This document is comprised of four short articles that I recently posted to the Newsgroup soc.culture.scottish . There was muted interest but nether the less I feel that it may be of interest to those visiting my site.
Rolf the Ganger
In the interests of group peace and tranquillity and in an attempt to reconcile the conflicts between the followers of phenomenology and the empiricist lobby within the group and for the benefit of all those sensible people that occupy the middle ground. I have carefully sought out somebody (long dead and therefore incapable of defending himself) at whom we can all point the historical finger at and say "Its all you fault!"
After a week of sending my trusty Webferret (tm) scurrying through the Internet I have found an appropriate adult suitably dead and quite plainly responsible for of the problems and conflicts within and without Scotland over the past thousand years.
The perfect suspect...
Robert Walker... Ring any bells.... No? ...How about Rolf Wend-a-foot.....still no?
OK! How about.... Ragnvaldson, Rolf the Ganger (goer = walker), 1st Duke of Normandy.
AKA Robert of Norway (or Rollo to his Viking buddies). Ahhhh! They all say "that rings a bell!"
Yes folks... This seems to be the Daddy of us all, we just never realised it....
Born somewhere in Norway in 846 AD the hulking son of Eysteinsson, Ragnvald 1, (The wise of More) also known as Ranald Mor *surprise* ! And Hrolfsdottir, Ragnhild (Hildr.Hild). Poor - shall we call him Rolf - Rolf had problems at an early age, he was so long in the leg that the little Norse ponies were useless as mounts and he had to walk everywhere - hence ganger or walker. I suspect this contributed to his later personality defects.
He was a bad lad and paid no attention to Mum and Dad and went a Viking just about everywhere, including home. So he was finally exiled, kicked out, shown the wicket gate, gone.
So where did the sulking marine giant go with the lads ? Did I mention that for all his faults he was a good catholic boy at heart, something for which he could thank his old mum. (Other versions have him baptised in 921) Another thing to his credit, the lad was a born organiser. All that dashing around bashing people was not for him he believed in logistics, training and organisation. We know for certain that in 884 he sailed up the Seine with 10,000 men. Yes! Ten Thousand Men in galleys (Bhirlinn.- Hang on aren't they the ones with hung rudders?) And took Rouen and proclaimed himself Count of Rouen. Lots of boats there and say 50 men to a galley equals 200 craft. So how did the outcast lad organise this lot. And where was he for 20 odd years?
Footnote: How am I getting this information? Using legends as my starting point I am back tracking until I find a name in common with all of them I am then carrying out a websearch for references to that name and forming a composite.
Where were we?....... Well I have now found Rolf's birth certificate :) and it shows that he was born in Maer,(More) Nord Trondelag (Throndhjem) Norway. And I find also that his dad was also titled Earl (Count) of More *and* Romsdal(e). I find Rolf was also called Hrolf in some records.
Now I implied in my last posting that Rolf had somewhere quite particular from which he could operate. But at this point I cannot really claim to have found specific references to* him* as such. Although I may well find these later. I can only give a background to where he may have based himself. There are clues...
The Northern Isles (particularly Orkney), Lewis and Caithness were by now Norse farming territories, completely settled with stable communities, as was Iceland.
This is substantiated (for the Northern Isles) by the fact that 99% of place names subscribe to Scandinavian toponymy.
(Precis from A.A. Duncan Scotland)
And to quote A. A. Duncan. Scotland, The Making of a Kingdom, again.
"It is highly likely that Viking settlement in Lewis and western Skye began during the first half of the ninth century, when narrative sources record raids there. Place-name evidence suggests relatively heavy Norse settlement both there and in Caithness–it has been established that four-fifths of the 126 village names in Lewis are of purely Norse origin.(source Magne Oftedal, Village names of Lewis).
The proportion of Norse names from natural features has not been established in Lewis, but in Trotternish, Skye, while settlement-names are two-thirds Norse, for natural features the proportion is only one sixth." End quotes...
So I think we have at least established the Rolf had somewhere to go.
In English history there is what is called the "missing period" this occurred in the mid 800s to the mid 900s. During this time attention was focussed on Viking incursions into Northhumbria, York and the vexation this caused the Saxon kings. What is really missing in historical information from the north.
On the basis of the Names of Northern Kings and their place in time. And Who fought what battle against Whom, only the Where and When seems reliable. People seem to remember bloodshed and mayhem rather well. But do less well with genealogies.
There are sound reasons for this. The church is only just gaining a hold among the Viking culture and dates are starting to matter. The Christian Vikings are being recorded in records, those that still belong to the old belief. Tended to refer to years in terms of memorable events, say " the year of the two headed cow "or "the year of the Summer frosts" or "the year Rolf was born". Chronology was meaningless unless you had monastic records and you will recall that certain Vikings had a particular love of burning religious buildings.
I am saddened to say that I am now about to do the unthinkable and dispute the findings of my mentor Sir Iain Moncreiffe of that ilk. But given the research facilities that I now have available I am certain he would support my findings and be delighted and fascinated with the results. However surprised he might be by these results. At least I comfort myself with that thought.
These only are only preliminary suggestions, open to change and subject to challenge. But based on very through searching (hours in fact, the phone bill will probably stunt my growth).
Many of the Norse Kings, Counts and Earls have been duplicated (even triplicated). And their dates of birth and death confused as have their kingdoms and domains. There are far fewer of them than (speculated) history suggests.
I offer at this time some examples and expect or invite argument as to my findings.
Here are a few:
I suggest that Olaf the young, King of Dublin d 874 is also Olaf the White "greatest war-king west beyond the sea"And may even be Olaf the Tree-Hewer. That Ivarr King of Dublin, sacked Dumbarton 870 is also Ivarr Jarl of the Upplanders.. I also have serious reservations about the various Halfdans,(especially Halfdan the fart), Ranalds (Rognavalds) and even poor old Thorstein the Red arouses my suspicions. But I have only just downloaded the information (miles of listing paper) and have not had proper chance to study all of the details. I have also collected most of the Viking sagas... thankfully translated into English.. And very interesting they are too....Well that's it for now...
While I struggle with the extraordinary problem of the multiple Olafs, Rognavald(sons) Ivarrs, Halfdans, Godfreys, Eysteins and others. (Now resolved) To say nothing very strange fluctuations in the time scale, compressions and expansions over a 100 year plus period. I feel I had better add a bit of focus to my research before everybody loses interest and starts cross-flaming other NGs. Having quite falsely accused Ian O. Morrison's ancestors of mendacity for which they most certainly were not guilty. I feel that this would be a good place to start. I'll pick on him....
First a consideration of the family motto; Phabbay Teaghlach. This is an indication of the antiquity of the line. Although it appears at first glance to be Gaelic, it is in fact a hybrid of Norse/Norn and Gaelic. Phabby equals "island of the priests" in Norse and Teaghlach signifies "household" in Gaelic so we have (of) "The household of the island of priests". It is accepted that the North end of the Long Island was the domain of the Morrisons. Their stronghold was Dun Eystein - (which Eystein built it, Rolf's Grandad or Eystein the flatulent or were they the same person?) - and their house was the Great House (Taigh Mhór) at Habost in Ness.
Consider this taken from the Heimskringla or The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway
OF HALFDAN THE (Stingy) MILD.
Halfdan was the name of King Eystein's son who succeeded him. He
was called Halfdan the Mild, but the Bad Entertainer(the stingy); that is to
say, he was reported to be generous, and to give his men as much
gold as other kings gave of silver, but he starved them in their
diet. He was a great warrior, who had been long on viking
cruises, and had collected great property. He was married to
Liv, a daughter of King Dag of Westmare. Holtar (Read Habost) in Westfold,
was his chief house; and he died there on the bed of sickness,
and was buried at Borre (Read Barra (Barraigh)) under a mound. So says Thjodolf: –
"By Hel's summons, a great king
Was called away to Odin's Thing:
King Halfdan, he who dwelt of late
At Holtar,(Habost) must obey grim Fate.
At Borre,(Barra) in the royal mound,
They laid the hero in the ground."
Priests of what, how did they get there and why?
The answer is that they were placed there as mediators and judges of settlement. As Brehon (Britheamh) they were placed on the Isles as Judges of the Change. Recognised as both Filidh and Brehon, as the O Muirgheasain - their first incarnation Their jurisdiction (Moncreiffe tells us) extended "over the Hebrides from Islay to the Butt of Lewis and on the opposite coast to the Ord of Caithness"(The jurisdiction of which they must have shared with the Mormaer). When did this first placement occur? The earliest date I would feel safe suggesting would be around 941. This was the date when Neill Goach (Craoch) King of Keenaght lost patience with raids from the Hebrides by the Kings of Vaken Westfold returned the compliment and captured the Isles. After this he proudly paraded the captured kings in a circuit of Ireland guarded by his Cenel Eoghain, this event is recorded by bardic poetry. Such valuable processions such as the Isles could not be neglected, nor did the Irish kings have the forces police the Western Isles. So treaties would have been forged and these would have been mediated by the Brehon Law, a process generally accepted by Irish and Norse alike, being of similar culture and lines of descent from the ancient Kings the Frey-born Yngling. Sharing both the lines of Westfold and the Upplanders.
You will have all gathered by now that it is my contention is that the majority of the Scottish clans are in fact all descended from Viking stock and that when they eventually met again in conflict these original origins may have been forgotten. And that the battles were actually fought by cultural and genetic descendants of the same progenitors. To the best of my research even the Viking home countries of Scandinavia only have the vaguest outline of their origins and what lands they settled and when. Although Viking legend and historical evidence point to an Asian origin there is only the vaguest of information (apart from the sacrificial eating of horse meat) to support this. What is certain and not generally excepted is the power they enjoyed in the Black Sea area and how they able to support themselves in very satisfactory fashion raiding in the Mediterranean area and North Africa, shipping the proceeds of these raids northwards back to their own domains. But at there same time such success could only have been achieved on the basis of sound logistics. Home bases, docking facilities and provisions all had to fully provided for and must by their very nature be protected. Distance and hidden ways being the best protection.
The geography of the Viking world is strange and confusing to modern western eyes as is the naming of places. South is applied to places further North than West and so forth. But we must bear in mind that these were a people without our present compass settings (though the lodestone was known), who initially thought the world was either flat or bowl shaped, although there is some indication of belief in it being a sphere, may be inverse. The general view seemed be is what you saw, was what there was. So the whole world view was quite pragmatic. The marine culture of the Viking existed as a form of coastal (a ribbon culture) empire that grew in form and detail with each expansion. The shapes of land masses where for some time a matter of indifference and only the wet bits mattered whether they were seas, lakes, rivers or marshes. If you could get a boat through it without too much effort. Good enough.
These were a sacral people who believed they were the direct descendants of Gods and therefore would have needed a suitably defined sacred space for ceremony, sacrificial or otherwise - otherwise being burial grounds for heros, great kings or both. In such cultures these sacred spaces are usually established at the point that the Gods who founded the race first appeared (a theophany) or if movement - a sacred journey for instance - has occurred, a newly established sacred place would set up by a founding member of the first born of the God or the God himself or herself.
Uppsala in Sweden is such a sacred place and this indicated by legend and presence of the great burial mounds of the Viking kings, But Uppsala and its association with the peace-kings is a fairly recent establishment. So is its sacral role.
The Ynglinga Saga tells us that Odin fell back before the expansion of the Roman armies, having decided to dwell in the northern half of the world, that he travelled first to Gardarike, then south to Saxland which he subdued and established base on Odin's island in Fyen. Then we are told he sent Gefion, a lady, across the sound to the north to discover new lands. After adventures many she settled and dwelt in Sealand, married Skjold, a son of Odin, and dwelt at Leidre.
Brage the Old sings thus:
"Gefion from Gylve (the local king) drove away
To add new land to Denmarks sway–
Blythe Gefion ploughing in the smoke
that steamed up from her oxen-yoke:
Four heads, eight forehead stars had they,
Bright gleaming, as she ploughed away;
Dragging new lands from the deep main
To join them to the sweet isle's plain.
When Odin heard that things were taking off nicely, he nipped up there and set up a new temple and established himself up beside a lake (Maelare) and laid claim to the whole district and called it Sigtun and to the temple priests he gave new domains. So where was this place? Well at this time it is said that Njord dwelt in Noatum, Frey in Upsal (Uppsala), Heimdal in the Himinbergs, Thor in Thrudvang, Balder in Breidablik... So it was none of these places.....
Quotes from Heimskringla (DL SunSITE)