, a name which we find in our Saga, p. 189, where oddly enough, we find another pair of fugitive lovers taking shelter in its strong walls. In the year 1153 Erlend the young, a noble chief, but not, as some have supposed, the young earl of that name, carried off, or rather run off with earl Harold Maddadsons mother Margaret, who is described as rather a forward woman. The pair fled from the wrath of the earl and shut themselves up in the burgh on Moussa, where they were besieged for some time by earl Harold, until peace was made between him and them, and Erlend was allowed to marry the widow of Maddad who had been earl of Athole.
These are almost the only places which can be identified in Shetland, and which are mentioned in the Saga. All the names in these islands are corruptions of old Norse names as Scalloway and Thingwell, which are clearly the old “Skálavágr” and “Þingvöll.” The latter was the place where the solemn assemblies of the freeman were held, as was invariably the case in early Northern times, under the free and open air of heaven; while the former was the bay or “voe” on which the booths and huts were erected for the convenience and shelter of those who attended the assemblies, and which temporary shelter gradually grew into a village, and a town. In later times when the fashion of open-air Parliaments went out, Scalloway became the place of meeting, and there in a building the later assemblies were held. These and many other old names have been identified by Munch in his exhaustive essays on this subject in the Annals for Northern Archæology; but our purpose here is with the names and places actually mentioned in the Saga. Before we pass on from Shetland to the Fair Isle, across Sumburgh Roost, which takes its name from Sumburgh, the southernmost point of the island, let us pause to remark that as the troubled sea between Shetland and Orkney was called “Dynröst” (Saga, p. 192), and as the modern name for the southernmost parish of the Shetland mainland, is Dunrossness, it is plain that this modern application is only a distortion of “Dynrastarnes,” the first part of which is the genitive of “Dynröst.” Dynrastarnes does not occur in the text of the Saga, but in the new matter printed in this edition we find both Dynrastar höfcti and Dynrastarvágr, Dynröst-head and Dynrost-voe, as the old names for the headland now called Sumburgh Head and the voe beneath it, out of which earl Rognvald rowed in disguise with the poor fisherman to fish at the very edge of the dangerous race (pp. 155-7). The word “Sumburgh,” is to be found in the old Norse “Svínborg” and in earlier deeds is called not “Sumburgh” but “Swynburgh.” The “Fitful Head,” separated from its sister headland by Quendal Bay, which all readers of the “Pirate” know, has unfortunately nothing to do with the capricious nature of the winds, but is derived, as Munch has shown, from the old “Fitfuglahöfði,” that is, the head covered with sea-foul, or “web-footed birds,” “fitfuglar,” which may still be seen sitting in myriads on the ledges of the noble promontory which rises more than 900 feet into the air.
From all that we have said of Shetland, it will be seen that to the Orkneyingers it was always more or less a foreign land. The one group seems to have clung more closely to Norway, and to have been far more dependent on that country than the other. We hear little there of risings against the power of the kings of Norway, and Norwegians seem always to have been welcome in Shetland, as may be seen by the way in which Rognvald-Kali, a pure Norwegian on his fathers side, was welcomed on his expeditions against Orkney, and from the dread which earl Paul had of landing and fighting out his quarrel with his rival, even after he had seized his ships in Yell Sound. The Saga, p. 114, expressly says that the reason why earl Paul would not land was that he put no trust in the Shetlanders, and the best proof that his power over these islands was merely nominal is to be found in the fact that earl Rognvald stayed there the whole summer after the loss of his ships in the autumn, only to return to Shetland the summer after on a more successful expedition. It is evident, therefore, that geographically as well as politically the Shetlanders were more dependent on Norway. Lying north-east and not far from the Faroes, both their politics and position were Norwegian, while the Orkneys, lying more to the west and farther from the mother country of the first settlers, were more independent, and besides politically attracted towards Scotland and the British Isles. Much, no doubt, was due to the seat of rule being in the Orkneys, from which the earls ruled Shetland as a dependency, but still more was owing to the geographical position of the group of isles, and to the temper of the people, which in Shetland remained more purely Norse than the inhabitants of the sister group. At last, in the days of king Sverrir, at the end of the 12th century, in the year 1194, just at the period when the Orkneyingers Saga ends, Shetland was separated by that king altogether from Orkney, and associated, for the purpose of government, with the Faroe islands, and thus the earls of Orkney lost for some years the rights of lordship and the power of taxation which they had so long held over Shetland as vassals of the Kings of Norway. pp. 231, 235-6.
We now leave Shetland, and pass on our way to the Orkneys, stopping for a while at the Fair Isle or Fairhill, the Friðarey of the Saga, in which, at one period, the little island became suddenly famous. The position of the Fair Isle midway between Orkney and Shetland made it a very important place when the power of earl Paul Hacons son was threatened by the expeditions of Rognvald-Kali, who claimed to be one of the rightful earls of the Orkneys, not only because of the grant which King Harold Gilli had made to him, but because he was the son of the sister of the saint, earl Magnus, and thus came into the land strong both from a political and a religious point of view. In those days the proverb was as true as it has ever been before and since, “forewarned is forearmed.” It was everything to earl Paul to know when earl Rognvald, whom he knew had arrived among the untrusty Shetlanders, would start on his expedition against the Orkneys. For this purpose, as our Saga informs us, p. 115, a system of beacons was established, the first of which was to be on the Fair Isle, a second on Rínansey, or North Ronaldsay, a third on Sanday, a fourth on Westray, and a fifth on Rowsay. But all the others rested on the first, so that the beacon on the Fair Isle was the most important of all. These several beacons were entrusted to the care of earl Pauls most faithful adherents, and not the least interesting portion of the Saga is that which describes how this system of beacons was turned to the gain, instead of the harm of earl Rognvald, by the good counsel of his father, the politic Kol. At that time the chief householder on the Fair Isle was Dagfinn Hlodvers son, described at p. 122 of the Saga as “a brisk stirring man.” So long as he had charge of the beacon it was sure to be lighted at the first approach of an enemy. But at p. 124 foll. we are informed how even the wary Dagfinn was deceived by the guile of Kol into lighting the beacon on a false alarm; how the warning lights spread from isle to isle, and earl Pauls host flocked together, only to find themselves gathered for no purpose; and at last how quarrels and recriminations arose, in the course of which Dagfinn was slain. After that false alarm a man named Eric succeeded to the care of the beacon on the Fair Isle, who, not so wary as Dagfinn, was beguiled into handing over the beacon to the care of Uni, a confederate of Kol, who took care to drench it so thoroughly with water that it would not catch fire when earl Rognvald really started with his expedition (p. 127). The result was that no beacons were lighted on the other islands, and earl Rognvald established himself in Westray, whither his friends and kinsmen soon flocked to him in sufficient numbers to enable him to hold his own against earl Paul. After this sudden blaze, like that of its own beacon, the Fair Isle, or Friðarey, passed out of the story, and is scarcely mentioned again, except at p. 195, when Sweyn Asleifs son bore up for it when he and earl Erlend the young were caught and parted in Sumburgh Roost in such a violent storm that each gave the other up as lost.
From the Fair Isle we pass on to Rínansey or North Ronaldsay, the first of the Orkney islands. But before we proceed farther, let us, as we have given the etymology of the name Shetland, spend a little time in the consideration of the name Orkney. If we can believe that Shetland was a nameless land till the Northmen came and called it after the pommel of a sword, the same cannot be said of the Orkneys, which were already called Orcades by Pliny the elder in his Natural History, I. 4. ch. 10., and Juvenal in his second Satire, II. 161, (2) quotations which show that the name did not arise with the Northmen who came more than 700 years after Pliny, but that it is only their adaptation of the old Celtic name which the islands received from their earliest inhabitants. The Irish and Gaelic tribes called the group “Innsih Orce,” or Innish Orc, that is the Ork isles; the Northmen Orkn-eyjar, that is the Orkn-isles, where Orkn- seems to be a contraction of Orkan, for the Anglo-Saxons called the group Orcan-ig, where “an” is only a derivative ending, and has nothing to do with the root. That root is “Ork” or “Orc,” and, as we must look to the Celtic tribes for the first application of the term to the Orkneys, we must see what “Orc” means in those dialects. Now “Orc” in Gaelic means a smaller sort of whale, a grampus or bottle-nose whale, the Delphinus orca of Linnæus, which is still found in large shoals, in the seas round Orkney, Shetland, and Faroe. Pliny himself calls this kind of whale “orca,” and when Ptolemy calls a promontory, supposed to be Dunnet Head in Caithness opposite the Orkneys, “Tarvedum or Orcas,” we recognise with Munch in the first word the Gaelic “Tarbat,” (3) and in the second the singular of Orcades. So, too, this primæval or aboriginal “Ork” may be seen in the “Orkahaugr” or Orkahow of the Saga, p. 187; Tr. 190. It was the name which the Northmen gave to the huge barrow, now called the Maes Howe, which stands near “the Stones of Stennes,” and they gave it a name from the largest animal which they knew on land or in the sea; much in the same way as the Americans speak in modern times of “Mammoth” caves and trees to express natural objects of huge size.
There can be no room for doubt then that in the words “Orkneyjar” and “Orkney” we have a Celtic derivative, and that the islands were so called from the shoals of a particular kind of whale which in earlier times were much more numerous than they are at present. The Northmen, as was their common practice, took the ancient name of the islands as they found it adopted by the Anglo-Saxons. They turned the “Orc” of the Celts into Orkn and added “ey,” their word for an island, to the Celtic appellation.
As they had adopted the Celtic term for the whole group they proceeded in the same way with each island. When it had what they called Örnefni, that is, an old ariginal received name of its own, they adopted it, merely putting “ey” after it to mark its insular character. In cases where an island had no old name of its own, or when its ancient appellation was unknown, they gave it a new one of their own sometimes descriptive of its natural features, and sometimes taken from the name of a person. In process of time the termination “ey” in the names of each of the islands has been transformed into ay or a; thus “Shapinsay” or “Shapinsa,” while certain combinations of letters are slurred over in utterance; “alp” or “olp” or “alb” in particular have lost their “l,” so that the old Skálpeið, the neck or isthmus between Kirkwall and Scapa Bay, is now pronounced Scapa, and Kolbeinsey has become Copinsay and Cobesa. At the same time the same change has taken place with regard to names beginning with Hj, as we have already remarked as being the origin of the name “Shetland.” Thus “Hjálpandisey,” which it is conjectured is the old form of one of the Orkney isles, has become Shapinsay, and the rule holds good in other cases. But as this perversion of the ending of the names of each isle has given rise to two forms in ay and a, both plainly derived from the old Norse “ey,” it was proposed by Munch in his essay on this subject in the Annals for Northern Archæology for 1852, to revert to the old form “ey;” and in fact this change had already been made, even before that learned historian suggested it, on the excellent charts of the Orkneys, published by the late Captain Thomas, R.N., under the direction of the Admiralty. We cannot learn, however, that this suggestion has been accepted by the inhabitants of the islands themselves, and we have therefore in general adhered to the more usually received form.
After these introductory remarks let us give a list of the Orkney isles as we find them mentioned in the Saga with their ancient names, and then direct our attention to each island in its turn, beginning from the North.
The names are North Ronaldsay, Rínansey; Sanay, Sandey; Papa Westray, Papey Meiri; Westray, Vestrey; Stronsay, Strjónsey; Papa Stronsay, Papey Minni; Egilsay or Egelsha, Egilsey; Rowsay, Hrólfsey; Mainland, Hrossey; Eynhallow, Eyinhelga; Weir, Vigr; Gairsay, Gareksey; Damsay, Daminsey; Eller or Hellier Holm, Hellisey; Burray, Borgarey; Græmsay, Grímsey; How with Walls, Háey with Vágar or Vágaland; South Ronaldsay, Rögnvaldsey; Svonay, Svíney; Stromay or Stroma, Straumey, and the Pentland Skerries, Pettland-sker. Two of the larger islands, Eday, Eiðey, and Shapinsay, Hjálpandisey, together with many smaller ones, are not mentioned in the Saga.
In this list there are some which, at the very first sight, betray a Celtic and a Christian origin. Just as in the “Orkn” or “Ork” of the Orkneys we perceive a Celtic root, so is a Celtic and a religious appellations as plainly discernible in Papey, the name given to two islands. We have seen that the Irish anchorites of St. Columbas rule had left traces of their cells and ascetic life in Shetland and Iceland. These anchorites the Northmen believed to have been “Westmen” or Irishmen. (4) Thus there were Papar or anchorites in Orkney and Shetland, where islands were named after them, and even farms such as Papuli or Papýli, now Paplay. When the heathen Northmen came to disturb them in their hermitages these anchorites vanished before them, leaving behind them their cells and churches, as the Dwarfie Stone on Hoy, and the old church on Egilsay. In Iceland we are told they left behind them books and staves and rings, and Ari Fróði in his Islendíngabók expressly says of Iceland, when it was discovered by his countrymen, “Then there were here Christian men, those whom the Northmen call Papa; but afterwards they went away for that they would not be here with heathen men, and they left behind them Irish books” (that is manuscripts), and staves and rings, from that it might be known that they were Irishmen.” Besides this we know from Dicuils Treatise De Mensurâ Orbis, that about the year 795 several priests had resided in Iceland from the 1st of February to the 1st of August. What happened in Iceland, Faroe, and Shetland had more frequently happened in the Orkneys, and we may be sure, as indeed the names Papey and Papýli sufficiently prove, that this group of isles, so long as they were waste, in what may be supposed to be the interval between the coming of the Northmen and the disappearance of the earlier races, was a favourite resort for Irish anchorites of St. Columbas rule.
And here let us remark that the same problem remains to be solved in Orkney that was left unsolved in Shetland. The testimony of the soil shows that this group of islands was inhabited in early times by races which burrowed in the earth in weems and Picts houses and erected stately burghs like that at Moussa. But whoever they were and in whatever way they disappeared, it is certain that at one time these isles were inhabited by races which possessed considerable skill in construction, and in the case of the burgh-dwellers had made great advances to civilisation.
Returning to the traces of Celtic influence in the names of the Orkneys, we find it in Rínansey, Rinarsey, or Ronansey, all ancient names for North Ronaldsay. This is one of the first islands mentioned in the Saga, in the time of Turf-Einar the fourth Orkney earl, and there can be little doubt that it took its name from St. Ninian whom the Scots also called Ringan and Ronan. In later times Rínansey or Ronansey was perverted into Ronaldsay, and as there was another Ronaldsay in the south of the group, it became necessary to distinguish one as North, and the other as South Ronaldsay; but originally the name of the northern island was Rínansey after the saint, and that of the southern Ronaldsey after one of the earl Rognvalds. (5)
In Daminsey we find another name derived from St. Damian; and in the case of Egilsey, though it seems thoroughly Norse at first sight, and to have come from the well-known Norse name Egill, and to be the island of Egill, Munch has endeavoured to show that the name is derived from the ancient church which still stands with its round tower on the little island. This church has indeed been a puzzle to ecclesiastical antiquaries. While some have thought it so like the Irish churches of the same supposed age and character that it seems to them to have been transported from Ireland; others like Sir Henry Dryden have refused to see in it a building earlier than the 12th century. According to the first view, Egilsey would be called not from Egill but from the Irish ecclais or the Welsh eglaus, a church, and was so named by the Northmen because they found the venerable church standing on the island when they first arrived in the Orkney waters. In after times, the origin of the name was forgotten, though the church still stood, memorable for the martyrdom of St. Magnus which happened hard by, and Egilsey came to be looked on as the island of Egill. But in the midst of this controversy one fact remains that there was a church on Egilsey when St. Magnus was slain in the year 1116, and from this church whether it were that now existing or not the name of the island may have been derived. If this be so in the collective name of Orkney itself, as well as in the particular names, Papey, Papýli, Rínansey, Daminsey, and Egilsey, we have unmistakeable evidence of Celtic origin. (6)
After these general remarks we return to our list of islands beginning from the north. And first of North Ronaldsay, Rínansey, a low flat island, the northernmost of the group and lying well to the east. This is one of the earliest of all the islands to be mentioned in the Saga, and in the old edition which is very imperfect in the beginning, it is the first of all mentioned. As it is, the Mainland, Hrossey, is the first named at p. 6 of this edition of the Saga, where it is said that earl Hallad, the do-nothing son of earl Rognvald of Mœren, sate down in Hrossey while the Vikings harried his realm. But after earl Hallad came Turf-Einar, who thus mentions Rínansey after his battle with Halfdan Longlegs: “I know not what I see in Rínansey, sometimes it lifts itself up, but sometimes it lays itself down; that is either a bird or a man, and we will go to it.” --- P. 8. The battle itself, which ended in Halfdans disastrous defeat and death, probably took place in the firth between Sanday and North Ronaldsay, and from Toftsness on the former island it would be possible for a sharp-sighted man, as we are told earl Einar was, to see across to the opposite island. But we are not reduced to this supposition, as he might well have been on board his ship the morning after the battle when the search for his routed enemies began. At the present time, North Ronaldsay with its beautiful lighthouse and dangerous reefs is shunned by voyagers, but in the days of the Saga it was easy of approach to the light craft of the islanders, and was a place of importance. There it was, in the days of earl Paul, that the second beacon was to be lighted on the approach of earl Rognvald-Kali, and Thorstein Ragnas son was to have charge of it (p. 115). His mother was the outspoken Ragna, who at page 121 foll., entertained earl Paul at a banquet in her house on the island, and gave him such offence by her bold advice. After earl Paul was carried off by Sweyn Asleifs son, the very man whom the wise widow advised the earl to make his friend, Ragna and her son became firm friends of earl Rognvald-Kali. At p. 144, we are told, how when Hall, the son of Thorarin Broadpaunch came from Iceland to spend the winter with Ragna and her son, and was ill at ease, and wished to be passed on to the earls court, Ragna and her son did their best to further his wishes at first without success. The earl had warriors enough and said, “No, to neighbour of the brawn.” But Ragna was not a woman to be put off, for the Saga goes on to tell us that she provoked the earls satire by paying him a visit in a new fashioned head dress. After that they began to talk, and the end was that Ragna got her way, and Hall was long afterwards with earl Rognvald, with whom, as they were both excellent skalds, he made what the Icelanders called the Old Key to Metres.
We next come to Vestrey, Westray, the Western isle, about the Norse derivation of which there can be no doubt. It and the West Firth, Vestfjörðr, that is, the troubled strait between it and Rowsay, are often mentioned in the Saga. There, at Rapness, Hreppisnes, p. 89, lived Kugi, a powerful man, and an adherent of earl Paul, while at Höfn lived Helgi, who was inclined to earl Rognvald; for the earl came to his house when he got a fair wind from Shetland, while Kugi was thrown into fetters and badly beaten by the earls men (p. 127 fol.) Rapness is also mentioned at p. 209 as the place where earl Rognvald met John Wing when he had carried off Sweyn Asliefs son Olaf. It is called also the “Bull” of Rapness, that is, the “ból” or farm of Rapness, and lies on the south-east side of the island, while Höfn, that is, the “Haven,” was on the north-east side, where the modern Pier o Wall lies. Close by are the “Links,” the Norse “lykkjur,” where a number of old interments, described in Wilsons Archæology, pp. 552-555, were discovered in 1849. Not far from Pier o Wall, or the ancient Höfn, called also the thorpe or village, lies Trenaby, from which Mr. Balfour of Balfour takes one of his territorial titles. On the west of the island, not far from the Noup Head, the Icelandic Gnúpr, stands Noltland Castle, also owned by Mr. Balfour. This, in John Bens description of Orkney in 1529, is described as “excellentissia arx sive castellum sed nondum tamen adhuc completa.” In this unfinished state it has remained ever since, with its walls of immense thickness, its two round towers, and its arched portal. The name of the place, “Noltland” or “Nowtland,” seems plainly derived from the Norse Nautaland, that is, “neat” or “cattle land.” It was on the West Firth, between Westray and Rowsay, that Waltheof Olafs son was lost in a ten-oared boat in the year 1135, when on his way to a yule feast given by earl Paul at Orfir. He was brother of the powerful and unruly Sweyn Asleifs son, with whose adventures the last part of our Saga is full. At p. 116 will be found an account of Waltheofs loss. There is a farm called Rackwick on the north-east of Westray, which has been supposed by some to be the Rekavík of the Saga, where Thorliot, the father of Oliver the unruly, lived; but it is certain that the Rekavík where that powerful family lived was the other Rackwick in Hoy, for all the relations of Thorliot and Oliver lay in the south, and not in the north isles. At p. 87 of our Saga will be found an account of Thorliot and his kindred, who were in reality rather Scotch than Orkneyingers.
To the north-east of Westray and just opposite to the little harbour of Pier o Wall or Höfn, the thorpe where Helgi lived, and where earl Rognvald-Kali first landed in Orkney, lies Papey Meiri, the bigger Papey, now called Papa Westray to distinguish it from Papey Minni, the lesser Papey, now called Papa Stronsay. Both these isles, as we have seen, take their names from the cells of Irish anchorites, and not from any Norse derivatives. As soon as the Orkneys became Christian, shortly after the days of Olaf Tryggvis son, that is, about the year 1000, Papey Meiri became a holy place, and until the great cathedral in Kirkwall was built it is probable taht St. Tredwalls chapel (7) on Papey Meiri was considered the holiest spot in all the isles. In the days described by our Saga, St. Tredwalls chapel has an interest as being the burial place of the gallant earl Rognvald Brúsis son, whose body, after he had been slain on Papey Minni or the lesser Papey off Stronsay, was brought to St. Tredwalls chapel to be interred. Our Saga, p. 53, foll., tells the story of his death, which for interest and truth may vie with any scene in any Saga.
We now pass by Eday, the ancient name of which is to be restored as Eiðey, that is, the island of the eið or aith, or isthmus, from the neck or waist of land which joins the two ends of the island together, and along with it its satellites Kalfr the Calf, Færey the Sheep isle, Hólmr the Holm of Farey, and Grænuholmr the Greenholms; for all these are never mentioned in the Saga, though it is easy to restore, as Munch has done, their ancient form from their modern names.
Next in order and position is Sandey, Sanday, which is often mentioned in the Saga, and lies east of Westray and north-east of Eday. Here it was, off the northern end of the island, which looks on Rínansey or North Ronaldsay, that Turf-Einar lay with his ships when he had that engagement with Halfdan Longlegs, the son of the mighty Harold Fairhair, which ended in his defeat and death by immolation to Odin, the God of battles. With regard to the possibility of that sharp-sighted though one-eyed earl being able to see from Sanday as far as Rínansey, Munch tells us that it is no more than 6,000 paces from Toftsness in Sanday to Stromness in Rínansey, a distance to which earl Einars sharp eyes might perhaps have reached; but we have already remarked that, in all probability, the earl was on board his ships when he uttered the words given in the Saga, which besides would seem to have been caused by something seen on land from the water. After the bloody rite of cutting a spread-eagle on the back of the victim with a sword by severing the ribs from the backbone on each side and drawing the lungs out, earl Einar made his men cast a “howe” or cairn over his enemy, and burst out into a song of triumph on having revenged his father, earl Rognvald of Mæren, on the son of the great king Harold. It is probable that, as the battle was fought in Sanday, that the sacrifice to Odin took place on that island, and not on Rínansey; and that the cairn of Halfdan Longlegs must be sought for among the many barrows which still exist on Sanday.
In later times Sanday was the abode of a great chief, Thorstein Havards son, one of earl Pauls most active followers, and when the care of the beacon on Rínansey was entrusted to his namesake the son of Ragna, (8) his brother Magnus was to attend to that on Sanday; later on in the Saga earl Rognvald sent for him and his namesake from Sanday, p. 129, that they try to arrange matters between himself and earl Paul. Still farther on in the Saga we read of Sanday and a farm on it called Völuness or Valeness, in the account of Swein Asleifs sons flight from earl Harold, when the earl seized his house on Gairsay, p. 206. It was on Sanday that, as the Saga tells us, p. 195, Sweyn Asleifs son and earl Erlend met after they had parted in Dynröst or sumburgh Roost in so violent a storm that each gave up the other as lost. It was in Sanday too that Sweyn Asleifs son forced his kinsman John Wing the younger to fly from Völuness in the bitter winter night, because he abused earl Erlend, p. 206.
Next in order is Strjónsey, Stronsay, which is frequently mentioned in the Saga. The chief house on it in old times, seems to have been “the Brink,” Brekkar or í Brekkum, where Richard lived, one of Sweyn Asleifs sons kinsmen, of whom we read, p. 130, that he and John Wing of the Uplands in Hoy fell on Thorkell flat or the flayer, to whom earl Paul had given the land in Stronsay which Waltheof Sweyns brother had owned, and burnt him in it with nine men. Before that Thorkell had lived in Westray with his sons, not much beloved by his neighbours, p. 89. Munch has recognised the old Hofsness in the modern Hvipsness on Stronsay where earl Erelend met Sweyn Asleifs son on his return from Norway at the house of Sweyns brother-in-law, Thorfinn Brúsis son, who had married his sister Ingigerd, whom Thorbjörn the clerk had repudiated (Saga, p. 187). There the old feud between the young earl and the old Viking, which arose out of the burning of Frakok, was finally arranged, and Sweyn became Erelends chief adviser. In Rousholmhead or the Red Head of Stronsay, may also be recognised the old name Rauðholmshöfði. Off Stronsay, too, lay Papey Minni, now Papa Stronsay, where earl Rognvald Brúsis son was slain.
Shapinsay, which may be restored to Hjálpandisey, is, as we have said, not mentioned in the Saga by name, but the modern name of the island is well known to all visitors to Orkney as the principal seat of Mr. Balfour of Trenaby, the owner of this island as well as of so many others in the Orkneys. But close to Ellwick, the ancient Ellidavík, on the south side of the island, lies Ellerholm, or Hellierholm, the ancient Hellisey, where, according to Captain Thomas, quoted by Munch, the cave may still be seen in which the shifty Sweyn Asleifs son hid his boat when escaping from the pursuit of earl Harold Maddads son (Saga, p. 205). At that time there must have been a monastery on one or other of the islands, for as Sweyns boat was high and dry in the cave, Sweyn sailed away to Sanday in an old ship of burden belonging to the monks.
We next come to Egilsey, of which we have already shown that it possibly derives its name, not from any “Egill” but from the Irish “ecclais” or the Welsh “eglws,” meaning a church, and was called Church island by the Northmen because, when they first came into the islands, they saw a church standing on it; just as they called Stennis “Steinsnes” because of the large circle of stones which they beheld standing on that promontory between the two lakes on the Mainland. Here, at any rate, until the cathedral in Kirkwall was built, the bishops of Orkney seem to have had their residence. That old church was what may be called their peculiar as opposed to the earls churches at Birsay and Orfir, and St. Olafs church in Kirkwall, which was the church of the burghers. On various occasions in the Saga when bishop William was wanted, and especially twice at Christmans (Saga, p. 119, 137), when the proper place for a bishop would be at his own church, we find him at Egilsay. On the last of these occasions bishop John of Athole visited bishop William at Egilsay before his interview with earl Rögnvald as the bearer of Margarets proposals as to the claim of her son Harold to half the Orkneys. This church, therefore, remained the bishops church, though his cathedral was the Earls church at Birsay, till the relics of St. Magnus were translated from that church, where he was first buried, to St. Olafs church in Kirkwall, to be again translated to the stately minster which the piety of earl Rognvald-Kali reared in obedience to his vow to the honour of his holy kinsman. And there on the island which was called after it still stands the venerable church, a silent witness of so much that has happened in the isles besides the martyrdom of St. Magnus which threw over it an additional sanctity throughout Catholic times. At p. 78 foll. of the Saga will be found an account of the treacherous attack of earl Hacon Pauls son on his cousin Magnus, which ended in the death of the pious earl, who so soon afterwards was revered as the patron saint of the isles.
Next we come to Gairsay, the ancient Gareksey, famous in the Saga as the chief abode of the adventurous Sweyn Asleifs son, though he had other farms in Stronsay and Caithness, where on the Scotch mainland he held Duncansby, and the strong castle of Lambaborg close to Þrasvík, the modern Freswick. It was on gairsay that he built himself a house, the drinking hall of which was so long that it could contain eighty retainers. Here it was that, when he was at feud with earl Harold, when the earl had seized his house and wasted his corn and goods, Sweyn fell on him unawares, and sought to burn the house over his head, even though his own wife and children were in it, and it was fortunate for the earl that he was just then away hare hunting (Saga, p. 204). Here too, when the long feud between Harold and himself had burnt itself out and they were reconciled, Sweyn entertained the earl at a great banquet about the year 1171, when the earl advised him to leave off sea roving, and in the words of the proverb, “to drive home with a whole wain.” The Saga tells, p. 222, how Sweyn neglected the earls advice, said he would leave off after one more voyage, set off on a cruise to Dublin and there perished by treachery. After his death his sons parted their fathers goods and his hall between them, and built up a wall which cuts the large room in two. (9) All certain traces of this large drinking hall, which surpassed in size all others in the Orkneys, have now perished, but the name lingers, perhaps, in the farm Langskeal on the south-west side of the island, which may be restored to Lángskáli, that is the Long Hall.
On Vígr, now Wyre or Weir, lived another great chief, Kolbeinn the Burly, a Norwegian, who, as the Saga tells us, p. 151, built a strong stone castle on it which was known as hard to take. As for Kolbeinn himself he seems to have been a prudent man and to have kept himself, as much as he could, out of strife. He was the friend of Sweyn Asleifs son, his neighbour in Gairsay, and fostered his son Olaf (Saga. p. 209). After Sweyns death his son Andrew married Kolbeins daughter Frida. At the end of his life he sided with earl Harold Maddads son, and together with his son Bjarni, called in the Saga both Bjarni Skáld and Bjarni Bishop, was a firm adherent of that earl. By their mother Herbjorg Kolbeins children were descended from earl Paul Thorfinns son. Some remains of his castle are still to be seen on Weir, where they are pointed out as “Cobbe Rows castle,” that is, Kolbein Hrugas Castle. In popular tradition he has become a giant, and his burliness is shown in throwing rocks at churches, after the fashion of the trolls in the popular tales of Norway.
West of Egilsay lies Rowsay, the ancient Hrólfsey, often confounded by careless scribes in the MSS. of the Saga with Hrossey or the Mainland. After Hoy it is the hilliest of all the islands, and its dark upland moors are seen over the green fields of Gairsay and Weir, as the voyager enters Kirkwall Bay. Here at Westness, Vestnes, then, as now, the chief house on the island, lived in the time described in the latter part of the Saga, Sigurd of Westness, the husband of Ingibjörg the honourable, earl Pauls warmest adherent in his feud with earl Rognvald. Here it was while that ill-fated earl was on a visit to his friend that he was seized and carried off to perish miserably in Scotland by the daring Sweyn Asleifs son; a feat which is described in the Saga, p. 131 foll., with a force and liveliness nowhere surpassed in northern story. At Swendro near the “Urð,” the “Ord” or heap of stones where the earl was seized after a fierce struggle when out otter-hunting, remains have been found in recent times which may well have been the bones of those nineteen men of the earls followers whom Sigurd knew when he went to look at the slain and those six “whom he did not know” who had fallen on Sweyns side (Saga, p. 133). Between Rowsay and the Mainland is Evie Sound, the ancient Efjusund so called from efja, the backwater which is to be found at both ebb and flow in sounds where the stream runs out and in so violently as it does in Evie Sound. There may be seen and heard that terrific bore or wall of water caused by the waves of the deep Atlantic when borne by the tide over shallower ground. It may, perhaps be seen best in Yell Sound in Shetland; but it is seen more or less in all the Orkney and Shetland firths and sounds, and certainly in a most remarkable degree in Evie Sound.
In Evie Sound, between Rowsay and the mainland, lies the little island of Eyn-hallow, that is, Eyin Helga, the Holy Isle, the ground of which was said to be so holy that neither rats nor mice could live on it, and where the straw dripped blood when corn was cut after sunset. All which are doubtless traditions from the days of the anchorites, who may have had their abode on it. In the Saga Eyn-hallow is mentioned, p. 209, as the place where John Wing the younger, Sweyn Asleifs sons kinsman, seized Olaf Sweyns son, and carried him off as a hostage to Rapness in Westray, where he met earl Rognvald. The boy had been fostered by Kolbein the Burly at Weir close by, and as soon as the earl heard of the seizure he made John Wing carry him back with the warning that, unless he did so, John would have no peace either at Sweyns or Kolbeins hands.
We now come to the Mainland called by the Northmen Hrossey (10) or the Horse Island. What induced them to call it by this name is as doubtful as the occassion which gave rise to the name Hjaltland for Shetland. Perhaps it was because they found ponies running wild there; perhaps because they turned horses loose themselves as they did in Iceland. “Mainland,” the modern name of the central island, is the old Norse “Meginland” which they gave in the case of both Orkney and Shetland to the largest island in each group.
Having thus considered the origin of the ancient and modern names of the Main island we step into it from Rowsay across Evie Sound and find ourselves in Evie parish, which stretches from Costa Head all along the troubled sound to Woodwick opposite to Gairsay. At that point the parish of Rendale (11) meets us; the ancient Rennadalr, somewhere in which lay Flugunes or Flyðrunes, where Thorstein lived with his cross-grained sons, Asbjörn and Berlian or Blánn, the latter of whom seems to have been warder of the strong castle in Damsay, Rennadalr is again mentioned in our Saga (p. 201), on the occasion of earl Erlends violent death at Damsay. Southward Rendale extends as far as Isbister, the ancient Ossabólstaðr, where the inland parish of Harray(12) begins, from which the lake of that name is called; while beyond Costa Head, the most northerly point of the island, the parish of Birsay begins and stretches along the coast as far as the high ground of Westrafold in the south-west. The name Birsay comes from Birgisey, that is, the isle off the ancient district Birgisherað, still called the Barony or Lordship of Birsay; off the coast, and joined to it at low tide lies the isle itself, the Brock or Burgh of Birsay. The district is famous in the Saga as the residence of the mighty earl Thorfinn and his descendants, the chief seat of their power and the burial place of their race till the translation of the relics of St. Magnus to Kirkwall deprived the earl's church at Birsay of most of its peculiar sanctity. Before that translation that church, built by earl Thorfinn, p. 59, and called "Christ's Church," was reckoned as the cathedral of the bishop (Saga, p. 89). On the Brock are still to be seen not only some remains of earl Thorfinn's castle, but also the ruins of another church said to have been dedicated to St. Peter, and all who have visited this remarkable spot, looking out on the West Atlantic, under the guidance of the late Mr. George Getrie, will know how much of interest still lingers round that little islet. The existing Christ Church is a comparatively recent erection, but close by are the foundations of the older church, of which close by are the foundations of the older church, of which a portion of the walls and traces of the apse were detected by the sharp eyes of Mr. Petrie.
After Birsay comes Sandwick parish, the ancient Sandvík, remarkable in modern times as the site of the discovery of those massive silver rings and brooches, the hoard of some Viking, which were found some years ago, and may be seen in the Museum at Edinburgh. This Sandwick must not be confounded with another place of the same name near Deerness in the south-east of the island, where Amundi, the father of Thorkel Fosterer lived, and where Earl Einar was slain by Thorkell at the feast which was to have reconciled them (Saga, p. 22). On the east the parish of Sandwick is bounded by the Lakes of Harray and Stennis, between which it ends near Brogar Bridge, west of which on a ness stand or lie the famous circles of stones which gave its name to the lake and the parish. The larger circle, also called the "Ring of Brogar," where Brogar is no doubt a corruption of Brúargarðr "the farm by the bridge," has been described by Captain Thomas in the Archæologia, vol. xxxiv., to which the curious reader is referred for more precise details. Let it suffice here to say, that it consisted originally of 60 stones, erected about 18 feet apart, and forming a circle 366 feet in diameter. Of these rough unhewn stones, which are about 13 feet in height, 36 remain in a more or less perfect state of preservation. The area, comprising 2 1/2 acres, within the circle has been artificially raised and levelled, and is surrounded outside the stones by a ditch 6 feet deep and 29 feet wide. The smaller circle, called the Ring of Stennis, originally consisted of 12 stones enclosing an area of about 100 feet in diameter; only two of these stones remain standing, and a third has been thrown down. This circle too was surrounded by a broad and deep ditch now nearly obliterated. In character these circles of stones are identical with those of Callernish in the Lewes, and may be ascribed to the same race, though what that race may have been is hard to say. Round these circles standing-stones and barrows are irregularly scattered on both the nesses or peninsulas between the lakes of Harray and Stennis. About a mile and a half from the Stones of Stennis, on the south east shore of the lake of that name, towers the "Maes Howe," the great mound with a sepulchral chamber, excavated in 1861 by Mr. Farrer by the permission of Mr. Balfour, the owner of the property, and with the assistance of Mr. George Petrie and other distinguished antiquaries. Both those circles of stones and those huge barrows were found by the Northmen when they came into the Orkneys, and they at once called the ness or headland on which the principal circle stands Steinsnes or Stoneness, of which the modern Stennis is a corruption. After that it became the place of meeting for the inhabitants, whether in council or for single combat. And here it was in the days of one of the most ancient earls, that Havard the "harvest happy," the son of earl Thorfinn Skull-splitter, was attacked and slain by his sister's son, Einar Hardchaft, on a spot called Hávarðsteigar in the Saga, p. 12, which we are assured by Mr. George Petrie, as quoted by Munch, is still called "Havardsteg," after the ill fated earl.
For readers of the Saga, the most interesting fact connected with these Celtic monuments is the strange discovery when the "Maes Howe" was excavated, that the stones of its central sepulchral chamber were scored with runes which have been variously read. One fact, however, remains clear, that the Howe was broken open by the followers of earl Rognvald-Kali to the Holy Land. This appears plain from one of the very few readings on which the antiquaries seem all agreed. In inscription 20 occurs the line "Iorsalafarar bruto "Orkhaug," "The Jewryfarers broke into Orkhow;" but the wise men are wrong in seeking Orkhaug or "Orkhaugr" anywhere else than in the Maes Howe itself. (13) In spite of the opinions expressed by authorities on runic inscriptions who venture to ascribe various dates to the inscriptions in question, it is probable that they were all done at the same time, and before the expedition to the Holy Land started. That was part of the sport of that idle winter which earl Rognvald and his unruly Norwegian comrades spent in the Orkneys, when, as we are told, that bold band was full of outrage and frolic. There has always been a tendency to make more of runic inscriptions that they deserve. They were as often as not the production of whim or caprice, and no more meant to be serious than the scrawlings of modern tourists after their own names on national monuments. Thus when we read in one of these inscriptions "Ingigerð is the loveliest woman," this may mean earl Rognvald's only child Ingigerð; but then Ingigerd is not at all an uncommon name, and just as when we read "Mary is a pretty girl" on the Pyramids we do not think it means a Princess Mary, but some Mary whom the tourist knows, it is probable that this Ingigerd was another maiden than the earl's daughter.
So also when another of the inscriptions says, "This was cut with the axe which Gauk Trandil's son from the south country owned," that is an allusion indeed to a weapon owned by one of the chiefs named in the Njal's Saga as alive two hundred years before; but it was probably only scored as a joke or hoax on generations to come. It seems pretty plain that if, as these inscriptions expressly assert, the voyagers to the Holy Land broke into the Howe, that the inscriptions would be all after their time, the middle of the twelfth century. With regard to the Maes Howe itself, the evidence of the Saga, as well as of the inscriptions, seems to show that it was called "Orkahaugr" or Orkahow in the time of the Saga. At p. 190, it is mentioned that when earl Harold Maddad's son set off on one of his expeditions against earl Erlend who then lay at Damsay, two of his men went mad, and delayed them much, owing to the inclemency of the wintry weather while they were in "Orkahow," where they had taken shelter. This is the Howe now known as the Maes Howe, and it was open, because a year or two before at most it had been broken into by the followers of earl Rognvald. On the occasion in question as earl Harold was on an adventure the success of which depended on secrecy, nothing could be more appropriate than that he should use the deserted chamber of the Howe as a place of shelter after landing from his ship on the shore of the lake of Stennis on his straight road to Aurriðafirth or Wideford Bay, in which the isle of Damsay lies. On the other hand, had he been staying at a farm, his sick men would not have delayed him; he would have left them there, and passed on. The Howe was called Orkahaugr because it was the largest of the great barrows which surround the Stones of Stennis.
The south west point of the peninsula beyond Sandwick forms Stromness parish, a name no doubt derived from the stream or tide which rushes in between the isles of Hoy and Græmsay and the Mainland. In ancient times a farm called Kjarrekstaðir stood near the site of the modern Stromness, which has been identified with the modern Cairston or Carstone. (14)
The southern extremity of this part of the island forms the parish of Orphir or Orfir, the ancient Orfjara or Örfjara, the meaning of which is a flat or foreshore left bare at the ebb tide, a character which the coast still remains. Here it was that earl Paul Hacon's son kept his court, and here was a stately hall and a round church close by it, which also has been identified by the skill of Mr. George Petrie; for their position see the Saga p. 117, foll., where the earl's court and the events which led Sweyn Asleif's son to slay his namesake Sweyn Breastrope are graphically described. The hall lay near the modern Swanbister under what is now called the Ward Hill of Orfir, that is to say, the beacon hill of Orfir, and the highest in the island, which rises behind it to a height of 700 feet. But Munch has well pointed out that the Saga is wrong when it says that the Bay of Firth or Aurriðafjörðr, in which Damsay lies, can be seen from that hill, for the prospect in that direction is intercepted by the Keely Long Hills, the Norse Kilir, and Wideford Hill. At the extreme southern point of Orfir parish lies a little island, between which and the mainland is formed what is called in modern times Midland Harbour, in which we at once recognise the Meðallandshöfn of the Sagas. (15)
Munch thinks that the "voe" or "vágr" which runs up into the mainland protected by this island was called Hafnarvágr, that is the "voe of the harbour or haven" the modern Hamnavoe, and he quotes the Saga, p. 190, where it is said, that when earl Harold Maddad's son attempted to surprise earl Erlend, he sailed first to Græmsay, where he lay two nights. After that they landed at Hafnarvágr in Hrossey, and crossed to Firth, that is, Wideford Firth. Then it was that they were caught in that storm which drove them to take shelter in "Orkahaugi," which Munch calls a farm, and identifies as the modern "Orkhill," but we have already seen that the Orkahaugr here mentioned is probably no other than the How now called Maes Howe, and that it was within its sepulchral chambers, then recently broken into by earl Rognvald's companions, that the earl took refuge. He was on a secret expedition, bent on seizing his unwary enemy by a sudden dash, and the site of the modern Orkhill is too near Orfir to have rendered it a suitable stopping place. It is probable, therefore, that the site of Hafnarvágr is to be sought further up in the bight of the bay, where the stream from the Lake of Stennis meets the sea. There Harold Maddad's son landed, and thence he started to traverse the district between the Stones of Stennis and the bay of Firth. Overtaken by a storm, he sought shelter in Orkahow, and there it was that two of his men went mad.
East of Orfir parish lies that of St. Olaf, which comprises the waist of the Orkney Mainland, and in which lies Kirkwall, the heart of the islands, as fortunate in its position between two seas as the ancient Corinth. The parish was called after the royal Norwegian saint from the church which was erected to his honour on the shores of the "voe" which runs into the mainland on the north side of the isthmus. From the church the town which sprang up round it took its name Kirkjuvágr "the voe of the church," which modern pronunciation has turned into Kirkwall. From the "voe of the church" across the isthmus to the southern bay it is hardly so much as an English mile. That isthmus or "eið" is the Skálpeið so often mentioned in the Saga, and the bay itself is called Skálpaflói or "Skálpeiðsflói," which have both degenerated in modern speech into "Scapa," and "Scapa bay." On this isthmus, at or close to the town , but near enough to the bay to see ships sailing up, Things and gatherings of the freemen were frequently held. No doubt as Kirkwall rose into importance after the translation thither of the relics of St. Magnus and the building of the cathedral, (16) the ancient place of assembly at the Stones of Stennis was deserted for the more frequented locality near the capital, and as Scapa Bay became the great landing place of travellers from the south to Kirkwall, the place of meeting was transferred to the spot where men most congregated. So it was that after earl Paul was spirited away in that mysterious manner by Sweyn Asleif's son we find earl Rognvald, p. 134, assembling a Thing to discuss matters near Kirkwall, where the text shows that the place of meeting was close enough to the shore to see and even to recognize travellers as they landed. Not far from the landing place on the western side of Scapa Bay lay the ancient "Knarrarstaðir," Knarstead, that is, the "stead of ships" and especially merchant ships, from the ancient "Knörr." This was a farm which belonged to the earls, or at least to earl Rognvald-Kali, p. 137, and where there was according to the Saga, p. 188, some sort of fortification or castle. The Saga, p. 198 foll., shows how narrowly the earls, on more than one occasion, escaped the attacks of their enemies at this very farm. On the east side of the bay, where the land is higher, lies the modern Gatnip, where the Saga, p. 134, tells us that Borgar, the son of earl Erlend's base-born daughter, Jadvör, lived. The ancient name was Geitaberg or "Goathill" or Jadvarastaðr, Jadvorstead, and from that elevation Borgar saw Sweyn Asleif's son as he sailed from Caithness through the South Isles on his adventurous voyage to seize earl Paul. The same sharp eyes saw the bold Viking return with his prey after he had accomplished his daring feat.
Now let us return to Kirkwall. The position of the town is peculiar. To the north and west it is bounded by water. To the north by the open sea of the voe, and on the west by a backwater called the "Oyce" or "Peerie Sea," that is, the Little Sea. This backwater is cut off from the open sea by a bank of sand and shingle called the "air," derived from the ancient Norse "eyrr," the old English form of which is "ere" or "or." (17)
Along the east side of this "Oyce" or Peerie Sea straggles the town of Kirkwall abutting on the open sea of the voe at its northern extremity. Of public buildings, the remains of the old St. Olaf's Church lie nearest the sea at the northern end of the town, and no doubt in early times the dwellings of the inhabitants were clustered round that ancient church. In later days when earl Rognvald's magnificent cathedral rose in all its beauty further south, other public buildings sprang up about it. So arose what used to be called till it was pulled down a few years since, the King's Castle, but which was in reality the ancient palace of the earls, though it was probably not the work of any of the earls mentioned in the Saga, but erected by one of the St. Clairs in the fourteenth century. Later still as the town stretched itself still further south another earl's palace was built by the tyrannical Patrick Stewart at the beginning of the seventeenth century; it stands a little beyond the bishop's palace, which lay between it and the older earl's palace.
We now come to the cathedral, which is the glory of the Orkneys and indeed of all the north. It stands nobly on an open space to the east of the long straggling high street, pretty nearly at the end of the town, and south east of the king's castle or ancient earl's palace. The Saga relates how this splendid church arose in obedience to a vow suggested by the politic Kol, the father of earl Rognvald-Kali. It also tells us that Kol was the master mason, in which case he was as skilled in architecture as in policy, and how, when money fell short, the work was carried on by allowing the freemen to redeem their allodial holdings for a fixed sum (Saga, p. 137). But in spite of all efforts the work after the first start proceeded slowly, as was often the case with mediæval buildings; and there was a great gap in the west end of the church which was not filled up till the time of bishop Thomas Tulloch, about the year 1450. In it, till the Reformation, was that magnificent shrine of St. Magnus of which we read so much in the Saga. In that religious revolution it perished with all its treasures. The bones of the saint and his skull, bearing marks of the fracture made by Lifolf's axe (Saga, p. 81), were then immured in one of the massive pillars of the choir, whence they were broken out a few years ago by an English nobleman, and having been inspected, and as far as possible identified, they were returned to the resting place in which they had so long remained. In this respect the relics were more fortunate than those of any saint, either in North or South Britain, except perhaps those of Cuthbert at Durham, and of Edward the Confessor, which last are supposed still to rest at Westminster in the wooden shrine to which they were restored by Abbot Feckenham in the time of Queen Mary. For those of St. Cuthbert inquire of the Benedictines. In the cathedral too rested the bones of bishop William, whom the Saga calls the first bishop of the Orkneys. After having held the see for the long space of 60 years, he was buried there in the year 1168. In 1848, when the church was repaired, his bones were found enclosed in a stone cist along with a leaden plate, on which was inscribed "Hic requiescit Willielmus senex, felicis memoria, primus Episcopus." The bones and the cist were carted away as rubbish, but the plate and the bone head of the bishop's pastoral staff are preserved in the Museum of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
On the south side of the cathedral and just opposite to it, nearer to the sea shore, stand the venerable remains of Saint Olaf's church and the cathedral, the oldest building in the town. For Norwegian history it has great interest, as being the abode and death place of king Hacon Hacon's son, in the year 1263. His remains found a resting place in St. Magnus Church till they were removed to Norway.
With regard to the earls and their residence in Kirkwall, it is probable that, in the times of which the Saga treats, they seldom took up their abode in the town. The earliest mention of Kirkwall in our Saga is at p. 53, where it is said that earl Rognvald established himself there, and how earl Thorfinn, after slaying earl Rognvald Brúsi's son and his followers on the Greater Papey, sailed for Kirkwall, where, by a stratagem, he induced the remaining adherents of his rival on land to meet him at the landing place unarmed, when he seized them and put them all to death but one. At the end of the Saga and especially in the quarrels between the earls Rognvald and Harold and Sweyn Asleif's son, we hear much of Kirkwall in connexion with the cathedral, which was used both as a sanctuary for fugitives and a storehouse for sails and the tackling of ships which the earls had seized.
Leaving Kirkwall and Thievisholm, which no doubt may be restored to þíofahólmr from the thieves who met their deaths on the gallows there, but which is not mentioned in the Saga, we come to Quanterness on the west side of the voe, with its Picts' house, first described by Barry and since scientifically examined along with so many others in the Orkneys by the late lamented Mr. George Petrie. Looking west from Quanterness and Kirkwall the horizon is intercepted by Wideford Hill, in which "Wideford" is a corruption of "Aurriðafjörðr," that is Troutfirth, otherwise called simply Fjörðr or Firth in the Saga. From this hill, which almost rivals the Ward Hill of Orfir in height, an extended prospect is afforded over the whole archipelago and especially north and west towards Westray and Stronsay. Its sides are hollow with those weems and Picts' houses already described, which seem more common in this neighbourhood than anywhere else in the Orkneys. Close under the feet of the beholder as he stands on the top of Wideford Hill lies Aurriðafjörðr, the bay or firth already mentioned. It is often mentioned in the Saga and was the scene of the death of the ill fated earl Erlend, who lay in his ship off Damsay, the ancient Daminsey. Of the strong castle on that island a few remains are visible. On the north side of the Bay of Firth we return to Rendale parish, the ancient Rennadalr, from which we started, and we have now completed our perambulation of Hrossey or the Mainland west of the isthmus at Scapa Bay. The districts east of that isthmus remain to be described.
Off Inganess lies Shapinsay, which is not mentioned in the Saga, but which, as has been already said, may be with certainty restored to the ancient Hjálpandisey. On its southern side which protects the entrance to Kirkwall Harbour lies Ellwick, the ancient Elliðavík which is mentioned in Hacon Hacon's son's Saga.
Returning to the Mainland east of Scapa Bay we come after Inganess Bay to Tankarness, a peninsula which juts out into the sea, the north point of which was called Tannskaranes, off which earl Paul Hacon's son (Saga, p. 112 foll.), met the ships of Oliver the Unruly and Frakok and signally defeated them, having first descried them rounding the Mull Head off Deerness on their way to join his rival earl Rognvald. Here, on a farm of the same name, lived a freeman named Erling, who, with his stalwart sons, helped the earl by bringing stones, the rude artillery of those times, to hurl at his foes, down to his ship. Passing on from Tankarness we come to the easternmost peninsula of the Mainland, Deerness, the ancient Dýrnes, which is almost an island, being only joined to the Mainland by a narrow neck, probably called in ancient times Sandeið from the nature of the soil, and now called "Sandaysand." Off the Mull Head (Múli) of Deerness, the bloody sea fight took place between earl Thorfinn and the Scot-king, Karl Hound's son, and in the verses of Arnor Earlskald, the name of the promontory is given (Saga, p. 33). This Dýrnes is not to be mistaken for another Dýrnes or Djurnes near Cape Wrath, which is also mentioned in the Sagas.
On Deerness lies a spot memorable in the early days of the Orkney earls. Here at Sandvík now Sandwick, that is Sandy Bay, on the east side of the peninsula, lived Ámundi or Amund in the days of earl Einar Brúsi's son. The words of the Saga are (p. 17) that he lived in Hrossey at Sandwick, on Laupandanes or Lopness. It seems probable that the last name is that of the district, and Sandvik that of the abode of Ámundi, but whichever it be, there with his father lived Thorkel the fosterer of earl Thorfinn, and there at Sandwick Thorkel slew earl Einar Wrymouth at a feast. Thither, too, a little afterwards earl Thorfinn fled when surprised by king Karl, and there he was met by Thorkel "under Deerness" with reinforcements.
Off Deerness lies Copinsay, the first islet which the traveller passes when steering for Kirkwall. It is not mentioned in the Saga, but there is no doubt that its ancient name was Kolbeinsey, as Munch has restored it, and not "Kaupmannaey island" or "Merchant's island" as some have supposed.
Last of all we come to the south easternmost part of Mainland, the parish of Holm or Paplay. Munch supposes that Holm is a mispronunciation of "Heimr," but it might have arisen from the Holms which lie off the coast. The "Papýli" or "Papuli" mentioned in our Saga was probably this Paplay in Hrossey, and not another farm of the same name in the neighbouring island of South Ronaldsay. See Saga, page 198. Whichever it was, it was part of the landed property which belonged to the family of earl Erlend, the father of Saint Magnus, for Paplay is mentioned by the Saga, p. 74, as part of the dower which Gunhilda, the sister of the saint, brought to her husband Kol, the son of Kali; and here, too lived the saint's mother, and after her her son Hacon churl.
We now leave the Mainland, and passing rapidly over Lambholm, Glimsholm, and Burray, on the last of which there are the remains of a fine burgh, like that at Moussa, from which no doubt the island took its ancient name of Borgarey, "the island of the burgh or castle," we come to South Ronaldsay, which is often mentioned in the Saga. We have already seen that, in modern times, South Ronaldsay took its prefix "South" to distinguish it from North Ronaldsay; but in ancient times there was no such ambiguity. The northern island was called Rínansey and the southern Rögnvaldsey, though, as the MSS. sometimes write both names R-ey, some confusion has arisen from the carelessness of transcribers, both ancient and modern. After Hrossey no island is named so often in our Saga as South Ronaldsay, a fact easily accounted for by its nearness to the Scottish main, whence so many expeditions against the Isles were planned and executed. On this island was Barðsvik, now Barswick, where Sweyn Asleif's son (p. 207) saw a ship of war sailing from Hrossey to South Ronaldsay, and from the same place, (p. 208) earl Rognvald and Sweyn saw earl Harold Maddad's son sailing over from Caithness to Vágaland, or Walls or Waas, that is to the low lying portion of Hoy. On the northwest side of the island lies Ronaldsvoe, the ancient Rognvaldsvágr, which, according to Munch, is the inner bight of the great bay now called "Widewall Bay," and in ancient times Víðivágr. Ronaldsvoe is interesting as being the harbour in which king Hacon Hacon's son lay from the 1st to the 10th of August in 1263, when he witnessed the annular eclipse of the sun which happened on the 5th of August in that year. (18)
Hoxa, the ancient Haugseið (the Cod. Flat. reads "Haugaheiði," Howheath), is an outlying peninsula on the north west of South Ronaldsay, which forms one arm of Widewall harbour. It was in all probability so called from the Haugr or Howe of earl Thorfinn Skullsplitter (Saga, p. 11), whose resting place may, perhaps, be identified with the great barrow called the "Howe of Hoxa;" though it is probable, as Munch suggests, that the Howe existed before the Northmen came to Orkney, and was utilized by the followers of the Orkney earl as his burial place.
Here, too, on the east side of the island, is another Papýli or Paplay, which, with the other Paplay already mentioned in Hrossey, claims to be the farm described in the Saga, p. 74, as part of the possessions of the descendents of earl Magnus the Saint. In any case the name is another proof of the abode of Irish anchorites in the Orkneys. Off South Ronaldsay lies Swanay, the ancient Swíney, mentioned in the Saga, p. 89, as the abode of Grim, a man of small means, whose sturdy sons Asbjorn and Margad were the constant followers of Sweyn Asleif's son.
After South Ronaldsay we have only one considerable island of the group left to describe. This is Hoy, the ancient Háey, or "high island," which answers to its name as being, in part at least, the only really mountainous island of the group. The southeastern extremity of the island is, however, flat; cut off from the hilly part by a narrow neck of land, just where the "voe," which forms part of the splendid harbour of Longhope, indents the shore, it is almost considered a distinct island, and is called "Walls," from the ancient vágar, from vágr, a "voe." In the Saga it is called repeatedly Vágaland. Here is the voe or haven called Osmondswall in modern and Ásmundarvágr in ancient times; where the Saga tells us that earl Sigurd was caught weatherbound by king Olaf Tryggvi's son, in the year 995, and forced to become an unwilling convert to Christianity (Saga, p. 15). here too earl Einar Wrymouth caught and slew Eyvind Urarhorn, king Olaf's dear friend (Saga, p. 20). By some it has been supposed that Osmondswall is to be sought on South Ronaldsay opposite, but Munch has shown that it is more properly placed on Walls. The remainder of Hoy is so hilly as to be scarcely habitable, though there on the "Upland," no doubt a hill farm, lived John WIng, the friend and kinsman of Sweyn Asleif's son (Saga, p. 89). His brother was Richard of the Brink on Stronsay, and the Saga tells us (p. 130) how the two fell on Thorkel the flayer, and burnt him and nine men in the house which their kinsman Waltheof had owned. At Rackwick, the ancient Rekavík, on the northwest side lived Thorljót, the father of Oliver the Unruly, and the son in law of Frakok, whose fate is described, Saga, p. 140. In a valley on the side of the highest hill on Hoy is the famous Dwarfie Stone which contains three chambers hewn by human hands, and in which we, no doubt, see one of those cells to which the Papæ or anchorites retired to spend their ascetic lives. Here in Hoy the legends of the North laid the scene of that endless mythical combat mentioned in the Skálda as Hjaðnínga-víg, where day by day the followers of Högni and Heðinn fought and fell, only to rise up at dawn next day to renew the struggle, which was to last till the day of doom. This is not the only tale which shows that to the Northmen those islands of the West were holy ground, but it is remarkable that the last remains of Norse poetry in these islands, rescued by Low in 1774, should have turned on one of the episodes in this Hjaðnínga-víg.
We now leave the Orkneys and pass on across the Pentland Firth, but let us pause to point out that the true name of that stormy strait is not Pentland, but Petland or Pettland, that is "the Firth of the land of 'the Picts.'" Whatever may be said to the contrary, the name thus given by the Northmen to the strait which separated them from a foreign and hostile race is a proof that the Picts or Pihte or Peohte or Peti, as the Latinized form ran, were in existence as a people or race when the first sea rovers and settlers reached those waters from Norway. In those days the term Scotland had not extended to the northernmost part of the country. The Picts in fact had not yet disappeared before the advance of the Scots from Ireland and the West. For a long period these two races, the Picts in the north and east and the Scots --- the Dalriad Scots as they were called --- in the west, co-existed in Scotland, and during the events narrated in the earlier portion of our Saga a continuous struggle for supremacy went on between the older Pictish royal race in Moray and the younger line of the Scots in the south, which at last terminated in the victory of the latter. Then, and not till then, the Picts disappeared, that is to say, they were amalgamated with the victorious race. But for centuries the dwellers beyond Caithness, and Sutherland, in Ross, and Moray, were known to the Northmen as Picts, and not as Scots, and so the stormy water which parted them from the Scottish mainland was called the Pettland, or Pictland Firth. In it, between South Ronaldsay and Caithness, lies the Pettlands Sker, now called "the Pentland Skerries," and nearer to the Scottish shore lies Stromay or Stroma, the ancient Straumey, "the island in the stream" or tideway, mentioned in the Njáls Saga, as well as in the Saga, p. 208, as the abode of Ámundi the son of Hnefi, who reconciled earl Harold and Sweyn Asleif's son.
Finally, before we land on Caithness, we must mention "Svelgr" a dangerous whirlpool or "maelstrom," which may, perhaps, be identified with the eddy off Swelchie or Swilchie Point in the island of Stroma. It was in this famous whirlpool that Grotti the mill of the mythic king Fróði, which could grind all things, was sunk by the sea rover who carried it off; a story which still lingers in the Norse popular tale, "Why the Sea is Salt," and there at the bottom of the "Swelchie," Fróði's mill is supposed still to lie and to grind all the salt in the sea.
Landing in Caithness we shall not be suprised to find the Northmen simultaneously with their colonization of the Orkneys established on various parts of the north of Scotland. On jutting headlands and in deep bays and along the winding dales and straths of the rivers, Northern names still linger to witness their ancient occupation by this stirring race. Of Caithness, the ancient Katanes or more shortly Nes, the Naze or promontory par excellence, it may be said that it was in those times purely Norse. It seems always to have been held by the Orkney earls, and notably by earl Harold Maddad's son, as a fief from the Scottish king, who, even when most exasperated against his vassal, gave vent to his wrath rather on the population and freemen than on the earl (Saga, p. 230). When there were joint earls in the Orkneys and they were good friends, they went annually over to Caithness to hunt deer, as when earls Rognvald and Harold set out on that hunting party which ended in Rognvald's death (Saga p. 214-5). Sutherland, too, the ancient Suðrlönd took its name from the Northmen. It was south to them though north to almost all the rest of Scotland. Over both these counties, which, by the conformation of the coasts east and west, form as it were a promontory by themselves, for a long period the Northmen held more sway than any other rulers in Scotland. In the time of the earls their power naturally varied on the Mainland as they were strong and aggressive, or weak and peaceful at home. The power wielded by a Sigurd or a Thorfinn differed much from that claimed by a Brúsi or a Paul. Speaking generally, we may say that the rule of the Northmen in early times extended as far as the Dornoch Firth and the Oikel; and on the banks of the latter river it is expressly said of Sigurd, one of the earliest earls, that he was buried under a "howe" (19) there (Saga, p. 6). The Torfnes, where earl Einar first cut turf as we are told, and whence he took his nickname, is supposed to be the same as Tarbetness which divides the Dornoch from the Moray Firth. Arnor Earlskald sings of it as south of Oikel, p. 35. That this influence of the Northmen existed in later times, is shown by the account of the route pursued by Sweyn Asleif's son when he went out to take vengeance on the carline Frakok. He sailed from the Orkneys east of the Swelchie in the Pentland Firth to the Moray Firth, the ancient Breiðafjörðr, and on to Elgin and the valley of the Oikel, (20) and so up the country to Athole, where he got guides, and then fell on his enemy by a back blow in Sutherland, where he wreaked his vengeance to the full.
In both Caithness and Sutherland a glance at the map will show from the names the prevalence of Northern settlers in the country. Along the coast, Cape Wrath is a distortion of cape Hvarf, that is Turnagain Point, because after it the coast trends away south. Close to it was a Djurnes or Dýrnes, not to be confounded with the headland of the same name in Hrossey. Then there is Force or Fors, the "waterfall" at the mouth of the river which runs down from Loch Caldell, the ancient Kalfadals-vatn, through the side dale of the same name, in which Earl Rognvald-Kali met his death by the hands of the unruly Thorbjorn Clerk (Saga, p. 215). Next comes Thurso, the ancient þórsá, mentioned in the Saga, p. 130, as the abode of earl Ottar Frakok's brother and afterwards of his kinsman, earl Harold Maddad's son. Not far off is Staur, supposed to be Broom Ness. At Scrabster, Skarabólstaðr, they had a castle. Not far from Scrabster lies Murkle, the ancient Myrkholl, where Ragnhilda, Eric Bloodaxe's bloodthirsty daughter, caused her husband earl Arnfinn to be murdered (Saga, p. 11). Dunnet Head is probably the Rauðabjörg or Red Head of the Sagas. Between it and Duncansby Head is the Dungalsbœr of the Saga, in which it is mentioned often as one of the possessions of Sweyn Asleif's son, and on the east coast was Lambaborg, Lamburg, the strong castle whence he and Margad escaped when besieged by earl Rognvald. It is clear from the Saga, pp. 186, 191, that this castle was close to Freswick, the ancient þrasvík. Further down the coast is Víkr the modern Wick. It is uncertain where Skidmire, the ancient Skiðamýri, lay, where the rival earls of Northern and Scottish or Pictish race met to settle their quarrels in staked lists. It was probably in the interior of Caithness, in the district called the Dales. (21) There in the Dales at one time dwelt the treacherous and intriguing Frakok till her designs against earl Paul made both Caithness and Sutherland too hot to hold her, and she retired to Athole, where her niece Margaret had married earl Maddad. Afterwards she returned to Helmsdale, Hjalmundalr, in Sutherland, and there it was that her implacable foe, Sweyn Asleif's son, fell on her after a circuitous expedition, and burnt her and all who were in the house (Saga, p. 139, 140). Besides these and many others in Caithness and Sutherland, which last was the border country between the Northmen and the Scottish races, numberless names of places along the coasts east and west attest the extent to which their expeditions reached when they were bent on conquest or sea roving. Not to speak of the invasions both of Scotland, England, and Ireland by earl Thorfinn, the life of Sweyn Asleif's son, so graphically told in the Saga, proves how wide a flight the old Viking took in his private wars. Sometimes he is harrying and burning either alone or in partnership, in the Southern Isles and Scotland's Firths, that is the Firths on the west coast, where dwelt the great race of which Somerled was the chief, whom Sweyn was said to have slain. Sometimes he is on an expedition into the heart of Scotland as far as Athole, bent on vengeance in a blood feud. Now he is plundering monks or merchants in the Firth or Forth, and seizing, in company with Anakol, on the goods of Canute, a merchant of North Berwick; for it is plain from the context that it is North Berwick, and not Berwick-on-Tweed, which is meant when the Saga in several places talk of Beruvík. At another time he is in the Scilly Isles at Port St. Mary's, or off Ireland robbing English traders of their broadcloth. Going regularly out to rob and plunder twice in each year, in spring after he had sown his crops, and in autumn after he had reaped them, he dies at last in Dublin, the victim of treachery; and so ended the career of one who may be called the last of the Vikings. Wherever the Northman went he left his mark, and one of his marks was giving names to places which to his day all over Scotland and the West bear witness to his enterprize and power.
But this geographical account would be incomplete were we to pass over in silence those expeditions by the Northmen which went beyond the Narrow Seas away from Norway and the islands of the West, and entered what to them was the ocean of the Mediterranean. Such were the fleets fitted out by king Sigurd for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, whence he got his nickname "Jewryfarer," and by earl Rognvald-Kali expressly in imitation of that monarch. Those pilgrimages followed the Crusades and the establishment of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, and as in the days of the earlier earls, such as Thorfinn and Hacon, a pilgrimage to Rome followed by absolution from the Holy Father for direful sins was looked on as the fitting end of an earthly career too often debased by ambition; so in the days of their successors it was thought that to visit Jerusalem and to see the Holy Places in that city and in Palestine was a voyage which might atone for many crimes. In those days the northern pilgrims, like the modern Syrians and Copts, swam across the muddy Jordan in token that their sins were washed out by the waves of that holy stream, and not one of the least curious facts recorded in the pilgrimage of earl Rognvald is his swimming across that river with Sweyn Asleif's son's stepson, the dashing Sigmund angle, and twisting the knot of shame in the hoary willows on the opposite bank as a brand of disgrace for the false Eindrid who had deserted them on the way. These expeditions in another way were connected with the Crusades. As the Crusaders had often lingered at Constantinople sometimes aiding, sometimes expelling, the emperors of the East, so king Sigurd and earl Rognvald after him thought it right to show themselves and their trim ships and bold crews at the Byzantine court, and as they neared the imperial city, which to their eyes was greater and richer far than any capital in the world, they strained every nerve and put on all their bravery of apparel to present themselves as great kings and mighty earls before the eyes of the Greeks and their master. Nor, assuredly, was it without a flush of pride as they sailed through the Dardanelles and across the sea of Marmora that those hardy children of the North remembered that the mainstay of all the pomp and pride of the empire of the East was that chosen band of Varangians, on whom, of all their legions, the emperors most relied, and to whom the most exclusive rights and the most sweeping privileges were granted as the reward of their unflinching allegiance. With regard to these expeditions the Orkneyingers' Saga affords the most curious information. In it we can follow such a design through every stage from its very conception to its perfect accomplishment. Here we see how Eindrid the young, who had served long among the Varangians, first incited earl Rognvald to gain glory by deeds in the East; then how earl Rognvald's friends and relations rallied round him as soon as he had made up his mind to make the pilgrimage; next how the ships were built and how long they took to build, how jealously earl Rognvald's rights as leader of the expedition were guarded in the stipulation that no one but he was to have a gaily painted and decorated ship, no one but he one of more than sixty oars; (22) both of which conditions were broken by the ambition of Eindrid, whose ship alone of all the squadron rivalled in burden and beauty the longship of the earl.
At last after the ships had been built and his plans matured, earl Rognvald started, late in the summer of 1151 --- for they had to wait for the traitor Eindrid's new ship --- for his voyage to the east. Besides bishop William, who, as a clerk of Paris, was supposed to know all things, and whom they took with them as an interpreter, the earl was followed by his Orkney chiefs and his Norse kinsmen and friends. In all they had a fleet of fifteen ships, as well built and fitted out as ships in that age could be. Our purpose here is only with the geography of their voyage, --- the places they passed rather than the feats they performed are what we wish to describe. As they passed the Vesla-sands off the Northumbrian coast, that is, the northeast coast of England, as far as the Humber, one of the skalds who accompanied the earl burst out into song, the words of his verse fix the spot as off Humber-mouth, and perhaps one of the many shoals which fringe the mouth of that estuary and the Wash may be the sand meant. (23) After this we hear of them sailing south along the coast of England till they come to Valland, that is, France, or some country peopled by a Romance race; and next we find them at Nerbon, according to all the best MSS. That this Nerbon is the same as Narbonne in the Gulf of Lyons, in the south of France, seems impossible, for that city is just the last spot on the shores of the Mediterranean in which we should expect to find these adventurers, as it lay entirely out of their course. That, however, it was some place in the wine-growing country is clear from the fact that Ermingard pours out wine to the earl and his captains rather than mead or ale; and, on the whole, it seems not unlikely that "Nerbon" is the river Nerbion or Nervion, and that the sea burg is the modern Bilbao in the north of Spain; but wherever it was, that lovely lady received the Northmen most hospitably, and whatever might be the case with her, it is plain from earl Rognvald's verses, long after their parting and when much of that salt water which proverbially washes out love was between them, that she made a great impression on him. But their aim was the Holy Land, not to make love in Nerbon, and so earl Rognvald tore himself away and we next hear of him as sailing west off Thrasness, which may mean Capes La Hogue, Ortegal, or Finisterre in Spain, according to the position of the doubtful "Nerbon" on the map of Europe. Next they came, still sailing west, to Galicia in Spain, and there they wintered, spending part of it, till the weather allowed them to sail in the spring of 1152, in ridding the inhabitants of the district of a tyrant named Godfrey who oppressed them terribly. Having taken his castle, they sailed thence west along the shore of heathen Spain, that is, along the districts possessed by the Moors, landing and harrying the country, and encountering a violent storm before they could beat through the Gut at Gibraltar. As soon as they had passed it the treacherous nature of Eindrid was revealed. He sailed away with six ships for Marseilles, while earl Rognvald and the rest lay to in the Straits. After that the earl sailed along the Barbary coast till he came off the island of Sardinia, where he fell in with a huge Dromond, or ship of burden, which had been driven to sea from Tripoli, Tunis, or Algiers, having on board of her a Moorish chief and untold wealth in wares and gold and silver. The Northmen took her after a sharp struggle, and then, after a custom not uncommon in those times, put into a port in Barbary to dispose of the prisoners they had spared, and some of the goods which they had taken out of their prize. Thence they sailed south to Crete, again encountering heavy weather, and there they lay under the lee of the island till they got a fair wind for Acre in Palestine, where they arrived early on a Friday morning. (24)
There they landed after their long voyage, but sickness as was not unlikely, broke out among them, and many died. From Acre earl Rognvald and his men visited all the "halidoms" or holy places in Jewry, and as we have already seen bathed in Jordan, and swam across it, as it seems on St. Laurence's Day, August 10th, 1152. Soon after that they left the Holy Land and completed their adventures by a visit to the city of cities, Constantinople. On their way thither they came in the autumn to a place which is in its way as puzzling as Nerbon. This was "Imbolum," which some have thought to be the island of Imbros, while the late Gudbrand Vigfusson thought it to be only a distortion of "ej tan polin." In the account of their stay at this place, another puzzling word occurs in "miðhœfi," which the inhabitants called out to one another when they met in a narrow place. This, too, Mr. Vigfusson explains in the Icelandic Dictionary by the Greek metabhqi, "get down," or "get out of the way," and whatever it was, ignorance of it caused Erling, the second in command of the expedition, a fall and roll in the mud. A more tragical event happened there in the murder of John Peter's son, the earl's brother in law, who seems to have been slain by some of the inhabitants after he had missed his way when drunk at night.
Leaving "Imbolum" they passed "Engilsness," or Cape St. Angelo, though another reading is Ægisness, said to be the point at the end of the Thracian Chersonese, at the mouth of the Dardanelles, where they lay some nights waiting for a fair south wind to carry them across the sea of Marmora to the great city. As soon as it came, they sailed up with great pomp, just after the pattern of king Sigurd, and when they came to Constantinople they were made much of by the emperor Manuel and the Varangians, though the traitor Eindrid, whom they found there in great favour, did everything in his power to set men against them. About winter the earl began his voyage home, sailing first to Bulgaria and Durazzo, and thence across the Adriatic to Apulia. There he left his ships, and with the noblest of his company ended his journey home by land, clearly leaving the rest of his force to bring the ships home by sea. From Apulia he took horse and rode to Rome, where, though it is not mentioned, he no doubt got absolution for his sins. From Rome he went "Rome way," that is, by the usual route of pilgrims to that city, and so passing through Germany he came to Denmark and to Norway. No wonder after such a voyage and such exploits men were glad to see them safe back, and thought that their voyage had been most glorious, and they were much greater men then than they had been before. This must have been early in 1153. Many things kept earl Rognvald most of that year in Norway. When the winter was far spent he reached his realm in a merchant ship with a great train. Ships of war were being built for him in Norway, and his old ships seem never to have returned from the Mediterranean; at least they are never heard of. During his absence there had been many changes in the Orkneys, and he found a new pretender to the earldom in Erlend, the son of earl Harold smooth-tongue. Whatever they might have thought of him in Norway, earl Rognvald must have felt that to come home in a merchant ship, after having sailed from the Isles with such a goodly fleet, and to return to find strife where he had left peace, was a downfall in his position and power which it would require all his skill and tact to retrieve. How he did this and kept his predominance in the Orkneys till his death will be seen in that Story of Earl Rognvald which forms the third portion of the Orkney Sagas.
The late Mr. Vigfusson having elaborately described in the preface to the Norse text, of which the translation is contained in this volume, the process whereby he was enabled to build up from various sources the structure of the Orkneyingers' Saga, and having also most carefully examined and estimated the value which, in point of historical credibility, attaches to each fragment, it is unnecessary for the translator to add anything to the information which has already been laid before the student of this period of English History. It may, however, be pointed out that this volume and the translation of the Hacon Saga and its Appendices should, with the Norse text and Mr. Vigfusson's laborious introductions, be treated as a whole, as between them they contain nearly all that is known from northern sources as to the dominion claimed and exercised by the Northmen over portions of Great Britain from the reign of Harold Fairhair, in the latter half of the ninth century, until the collapse of King Hacon's great expedition to Scotland in 1263.
1. It is described in Hibberts book on Shetland, p. 544, as built of stones, without cement. In the walls, which are thirteen feet thick, are eleven small round rooms, each five feet in diameter, with a separate entrance from the inner court, which is 31 feet in diameter. This “burgh” seems to have differed from that at Moussa in having single, and not double walls.
2. The lines in Juvenal, II. 159-161 --- “Arma quidem ultra...... Littora Juvernæ promovimus, et modo captas Orcadas, ac minimâ contentos nocte Britannos.” were written after A.D. 84, when Agricola sailed round Britain and discovered the Orkneys. They are also important as marking the quantity Orcades with a short pen- ultimate like Strophades, Pleiades, and Symplegandes.
3. The meaning of this word is a portage, or place where boats and ships are dragged across a narrow isthmus from sea to sea. Any one acquainted with Scotland, will recall several Tarbats, or Tarbets, as for instance, that across the neck of the Mull of Cantire, that at the head of Loch Lomond, where a narrow neck of land separates it from Loch Long, and another on the east coast in the Dornoch Firth.
4. See Munchs essay in the Annals: and Introduction to Burnt Njal, Edinburgh, 1861.
5. Great confusion has arisen between these two islands from the custom in MSS. of using the abreviation R-ey for both of them. This abreviation when expanded under the pen of a careless scribe often turned Rinansey into Rögnvaldsey, and vice versa.
6. It is remarkable that the Horæ for the Feast of St. Magnus (p. 311) as found in the Aberdeen Breviary contain the form Eglissei and not Egilssei, as though the name of the isle on which the Saint was martyred were derived from a church and not from Egil.
7. So holy was this church considered, that the first reformed minister could scarcely prevent his parishioners from saying their prayers in the ruins before they came to the parish church. St. Tredwall is the Scottish form of St. Triduana, a saint once much revered across the border. She was said to have come from Achaia with Saint Regulus, to Scotland; in the course of her journey her beauty so inflamed a Gaulish chief, that to escape his advances, she cut out her own eyes. After this mutilation, she came to Scotland and died, and was buried at Restalrig near Edinburgh. Many miracles were wrought at her grave, and she was especially sought for diseases and injuries of the eyes. At p. 229 of our Saga will be found a proof of this in the case of Bishop John of Caithness, whom earl Harold Maddads son, mutilated both in eyes and tongue, who when brought to the shrine of St. Tredwall, it is uncertain whether at her chapel in Papey Meiri, or her shrine at Restalrig, recovered both sight and speech. In Norse utterance, St. Triduana or St. Tredwall became Trollhæna, pronounced Trodlhæna. Barry says, p. 63, that St. Tredwalls chapel in Papey Meiri was built over an old Picts house; and in all probability, the chapel was in existence as a place of worship, like the church at Egilsay, long before the arrival of the Northmen in the Orkneys.
8. The text of the Saga, p. 111, says that Thorstein Havards son Gunnis son was to have charge of the beacon on Rínansey, but this probably arises out of a confusion between the two Thorsteins, for at p. 121 it is said that Thorstein Ragnas son fired the beacon on Rínansey.
9. This seems to be the meaning of the words (p. 221), “Þeir (his sons Olaf and Andres) gjörðu hit næsta sumar eptir er Sveinn var látinn gaflhlöd í drikkjuskála þann hinn mikla er hann hafði áttan i Gareksey.” Munch says that the meaning of the words is that Andrew and Olaf built an upper story to the house when their father died, but the sense of the context plainly is that the hall which Sweyn built was too long for them, they therefore cut it in half and divided it between them.
10. Munch has shown that the strange name, Pomona, identical with that of the Roman goddess of Fruit and Plenty, which Buchanan gave to the mainland of Orkney when he says, “Orcadum maxima multis veterum Pomona vocatur,” arose out of a mistake in some MS. of Solinus, who, in speaking of the Orcades and Thyle, says, “Secundum a continenti stationem Orcades præbent .... vacant homine, non habent silvas, tantum junceis herbis inhorrescunt. Cætera eorum nudæ arenæ. Ab Orcadibus Thylen usque 5 dierum ac noctium navigatio est; sed Thyle larga et diutinâ copiosa est.” In this passage both diutina and pomona have been taken as local names at various times, as when Torfæus tells us that Hrossey or the Mainland was called Diutina by Solinus, and when the MS. which Fordun and Buchanan preferred read Pomona. In the one case, the passage in Solinus would have run, “Sed Thyle larga, et Diutina pomonâ copiosa est,” and in the other “Sed Thyle larga et diutina Pomona copiosa est.” Solinus was as Munch well says, a geographical oracle all through the middle ages, but it is clear that in the passage in question he says nothing whatever about the Orkneys, but only that “Thyle, which was distant from that group by a voyage of five days and nights, was fruitful and abundant in the lasting yield of its crops.” It follows, therefore, that “Pomona,” of which Barry says “This appellation has been traced, ridiculously enough to a word in the Roman (i.e., Latin) language, that implies the core or heart of an apple, an allusion to the situation of this with regard to the rest of the islands,” should be banished from the geography of the Orkneys, as well as the Celtic derivation from “po,” little, and “mon,” country. It is remarkable that Solinus describes the Orkneys as uninhabited in his day, but when he flourished is very doubtful; about the middle of the third century of the Christian era seems the most probable date.
11. In this parish the old Norse dialect seems to have maintained itself a long time. John Ben, as quoted by Munch and Anderson, found it in full force there in 1529. “Utuntur idiomate proprio,” he says, “veluti quum dicimus guid day, guidman,” illi dicunt goand da, boundæ.” That is, “godan dag, bóndi.”
12. The name of this parish is probably derived from the word herad, which forms the last part of the compound Birgis-herad, now Birsay. In old times both the parishes of Harray and Birsay were united in the district called Birgis-herad. Munch thinks that Birsay does not come from Birgis-ey, the isle or brock of Birsay, but Birgis-á, the stream which falls into the sea at that spot.
13. See Farrer's beautiful book, Maes Howe, 1862. Compare also this translation of the Saga, p. 190.
14. The conjecture of Munch is no doubt right that for "Kjarrekstöðum," p. 185 of the text of the Saga, we should read "Hnarrarstum" Knarstead. Arni could never have run so far with his shield on his back without being aware of it.
15. Hacon Hacon's son's Saga, p. 352, new ed.
16. The Saga, p. 92, expressly says of Kirkwall, before the translation of the relics of St. Magnus, from Christ Church in Birsay, that it "had few houses."
17. This "or" or "ere" forms the ending of many names of places in the British Isles, as Upn-or, Bogn-or, Walm-er, in each of which there is a natural bank of sand or shingle protecting a low tract of land, sometimes, as in the case of Walmer, below high-water mark; compare also Ravensere, the old Hrafuseyrr, Saga, p. 63, near the Spurn Head at the north of the Humber.
18. Hacon Hacon's son's Saga, p. 333-4, 352, new ed.
19. Mr. Anderson in Hjaltalins translation of the Saga, p. 107,has identified Sigurd's Howe through Siward hoch, and Siddera with the modern Cyder hall "near the ferry on the north bank of the Dornoch Firth into which the Oykel runs." Mr. Skene, however, does not agree with this view.
20. This route by the Oikel is a stumbling block to Mr. Anderson, who proposes to read "Atjöklabakki" for Ekkjals-bakki; but there seems no good reason for the alteration.
21. Mr. Anderson places it at Skitten.
22. The longships, that is, the warships of the Northmen, were vessels with one mast and one sail of a lug shape; they must also have carred a jib or foresail. Aft there seems to have been a half deck, on which was a poop, lypting, where the cabin of the captain was. In the waist, they were undecked, and here on benches, sessur, sat the rowers two on a bench. Hence, when a ship is said to be a twitugsessa, or twenty benches, that means she had forty oars, halfþritugt, like earl Rognvald's ship fifty oars, and so on, some ships being said to have had 100 oars on each side, though that, no doubt, is a fabulous number. The way in which the rowers sat is not clear, though it is not quite such a puzzle as the position of the oarsmen in the ancient trireme. It is not improbable, if the oars were long and the longship high out of the water, that the rower who pulled the oar on the starboard side sat over to larboard and his mate on the bench who pulled on the larboard in his turn over to starboard, so that each might have more purchase and control over his oar. Across the undecked part of the ships were thwarts or planks, þoptur; whether these were the benches on which the rowers sat is uncertain. Passing on to the forepart of the ship, that, too, was decked, and under the deck, in what would now be called the forecastle, some of the crew were lodged at night. The rest found shelter under the awnings, tjöld, with which the ships of the Northmen seem always to have been covered at night when strife was not looked for. See Saga, p. 192, and Sweyn Asleif's son's advice to his companions. The word "forecastle" exactly implied what the bow or forepart of the Northmen's ships were. It was raised like the poop, and on it stood in action the picked men of the crew who were called stafnbúar that is, stem-men or bowmen. On either side of the prow or true bow, where the bowsprit projected, were two cat heads, brandar, which were often, together with the figure-head of the ship, much carved and decorated, and hence often taken as trophies and erected at the doors of the conquerors' houses as signs of victory; just as was the case with the prows of galleys in ancient times, and even among the Anglo-Saxons, as when earl Harold Godwin's son sent similar trophies to Edward the Confessor after he had slain Griffith and taken his ship. As the waists of the ships were low compared with the stem and stern means were taken to raise the sides before action by temporary bulwarks, this "clearing the decks for action" was called víggyrðla skipit. At other times this waist of the ship was decorated with the shields of the crew which were hung along them on a rail which is even found in trading ships or býrðinger, see the account in the Saga, page 54, of the surprise of earl Rognvald's men in Kirkwall by earl Thorfinn. In shape and look these longships or warships were long and narrow, and so less seaworthy than the byrðings, in which the ordinary traffic of the time was carried on. t is also a question whether the true byrðingr or trading ship, also called Knörr, was ever rowed unless in very exceptional cases. Sometimes a warship was called Snekkja, a snake, or Dreki, a drake or dragon; a ship of this name probably differed in nothing from the mould of other warships, except that it had, as in Eindrid's ship, which is expressly called a Drake, a figurehead carved like a dragon, and that at the taffrail at the sterm, it was carved into coils resembling the folds and tail of a serpent. Besides the thirty, forty, fifty, or more rowers that each longship carried, her crew consisted of a greater number, some to fight while the oarsmen rowed the ship into action, some to relieve the rowers when they had rowed a certain time, Thus, to take one instance out of many, earl Harold's ship, mentioned in the Saga, page 184, was one of forty oars, and yet her crew was made up of eighty men; and again, page 48, seventy dead are mentioned as having been taken out of earl Thorfinn's ship, though it had been said before that his ships were not large. One hundred and twenty men was no unusual number for a longship to carry. It seems to have been an invariable practice when Northmen fought against Northmen that the attacking side rowed up to their adversaries, who awaited them, having first lashed their ships together in line. As soon as the attacking ships came close enough to begin the action, they too were lashed together, and after a struggle which lasted some time with missiles, in which stones were largely and constantly employed, the two lines closed together by the action of wind or tide, and then when the decks of either side had been sufficiently cleared to allow them to board, those who had the best of it boarded, gengu upp, much in our old English way, and then cleared the enemy's deck by a struggle hand to hand. All round the ship on both sides a gangway seems to have run, and when these and the poop and forecastle were cleared the ship was said to be "hroðit," and the conquerors passed on from her to the next ship in the enemy's line to which she was as has been said, lashed. In this way action went on, till one side had so much the best of it and had cleared or captured so many of the enemy that the day was won. The sign of this stage was the contest was the signal given on the beaten side to cut away the lashings, höggva tengslin, and to fly. Then as the line was broken every ship of the worsted party rowed or sailed off and shifted for itself. This was followed by a similar sundering of the lashings in the conqueror's line, which then ship by ship chased the flying foe. Very graphic accounts of such actions will be found in the Saga, page 33, fol., where the sea fight near Dyrness between earl Thorfinn and king Karl of Scotland is described, and also at page 47, fol., where the action between earls Thorfinn and Rognvald off Dunnet Head in the Pentland Firth is minutely detailed. Compare also the account of the battle at Hjoring voe, in the Iomsvíkinga Saga. These were the fights of Northmen against Northmen, but an action very nearly resembling a boarding expedition in large boats against a galleon of great size will be found at page 173, fol., where earl Rognvald with his seven ships attacked the Moorish Dromond, which was so huge that she loomed through the fog like an island, while her sides were so tall and round that they could not board her when they closed with her broadside to broadside, and at last had to hew their way into her through her ironbound sides. This combat with the Dromond reminds one much of Drake or Hawkins or Cavendish capturing the huge galleons or carracks of the Spaniards off the Spanish Main.
23. The Flatey Book reads for Humrumynni Hverumynni, that is, "Wearmouth." If so, the sand in question must be sought for off the mouth of the Wear in Durham; and as even the Flatey Book may have sometimes a good reading, this may be one of the exceptional merits of that text.
24. The text says only Föstumorgin snemma, "Friday morning early," but it was probably Good Friday morning, as that was the day by which all pilgrims desired to be in the Holy Land.