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Sutherland and Caithness in Saga-Time - or, The Jarls and The Freskyns
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SUTHERLAND AND CAITHNESS IN SAGA-TIME OR, THE JARLS AND THE FRESKYNS

BY JAMES GRAY, M.A. OXON.

EDINBURGH OLIVER & BOYD. 1922 STROMNESS: PRINTED BY W.R. RENDALL.



PREFACE.

Originally delivered as a Presidential Address to The Viking Society for Northern Research, the following pages, as amplified and revised, are published mainly with the object of interesting Sutherland and Caithness people in the early history of their native counties, and particularly in the three Sagas which bear upon it as well as on that of Orkney and Shetland at a time regarding which Scottish records almost wholly fail us.

When, however, these records are extant, use has been made of them together with later books upon them, of which a list follows, and to which references are given in the notes.

A special effort has been made to deal with the vexed question of the succession to the Caithness Earldom after Earl John's death in 1231, with the pedigree of the first known ancestors of the House of Sutherland, and with the mystery of the descent of Lady Johanna of Strathnaver.

Acknowledgments of assistance received are tendered to the writers of the books above referred to, but thanks are specially due to Mr. A.W. JOHNSTON, Founder and Past President of the Viking Society, for numerous hints, and for making the Index; to Mr. JON STEFANNSON for reading the manuscript; and to Mr. ALAN O. ANDERSON, whose knowledge of the English and Scottish Records of the period is as accurate as it is extensive, and who has made several valuable suggestions.

But for the opinions expressed no one save the writer is responsible, and, where records are scanty, much has necessarily been left to conjecture.

J.G.

53 MONTAGU SQUARE, LONDON, W., 1922.



TABLE OF CONTENTS.

LIST OF AUTHORITIES AND BOOKS REFERRED TO

CHAPTER I.—INTRODUCTORY

A.D. 82-790—Scope of this Book—Authorities—Roman times and their result—Post-Roman days.

CHAPTER II.—THE PICT AND THE NORTHMAN

Geography and description of Cat—Brochs—Picts—Christianity —Vikings—Gall-gaels—Gaelic—Land Settlement—The rise of the Scots.

CHAPTER III.—THE EARLY NORSE JARLS

790-1014—Constantine I and the Northmen—Kenneth and the Union of the Picts and Scots—Thorstein the Red and Aud—Groa and Duncan of Duncansby—The Vikings and Harald Harfagr—Ragnvald of Maeri and Jarl Sigurd—Cyderhall—Torf-Einar, Thorfinn Hausakliufr, Skuli and others—War for the Moray seaboard—Jarl Sigurd Hlodverson— Christianity introduced in Orkney—Swart Kell—Earl Anlaf—Story of Barth—Sigurd Hlodverson, Clontarf—"Darratha-liod"—Resume.

CHAPTER IV.—THORFINN, EARL AND JARL

1008-1064—King Malcolm's matrimonial alliances—Victory of Carham—Thorfinn Sigurdson, Earl of Caithness and Sutherland—His attempts on Orkney—Somarled, Brusi and Einar—Thorkel Fostri slays Einar—Moddan created Earl of Caithness and slain by Thorkel—Battle of Torfness—Death of Duncan—Thorfinn and Macbeth—Thorfinn and Ragnvald Brusison—Marriage with Ingibjorg—Battle of Rautharbiorg— Thorfinn sole Jarl of Orkney and Shetland—His travels, retirement, and death—His chronology.

CHAPTER V.—PAUL AND ERLEND, HAKON AND MAGNUS

1058-1123—Paul and Erlend, jarls—Ingibjorg's marriage with Malcolm III—Its objects—Norman conquest of England—King Magnus Barelegs—Hakon and Magnus, jarls—Harold Slettmali and Paul the Silent, jarls—Ingibiorg and Margret—Moddan in Dale—Feudalism in Scotland—The Catholic Church—Alexander I and David I—The three leading families in Caithness and Sutherland, of the Norse Jarls, Moddan, and Freskyn de Moravia—The Mackays—The Gunns.

CHAPTER VI.—THE MODDAN FAMILY, JARLS HARALD AND PAUL AND RAGNVALD

1123-1158—Harald Slettmali and Paul the Silent—Frakark and Helga—Harald poisoned—Frakark in Kildonan—Plot against Jarl Paul—The Moddan family—Audhild—Eric Stagbrellir—Ragnvald's history and jarldom—Battle of Tankerness—Olvir Rosta and Sweyn—Paul kidnapped—Harold Maddadson—Frakark's Burning—Thorbiorn Klerk—Ragnvald's cruise to the East—Erlend Haraldson's grant of half Caithness—Scramble for the earldom—Ragnvald's daughter Ingirid's marriage to Eric Stagbrellir—Fight at Thurso—Erlend and Sweyn—Erlend's death—Ragnvald's murder—His descendants.

CHAPTER VII.—HAROLD MADDADSON AND THE FRESKYNS

1158-1206—Harold sole Jarl and Earl; his first family—Sweyn's cruises and death in 1171—Harold's second wife, and family—Eric Stagbrellir's family—Scottish affairs—Moray and the MacHeths— Freskyn and Duffus—William MacFrisgyn—Hugo Freskyn of Sutherland, and his brother, William of Petty—Hugo's grant to Gilbert, Archdeacon of Moray—Hugo's family—William dominus Sutherlandiae—Events in the North in 1153 and after—William the Lion's accession, 1165—Persons of note at that date—Those in authority—Harold's forfeitures—Events leading up to them—Eddirdovir and Dunskaith—Donald Ban MacWilliam—Defeat of Thorfinn, Harold's son, and of Harold, 1196—Harald Ungi—Ragnvald Gudrodson—Victory of Dalharrold—The Stewards—Death of Thorfinn, Harold's son—William the Lion in Caithness—Death of Harold Maddadson, 1206.

CHAPTER VIII.—JARLS DAVID AND JOHN, FRESKIN II

1206-1263—David's eight years, 1206-1214—King William takes John's daughter as a hostage—Murder of Bishop Adam, 1222—King Alexander's expedition—John's forfeiture—Death of John's son, Harald, 1226—Snaekoll Gunni's son, grandson of Eric Stagbrellir—Murder of Earl John—Trial at Bergen—Lady Johanna of Strathnaver.

CHAPTER IX.—THE SUCCESSION TO THE CAITHNESS EARLDOM

1231-9—Difficulty of the subject—The Angus pedigree—The Diploma of the Orkney Earls—Magnus II's charter—The wardship question—Three claimants (1) Magnus, (2) Johanna of Strathnaver and (3) Earl John's nameless hostage daughter—Skene's opinion—The Cheynes and Federeths, descendants of Johanna—Her charitable gift—Her Moddan and Erlend descent—Magnus II, his descent and marriage—Freskin de Moravia, his descent, marriage, life, and death—The settlement of Caithness and Sutherland—Creation of the Sutherland Earldom between 10th October 1237 and Magnus' death in 1239—Conclusion.

CHAPTER X.—KING HAKON'S EXPEDITION AND THE NORTH

1263-1266—Recapitulation—Norse jarls and the Norse Crown—Affairs in Sutherland—Battle at Embo—Dornoch Cathedral and its constitution—The Angus line and the Freskyns—Hakon's fleet at Ragnvaldsvoe sails south—Battle of Largs—Hakon's retreat and death—The mainland of Scotland and the Hebrides won for Scotland—Treaty of Perth, 1266.

CHAPTER XI.—RESULTS AND CONCLUSION

The creed of the Viking—The causes of his migration—Odinism—Settlement in the West—Celtic mothers—Effect on race, language and place-names— Viking remains—Skaill, Dunrobin—Castles—The Viking type of man—The blended race—Norman influence.

NOTES.

APPENDIX.—EARLY PEDIGREE OF THE FRESKYN FAMILY

INDEX



LIST OF AUTHORITIES AND BOOKS REFERRED TO.[1]

Anderson, Dr. Joseph. Rhind Lectures, "Scotland in Pagan Times." Edinburgh, 1883 and 1886.

Antiquaries. Proceedings of The Society of Scottish.

Bain. Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland in Record Office.

Bannatyne Club—Publications of.

Barry, History of Orkney. Edinburgh, Constable, 1805.

Broxburn. (Strabrock.) History and Antiquities of Uphall, by Rev. James Primrose. Edinburgh, Andrew Elliott, 1898.

Burnt Njal. Dasent's Translation. (B.N.)[2] Edinburgh, Edmonston & Douglas, 1861.

Caithness Family History, by John Henderson. Edinburgh, David Douglas, 1884.

Caithness, The County of—by John Home. Wick, W. Rae, 1907.

Calder's History of Caithness. Glasgow, Thomas Murray & Son, 1861.

Cat, History of the Province of—by Rev. Angus Mackay. Wick, Peter Reid & Co., Ltd., 1914.

Chalmers. Caledonia.

Chroniques Anglo-Normandes. Francisque Michel. Rouen, Ed. Frere, 1836.

Corpus Poeticum Boreale. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1883.

Curie. Monuments of Caithness. Royal Commission's Report, 1911.

Curie. Monuments of Sutherland. Royal Commission's Report, 1912.

Dalrymple's Collections, (1705).

Diploma of the Earls of Orkney.

Du Chaillu. The Viking Age. John Murray, 1889.

Dunfermelyn, Register of. (Bannatyne Club.)

Early Scottish Kings, by E. William Robertson, 1862.

Eric the Red—Saga of.

Flatey Book (Flateyjarbok). Christiania, Mailings, 1860. (F.B.)

Fordun. Scottish Annals. Edited by W.F. Skene. Edinburgh, Edmonston & Douglas, 1871.

Genealogie of the Earles of Southerland, by Sir Robert Gordon, Bart. Edinburgh, A. Constable, 1813.

Hailes (Lord) Additional Case of Elizabeth, Claimant of the Earldom of Sutherland and Annals of Scotland, (Dalrymple's Works, vol. 4).

Hakon Saga. Dasent's Translation, Rolls Edition, 1894. (H.S.)

Henderson, George—Norse Influence on Celtic Scotland. Glasgow, Maclehose, 1910.

Henderson, George—Survivals in Belief among the Celts. Glasgow, Maclehose, 1911.

Hume Brown. History of Scotland. (H.B.)

Innes, Familie of. (Spalding Club).

Laing and Huxley. Prehistoric Remains of Caithness. Williams, & Norgate, 1866.

Lawrie, Early Scottish Charters. Glasgow, Maclehose, 1905.

Lawrie, Annals of the Reigns of Malcolm and William, 1153-1214. Glasgow, Maclehose, 1910.

Liber Pluscardensis. Edited by Felix J.H. Skene. Edinburgh, William Paterson, 1877.

Mackay, Rev. Angus. Book of Mackay. Edinburgh, Norman Macleod, 1906.

Magnus Saga (in Rolls Edition of Dasent's Translation of Orkneyinga Saga).

Maxwell, Sir Herbert, Early Chronicles relating to Scotland. Glasgow, Maclehose, 1912.

Moray—Registrum Episcopatus Moraviensis (Bannatyne Club) (Reg. Morav.)

Moray—Shaw's History of.

Munch's Symbolae or Notes to the Diploma of the Orkney Earls.

Munro, Dr. Robert. Prehistoric Scotland.

Nisbet's Heraldry.

Orcades, by Thormodus Torfaeus. Copenhagen, 1715.

Orcades, (Torfaeus) Translation by the Rev. A. Pope. Wick, Peter Reid, 1866.

Origines Islandicae. Vigfusson & York Powell. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1905.

Origines Parochiales Scotiae. Vol. ii, part ii. Edinburgh, W.H. Lizars, 1855. (O.P.)

Orkney and Shetland, by John R. Tudor. London, Edward Stanford, 1883. (O. &. S.)

Orkney and Shetland Folk, by A.W. Johnston. Viking Society, 1914.

Orkneyinga Saga. Dasent's Translation, Rolls Edition. (O.S.)

Orkneyinga Saga. Anderson, and Hjaltalin and Goudie's Translation. Edinburgh, Edmonston & Douglas, 1873.

Oxford Essays, 1858. (Dasent's Essay). London, John W. Parker & Son, 1858.

Pinkerton's History of Scotland preceding Malcolm III. Edinburgh, Bell & Bradfute, 1814.

Rhys' Celtic Britain. London, S.P.C.K., 1908.

Robertson's Index. Edinburgh, Murray and Cochrane, 1798.

Rymer. Foedera.

Saint-Clair. Roland William. The Saint-Clairs of the Isles. Auckland, H. Brett, 1898.

Scandinavian Britain, by W.G. Collingwood. London, S.P.C.K., 1908.

Scon. Liber Ecclesiae de.

Scott, Rev. Archibald—The Pictish Nation, its people and Church. Edinburgh and London, Foulis Press, 1918.

Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers, Alan O. Anderson. London, David Nutt, 1908.

Scottish Kings. Sir Archibald Dunbar, Bart. Edinburgh, David Douglas, 1906.

Scottish Peerages. Paul and Cokayne (Gibbs).

Skene, W.F. Celtic Scotland. Edinburgh, Edmonston & Douglas, 1878.

Skene, W.F. Chronicles of the Picts and Scots. Edinburgh, H.M. General Register House, 1867.

Sutherland Book, by Sir William Fraser. Edinburgh, 1892.

Sutherland and the Reay Country, by the Rev. Adam Gunn. Glasgow, John Mackay, Celtic Monthly Office, 1897.

Sverri's Saga. Translation by J. Sephton. London, David Nutt, 1899.

Tacitus—Agricola.

Thorgisl's Saga in Origines Islandicae (as above).

Viking Club. Caithness and Sutherland Records.} London Viking Club. Old Lore Miscellany. } 29 Ashburnham Viking Society. Saga Books, &c. } Mansions, Chelsea

William the Wanderer, by W.G. Collingwood. G.C. Brown Langham & Co., 47 Great Russell Street, London, W.C., 1904.

Worsaae. Danes and Norwegians. London, John Murray, 1852.

Worsaae. The Prehistory of the North. London, Truebner, 1886.

Wyntoun's Chronicle. Edinburgh, Edmonston & Douglas, 1872.

[Footnote 1: An excellent Bibliography of Caithness, by Mr. John Mowat, was published by W. Rae, Wick, in 1909, and of Caithness and Sutherland by The Viking Club, 1910, by the same author.]

[Footnote 2: The Capitals and abbreviations placed in brackets after certain authorities, give their initial letters and short titles, (e.g. (O.S.) Orkneyinga Saga), as used in the notes at the end of this volume.]

Early Sources of Scottish History, A.D. 500 to 1286, by Alan O. Anderson. Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh.

NOTE.—Since this little book was printed, the above great work has appeared. To the student of the Norse invasions its value is inestimable.



[Transcriber's note: The following errata have been applied to the text.]

ERRATA.

Page 1, line 13, for "they" read "Man." " 28, line 9, for "or" read "of." " 40, line 23, for "Kundason" read "Hundason." " 42, line 24, after "note" reference[14] omitted. " 50, line 17, for "mainland of" read "Unst in." " 65, line 35, for "burnings" read "revenges." " 65, line 37, for "burnt" read "killed." " 87, line 18, for "Earl Ragnvald" read "Jarl Ragnvald." " 104, lines 4 and 5, for "Magnus' great-grandson's granddaughter's husband" read "Magnus' granddaughter's great-grandson." " 117, line 16, omit "a child of."



SUTHERLAND AND CAITHNESS IN SAGA-TIME OR, THE JARLS AND THE FRESKYNS.



CHAPTER I.

Introductory.

In the following pages an attempt is made to fit together facts derived, on the one hand, from those portions of the Orkneyinga, St. Magnus and Hakonar Sagas which relate to the extreme north end of the mainland of Scotland, and, on the other hand, from such scanty English and Scottish records, bearing on its history, as have survived, so as to form a connected account, from the Scottish point of view, of the Norse occupation of most of the more fertile parts of Sutherland and Caithness from its beginning about 870 until its close, when these counties were freed from Norse influence, and Man and the Hebrides were incorporated in the kingdom of Scotland by treaty with Norway in 1266.

References to the authorities mentioned above and to later works bearing on the subject have been inserted in the hope that others, more leisured and more competent, may supplement them by further research, and convert those portions of the narrative which are at present largely conjectural from story into history.

What manner of men the prehistoric races which in early ages successively inhabited the northern end of the Scottish mainland may have been, we can now hardly imagine. Dr. Joseph Anderson's classical volumes[1] on Scotland in Pagan Times tell us something, indeed all that can now be known, of some of them, and in the Royal Commission's[2] Reports and Inventories of the Early Monuments of Sutherland and of Caithness respectively, Mr. Curle has classified their visible remains, and may, let us hope, with the aid of legislation, save those relics from the roadmaker or dykebuilder. Lastly, such superstitions, or survivals of beliefs, as remain in the north of Scotland from early days have been collected, arranged, and explained by the late Mr. George Henderson in an able book on that subject.[3] Enquiries such as these, however, belong to the provinces of archaeology and folk-psychology, and not to that of history, still less to that of contemporary history, which began in the north, as elsewhere, with oral tradition, handed down at first by men of recording memories, and then committed to writing, and afterwards to print; and both in Norway and Iceland on the one hand, and in the Highlands on the other such men were by no means rare, and were deservedly held in the highest honour.

Writing arrived in Sutherland and Caithness very late, and was not even then a common indigenous product. Clerks, or scholars who could read and write, were at first very few, and in the north of Scotland hardly any such were known before the twelfth century of our era, save perhaps in the Pictish and Columban settlements of hermits and missionaries. Of their writings, if they ever existed, little or nothing of historical value is extant at the present time. But the Orkneyinga, St. Magnus, and Hakon's Sagas, when they take up their story, present us with a graphic and human and consecutive account of much which would otherwise have remained unknown, and their story, though tinged here and there with romance through the writers' desire for dramatic effect, is, so far as the main facts go, singularly faithful and accurate, when it can be tested by contemporary chronicles.

Until the twelfth or the thirteenth century, save for these Sagas, we learn hardly anything of Sutherland, or, indeed, of the extreme north of Scotland from any record written either by anyone living there or by anyone with local knowledge, and for facts before those given in the Orkneyinga Saga we have to cast about among historians of the Roman Empire and amongst early Greek geographers, or later ecclesiastical writers, to find nothing save a few names of places and some scattered references to vanished races, tongues and Churches. For information about the Picts we have at first to rely on the researches of some of our trustworthy archaeologists, and at a later date on the annals, largely Irish, collected by the late Mr. Skene in his Chronicles of the Picts and Scots, and in the works of Mr. Ritson, into which it is no part of our purpose to enter in detail. All the authorities for early Scottish history have been ably dealt with by Sir Herbert Maxwell in his book on the Early Chronicles Relating to Scotland, reproducing the Rhind lectures delivered by him in 1912. At the end of our period reliable references to charters from the twelfth century onwards will be found in Origines Parochiales Scotiae, and especially in the second part of the second volume of that valuable work of monumental research, produced, under the late Mr. Cosmo Innes, by Mr. James Brichan, and presented to the Bannatyne Club by the second Duke of Sutherland and the late Sir David Dundas. There are also the reprints, often with elaborate notes, of Scottish Charters by Sir Archibald C. Lawrie, The Bannatyne Club, The Spalding Club, The Viking Society, Mr. Alan O. Anderson, and others. The first volume of the Orkney and Shetland Records published by the Viking Society is prefaced by an able introduction of great interest.

By way of introduction to Norse times, we may attempt to state very shortly some of the leading events in Caledonia in Roman, Pictish, and Scottish times from near the end of the first century to the beginning of the tenth, so far as they bear on the agencies at work there in Norse times.

The first four of the nine centuries above referred to had seen the Romans under Agricola[4] in 80 to 84 A.D. attempt, and fail, to conquer the Caledonians or men of the woods,[5] whose home, as their name implies, was the great woodland region of the Mounth or Grampians. Those centuries had also seen the building of the wall of Hadrian between the Tyne and Solway in the year 120, the campaigns of Lollius Urbicus in 140 A.D. and the erection between the Firths of Forth and Clyde of the earthen rampart of Antonine on stone foundations, which was held by Rome for about fifty years. Seventy years later, in the year 210, fifty thousand Roman legionaries had perished in the Caledonian campaigns of the Roman Emperor Severus, and over a century and a half later, in 368, there had followed the second conquest of the Roman province of Valentia which comprised the Lothians and Galloway in the south, by Theodosius. Lastly, the final retirement of the Romans from Scotland, and indeed from Britain, took place, on the destruction of the Roman Empire in spite of Stilicho's noble defence, by Alaric and the Visigoths, in 410.

From the Roman wars and occupation two main results followed. The various Caledonian tribes inhabiting the land had then probably for the first time joined forces to fight a common foe, and in fighting him had become for that purpose temporarily united. Again, possibly as part of the high Roman policy of Stilicho, St. Ninian had in the beginning of the fifth century introduced into Galloway and also into the regions north of the Wall of Antonine the first teachers of Christianity, a religion which, however, was for some time longer to remain unknown to the Picts generally in the north. But, as Professor Hume Brown also tells us in the first of the three entrancing volumes of his History, "In Scotland, if we may judge from the meagre accounts that have come down to us, the Roman dominion hardly passed the stage of a military occupation, held by an intermittent and precarious tenure." What concerns dwellers in the extreme north is that although the Romans went into Perthshire and may have temporarily penetrated even into Moray, they certainly never occupied any part of Sutherland or Caithness, though their tablets of brass, probably as part of the currency used in trade, have been found in a Sutherland Pictish tower or broch,[7] a fact which goes far to prove that the brochs, with which we shall deal later on, existed in Roman times.[8]

As the Romans never occupied Sutherland or Caithness or even came near their borders, their inhabitants were never disarmed or prevented from the practice of war, and thus enfeebled like the more southerly Britons.

After the departure, in 410, of the Romans, St. Ninian sent his missionaries over Pictland, but darkness broods over its history thenceforward for a hundred and fifty years. Picts, Scots of Ireland, Angles and Saxons swarmed southwards, eastwards, and westwards respectively into England, and ruined Romano-British civilisation, which the Britons, unskilled in arms, were powerless to defend, as the lamentations of Gildas abundantly attest.

In 563 Columba, the Irish soldier prince and missionary, whose Life by Adamnan still survives,[9] landed in Argyll from Ulster, introduced another form of Christian worship, also, like the Pictish, "without reference to the Church of Rome," and from his base in Iona not only preached and sent preachers to the north-western and northern Picts, but in some measure brought among them the higher civilisation then prevailing in Ireland. About the same time Kentigern, or St. Mungo, a Briton of Wales, carried on missionary work in Strathclyde and in Pictland, and even, it is said, sent preachers to Orkney.

In the beginning of the seventh century King Aethelfrith of Northumbria had cut the people of the Britons, who held the whole of west Britain from Devon to the Clyde, into two, the northern portion becoming the Britons of Strathclyde; and the same king defeated Aidan, king of the Scots of Argyll, at Degsastan near Jedburgh, though Aidan survived, and, with the help of Columba, re-established the power of the Scots in Argyll.

About the year 664, the wars in the south with Northumbria resulted in the introduction by its king Oswy into south Pictland of the Catholic instead of the Columban Church, a change which Nechtan, king of the Southern Picts, afterwards confirmed, and which long afterwards led to the abandonment throughout Scotland of the Pictish and Columban systems, and to the adoption in their place of the wider and broader culture, and the politically superior organisation and stricter discipline of the Catholic Church, as new bishoprics were gradually founded throughout Scotland by its successive kings.[10]

Meantime, during the centuries which elapsed before the Catholic Church reached the extreme north of Scotland, the Pictish and Columban churches held the field, as rivals, there, and probably never wholly perished in Norse times even in Caithness and Sutherland.

During these centuries there were constant wars among the Picts themselves, and later between them and the Scots, resulting, generally, in the Picts being driven eastward and northward from the south centre of Alban, which the Scots seized, into the Grampian hills.

After this very brief statement of previous history we may now attempt to give some description of the land and the people of Caithness and Sutherland as the Northmen found them in the ninth century.



CHAPTER II.

The Pict and the Northman.

The present counties of Caithness and Sutherland A together made up the old Province of Cait or Cat, so called after the name of one of the seven legendary sons of Cruithne, the eponymous hero who represented the Picts of Alban, as the whole mainland north of the Forth was then called, and whose seven sons' names were said to stand for its seven main divisions,[1] Cait for Caithness and Sutherland, Ce for Keith or Mar, Cirig for Magh-Circinn or Mearns, Fib for Fife, Fidach (Woody) for Moray, Fotla for Ath-Fodla or Athol, and Fortrenn for Menteith.

Immediately to the south of Cat lay the great province of Moray including Ross, and, in the extreme west, a part of north Argyll; and the boundary between Cat and Ross was approximately the tidal River Oykel, called by the Norse Ekkjal, the northern and perhaps also the southern bank of which probably formed the ranges of hills known in the time of the earliest Norse jarls as Ekkjals-bakki. Everywhere else Cat was bounded by the open sea, of which the Norse soon became masters, namely on the west by the Minch, on the north by the North Atlantic and Pentland Firth, and on the east and south by the North Sea; and the great valley of the Oykel and the Dornoch Firth made Cat almost into an island.

Like Caesar's Gaul, Cat was "divided into three parts"; first, Ness, which was co-extensive with the modern county of Caithness, a treeless land, excellent in crops and highly cultivated in the north-east, but elsewhere mainly made up of peat mosses, flagstones and flatness, save in its western and south-western borderland of hills; secondly, to the west of Ness, Strathnavern, a land of dales and hills, and, especially in its western parts, of peaks; and, thirdly, to the south of Strathnavern, Sudrland, or the Southland, a riviera of pastoral links and fertile ploughland, sheltered on the north by its own forests and hills, and sloping, throughout its whole length from the Oykel to the Ord of Caithness, towards the Breithisjorthr, Broadfjord, or Moray Firth, its southern sea.[2]

Save in north-east Ness, and in favoured spots elsewhere, also below the 500 feet level, the land of Cat was a land of heath and woods[3] and rocks, studded, especially in the west, with lochs abounding in trout, a vast area of rolling moors, intersected by spacious straths, each with its salmon river, a land of solitary silences, where red deer and elk abounded, and in which the wild boar and wolf ranged freely, the last wolf being killed in Glen Loth within twelve miles of Dunrobin at a date between 1690 and 1700.[4] No race of hunters or fishermen ever surpassed the Picts in their craft as such.

The land, especially Sutherland, is still a happy hunting-ground not only for the sportsman but also for the antiquary. For the modern County of Sutherland is outwardly much the same now as it was in Pictish times, save for road and rail, two castles, and a sprinkling of shooting lodges, inns, and good cottages, which, however, in so vast a territory are, as the Irishman put it, "mere fleabites on the ocean." Much of the west of the land of Cat was scarcely inhabited at all in Pictish or Viking days, because as is clearly the case in the Kerrow-Garrow or Rough Quarter of Eddrachilles, it would not carry one sheep or feed one human being per hundred acres in many parts. The rest of it also remains practically unchanged in appearance from the earliest days till the present time, as it has been little disturbed by the plough save in the north-east of Ness and at Lairg and Kinbrace, and in its lower levels along the coast. But Loch Fleet no longer reaches to Pittentrail, and the crooked bay at Crakaig has been drained and the Water of Loth sent straight to the sea.

The only buildings or structures existing in Cat in Pictish and early Norse times were a few vitrified forts, some underground erde-houses, hut-circles innumerable, and perhaps a hundred and fifty brochs, or Pictish towers as they are popularly called, which had been erected at various dates from the first century onwards, long before the advent of the Norse Vikings is on record, as defences against wolves and raiders both by land and sea, and especially by sea. Notwithstanding agricultural operations, foundations of 145 brochs can still be traced in Ness and 67 in Strathnavern and Sudrland, but they were not all in use at the same time, and they are mostly on sites taken over later on by the Norse,[5] because they were already cultivated and agriculturally the best.

A well-known authority on such subjects, the late Dr. Munro, in his Prehistoric Scotland p. 389 writes of the brochs as follows:—"Some four hundred might have been seen conspicuously dotting the more fertile lands along the shores and straths of the counties of Caithness, Sutherland, Ross, Inverness, Argyll, the islands of Orkney, Shetland, Bute, and some of the Hebrides. Two are found in Forfarshire, and one each in the counties of Perth, Stirling, Midlothian, Selkirk and Berwick."

If one may venture to hazard a conjecture as to their date, they probably came into general use in these parts of Caledonia as nearly as possible contemporaneously with the date of the Roman occupation of South Britain, which they outlasted for many centuries. But their erection was not due to the fear of attack by the armies of Rome. For their remains are found where the Romans never came, and where the Romans came almost none are found. Their construction is more probably to be ascribed to very early unrecorded maritime raids of pirates of unknown race both on regions far north of the eastern coast protected later by the Count of the Saxon shore, and on the northern and western islands and coasts, where also many ruins of them survive.

In Cat dwelt the Pecht or Pict, the Brugaidh or farmer in his dun or broch, erected always on or near well selected fertile land on the seaboard, on the sides of straths, or on the shores of lochs, or less frequently on islands near their shores and then approached by causeways;[6] and the rest of the people lived in huts whose circular foundations still remain, and are found in large numbers at much higher elevations than the sites of any brochs. The brochs near the sea-coast were often so placed as to communicate with each other for long distances up the valleys, by signal by day, and beacon fire at night, and so far as they are traceable, the positions of most of them in Sutherland and Caithness are indicated on the map by circles.

Built invariably solely of stone and without mortar, in form the brochs were circular, and have been described as truncated cones with the apex cut off,[7] and their general plan and elevation were everywhere almost uniform. The ground floor was solid masonry, but contained small chambers in its thickness of about 15 feet. Above the ground floor the broch consisted of two concentric walls about three feet apart, the whole rising to a height in the larger towers of 45 feet or more, with slabs of stone laid horizontally across the gap between and within the two walls, at intervals of, say, five or six feet up to the top, and thus forming a series of galleries inside the concentric walls, in which large numbers of human beings could be temporarily sheltered and supplies in great quantities could be stored for a siege. These galleries were approached from within the broch by a staircase which rose from the court and passed round between the two concentric walls above the ground floor, till it reached their highest point, and probably ended immediately above the only entrance, the outside of which was thus peculiarly exposed to missiles from the end of the staircase at the top of the broch. The only aperture in the outer wall was the entrance from the outside, about 5 feet high by 3 feet wide, fitted with a stone door, and protected by guard-chambers immediately within it, and it afforded the sole means of ingress to and egress from the interior court, for man and beast and goods and chattels alike. The circular court, which was formed inside, varied from 20 to 36 feet in diameter, and was not roofed over; and the galleries and stairs were lighted only by slits, all looking into the court, in which, being without a roof, fires could be lit. In some few there were wells, but water-supply, save when the broch was in a loch, must have been a difficulty in most cases during a prolonged siege.

In these brochs the farmer lived, and his women-kind span and wove and plied their querns or hand-mills, and, in raids, they shut themselves up, and possibly some of their poorer neighbours took refuge in the brochs, deserting their huts and crowding into the broch; but of this practice there is no evidence, and the nearest hut-circles are often far from the remains of any broch.

For defence the broch was as nearly as possible perfect against any engines or weapons then available for attacking it; and we may note that it existed in Scotland and mainly in the north and west of it, and nowhere else in the world.[8] It was a roofless block-house, aptly described by Dr. Joseph Anderson as a "safe." It could not be battered down or set on fire, and if an enemy got inside it, he would find himself in a sort of trap surrounded by the defenders of the broch, and a mark for their missiles. The broch, too, was quite distinct from the lofty, narrow ecclesiastical round tower, of which examples still are found in Ireland, and in Scotland at Brechin and Abernethy.

To resist invasion the Picts would be armed with spears, short swords and dirks, but, save perhaps a targe, were without defensive body armour, which they scorned to use in battle, preferring to fight stripped. They belonged to septs and clans, and each sept would have its Maor, and each clan or province its Maormor[9] or big chief, succession being derived through females, a custom which no doubt originated in remote pre-Christian ages when the paternity of children was uncertain.

Being Celts, the Picts would shun the open sea. They feared it, for they had no chance on it, as their vessels were often merely hides stretched on wattles, resembling enlarged coracles. Yet with such rude ships as they had, they reached Orkney, Shetland, the Faroes and Iceland as hermits or missionaries.[10] In Norse times they never had the mastery of the sea, and the Pictish navy is a myth of earlier days.[11]

Lastly, as we have seen, the Picts of Cat had never been conquered, nor had their land ever been occupied by the legions of Rome, which had stopped at the furthest in Moray; and the sole traces of Rome in Cat are, as stated, two plates of hammered brass found in a Sutherland broch, and some Samian ware. Further, Christian though he had been long before Viking times, the Pict of Cat derived his Christianity at first and chiefly from the Pictish missions, and later from the Columban Church, both without reference to Papal Rome; and his missionaries not only settled on islands off his coasts, but later on worshipped in his small churches on the mainland; and many a Pictish saint of holy life was held in reverence there.

About the eighth century and probably earlier, immigrants from the southern shores of the Baltic pressed the Norse westwards in Norway, and later on over-population in the sterile lands which lie along Norway's western shores, drove its inhabitants forth from its western fjords north of Stavanger and from The Vik or great bay of the Christiania Fjord, whence they may have derived their name of Vikings, across the North Sea to the opposite coasts of Shetland, Orkney and Cat, where they found oxen and sheep to slaughter on the nesses or headlands, and stores of grain, and some silver and even gold in the shrines and on the persons of those whom they attacked, and in still later days they sought new lands over the sea and permanent settlements, where they would have no scat to pay to any overlord or feudal superior.

When the Vikings landed, superior discipline, instilled into them by their training on board ship, superior arms, the long two-handed sword and the spear and battle-axe and their deadly bows and arrows, and superior defensive armour, the long shield, the helmet and chain-mail, would make them more than a match for their adversaries.[12] Above all, the greater ferocity of these Northmen, ruthlessly directed to its object by brains of the highest order, would render the Pictish farmer, who had wife and children, and home and cattle and crops to save, an easy prey to the Viking warrior bands, and the security of his broch would of itself tend to a passive and inactive, rather than an offensive, and therefore successful defence.

After long continued raids, the Vikings no doubt saw that much of the land along the shore was fair and fertile compared with their own, and finally they came not merely to plunder and depart, but to settle and stay. When they did so, they came in large numbers and with organised forces[13] and carefully prepared plans of campaign, and with great reserves of weapons on board their ships; and having the ocean as their highway, they could select their points of attack. They then, as we know from the localities which bear their place-names, cleared out the Pict from most of his brochs and from the best land in Cat, shown on the map by dark green colour, that is, from all cultivated land below the 500 feet level save the upper parts of the valleys; or they slew or enslaved the Pict who remained. Lastly, on settling, they would seize his women-kind and wed them; for the women of their own race were not allowed on Viking ships, and were probably less amenable and less charming to boot. But the Pictish women thus seized had their revenge. The darker race prevailed, and, the supply of fathers of pure Norse blood being renewed only at intervals, the children of such unions soon came to be mainly of Celtic strain, and their mothers doubtless taught them to speak the Gaelic, which had then for at least a century superseded the Pictish tongue. The result was a mixed race of Gall-gaels or Gaelic strangers, far more Celtic than Norse, who soon spoke chiefly Gaelic, save in north-east Ness. Their Gaelic, too, like the English of Shetland at the present time, would not only be full of old Norse words, especially for things relating to the sea, but be spoken with a slight foreign accent. How numerous those foreign words still are in Sutherland Gaelic, the late Mr. George Henderson has ably and elaborately proved in his scholarly book on "Norse Influence on Celtic Scotland." We find traces of Norse words and the Norse accent and inflexions also on the Moray seaboard, on which the Norse gained a hold. The same would be true of the people on the western lands and islands of the Hebrides.

As time went on, the Gaelic strain predominated more and more, especially on the mainland of Scotland, over the Gall, or foreign, strain, which was not maintained. Mr. A.W. Johnston, in his "Orkney and Shetland Folk—850 to 1350,"[14] has worked out the quarterings of the Norse jarls, of whom only the first three were pure Norsemen, and he has thus shown conclusively how very Celtic they had become long before their male line failed. The same process was at work, probably to a greater extent, among those of lower rank, who could not find or import Norse wives, if they would, as the jarls frequently did.

One or two other introductory points remain to be noted and borne in mind throughout.

We must beware of thinking that all the land in an earldom such as Cat was the absolute property of the chief, as in the nineteenth century, or the latter half of it, was practically true in the modern county of Sutherland. The fact was very much otherwise. The Maormor and afterwards the earl doubtless had demesne lands, but he was in early times, ex officio, mainly a superior and receiver of dues for his king;[15] and this possibly shows why very early Scottish earldoms, as for instance that of Sutherland, in the absence of male heirs, often descended to females, unless the grant or custom excluded them. It was quite different with later feudal baronies or tenancies, where military service, which only males could render, was due, and which with rare exceptions it was, after about 1130, the policy of the Scottish kings to create; and in the case of baronies or lordships the land itself was often described and given to the grantee and his heirs by metes and bounds, in return for specified military service, and his heirs male were exhausted before any female could inherit.

In Ness and in the rest of Cat there were many Norse and native holders of land within the earldom, and much tribal ownership. Duncan of Duncansby or Dungall of Dungallsby, as he is variously called, allowed part at least of his dominions to pass by marriage to the Norse jarls; but both Moddan and Earl Ottar, whose heir was Earl Erlend Haraldson, who left no heir, owned land extensively in Ness and elsewhere, while Moddan "in Dale" had daughters also owning land, one of whom, Frakark, widow of Liot Nidingr, had many homesteads in upper Kildonan in Sudrland and elsewhere, and possibly it is her sister Helga's name that lingers in a place-name lower down that strath near Helmsdale, at Helgarie.

What is worthy of notice is that it is clear from the place-names that after the Norse conquest the Norse held and named most of the lower or seaward parts of the valleys and nearly all the coast lands of Cat and Ross as far south as the Beauly Firth, and the Picts occupied and were never dispossessed of the upper parts of the valleys or the hills all through the Norse occupation. In other words, as conquerors coming from the sea, the Norsemen seized and held the better Pictish lands near the coast, which had been cultivated for centuries, and on which crops would ripen with regularity and certainty year after year. But as time went on the Pictish Maormor pressed the Norse Jarl more and more outwards and eastwards in Cat.

We must also remember the enormous power of the Scottish Crown through its right of granting wardships, especially in the case of a female heir. Under such grants the grantee, usually some very powerful noble, took over during minority the title of his ward and all his revenues absolutely, in return for a payment, correspondingly large, to the Crown. If the ward was a female, the grantee disposed of her hand in marriage as well.

After these preliminary notes, we may now again glance at the Scots, who were destined, from small beginnings, by a series of strange turns of fortune and superior state-craft, in time to conquer and dominate all modern Scotland north of the Forth, then known as Alban.

The Scots, as already stated, had come over from Ulster and settled in Cantyre about the end of the fifth century, and for long they had only the small Dalriadic territory of Argyll, and even this they all but lost more than once. At the same time, after 563, they had a most valuable asset in Columba, their soldier missionary prince, and his milites Christi, or soldiers of Christ, who gradually carried their Christianity and Irish culture even up to Orkney itself, with many a school of the Erse or Gaelic tongue, and thus paved the way for the consolidation of the whole of Alban into one political unit by providing its people with a common language.

But in order to live the Scots had been forced to defeat many foes, such as the Britons of Strathclyde, whose capital was at Alcluyd or Dunbarton,[16] the Northumbrians on the south, and the Picts of Atholl, Forfar, Fife and Kincardine, which comprised most of the fertile land south of the Grampians. The great Pictish province of Moray on the north of the Grampians, however, remained unsubdued, and it took the Scots several centuries more to reduce it.

It was when the Scottish conquests above referred to were thus far completed that the new factor, with which we are mainly concerned, was introduced into the problem. This factor was, as stated, the Northmen.



CHAPTER III.

The Early Norse Jarls.

It was in the reign of Constantine I, son of the great Pictish king, Angus MacFergus, that the new and disturbing influence mentioned above appeared in force in Alban. Favoured in their voyages to and fro by the prevailing winds, which then, as now, blew from the east in the spring and from the west later in the year, the Northmen, both Norsemen and Danes, neither being Christians, had, like their predecessors the Saxons and Angles and Frisians, for some time made trading voyages and desultory piratical attacks in summer-time on the coasts of Britain and Ireland, and probably many a short-lived settlement as well. But as these attacks and settlements are unrecorded in Cat, no account of them can be given.

In 793 it is on record that the Vikings first sacked Iona, originally the centre of Columban Christianity but then Romanised, and they repeated these raids on its shrine again and again within the next fifteen years. Constantine thereupon removed its clergy to Dunkeld, "and there set up in his own kingdom an ecclesiastical capital for Scots and Picts alike,"[1] as a step towards the political union of his realm, which Norse sea-power had completely severed from the original home of the Scots in Ulster.

The Northmen now began the systematic maritime invasions of our eastern and northern and western coasts and islands, which history has recorded. North Scotland was attacked almost exclusively by Norsemen, and Norsemen and Danes invaded Ireland. The Danes seized the south of Scotland, and the north of England, of which latter country, early in the eleventh century in the time of King Knut, they were destined to dominate two-thirds, while Old Norse became the lingua franca of his English kingdom, and enriched its language with hundreds of Norse words, and gave us many new place and personal names.

In 844, Kenneth, king of the Scots, the small North Irish sept which, as stated above, had crossed over from Erin and held the Dalriadic kingdom of Argyll with its capital at Dunadd near the modern Crinan Canal, succeeded in making good his title, on his mother's side, to the Pictish crown by a successful attack from the west on the southern Picts[2] at the same time as their territory was being invaded from the east coast by the Danes. Thereafter, these Picts and the Scots gradually became and ever afterwards remained one nation, a course which suited both peoples as a safeguard not only against their foreign foes the Northmen, but also against the Berenicians of Lothian on the south. With the object of ensuring the union of the two peoples Kenneth is said to have transferred some of the relics of Columba, who had become the patron saint of both, from Iona to Dunkeld, which thus definitely remained not only the ecclesiastical capital of the united Picts and Scots, but the common centre of their religious sentiment and veneration. Incidentally, too, the Pictish language gradually became disused, as that people were absorbed in the Scots; and unfortunately, through the fact that no written literature survived to preserve it, that language has almost entirely disappeared. The better opinion is that it was more closely akin to Welsh and Breton than to Erse or Gaelic, the Welsh and the Picts being termed "P" Celts, and the other races "Q" Celts, because in words of the same meaning the Welsh used "P" where the Gaelic speaking Celt used the hard "C". For instance, "Pen" and "Map" in Welsh became "Ken" (or Ceann) and "Mac" in Gaelic.[3]

In the reign of Constantine II, Kenneth's son and next successor but one, further incursions by the Northmen took place under King Olaf the White of Dublin in 867 and 871; while in 875 his son Thorstein the Red, by Aud "the deeply-wealthy" or "deeply-wise," landed on the north coast, and, we are told, seized "Caithness and Sutherland and Moray and more than half Scotland,"[4] being killed, however, by treachery within the year. His mother Aud thereupon built a ship in Caithness, and sailed for the Faroes and Iceland with her retinue and possessions, marrying off two grand-daughters on the way, one, called Groa, to Duncan, Maormor of Duncansby in Caithness, the most ancient Pictish chief of whom we hear in that district, and probably ancestor of the Moldan, or Moddan, line in Cat. Two years later, in 877, King Constantine was defeated by a force of Danes at Dollar, and slain by them at Forgan in Fife.[5]

After the great decisive battle of Hafrsfjord in Norway in 872, because Orkney and Shetland and the Hebrides had become refuges for the Norse Vikings, who had been expelled from their country or had left it on the introduction of feudalism with its payment of dues to the king, but were raiding its shores, Harald Harfagr,[6] king of Norway, along with Jarl Ragnvald of Maeri attacked and extirpated the pirate Vikings in their island lairs; and, as compensation to the jarl for the loss of his son Ivar in battle, Harald transferred his conquests with the title of Jarl of Orkney and Shetland to Ragnvald, who, in his turn, with the king's consent, soon made over his new territories and title to his brother Sigurd.

This new jarl, the second founder of the line of Orkney jarls, conquered Caithness and Sutherland as far south as Ekkjals-bakki,[7] which is believed by some to be in Moray, and by others, with more truth, to be the ranges of hills in Sutherland and Ross lying to the north and to the south of the River Oykel and its estuary, the Dornoch Firth; and the second part of the name still happens to survive in the place-name of Backies in Dunrobin Glen and elsewhere in Cat where the Norse settled. About the year 890,[8] after challenging Malbrigde of the Buck-tooth to a fight with forty a side, to which he himself perfidiously brought eighty men, Sigurd outflanked and defeated his adversary, and cut off his head and suspended it from his saddle; but the buck-tooth, by chafing his leg as he rode away from the field, caused inflammation and death, and Jarl Sigurd's body was laid in howe on Oykel's Bank at Sigurthar-haugr, or Sigurds-haugr, the Siwards-hoch of early charters now on modern maps corruptly written Sidera or Cyderhall, near Dornoch, which, when translated, is Sigurd's Howe.[9] "Thenceforward," as Professor Hume Brown tells us, "the mainland was never secure from the attacks of successive jarls, who for long periods held firm possession of what is now Caithness and Sutherland. As things now went, this was in truth in the interest of the kings of Scots themselves. To the north of the Grampians they exercised little or no authority; and the people of that district were as often their enemies as their friends. Through the action of the Orkney jarls, therefore, the Scottish kings were at comparative liberty to extend their territory towards the south; and the day came when they found themselves able to crush every hostile element even in the north.[10]

It is this process of consolidation in the north which it is proposed to describe so far as Sutherland and Caithness are concerned, using both Norse and Scottish records, and piecing them together as best we can, and, be it confessed, in many cases filling up great gaps by necessary guess-work when records fail.

In the reign of the great king Constantine III, between the years 900 and 942, the Danes again gave trouble. In 903 the Irish Danes ravaged Alban,[11] as Scotland north of the Forth was then called, for a whole year; in 918 Constantine and his ally, Eldred of Lothian, were defeated by another expedition of these invaders; and in 934 Athelstan and his Saxons burst into Strathclyde and Forfar, the heart of Constantine's kingdom, and the Saxon fleet was sent up even to the shores of Caithness, as a naval demonstration intended to brave the Norse, who had joined Constantine, on their own element. Lastly, in 937 Athelstan and Constantine met at Brunanburg, probably Birrenswark near Ecclefechan, and Constantine and his Norse allies were completely defeated.[12]

Meantime, since 875, a succession of jarls had endeavoured to hold, for the kings of Norway, Orkney and Shetland, as well as Cat, which then included Ness, Strathnavern, and Sudrland.[13] The history of these early jarls is not told in detail in any surviving contemporary record, for the Sagas of the jarls as individuals have perished; but there is a brief account of them in the beginning of the Orkneyinga Saga, another in chapters 99 and 100 of the St. Olaf's Saga, and a fuller one in chapters 179 to 187 of the Saga of Olaf Tryggvi's Son, contained in the Flatey Book.[14] From these the following story may be gathered.

After Jarl Sigurd's death, his son Guthorm ruled for one winter, and died without issue, so that Sigurd's line came to an end. When Jarl Ragnvald of Maeri heard of his nephew's death, he sent his son Hallad over from Norway to Hrossey, as the mainland of Orkney was then called, and King Harald gave him the title of jarl. Failing in his efforts to put down the piracy of the Vikings, who continued their slayings and plunderings, Hallad, the last of the purely Norse jarls, resigned his jarldom, and returned ignominiously to Norway. In the absence at war of Hrolf the Ganger, who became Duke of Normandy and was an ancestor of the kings of England, two others of Ragnvald's sons, Thorir and Hrollaug, were summoned to meet their father. At this meeting it was decided that neither of these should go to Orkney, Thorir's prospects in Norway being good, and Hrollaug's future lying in Iceland, where, it was said, he was to found a great family. Then Einar, the Jarl's youngest son by a thrall or slave woman, and thus not of pure Norse lineage, asked whether he might go, offering as an inducement to his father that, if he went, he would thus never be seen by him again. He was told that the sooner he went, and the longer he stayed away, the better his father would be pleased. A galley, well equipped, was given to him, and about the year 891 King Harald Harfagr conferred on him the title of Jarl of Orkney and Shetland, for which he sailed. On his arrival there, he attacked Kalf Skurfa and Thorir Treskegg,[15] the pirate Viking leaders, and defeated and slew them both. He then took possession of the lands of the jarldom; and, from having taught the people of Turfness in Moray the use of turf or peat for fuel, was known thenceforward as Torf-Einar. He is said to have been "a tall man, ugly, with one eye, but very keen-sighted,"[16] a faculty which he was soon to use.

When Jarl Ragnvald of Maeri, the first of the Orkney jarls, was killed in Norway by two of Harald Harfagr's sons, one of them, Halfdan Halegg or Long-shanks fled from their father's vengeance to Orkney. When Halfdan landed, Torf-Einar took refuge in Scotland, but returned in force, and after defeating Halfdan—who had usurped the jarldom—in North Ronaldsay Firth, spied him as a fugitive, in hiding, far off on Rinarsey or Rinansey (Ninian's Island) now North Ronaldsay, and seized him, cut a blood-eagle on his back, severed his ribs and pulled out his lungs, and, after offering him as a victim to Odin, buried his body there.[17]

Incensed at the shameful slaughter of his son, Harald Harfagr came over from Norway about the year 900 to avenge him, but, as was then not unusual, accepted as a wergeld or atonement for his son's death a fine of sixty marks of gold, which it fell to the islanders to pay. On their failure to find the money, Torf-Einar paid it himself, taking in return from the people their odal lands,[18] which were lost to their families until Jarl Sigurd Hlodverson temporarily restored them as a recompense for their assistance in the battle fought by him between 969 and 995 against Finleac MacRuari, Maormor of North Moray, at Skidamyre in Caithness. Whether it was the Orkney jarls or their superiors, the kings of Norway, who owned them in the meantime, the odal lands were finally sold back to those entitled to them by descent by Jarl Ragnvald Kol's son about 1137, in order to raise money for the completion of Kirkwall Cathedral. Odal tenure in Orkney was thus in abeyance for over two centuries, save for a short time, and in any case its inherent principle of subdivision would have killed it, and after its renewal, in spite of its many safeguards against alienation to strangers, it gradually died out under feudalism and Scottish law and lawyers.[19] In Cat it never seems to have taken root.

After holding the jarldom for a long term, Torf-Einar died in his bed, as the Saga contemptuously tells us, probably in or after the year 920, leaving three sons, Arnkell, Erlend, and Thorfinn Hausa-kliufr or Skull-splitter, of whom the two first, Arnkell and Erlend, fell with Eric Bloody-axe, king of Norway, in England. The third son, Thorfinn Hausa-kliufr or Skull-splitter, himself about three-quarters Norse by blood, married Grelaud, daughter of Dungadr, or Duncan, the Gaelic Maormor of Caithness by Groa, daughter of Thorfinn the Red, thus further Gaelicising the strain of the Norse Jarls of Orkney,[20] but adding greatly to their mainland territories.

Jarl Thorfinn Hausa-kliufr, who flourished between 920 and 963, is described as a great chief and fighter; but he, like his father, died a peaceful death, and was buried at Hoxa, Haugs-eithi or Mound's-isthmus, which covers the site of a Pictish broch, near the north-west end of South Ronaldshay.[21]

When Eric Bloody-axe had been defeated and killed, his sons came to Orkney and seized the jarldom, and his widow, the notoriously wicked Gunnhild and her daughter Ragnhild settled there for a time. Thorfinn Hausa-kliufr had five sons, Arnfinn, Havard, Hlodver, Ljotr and Skuli. Three of these, Arnfinn. Havard and Ljotr, successively married Ragnhild, and Ragnhild rivalled her mother in wickedness. Arnfinn she killed at Murkle in Caithness with her own hand; Havard she induced Einar Oily-tongue, his nephew, to slay, on her promise to marry him, which she broke; and finally she married Jarl Ljotr instead. Skuli, the only other surviving son save Hlodver, went to the king of Scots, who is said to have lightly given away what did not belong to him, and to have created him Earl of Caithness, which then included Sudrland.[22] Skuli then raised a force in his new earldom, no doubt to carry out Scottish policy, and, crossing to Orkney, fought a battle there with his brother Ljotr, was defeated, and fled to Caithness. Collecting another army in Scotland, Skuli fought a second battle at Dalar or Dalr, probably Dale in the upper valley of the Thurso River in Caithness, and was there defeated and killed by Ljotr, who took possession of his dominions. Then followed a battle between Ljotr and a Scottish earl called Magbiod or Macbeth, at Skida Myre or Skitten Moor in Watten in Caithness, which Ljotr won, but died of his wounds shortly after, and is said to have been buried at Stenhouse in Watten.[23] Thus the first Scottish attempt at consolidation of the north failed.

During the last half of the tenth century there was constant war by the kings of Alban against the Northmen who had seized the coast of Moray, and Malcolm I was killed at Ulern near Kinloss, about the year 954, and his successor Indulf fell in the hour of his victory over the invaders at Cullen in Banff.[24] But on the whole probably the Scots had succeeded for a time in driving out the Norse from the laigh of Moray, which the latter needed for its supplies of grain.

Hlodver or Lewis, (963-980), the only surviving son of Thorfinn Hausa-kliufr, succeeded Ljotr in the jarldom; and by Audna or Edna, daughter of Kiarval, king of the Hy Ivar of Dublin and Limerick, Hlodver had a son, the famous Sigurd the Stout, or Sigurd Hlodverson. Hlodver was, (as Mr. A.W. Johnston points out),[25] by blood slightly more Norse than Gaelic. We know little of him save that he was a mighty chief; and, according to the usual reproach of the Saga, died in his bed and not in battle about 980, and was buried at Hofn, probably Huna, in Caithness, near John o' Groats, under a howe.[26]

The line of the so-called Norse earls, at the period at which we have arrived, 980 A.D., was represented by Sigurd Hlodverson, the hero of the Raven banner, which, as his Irish mother had predicted, was to bring victory to every host which followed it, but death to every man who bore it in battle.[27] Sigurd claimed Caithness by the rules of Pictish succession, as grandson of Grelaud daughter of Duncan of Duncansby, Maormor of that district. This claim was disputed by two Celtic chiefs, Hundi (possibly Crinan, Abthane of Dunkeld) and Melsnati, or Maelsnechtan; and in a battle at Dungal's Noep, near Duncansby, at which Kari Solmundarson is said in the Saga of Burnt Njal[28] to have been present, Sigurd defeated them, but with such loss to his own side that he had to retire to Orkney, leaving Hundi,[29] the survivor of his two enemies, in possession of his lands in Caithness. Sigurd himself, on his voyage from Orkney, fell into the hands of the Norse king, Olaf Tryggvi's-son, who was returning from Dublin to Norway, in the bay of Osmundwall or Kirk Hope in Walls; and the king insisted on the jarl being baptized on the spot, under penalty, if he and all the inhabitants of his jarldom did not become and remain Christians, of losing his eldest son Hundi or Hvelpr, whom the Norse king seized and retained as a hostage. He also sent missionaries to evangelize the jarldom. Such was the conversion of Orkney and its jarl from the worship of Odin, at or about the end of the first millennium of the Christian era.

On his son's death in captivity, Sigurd seems to have deserted the Norse for the Scottish side, and to have devoted himself to seeking the favour, by his assistance in completing the conquest of Moray from the Norse, of the Scottish king Malcolm II, whose third daughter he married as his second wife.[30] He was, by race, more than two-thirds Gaelic, and he clearly at first held Caithness in spite of all Scottish attacks, and probably later on agreed to hold it from the Scottish king.

A few other persons are referred to in the Sagas as connected with Caithness at this time. In the Landnamabok (1.6.5) we find Swart Kell, or Cathal Dhu, mentioned as having gone from Caithness and taken land in settlement in Mydalr in Iceland, and his son was Thorkel, the father of Glum, who took Christendom when he was already old.

About this time also, as appears from the Saga of Thorgisl,[31] there was an Earl Anlaf or Olaf in Caithness, who had a sister, named Gudrun, whom Swart Ironhead, a pirate, sought in marriage. But Swart was killed in holmgang, or duel, by Thorgisl, who cut off his head and married Gudrun, by whom he had a son called Thorlaf. Thorgisl then tired of Gudrun, and gave her to Thorstan the White on the plea that he himself wished to go and look after his estate in Iceland, which he did. Can this Anlaf be the original of the legendary Alane, thane of Sutherland, whom Macbeth, according to Sir Robert Gordon in his Genealogie of the Earles of Southerland,[32] put to death, and whose son, Walter, Malcolm Canmore is said to have created first Earl? Or was Alane, like others, a creation of Sir Robert's inventive brain? He was certainly no earl of the present Sutherland line; neither was Walter.[33]

To this period also belongs the romantic story of Barth or Bard, son of Helgi and Helga Ulfs-datter told in the Flatey Book, and translated at page 369 of the Appendix to Sir George Dasent's Rolls Edition of the Orkneyinga Saga, which is shortly as follows.

In the time of Sigurd Hlodverson, Ulf the Bad, of Sanday in Orkney, murdered Harald of North Ronaldsay, and seized his lands in the absence of Harald's son Helgi, a gentle Viking, on a cruise. On his return, Helgi, to revenge his father's death, slew Bard, Ulf's next of kin, in fight. Jarl Sigurd blames him for this and for not letting him settle the feud himself, and Helgi sells all he has, and goes to Ulf's house and takes his daughter, Helga, away. Ulf follows them up by sea with a superior force, defeats Helgi off Caithness, and he jumps overboard with Helga and swims to shore, where a poor farmer, Thorfinn, as Helgi had always been kind in his "vikings" to such as he was, has the wedding at his house, and shelters the pair there till on Ulf's death two years after they can return to Orkney with Bard or Barth, their infant son. At twelve years of age, Barth desires to fare away "to those peoples who believe in the God of Heaven Himself," and fares far away accordingly. Barth works for a farmer, and works so well that his flocks increase, and gets a cow for himself as a reward, but meets a beggar who begs the cow of him "for Peter's thanks." Each year a cow is the reward of Barth's work, and each year he is asked for the cow, and gives her up, until he has given three cows. Then St. Peter (for the beggar was no other than he) passes his hands over Barth, and gives him good luck, and sets a book upon his shoulders; and he saw far and wide over many lands, and over all Ireland, and he was baptized, and became a holy hermit and a bishop in Ireland. Such is the Norse story of Barth, to whom the first Cathedral in Dornoch was said to have been dedicated. It is far more prettily told in the Saga.

But St. Barr of Dornoch, in all probability, belongs to the sixth century,[34] not to the tenth, and was a Pict or Irishman, not a Norseman. He was never Bishop of Caithness, so far as records tell. His Fair, like those of other Pictish Saints elsewhere in Cat, is still celebrated, and is held at Dornoch.

The battle of Clontarf, fought on Good Friday, the 23rd of April 1014, outside Dublin, between the young heathen king of Dublin, Sigtrigg Silkbeard, and the aged Christian king, Brian Borumha, was, notwithstanding Norse representations to the contrary, a decisive victory for the Irish over the Norse, and for Christianity against Odinism. Sigurd, Jarl of Orkney, though nominally a Christian, fought on the heathen side, and fell bearing his Raven banner, and the old king, Brian, was killed in the hour of his people's victory.

Sigurd's death is the subject of a strange legend, and the occasion of a weird poem, The Darratha-Liod[35] said to have been sung in Caithness for the first time on the day of Sigurd's death.

The legend is given in the Niala[36] as follows:—"On Friday it happened in Caithness that a man called Dorruthr went out of his house and saw that twelve men together rode to a certain bower, where they all disappeared. He went to the bower, and looked in through a window, and saw that within there were women, who had set up a web. They sang the poem, calling on the listener, Dorruthr, to learn the song, and to tell it to others. When the song was over, they tore down the web, each one retaining what she held in her hand of it. And now Dorruthr went away from the window and returned home, while they mounted their horses, riding six to the north and six to the south. A similar vision appeared to Brand, the son of Gneisti, in the Faroes. At Swinefell in Iceland blood fell on the cope of a priest on Good Friday, so that he had to take it off. At Thvatta a priest saw on Good Friday deep sea before the altar and many terrible wonders therein, and for long he was unable to sing the Hours."[37]

This strange legend of early telepathy may be explained by the fact that Thorstein, son of the Icelander Hall o' Side, fought for Sigurd at Clontarf, and afterwards returned to Iceland and told the story of the battle, which the Saga preserved; and the English poet, Thomas Gray, used it as the theme of his well-known poem intituled The Fatal Sisters. The old Norse ballad referred to Sigurd's death at Clontarf in 1014. It is known as Darratha-Liod or The Javelin-Song, and is translated by the late Eirikr Magnusson and printed in the Miscellany of the Viking Society with the Old Norse original[38] and the translator's scholarly notes and explanations. It is said that it was often sung in Old Norse in North Ronaldsay until the middle of the eighteenth century.

As translated it is as follows:—

DARRATHA-LIOD.

I. Widely's warped To warn of slaughter The back-beam's rug— Lo, blood is raining! Now grey with spears Is framed the web Of human kind, With red woof filled By maiden friends Of Randver's slayer.

II. That web is warped With human entrails, And is hard weighted With heads of people; Bloodstained darts Do for treadles, The forebeam's ironbound The reed's of arrows; Swords be sleys[39] For this web of war.

III. Hild goes to weave And Hiorthrimol Sangrid and Svipol With swords unsheathed. Shafts will crack And shields will burst, The dog of helms Will drop on byrnies.

IV. Wind we, wind we Web of javelins Such as the young king Has waged before. Forward we go And rush to the fray, Where our friends Engage in fighting.

V. Wind we, wind we Web of javelins Where forward rush The fighters' standards. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

VI. Wind we, wind we Web of javelins, And faithfully The king we follow. Nor shall we leave His life to perish; Among the doomed Our choice is ample.

VII. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * There Gunn and Gondul Who guarded the king Saw borne by men Bloody targets.

VIII. That race will now Rule the country Which erstwhile held But outer nesses. The mighty king, Meweens, is doomed. Now pierced by points The Earl hath fallen.

IX. Such bale will now Betide the Irish As ne'er grows old To minding men. The web's now woven The wold made red, Afar will travel The tale of woe.

X: An awful sight The eye beholdeth As blood-red clouds Are borne through heaven; The skies take hue Of human blood, Whene'er fight-maidens Fall to singing.

XI. Willing we chant Of the youthful king A lay of victory— Luck to our singing! But he who listens Must learn by heart This spear-maid's song And spread it further.

XII. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * On bare-backed steeds We start out swiftly With swords unsheathed From hence away.

The nine centuries, above referred to, of Roman invasion, intestine war, and ecclesiastical rivalry between the Pictish, Columban and Catholic Churches had now, under Malcolm II, produced a kingdom of Scotland, throughout which the Catholic was in a fair way to become the predominant Church, and in which the authority of the Scottish Crown was for the time being, nominally, but in the north merely nominally, supreme on the mainland from the Tweed to the Pentland Firth. The Isles of Orkney and Shetland and the whole of the Sudreyar or Hebrides, however, owed allegiance, whether their jarls admitted it or not, to the Crown of Norway, and the Scottish kings had no authority over them.[40] Moreover, the Northmen—Danes and Norsemen and Gallgaels—held the western seas from the Butt of Lewis to the Isle of Man, and they had severed the connection between the Scots of Ulster and the Scots of Argyll. The latter had thus been forced to move eastwards, in order to avoid constant raids by the Irish Danes and Norsemen and the Gallgaels, who thus possessed themselves of all the coast of Scotland then known as Airergaithel or Argyll, which extended up to Ross and Assynt, west of the Drumalban watershed.

Of the next nine centuries from 1000 to the present time it is proposed to deal with the first two hundred and seventy years only, which, with the preceding century and a half, form a chapter of Scottish history complete in itself. The narrative, as already stated, will be based largely upon the great Stories or Tales known as the Orkneyinga, St. Magnus', and Hakonar Sagas, and also upon Scottish and English chronicles and records so far as they throw their fitful light upon the northern counties of Scotland, and especially upon Caithness and Sutherland, during the dark periods between these Sagas.

Attention will have to be paid to the Pictish family of Moldan of Duncansby, of Moddan, created Earl of Caithness by his uncle Duncan I, and of Moddan "in Dale," each of whom in turn succeeded to much of the estates of the ancient Maormors of Duncansby, but whose people had been driven back from most of the best low-lying lands into the upper valleys and the hills by the foreign invaders of Cat. For, when the Norse Vikings first attacked Cat and succeeded in conquering the Picts there, they conquered by no means the whole of that province. They subdued and held only that part of Ness or modern Caithness which lies next its north and east coasts, and the rest of the sea-board of Ness, Strathnavern and Sudrland, forcing their way up the lower parts of the valleys of these districts, as their place-names still live on to prove; but they never conquered, so as to occupy and hold them, the upper parts of these river basins or the hills above them, which remained in possession of Picts and Gaels throughout the whole period of the Norse occupation. Further, the Picts and Gaels extended the area which they retained, until Norse rule was expelled from the mainland altogether.

In Strathnavern and in the upper valleys of its rivers, and also in Caithness in the uplands of the river Thurso, and in a large part of Sudrland the Pictish family and clan of Moddan in its various branches subsisted all through the Norse occupation, and it is hoped to show good reason for believing that the family of Moddan, with the Pictish or Scottish family of Freskyn de Moravia in later times, was the mainstay of Scottish rule in the extreme north until the shadowy claims of Norse suzerains over every part of the mainland were completely repelled, and avowedly abandoned.

Meantime to Norway Orkney and Cat were essential. For their fertile lands yielded the supplies of grain which Norway required; and when the Norse were driven from the arable lands of the Moray seaboard, Orkney and Cat became still more necessary to them and their folk at home. Cat the Scots could not then reach, for the Norse held the sea, while on land Pictish Moray, a jealous power, hostile to its southern neighbours, lay in its mountain fastnesses between the territory of the Scots in the south and the land of Cat in the extreme north, and formed a barrier which stretched across Alban from the North Sea to the shores of Assynt on the Skotlands-fiorthr or Minch.



CHAPTER IV.

Thorfinn—Earl and Jarl.

Malcolm II, with whom Scottish contemporary records may be said to begin, ascended the Scottish throne in 1005, and defeated the Norse at Mortlach in Moray in 1010, and drove them from its fertile seaboard, probably with the help of Sigurd Hlodverson, Jarl of Orkney. The men of Moray, however, and their Pictish Maormors remained ungrateful, and irreconcilably opposed to Scottish rule; and Moray, then stretching across almost from ocean to ocean,[1] barred the way of the Scots to the north.

What he could not achieve by arms, Malcolm, both before and after his accession, decided to secure by a series of matrimonial alliances. He had no son; but he had three available daughters,[2] of whom the eldest was Bethoc, and the two others are said to have been called Donada or Doada and Plantula.

1. Bethoc he married to the most powerful Pictish leader of the time, Crinan, Abthane of Dunkeld, the capital of the southern Picts, and they had issue

(a) Duncan, afterwards Duncan I of Scotland, born about 1001;

(b) Maldred of Cumbria, whose eldest son was Gospatrick, and whose second son was Dolfin; but with Maldred we are not concerned;

(c) A daughter, who became the mother of Moddan, whom Duncan I, after his accession in 1034, created Earl of Caithness or Cat, probably about 1040, his father being possibly of the family of Moldan of Duncansby, whose sons Gritgard and Snaekolf, if we may believe the Njal Saga, were slain by Helgi Njal's son and Kari Solmundarson, Moldan being said to be a kinsman of Malcolm the Scots king.

2. Malcolm's second daughter, Donada, he married to Finnleac or Finlay Mac Ruari, Maormor of North Moray, and a chief of the northern Picts, and they had a son, Macbeth, born about 1005, who succeeded Duncan I on his death in 1040 as King of Scotland, but left no issue.[3]

3. Malcolm's third daughter, said to have been called Plantula, he gave, about 1007, as his second wife to Sigurd Hlodverson, who, as we have seen, was killed in 1014 at the decisive battle of Clontarf, his wife having died probably before that event; and their only child was a son, born about 1008 and created Earl of Caithness and Sutherland, who became the great Earl and Jarl Thorfinn.

The three marriages were intended to secure to Malcolm the south, the middle, and the north of Pictland through the fathers of Duncan, Macbeth, and Thorfinn respectively; and we may note that from Thorfinn are descended all subsequent Jarls and Earls of Orkney and Shetland and Caithness of the so-called Norse line.

Duncan I, Macbeth, and Thorfinn Sigurd's son were thus first cousins, and, in spite of the fiction of Holinshed, Boece, and William Shakespeare, they were all about the same age, being born within seven years of each other; and none of them lived to old age.

By the victory of Carham in 1018 Malcolm II secured for ever the line of the Tweed as Scotland's southern frontier; and this success in the south, one of the most important events in Scottish history, left him free to extend his kingdom and sovereignty towards the north, his object being to unite into one realm the whole mainland at least of Scotland. To accomplish this, he would have to bring under the supremacy of the Scottish crown in addition to the Picts of Atholl, whom the Scots had absorbed, the Gallgaels of Argyll, the Picts of Moray and of Ross within and beyond the Grampians, and those of the province of Cat, with the Norsemen there as well. He could thus ultimately hope to oust Somarled, Brusi and Einar, Jarl Sigurd's sons by his first wife, and their overlords, the Norse kings, from Orkney and Shetland, and to add those islands to his dominions. Meantime, Somarled, Brusi and Einar took no share in Cat. Thorfinn had Cat, all for himself, as a fief of the Scottish king.

Although the history of the time of Thorfinn Sigurdson, the first Scottish Earl of Caithness and Sutherland,[4] would have been of great interest to inhabitants of those counties, the Orkneyinga Saga contains but little information about his doings in them, because he bent all his efforts towards extending his dominion over the islands which formed his father Sigurd's jarldom, his policy, in his youth at least, being directed to this object by his grandfather, Malcolm II. Indeed during the life of that king, Thorfinn appears to have established himself at Duncansby in Caithness, on the shore of the Pentland Firth, and to have occupied himself in endeavouring to induce his three surviving half-brothers, Somarled, Brusi, and Einar, to part with as large a share as possible of Orkney and Shetland, and cede it to himself. In this he had much assistance from King Malcolm. Thorfinn, whose mother probably died in his infancy if we are to credit his father's matrimonial stipulations as regards an Irish wife in 1014, succeeded to the earldom and lands in that year, as a boy of about six years of age, and was early in coming to his full growth, the "tallest and strongest of men; his hair was black, his features sharp, his brows scowling, and, as soon as he grew up, it was easy to see that he was forward and grasping." From the description given in the Saga at Chapter 22, he was no more a Norseman in appearance than he was by blood. He was, in fact, by race and descent, almost a pure Gael, and at Malcolm's court must have spoken only Gaelic.

Of his three half-brothers, Somarled and Brusi were not unwilling to give Thorfinn a share of the Orkney jarldom. For they were meek men, especially Brusi; and, when Somarled died, though Einar wanted two shares for himself, and fought to retain them, he only wearied out his followers and alienated them by his cruelty. They, therefore, went over to Thorfinn in Caithness. More important still, Thorkel Amundson, "the properest young man in Orkney," did likewise, and was thenceforward known as Thorkel Fostri, foster-father to Thorfinn, whom he aided at every crisis of his career.

When Thorfinn grew up, he claimed a third share of Orkney, and, not getting it, "called out a force from Caithness" where he mostly lived.[5] Brusi and Einar then pooled their share of the islands, Einar having the control of both; and Thorfinn got his trithing,[6] managing it by his men, who collected his scatt and tolls under Thorkel Fostri, whom Einar plotted to kill. Einar next seized Eyvind Urarhorn, a Norse subject of distinction, who had caused his complete defeat in Ulfreksfirth in Ireland, but was sheltering from a storm in Orkney, and killed him, to the great anger of the Norse king.

Grasping at once the opportunity thus created, Thorfinn determined to turn it to his own advantage. He sent Thorkel to King Olaf in Norway to seek protection for himself against Einar, and Thorkel came back bearing an invitation to Thorfinn to visit the Norwegian court, from which the jarl returned as much in favour with the king as Einar was in disgrace. Brusi then tried to reconcile Thorfinn and Einar, and Thorkel was to be included in the settlement. Thorkel, however, after inviting Einar to a feast in his hall at Sandvik in Deerness, a promontory south-east of Kirkwall, discovered a plot by Einar to attack him by three several ambushes as they left the house. In a striking scene, the Saga tells how Thorkel, wounded, and Halvard, an Icelander, dispatched Einar at the hearth of the hall; how Einar's followers did not interfere; and how Thorkel fled to King Olaf in Norway, who was much gratified by the death of Einar, the slayer of his own friend Eyvind Urarhorn.[7]

On Einar's death, Brusi tried to get two-thirds of the isles, but Thorfinn now claimed a half share, and King Olaf, in spite of a visit by Thorfinn to him in Norway, ultimately awarded Brusi two-thirds, Thorfinn having the rest. Brusi, however, being unable to defend the isles from pirates, about the year 1028 gave up one of his trithings to Thorfinn on his undertaking the defence of the isles,[8] for which a powerful fleet would be essential, and Brusi died in 1031.

After this settlement of their claims, Malcolm II died in 1034 at the age of eighty; and his death wrecked his policy. For Duncan, his grandson, the Karl Hundason of the Saga, on his accession to the Scottish throne claimed tribute from his cousin Thorfinn for Caithness. Payment was at once refused, and six years of strife, interrupted by Duncan's unfortunate raids south of the Tweed, ended by his creating Mumtan or Moddan, his own sister's son, Earl of Caithness instead of Thorfinn. With a force collected in Sudrland, which thus appears to have been on the Scottish side, Moddan tried to make good his title, but Thorfinn raised an army in Caithness, and Thorkel collected another for him in Orkney, and the Scots retired before superior numbers. "Then Earl Thorfinn fared after them, and laid under him Sudrland and Ross and harried far and wide over Scotland; thence he turned back to Caithness," and "sate at Duncansby, and had there five long-ships ... and just enough force to man them well."[9]

After his retirement in Caithness, Moddan went to Duncan at North Berwick, and Duncan sent him back with another force by land to Caithness, proceeding thither himself by sea with eleven ships. Duncan caught Thorfinn and his five ships off the Mull of Deerness in the Mainland of Orkney, where, after a stiff hand-to-hand fight, the Scots fleet was defeated and chased southwards by Thorfinn to Moray, which he ravaged.[10]

Finding that Moddan and his army were in Thurso, Thorfinn sent Thorkel Fostri thither secretly with part of his forces, and he set fire to the house in which Moddan was, and killed him there as he tried to escape. Thorkel next raised levies in Caithness, Sutherland, and Ross, joined forces with Thorfinn in Moray, and harried the land, whereupon Duncan collected an army from the south of Scotland and Cantire and Ireland, and attacked his enemies in the north.

A great battle ensued near the Norse stronghold of Turfness,[11] probably Burghead, where peat is found in abundance, though now submerged; and the battle was fought at Standing Stane in the parish of Duffus, three miles and a half E.S.E. of Burghead, on the 14th of August 1040.

The Saga gives the following description of the jarl and of the fighting:—

"Earl Thorfinn was at the head of his battle array; he had a gilded helmet on his head, and was girt with a sword, a great spear in his hand, and he fought with it, striking right and left.... He went thither first where the battle of those Irish was; so hot was he with his train, that they gave way at once before him, and never afterwards got into good order again. Then Karl let them bring forward his banner to meet Thorfinn; there was a hard fight, and the end of it was that Karl laid himself out to fly, but some men say that he has fallen."

"Earl Thorfinn drove the flight before him a long way up into Scotland, and after that he fared about far and wide over the land and laid it under him."[12]

Then followed Thorfinn's conquests in Fife, and after relating the failure of a Scottish force, which had surrendered, to kill him by surprise, the Saga gives a lurid picture of his burnings of farms and slayings of all the fighting men, "while the women and old men dragged themselves off to the woods and wastes with weeping and wailing," and it also tells of his journey north along Scotland to his ships.[13] "He fared then north to Caithness, and sate there that winter, but every summer thenceforth he had his levies out, and harried about the west lands, but sate most often still in the winters," feasting his men at his own expense, especially at Yuletide, in true Viking style.

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