Our Shared Past

Most Kings like the dry land. It is easier to control wide expanses of farmland than it is to protect, supervise, and tax, homesteads scattered throughout the sea on islands and rocky promontories. The kings of Norway knew this ever since Kettle Flatnose was sent south to bring the Sudroy in line in the 8th century (and he set himself up as a Lord of the isles in his own right).

Norsemen who spoke Gaelic, Angles from Danelaw, British farmers who could trace their lineage back through Arthur to Rome and beyond, they all contributed to the melting pot which has eventually become part of the United Kingdoms. The islands and waters of the north sea swirled with much of the mixing, as they provided a vibrant route from the frozen north to the Mediterranean and the coast of Africa.

It is wrong to try and force history to fit our current understanding of nations though. In a crisis each free man chooses who they will follow, and so battles were less about Irishman versus Norseman, and more about individuals like Finn McCool and his fianna winning renown and rewards whether from the king of Ulster or Scotland or a lord of Galloway. You make your own name for yourself, without forgetting where you and your family have come from.

King Haakon Haakonsson was the last Norse King to sail south to claim his taxes from Bute, a traditional claim disputed by the increasingly powerful king of Scots, and although both sides claim to have won at the battle of Largs, there were no more southern armadas and the southern isles became the western isles. He was aided in that conflict by King Magnus III of Man and King Dubhghall mac Ruaidhri of the Hebrides. With the loss of the northern link the islands remained influential during the wars of independence with England, conveniently placed as they are to control the route to Ireland. However Gunpowder and cannons on ships became the game changer which accompanied a move into the modern era, as island fortresses were no longer protected from attack by the navies of the king with the biggest island.

The shared heritage of Scotland and Norway did not stop there however. Both nations share the sea, and as recently as WWII the Norwegian army was based in Dumfries. Further north, private Norwegian fishermen were employed to run a “bus service” for spies and resistance fighters across the North sea, giving grief to a much larger number of Nazi troops.

If you would like a look around the North Atlantic try this website Medieval North Atlantic Objects