3 SEPTEMBER 1921, Page 14


[To THE EDITOR OF THE " SPECTATOR.") Sts,—Referring to the correspondence on this subject in youf issues of June 25th and July 23rd, without doubt the inhabi- tants of the North-West Highlands have since very. early days always been Gaelic speaking. Carlyle's dictum that they are a Norse breed is not warranted. These Gaelic speaking people come into prominence in the years in which Iona was ravaged; 794, 798, 801, and 806. That the Norse, who raided Lindesfarne and Jarrow in 793, should raid Iona four times in twelve years indicates a resistance by Celtic peoples of some civilization and some antiquity in the Western Isles. That they were Gaelic speaking we know from our knowledge about Columba, who arrived at Iona, from Ireland in 563. To understand the appear.. ance and the disappearance of the Norse on the West of Scot- land, and the probable effect of their influence on the Gaelic) speaking peoples in the Isles and on the mainland, it is neces- sary to know something about their appearances elsewhere. The Danes had conquered Northumbria and had formed the kingdom of Bernicia in 867, and by 880 held all the central lands right across England. In 912 the Northmen settled largely in Nor- mandy. It was during these years that the Viking hordes from Norway and Sweden sailed the more northern seas and used the Scottish Hebrides as a convenient base for their attacks on the coasts of Britain and Northern Europe.

In your interesting review The Norse Discoverersof America in your issue of July 16th, reference is made to the voyages by the Norse rid Iceland and Greenland to the shores of America, which. they are known to have reached in 986 and 1020. This indicates the scope of the great emigration of Norse to all the Northern lands about the. year 994. It is little to be wondered at that these irresistible Norse Vikings at first captured the minds of the Celtic inhabitants of the Western Isles ac Scotland. That the Goths did not exterminate the Celts is proved from the known facts about the languages before and after the Norse invasions. Since the year 800 up to the year 1920 the Turks had thrice the number of years to exterminate the Armenians,, and with greater wrath against them (Christianity entered Norway in 995) have failed to do so. The declension of Norse power was mainly the result of religious and civil wars at home, and attacks on Denmark and England that required concentration of all their powers there. In 995 Olaf, who was a Christian, was invited to be king, and by forcing Christianity on them ho not only made many martyrs, but broke the force that the fatalism of their Gothic faith had given them. Again, Canute, who was both Ring of Denmark and, through marriage, latterly King of England, and who, as King of Denmark, had a claimed hereditary superiority over Norway, attacked for the second time. captured Norway, and drove out King Olaf in 1028. From that date " not only Norway, but its dependencies Iceland and the Earldom of Orkney, formed part of Canute's empire. So did, as it appears, the Viking state in the Hebrides, Man, and almost certainly also the Scandinavian settlements in Ireland."

Following the death of Canute there was civil war in Norway which still more stayed the tide of emigration; but what broke the back of the Norwegian sea _Dower was an attack on England in the summer of the year 1066. King Harold of England had expected the Norman invasion in May of that year. William of Normandy, not wishing to land as a fighter, but as an umpire and peacemaker, appeared neither in June nor July, during which months many of the English had withdrawn from the camps. By August there was word that the Nor- wegian king had landed, had captured seaport towns, old surrounded York. Harold had therefore no alternative but to proceed to relieve York and expel the Norse, which he did so effectively that nine-tenths, including the Norwegian king, were slain. They could only man 24 out of the 300 large galleys in which they had swarmed to our shores. Scotland had net a more serious reverse at Flodden. Whilst the Norse occupation of the Hebrides continued, their vast power that had carried them to American shores had waned; but they had already been largely expelled from the North- East of Scotland, as a result of Malcolm III. (Canmore) having killed his father's Norwegian cousin Thorfin, Earl of Caithness and Sutherland (an earldom evidently inherited and continued to be held of the Scottish king). Less than 100 years later, Somerled, the founder of the great family of the EfacDonalds. Lords of the Isles, who was directly descended from the earlier kings of Scottish Dalriada (Modern Argyllshire), led a rising of the Gaelic peoples of the Isles against the Norse, and not only broke their power in the outer Hebrides, but completely expelled them from the Isles south of Ardnamurchan.

It is to the honour of Wallace and Bruce that the independ- ence of Scotland was preserved against the then oppressive power of the English until the leading men, of the two nations

• could' meet on equal terms; and it is to the eternal honour of Sumerled, and even of his sometimes turbulent descendants, who were the leading spirits in the resistance of the Gaelic race, language, and social life, to all experimental changes that were not found by experience to suit their special economic circumstances, that the traditions of the peoples were con- tinued till the times altered, and the feudal institutions in Scotland were powerful enough entirely to reach the then distant and little known Hebrides and give equal justice to all. Somerled died in 1161.

Even in 1249, however, the Norse continued to be troublesome north of Ardnamurchan. In that year Alexander II. of Scotland died at Kerrara, near Oban, while he was proceeding against them. Following that in 1263 there was the threatened invasion of Haw, and the battle of Large, when he was defeated. In 1266 an agreement was reached between Alexander III. and the King of Norway by which, on payment of a sum of money, all pretensions to the ' Hebrides were given up. Orkney and Shetland, however, remained Norwegian till 1472, when, after being forfeited as a part-of a marriage dowry, they were annexed to the Scottish crown. No doubt from SOO to 1266 the Vikings used the Hebrides as their base of operations, but the manners of the native people remained unaltered in essentials, and their Gaelic, even to-day, differs little from the Gaelic spoken in Ireland and the Isle of Man. In Loch Lhinnie, Loch Leven, and from Lochaber inwards there are no Norse names, and few in the islands south of Ardnamurchan. All the natural landmarks, fhe principal hills and rivers, bear -Gaelic names. Naturally, the Norse names mostly predominate around the Northern islands and in those arms and branches of the sea in which their vessels so long rocked. And, naturally, in Orkney and Shetland the names are all Scandinavian, as the Norse tongue continued till the times of map making. The earliest good maps date from 1570. No one who has heard the " Songs of the

Hebrides" sung by Mrs. Kennedy Fraser, who has preserved them for future generations, and which come to us from fer- al times, and who can recognize the character of the Celtic peoples in their music as in their lives, could credit Carlyle's dictum that the Scottish Highlanders were a Norse breed. In their •moment of expansion the Norse Vikings sheltered in our bays and in our sounds, and they were in later days often given a warm welcome. There came a time, however, when the voyagers -claimed sovereignty, and that was resisted by the Celtic people, who rose against them.—I am, Sir, &c.,

.10 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow, W. Waseim Deleon.