Nature and Population of Ireland.—The “Danish” Conquests.—Traditions
about the “Danes.”—Political Movements.

Ireland may still be justly called the chief land of the ancient Celtic
tribes. Long after the Britons and Caledonians had been driven out by
the Romans and Anglo-Saxons, and obliged to fly to the remotest mountain
districts of the west, their Irish kinsmen retained firm possession of
the whole large and fertile country of Ireland. Subsequently, it is
true, the Irish also were compelled to give way before the conquests of
the Norwegians and English; yet they continued to inhabit the greater
part of the country in vastly superior numbers; and even in the
districts conquered by foreigners, which were mostly confined to the sea
coasts, they dwelt intermingled with the new immigrants. In spite of the
attempts of the English to subdue and annihilate the nationality of the
Irish, they continued to preserve throughout the middle ages their
ancient language and their characteristic manners and customs. With all
their power the English have not even been able to root out the Roman
Catholic religion, which to the present day forms the predominant church
of the Irish. It is only in later times that they have succeeded in
gaining a firmer footing in Ireland than they previously possessed. The
English language and customs are continually making greater progress
towards the west; and the Irish, who can no longer withstand England’s
power, seek in great numbers, like their kinsmen in Scotland, a new
asylum in America. The struggle is the more severe in proportion as the
Irish are more numerous than the Celtic population in Scotland and
England. The last violent throes of the once powerful and mighty Irish
nationality now fearfully agitate Ireland, which has been so long and so
severely tried by oppression, pestilence, and famine.

One of the most active causes of the misfortunes of Ireland and the
Irish is, however, the same that occasioned the ruin of the Celts in
England and Scotland; namely, that they could never sincerely unite
together. They have always abandoned themselves too much to eastern
indolence and quiet, regardless of the march of civilization, and
neglecting to avail themselves sufficiently of the rich resources
afforded by their native land. For, although it is true that there are
considerable tracts of boggy land in Ireland, and that many districts
are but little capable of cultivation, yet in the main Ireland is
exceedingly well adapted for agriculture. The neighbourhood of the
Atlantic produces mild breezes, which permit neither frost nor snow to
be of long duration, and consequently promote a rare and luxuriant
vegetation. In few countries do we behold so many creeping plants, and
such beautiful and verdant fields and pastures, as in Ireland, which,
from its green meadows, has obtained the appropriate name of “the
Emerald Isle.” The land is intersected by rivers partially navigable,
abounding in fish, and its coasts are washed by a sea—which not only
from its rich fisheries, but from the facilities which it affords to
navigation, particularly towards America—might, if properly used, become
an inexhaustible source of wealth.

From time immemorial Ireland was celebrated in the Scandinavian North
for its charming situation, its mild climate, and its fertility and
beauty. The “Kongespeil” (or “Mirror of Kings”), which was compiled in
Norway about the year 1200, says that “Ireland is almost the best of the
lands we are acquainted with, although no vines grow there.” The
Scandinavian Vikings and emigrants, who often contented themselves with
such poor countries as Greenland and the islands in the North Atlantic
Ocean, must therefore have especially turned their attention to “the
Emerald Isle,” particularly as it bordered very closely upon their
colonies in England and Scotland.

But to make conquests in Ireland, and to acquire by the sword alone
permanent settlements there, were no easy tasks. The remote situation of
Ireland, so far towards the west in the Atlantic Ocean, was of itself no
slight defence. With the exception of certain tracts, principally on the
east coast, the land is full of mountains, which everywhere afford
secure retreats from an invading enemy. In our days Ireland, the second
of the British Isles in point of magnitude, has a population of between
six and seven millions, chiefly of ancient Irish, or Celtic origin; and
in ancient times, when the Celts were entirely independent, and absolute
masters of the country, the population does not appear to have been much
less numerous. Ireland, moreover, distinguished itself by adopting
Christianity, together with its accompanying civilization, at a very
early period, which, however, was not able to put an end to the cruel
and sanguinary disputes that raged between the different tribes
composing its population. Thus the proportionately few and scattered
Norwegians, who could reach Ireland only by sea, and who could derive
assistance only from their countrymen settled upon the coasts of England
and Scotland, had to contend with a numerous, and by no means unwarlike
people, inhabiting an extensive and mountainous country. To obtain
assistance in the hour of need from their own Scandinavian home was, on
account of the great distance, a physical impossibility. When,
therefore, we consider that neither the Romans nor the Anglo-Saxons ever
obtained a footing in Ireland, although they had conquered the adjacent
country, England; and when we further reflect upon the immense power
exerted by the English in later times in order to subdue the Celtic
population of Ireland, and the many centuries which elapsed before they
even partially succeeded, we cannot help being surprised at the very
considerable Scandinavian settlements which, as early as the ninth
century, were formed in Ireland, and at the great influence which the
Norwegians, according to the concurring evidence of the Irish and
Scandinavian chronicles, must for more than three centuries have
exercised in all the most important places in the country.

On his first entrance into Ireland, a Scandinavian traveller will be
immediately reminded of the ancient dominion of his countrymen. It
cannot possibly escape his observation what a striking part the
Norwegians—or, as they are there exclusively called, the “Danes”—play in
the popular legends and traditions of Ireland. That, like the
north-western districts of Scotland, it should have best preserved the
popular life of ancient times with its songs and legends, must, it is
true, be ascribed to its remote situation. Everywhere, even far in the
interior of the country, we are shown Danish raths (mounds and
entrenchments), and among others the so-called “Danes-cast,” a long
ditch and rampart in Ulster. “Danish cooking-places” are also pointed
out, consisting of small circular spaces set round with stones, and
bearing traces of embers and burnings, some of which are met with
scattered about on heaths and moors. In the ancient copper mines in the
south of Ireland roundish stones with a dent round the middle are now
and then dug up, which it is evident were used in former times in
working the mines. These stones are called by the common people “Danes’
hammers.” In like manner they generally call most of the antiquities
that are dug up, whether weapons or ornaments, “Danish.” Tales
calculated to awaken horror of outrages of the Danes are connected with
all these pretended Danish memorials; and the farther we travel into the
remote western districts, the more terrible are the tales we hear of the
distress and cruel oppressions which the inhabitants endured under their
Danish conquerors. Nevertheless the Irishman has preserved, like the
Englishman, the remembrance of the Danes’ contempt of death, and
irresistible bravery. “That might even frighten a Dane,” says the
Irishman at times, when speaking of some desperate undertaking. A kind
of superstitious fear of the redoubted Danes seems in some places to
have seized the common people; at least it is an acknowledged fact, that
in several parts of the country they continue to frighten children with
“the Danes.”

Similar ideas about the Danes are to be met with even among the more
enlightened portion of the people. Not long ago, it was a firm belief
among many educated men in Ireland, that there were still families in
Denmark, who could not forget the dominion they had formerly exercised
in Ireland, and who bore a title derived from the large estates which
their forefathers had once conquered and possessed there. It was
likewise commonly supposed that the Danes had carried with them from
Ireland a great number of manuscripts, which were said to be preserved
in one of the large collections of books in Copenhagen; as if, forsooth,
it had been one of the chief aims of the bold and dangerous expeditions
of the ancient Norwegians at that remote period, to carry off scientific
treasures, and above all, manuscripts written in Irish, and,
consequently, in a language that was for the most part entirely
incomprehensible to them. In the last century in particular, and at the
beginning of the present one, the Irish literati attributed to the
Danes, or rather to the Norwegians, much to which, strictly speaking,
they could have no valid claim.

The remarkable round towers, whose stone walls are built in so
workmanlike a manner, and which are so evidently of Christian
origin—being erected both as belfries, and as places of security for the
clergy, and certainly _against_ the Scandinavian Vikings and
conquerors—were nevertheless proclaimed to be “Danish towers.” The large
stone rooms, or sepulchral chambers in cairns, that are found in several
places in Ireland, as at New Grange, and which have so striking an
agreement with the sepulchral chambers in the Scandinavian North and
other countries, dating from the pre-historical, and so-called stone
age, were also called “Danish;” although we know from the Sagas, as well
as from the Irish chronicles, that the “Danes,” or rather the Norwegian
Vikings, sometimes opened these sepulchres, in order to take out any
treasure that might have been buried in them by the natives. In several
other instances, the Irish were not disinclined at times to regard the
Norwegian conquests in a somewhat too favourable light.

Recently, however, they have gone to the opposite extreme. Everything
possible that is bad, but nothing whatever that is good, is ascribed to
the Scandinavian conquerors. In Ireland, as in Scotland and England, it
is at present the commonly received opinion that the Norwegian
conquerors did nothing but plunder and burn, and thus annihilated a very
considerable civilization, which had prevailed in Ireland for centuries
before the Norwegian expeditions. The “Danes” are, besides, accused of
subverting the independence of Ireland, and of being the sole cause of
her subsequently coming under the dominion of England. It is remarkable
enough, however, that the Irish appear entirely to forget that the fault
must be ascribed to themselves. They were so divided, and at such
variance with one another, that, in spite of their vast numbers and
boasted civilization, they could not unite to resist a mere handful of
Scandinavians, who came from a great distance across the sea, and still
less could they resist their powerful English conquerors.

This change in the opinions commonly received in Ireland concerning the
Danish conquests has been effected more particularly by the late
political movements. It is but little known in the Scandinavian North
that, since the Repeal agitation in Ireland, the Danish conquests and
the Danish name have been used as a constant and effective means of
agitating against England; yet such is actually the case.

When O’Connell stepped forward as the mouth-piece of Irish nationality,
to revive the ancient independence of Ireland, and if possible to
restore its Parliament, by means of a repeal of the Union, it was of
course important for him to awaken in his countrymen a feeling of
freedom. With this design, he looked to Ireland’s earlier history, and
particularly to the period when she formed an independent kingdom. But
that time was extremely remote. As early as the close of the twelfth
century the English had firmly established themselves in Ireland; and
the Danes before them had, for several centuries, held dominion over the
most important places in that country. Had O’Connell, therefore, wished
to dwell on the time of Ireland’s real independence, he must have
reverted to a period more than a thousand years ago. But he shrewdly
foresaw that the vast and uneducated mass of the people, whom he chiefly
wished to agitate, would not be able to follow him. He therefore chose
historical events that lay nearer, and of which the remembrance still
lived among the people; and, as his chief aim was to irritate the Irish
against the “Saxons” (or English) he laid great stress upon the glory
which the Irish had acquired in former combats against that people, as
well as against the “Danes,” who had preceded them in conquering

Nothing could have been better adapted to O’Connell’s object than the
traditions and exaggerated notions about the Danes, still so widely
diffused among the poorer classes in Ireland. O’Connell knew how to
flatter with dexterity the vanity and self-love of the Irish, by
representing how great a triumph they had achieved in former times, by
driving out the Danes, and annihilating a dominion founded with so much
bravery and wisdom. If he drew no direct conclusion from this, he let
it, however, be sufficiently seen, that as the Irish were formerly able
to expel their Danish conquerors, there was nothing to prevent them from
chasing the hated “Saxons” from their coasts. At one of his great
meetings, held on Tara Hill, where the ancient Irish kings were crowned
in the time of Ireland’s independence, he reminded his countrymen that
their forefathers had, in the year 978, gained on that spot a
considerable victory over the “Danes.”

On the coast about three miles to the north-east of Dublin, is the plain
of Clontarf, where, in the year 1014, a great battle was fought between
the “Danes” and the Irish. This battle, one of the most sanguinary in
all the wars of the Norwegians and Irish, was gained by the latter,
whose king Brian Boroimha (or Brian Boru) fell just as victory declared
for his army. A victory over the Danes like this must naturally always
occupy a prominent place in the historical reminiscences of the Irish;
and their historians throughout the middle ages, and down to our own
times, have accordingly dwelt with extreme complacency on the
description of the bravery of the Irish and of their king. But it did
not suffice O’Connell and his followers to adhere to historical
realities. They followed the chroniclers of a later period, by whom the
victory of Clontarf has been delineated in far too brilliant colours. In
songs, pamphlets, and speeches, the battle of Clontarf was now
represented as having completely annihilated the Danish power in
Ireland, and saved her independence and freedom. According to these
accounts, not a single Dane or Norwegian would seem to have remained in
Ireland after the battle. Brian Boroimha (Boru) was extolled to the
skies, as a martyr for the deliverance of his country from the yoke of
the oppressors. And in the intoxication of enthusiasm thus produced, his
portrait, together with a picture of the battle of Clontarf, was
distributed among the people in immense quantities, and at the very
lowest price. On the tickets of members of the Repeal Association, which
were ornamented with the names of the most important national triumphs
of the Irish, as well as with portraits of the victors, the battle of
Clontarf, and Brian Boru’s portrait, stood at the top.

When at length this representation of the battle of Clontarf, as one of
the most important fought by Ireland for liberty, had been so impressed
upon the common people that it seemed an event which had only recently
taken place—and which, at least in the lively imaginations of the Irish,
might possibly enough be repeated—O’Connell gave out that he would hold
a great repeal meeting on the plain of Clontarf. Everybody knew
beforehand that the real meaning of O’Connell’s speech was, that just as
the Irish, with Brian Boroimha at their head, had formerly defeated the
Danes on that very place, and thus saved Ireland’s freedom, so should
they now in like manner follow O’Connell (who, besides, gave himself out
for a descendant of Brian Boru[?]), and make every sacrifice to wrest
back their lost independence from English, or “Saxon,” ascendancy. The
English government, however, forbade the meeting, and indicted
O’Connell. But the same extravagant notions respecting the national
importance of the battle of Clontarf naturally continued to be generally
received; and that not only amongst the adherents of O’Connell, or “Old
Irelanders,” as they are called, but also among the members of a
political party, the “Young Irelanders,” which has arisen since, and
whose aim it is to sever the connection with England by open force. In
the seditious songs of both these parties the Danes and the English
generally share the same fate, as the war-cry, “The Saxon and the Dane,”
constantly forms the burthen of the songs. It is but very rarely that an
Irish repealer (for instance, Mr. Holmes) dares venture to express an
opinion that it would probably have been no detriment to Ireland if the
“Danes” had remained settled there. This, when explained, means that the
Danes would never have been so dangerous to the independence of Ireland
as the English have since become; and that the Irish, united with and
assisted by the Danes, would certainly have had a fleet capable of
resisting any attacks of their powerful English neighbours(?).



Irish and Scandinavian Records.—Finn Lochlannoch.—Dubh-Lochlannoch.—The
Names of the Provinces.

One of the many complaints made by the Irish against the Danes, and
particularly of late, is, that by destroying Irish civilization they
likewise choked the vigorous germs of a national literature, which, in
consequence of the early introduction of Christianity, had begun at a
very early period to take root among the Irish people. The existence of
a literature, particularly like the ancient Irish, in the vernacular
language of the country, must of course always afford a strong proof of
a certain degree of education among the people. During the late
political agitation in Ireland, the old Irish literature, of which
various remains are still preserved, was therefore extravagantly
extolled, with the view of proving how glorious and enlightened was the
age of Ireland’s long-vanished independence.

Whatever opinion may be formed of the remaining relics of this ancient
literature, which are mostly limited to chronicles in the form of
annals, and a few old songs, it is at all events agreed that they are of
very peculiar importance as regards a knowledge of the Norwegian and
Danish expeditions. It is true that the Scandinavian Sagas and
chronicles contain many accounts of the achievements of the Norwegians
in Ireland, both in war and peace; but the Irish records of them are
still more copious. The oldest Irish chronicles relate almost as much to
the battles of the Norwegians and Danes with the Irish, as to the
internal state of Ireland. A singular chronicle in Irish, of the close
of the eleventh century, about “the Wars of the Irish and the Northmen,”
was discovered a few years ago. It contains not only a complete account
of every battle between the Irish and Northmen, down to that of
Clontarf, but also various information respecting the settlements of the
Norwegians in Ireland, their mode of warfare, weapons, &c. That this
chronicle must have been composed not long after the battle of Clontarf,
is proved by the fact that it is referred to as an old record in another
Irish work, called “The Book of Leinster,” written in the first half of
the twelfth century. The above-named ancient chronicle—the publication
of which, by that distinguished Irish scholar, Dr. Todd, cannot be far
distant—will, in conjunction with the rest of the Irish accounts
relative to the Norwegian expeditions into Ireland, afford an excellent
opportunity for comparison with the narratives of our Scandinavian
Sagas. Meanwhile we have already sufficient information at hand to
compare the accounts of the conquerors and the conquered—a method by
which the historical truth will evidently come forth more clearly than
if we were obliged to adopt exclusively the one-sided statements of
either party.

The Irish accounts are, however, far from being always perfectly
trustworthy. They not only reflect the customary hatred and prejudices
of the Christians against the heathen Northmen, but frequently bear the
stamp of being derived from early poetical legends. They relate how
several Irish saints, as St. Columkill, St. Berchan, St. Kieran, and St.
Comgall, had long before predicted the coming of the Scandinavian
heathens and their barbarous proceedings. They likewise depict how
terribly the heathens devastated and plundered unhappy Ireland. People
were everywhere killed or maltreated; churches and convents were
plundered, burnt, and desecrated. Thus the heathen chief Turges’
(Thorgils’) wife, Odo, sat on the altar of the conventual church in
Clonmacnois, and on it, as on a throne received the homage of the
assembled people. At the same time the Danes everywhere endeavoured to
settle themselves in the country. They launched ships even on the lakes,
with which they coerced the people dwelling around their shores. In the
tenth century (continues the Irish scholar Duald Mac Firbis, in his
unpublished treatise respecting “The Fomorians and Lochlanns,” written
about A.D. 1650) “Erinn was filled with ships (or adventurers), viz.,
the ships of Birn, the ships of Odvin, the ships of Grifin (or Grisin),
the ships of Suatgar, the ships of Lagmann, the ships of Earbalbh, the
ships of Sitric (?), the ships of Buidin, the ships of Bernin, the ships
of the Crioslachs, the ships of Torberd Roe, the ships of Snimin, the
ships of Suainin, the ships of Barun, the ships of Mileadh Lua, the
ships of the Inghean Roe (Red Maiden). All the evils which befel Erinn
until then were as nothing; for the Galls spread themselves over all
Erinn, and they built Cahirs (Caers) and Cashels (or Castles), and they
showed respect to no one; and they used to kill her (Erinn’s) kings, and
carry her queens and noble ladies over the sea into bondage.

“A fleet the like of which was never seen, came with Jomar More,
grandson of Jomar, and his three sons, viz., Dubhgall, Cualladh, and
Aralt; and they took Inis Sibtonn in the harbour of Limerick, and forced
submission from the Galls who had come before.

“The Galls then ordered a king on every territory, a chief on every
chieftaincy, an abbot in every church, a bailiff in every town, a
soldier in every house, so that not one of the men of Erinn had power
over anything of his own from even the hen’s clutch to the hundred milch
cows. And they dared not show their kindness nor generosity to father,
mother, bishop, ollave, spiritual director, those in sickness nor
disease, nor to the infant one night old. If there was but one cow in
the possession of any one of the men of Erinn, her broth should be given
to the soldier the night that no milk could be procured from her. And an
image of gold, or silver, of Fionndruine (a carved ornament of white
metal) for the king’s rent every year, and the person who would not be
able to pay that should go himself into bondage, or have his nose cut

As the Irish chronicles give in this manner embellished and exaggerated
pictures of the victories and power of the Norwegians in Ireland, so
also they frequently depict the defeats of the “Danes” in colours that
are too vivid. The ancient chronicle before mentioned concerning “The
Wars of the Irish and the Northmen” states, for instance, that some time
before the battle of Clontarf a desperate conflict took place at
Glennmama, in the neighbourhood of Dublin, between the Irish king, Brian
Boroimha, and the Danes in Dublin; with which latter were united the
inhabitants of Leinster, who had shortly before entered “the Danish
precinct of Dublin.” King Brian was victorious in the battle; “_and then
there was not a threshing-spot from Howth to Brandon in Kerry without an
enslaved Dane threshing on it, nor a quern without a Danish woman
grinding on it_.”

Very different are the accounts given by the Scandinavian Sagas relative
to the Norwegians in Ireland. It was to be expected that the Irishman,
endowed with a southern vivacity, and at the same time thrown into deep
anxiety by the Norwegian expeditions, should have regarded them in quite
a different light from the tranquil Norwegian himself, who in the
conquests in Ireland beheld only a repetition of what was occurring at
the same time in so many other countries. The Scandinavian accounts are
in general shorter than the Irish, and confine themselves merely to the
relation of single events. Ireland is usually treated of incidentally,
nay almost accidentally. According to the Sagas, we should almost be
inclined to think that the dominion of the Norwegians in Ireland was
much less in extent and duration than was actually the case, so little
have the writers of them thought of magnifying their countrymen’s renown
at the expense of historical truth. What, therefore, the Sagas, and the
rest of the Scandinavian chronicles relate about Ireland is, for the
most part, very trustworthy, and at all events agrees with the
representations at that time current amongst the Irish themselves. It is
quite evident that the writers of the Sagas had either been in Ireland,
or at all events derived their knowledge from men who knew the country
well, either through Viking expeditions or trading voyages. The accuracy
with which different places in Ireland are described affords a very
remarkable proof of this. Thus the ancient seat of royalty “Teamor,” or
Tara, which is also celebrated for its delightful situation, is
mentioned in the “Kongespeil” under the name of “Themar;” and it is
added that “the people knew no finer city on the earth.” In the same
place it is further stated that the town and castle sunk suddenly into
the earth, because a king pronounced an unjust judgment—a tradition
common in Ireland to the present day.

Places in Ireland mentioned in the Sagas, but which formerly could not
be traced, have recently been pointed out by the aid of the Irish
records. The “Kongespeil” states, for instance, that Saint Diermitius
had a church on a small island, “Misdredan” or “Inisdredan,” in the lake
“Logherne.” This island is evidently “Inisdreckan” in Lough Erne, where
formerly St. Diermitius actually had a church. Subsequent transcribers
of the book have clearly enough transformed Inisdreckan into Inisdredan,
Misdredan, &c. The same has been the case with the celebrated King Brian
Boroimha’s castle, which, by a mistake in copying, is called in the
Sagas “Kanntaraborg” or “Kunjáttaborg,” instead of “Kanncaraborg.” Brian
Boroimha’s castle, so celebrated in the Irish songs and legends, was
called in Irish “Ceann-Caraidh” (pronounced Cancara), and was situated
on the river Shannon, not far from Limerick. To the Irish Cancara the
Norwegians, therefore, only added the Scandinavian termination “borg.”
Again, it is stated in the Sagas that one could sail from Reykjanæs in
Iceland to “Jöllduhlaup” in Ireland, in about eight days, or, according
to some readings, even in a much shorter time. Formerly this place was
sought on Lough Swilley, near Cape Malin, in the north of Ireland. But
Jöllduhlaup, which signifies “the course or breaking of the waves,” is
merely a translation into Icelandic of the Gaelic name “Corrybracan”
(Coire Breacain), whereby the Gaels denote a whirlpool between the
little island of Rathlin (or Raghrin) and the north-easternmost part of
Ireland (the county of Antrim). That the ancient Icelanders designated
this precise spot in Ireland is owing in all probability to the
circumstance that the island of Rathlin was in the olden times the chief
station in the passage from Ireland to Scotland, and as such the
rendezvous for a number of merchants and other travellers. Lastly,
Snorre Sturlesön relates that in the beginning of the eleventh century a
desperate naval battle was fought between the Orkney jarl Einar and the
Irish king “Konofögr,” in Ulfrek’s, or Ulfkel’s, Fiord, on the coast of
Ireland. The situation of this fiord, or firth, was entirely unknown
until it was lately discovered that in a document issued by the
English-Irish king John in the year 1210, the Firth Lough Larne, on the
east coast of Ireland, about fourteen miles north of Belfast, was at
that time still called “Wulvricheforð,” which agrees most accurately
with the Icelandic name “Ulfreksfjörðr.” By a remarkable coincidence, a
skeleton was dug up a little while previously just on the shores of
Lough Larne, together with a pretty large iron sword, having a short
guard and a large triangular pommel at the end of the hilt; the form of
which sword (as I shall prove) was not Irish, but pure Scandinavian,
like that of the swords used towards the close of heathenism in the
North. There is every probability that the skeleton and sword belong to
one of the Scandinavian warriors who fell in the above-mentioned battle,
and who was afterwards buried on the shore. Thus both the exhumed
antiquities, and the lost but re-discovered name of the place,
contribute to corroborate the credibility of Snorre Sturlesön’s account.

Both the Irish and the Scandinavian records agree that Norwegians and
Danes were settled in Ireland at a very early period. The Vikings are
said to have ravaged its coasts for the first time in the year 795; and
in the ninth century many of them were already settled in the country.
Amongst the men who, at the close of the ninth and beginning of the
tenth century, first colonized Iceland, several Irishmen, or rather
descendants of Norwegians settled in Ireland, are mentioned; as, for
instance, Thormod and Ketil Bufa, Haskel Hnokkan, who was descended from
the Irish king Kjarval, besides others. Intermarriages between the
Norwegians in Ireland and the native Irish seem to have taken place from
the very first; which explains the circumstance that many men in Iceland
bore at an early period Irish names, such as Kjaran and Niel or Njäll.

The Norwegians in Ireland, like their Danish kinsmen in England, were
obliged to begin by settling on the coasts; whence, both by warlike and
peaceful means, they gradually extended their dominion over the country.
Besides this continually-increasing and more peaceful colonization,
roving Scandinavian Vikings continued their attacks in different parts
of Ireland, whereby the power of the Irish was considerably weakened. A
pause took place, however, in the tenth century, both in the expeditions
of the Vikings, and in the progress of the Scandinavian settlements in
Ireland. It is even stated that for about forty years “the strangers”
(the Galls) were entirely driven out of the country; but this is
probably an exaggeration. This diminution of the power of the Norwegians
in Ireland occurred about the same time with the decrease of the Danish
power in England, and appears to have been produced by the same causes;
namely, internal commotions in the mother-country of Scandinavia, which
prevented the sending of such ample assistance as previously to the
colonists in the British Islands.

Subsequently, however, the Norwegian dominion in Ireland became doubly
powerful; and the Irish were so far from being able to expel the
strangers, that, notwithstanding the numerical inferiority of the
latter, they were often masters in the country. It was evidently
Norwegians rather than Danes who settled in Ireland, although not a few
of the latter were mixed with them. In later times all the Northmen in
Ireland are included under the common name of “Danes.” But the best and
oldest Irish chronicles distinguish, as it has been previously remarked,
between the light-haired “Finn-Lochlannoch,” or “Fionn-Lochlannaigh”
(the Norwegians), and the dark-haired “Dubh-Lochlannoch,” or
“Dubh-Lochlannaigh” (the Danes); or, what is the same, between Dubgall
(“Dubh-Ghoill”) and Finngall (“Fionn-Ghoill”). The above-mentioned
chronicle of “the Wars of the Irish and the Northmen,” which draws a
clear distinction between the Norwegians and Danes, expressly says that
the Danes were only one of those tribes that made expeditions of
conquest to Ireland. We even learn from the Irish chronicles that the
Norwegians and Danes often fought between themselves for the dominion in
Ireland. For instance, it is stated in the Irish annals in the year 845:
“the Dubhgalls (the Danes) came this year to Dublin, sabred the
Finngalls (the Norwegians), destroyed their fortresses, and carried away
many prisoners and much booty with them.” Similar intestine disputes are
mentioned in other places of the annals; yet, as might be expected, the
Danes appear still more frequently as fighting in alliance with the
Norwegians. On the flat shores in the middle of the eastern coast of
Ireland, between Dublin and Drogheda, which are called Finngall, or “the
strangers’ land” (from “finne,” a land, and “gall,” a stranger), and
which in ancient times were colonized chiefly by Norwegians, is a small
town called Baldoyle. In old documents this town is named “Balidubgail,”
the Dubhgalls’ or Danes’ town (“bal,” a town). We have thus an existing
proof that the Danes also were once actually settled in Ireland. The
Dubhgalls are likewise said to have settled in the districts nearest to
the south and west of Dublin.

For the rest, among the names of places in Ireland which remind us of
the Norwegian dominion, we must in particular specify the names of three
of Ireland’s four provinces, viz., Ulster (in Irish “Uladh”), Leinster
(Irish, “Laighin”), and Munster (Irish, “Mumha,” or “Mumhain”); in all
of which is added to the original Irish forms the Scandinavian or
Norwegian ending _staðr_, _ster_. It might even be a question whether
the name “Ireland” did not originally derive this form from the
Northmen. On this head we have, at all events, a choice only between the
Northmen and the Anglo-Saxons, for to the present day the Irish
themselves still call the country Eirinn or Eiri. The termination _land_
is entirely unknown in their language.

That the Northmen, and especially the Norwegians, should have been able
to give to the three most important provinces of Ireland the names which
they still bear, sufficiently indicates that they must have been settled
there in no inconsiderable numbers, or that they must at all events long
have ruled these districts, which is also confirmed by the statements of
the Irish chronicles. But in general we shall seek in vain among the
names of places in Ireland for traces of such an extensive Scandinavian
colonization as existed in the North of England. All circumstances
clearly show that the Northmen in Ireland were proportionately less
settled in the rural districts than in the towns. In consequence of the
remote situation of Ireland, its extent, and the magnitude of its
population, they were exposed in the rural districts, when at some
distance from the coast, to much more danger than in the towns, where
they could better assemble their forces behind ramparts and ditches. It
is a very striking circumstance that the chief strength of the
Norwegians lay precisely in those towns which have since continued to be
the greatest and most important in Ireland. The Norwegian dominion in
Ireland had quite a peculiar character, having been divided into several
small and scattered kingdoms, each comprised in a town, or even only
part of a town, with at most an inconsiderable adjacent tract of land.
That such kingdoms should subsist for several centuries, and even long
after the Danish dominion had ceased in England, is certainly one of the
most remarkable, and, with regard to the civilization of the Northmen,
most pregnant facts in the history of the Scandinavian emigrants.



Norwegian Kings.—Limerick.—Cork.—Waterford.—Reginald’s

According to trustworthy historical evidence, the Norwegians and the
Danes, or the Ostmen, as they were called in Ireland (from having come
originally from the east), principally fixed their abodes in Dublin,
Waterford, and Limerick, where, as early as the ninth century, they had
founded peculiar Scandinavian kingdoms. They were also settled in
considerable numbers in Wexford, Cork, and several Irish cities, so that
they had possessed themselves, by degrees, of the best-situated places
in the east, south, and west of Ireland, both for navigation and for
intercourse with the rich countries of the interior.

The central point, however, of the real Norwegian power was the present
capital, Dublin. This considerable city, which is said to contain at
present more than three hundred thousand inhabitants, lies on both sides
of the river Liffey, near the spot where it discharges itself into the
Irish Channel. It is surrounded by a charming and fertile country.
Anciently, however, and especially before the arrival of the Norwegians
in Ireland, it seems to have been comparatively insignificant, both as
regards extent and population. Yet even at that time it was, probably by
means of its fortunate situation, and its connections with the
neighbouring countries, the most important place in Ireland, which, at
that early period, did not possess any very large towns. But as Dublin
and its vicinity was at all events one of the most attractive points on
the east coast of Ireland, some of the first Scandinavian kingdoms were
founded there. About the middle of the ninth century a celebrated
Norwegian Viking, Olaf the White, is said to have taken Dublin, and made
himself king of the city and district. After the death of Olaf in a
battle, two sons of King Harald Haarfager (Fair-hair), of Norway,
arrived there, namely, Thorgils, called by the Irish Turges, and Frode;
who, by means of the sword, likewise won for themselves thrones in
Dublin. Subsequently to them, again, as the Irish chronicles relate,
there landed three brothers, Olaf, Sigtryg, and Ivar, who became kings
in Dublin, Waterford, and Limerick. From that time Norwegian kings
reigned in those places, with but few interruptions, for full three

There would certainly be some cause to doubt of so extensive a Norwegian
dominion in a country so remote as Ireland, as well as of the actual
existence of so striking a number of Scandinavian, and especially
Norwegian, kings of cities, if the names of a great number of them were
not preserved; and that, too, not so much in the chronicles of the
Norwegians themselves, as in those of the conquered Irish, who had no
reason to exaggerate in this respect. Several of the Norwegian kings
mentioned in the Irish chronicles are, besides, mentioned in
contemporary Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian records; whence it becomes
doubly probable that the remainder of the Norwegian kings mentioned by
the Irish actually reigned in the places indicated.

As the Irish chronicles thus not only give the most detailed accounts
respecting the Norwegian kings in Ireland, but also the least partial
ones in favour of the Norwegians, I have annexed a list of kings
compiled by an Irish author from Irish records. We may see from this,
although it is scarcely complete, that the Scandinavian names of the
kings (such as Olaf, Ivar, Eistein, Sigtryg, Godfred or Gudröd (?),
Ragnvald, Torfin, Ottar, Broder, Eskil, Rörik, Harald, and Magnus)
appear in general clear and distinct through the somewhat altered Irish
forms, whilst a few names, such as Gluniarand (which in Irish signifies
Iron-Knee), Eachmargach, Maelnambo, and Gilalve, seem to be mere Irish
translations, or at all events purely Irish transformations, of
Scandinavian forms.


(_From Lindsay, “The Coinage of Ireland,” Cork, 1839._)

A.—Kings of Dublin.

Anlaf (Olaf), 853.
Ifar (Ivar), 870.
Ostinus (Eistein), 872.
Godfred (Gudröd), 875.
Sihtric (Sigtryg), 893.
Sihtric, 896.
Regnald (Ragnyald), 919.
Godfred, 920.
Anlaf, 934.
Blacar (Blake), 941.
Godfred, 948.
Anlaf, 954.
Godfred, 960.
Anlaf, 962.
Gluniarand, 981.
Sihtric (deposed), 989.
Ifar, 993.
Sihtric (again), 994.
Anlaf, 1029.
Sihtric, 1034.
Anlaf, 1031.
Ifar, 1050.
Eachmargach, 1054.
Maelnambo, 1064.
Godred Crovan, 1066(?).
Godfred Merenach, 1076.
Gilalve, 1094.
Torfin, 1109.
Regnald, 1125.
Godfred, 1147.
Oicterus (Ottar), 1147.
Broder, 1149.
Askel, 1159.
Roderick, 1171 till about 1200.

B.—Kings of Waterford.

Sihtric, 853.
Ifar, 983.
Regnald, 1000.
Sihtric, 1020.
Regnald, 1023.
Commuanus, 1036.

C.—Kings of Limerick.

Ifar, 853, King of Dublin in the year 870.
Ifar, 940.
Olfin, 942.
Harold O’Ifar.
Magnus, 968.

More detailed accounts are wanting relative to the kings of Limerick and
Waterford during the eleventh and twelfth centuries; though it is
certain enough that they continued to reign there just as long as in
Dublin. Nor can we at present discover many apparent or recognisable
traces of the dominion of the Ostmen and their kings in the two places
just mentioned. Still Waterford appears to have derived its present name
from the Norwegians. The Irish called the town “Port Lairge;” to which
name, however, modern Irish scholars would ascribe a “Danish” origin, as
it is supposed to be derived from a Danish chief called Lairge,
mentioned in the Irish annals in the year 951. The Norwegians, on the
other hand called it “Veðrafjörðr,” the resemblance of which to
Waterford is not to be mistaken. Near the coast of this “fiord,” which
may have given name to the town, is still to be seen a monument, very
rare in Ireland, of the ancient Norwegians’ art of fortification,
namely, a round tower, said to have been erected in the year 1003 by the
reigning Norwegian king in Waterford, Regnald, or Reginald (Ragnvald),
and which to the present day is commonly called “Reginald’s Tower.”

This tower, which in Irish was also called “Dundory,” or the king’s
fortress, was afterwards used both as a fortress and a mint. After the
English conquest of Waterford, Earl Strongbow used it in the year 1171
as a secure dwelling-place; and, among other prisoners, for a long time
kept Reginald, the last king of the “Danes” in Waterford, imprisoned in
it. The tower afterwards underwent several changes, till, in the year
1819, it (or at least the exterior) was restored to its original form,
just as the following delineation of it (after Petrie) shows.

[Illustration: [++] Reginald’s Tower]

With regard to Dublin, however, the case is quite different. The series
of kings there from the year 853 until about 1200, and consequently for
almost three centuries and a half, is pretty complete. It was a natural
consequence of the considerable power and influence possessed by the
kings of Dublin, that their names were often mentioned in the chronicles
in connection with important events both in Ireland and in the
neighbouring countries. The Norwegian kings in Dublin knew how gradually
to strengthen and extend their power, not only by arms, but also by a
shrewd and able policy. They soon learnt how to avail themselves of the
intestine disputes by which the Irish tribes and chiefs were divided.
They joined one of the ruling parties, contracted marriage with the
daughters of Irish kings and chieftains, and on their side gave
Scandinavian women in wedlock to leading Irishmen. According to the old
Irish book called “the Book of Lecan,” the Irish king Congolaich
(934-954) had a son, Mortogh, by Radnalt, daughter of the Dublin king
Anlaf, or Olaf. At a somewhat later period a Norwegian king in Dublin,
named Anlaf, was married to an Irish woman, Dunlath, who was mother of
the Dublin king “Gluin-Jarainn” (Iron-Knee). Similar marriages between
Norwegian and Irish royal families are often mentioned; even King Brian
Boru, so adored by the Irish, was nearly related to the Norwegian kings.
He was father of Teige and Donogh, by Gormlaith, or Kormlöd, a daughter
of Morogh Mac Finn, king of Leinster. But Gormlaith was also married for
a long time to the Dublin king, Anlaf, by whom she had a son, afterwards
the celebrated king of Dublin, Sigtryg Silkeskjæg (Silk-beard); and thus
Brian Boru’s two sons Teige and Donogh—of whom Teige afterwards married
Mor, a daughter of the “Danish” king Eachmargach of Dublin—were
half-brothers of their father’s enemy, King Sigtryg. “The Book of
Leinster” says that Gormlaith was likewise mother of the Norwegian-Irish
king Amlaff Cuaran (Olaf Kvaran); whilst the Irish chronicler, Duald Mac
Firbis, mentions this same Olaf Kvaran as married to Sadhbh (Save), a
daughter of Brian Boru, and that even “at the time when the battle of
Clontarf took place.” After this we are better able to understand how it
happened that whole Irish tribes, with their kings at their head, so
often fought in union with the Norwegians and Danes; since we learn that
their mutual political interests were hound closer together by the ties
of relationship.

On the other hand, the Norwegian or Scandinavian kings of Dublin and
other parts of Ireland also constantly maintained connections, both of
friendship and relationship, with their countrymen in England and
Scotland, as well as in the mother countries of Scandinavia. It might,
indeed, sometimes happen that Scandinavian kings or Vikings, from Man or
the Orkneys, attacked, nay even conquered for a time, the Norwegian
kingdom of Dublin, particularly when the Norwegians in Ireland were at
variance with one another. But in general the Scandinavian colonists in
the British Isles appear to have stood or fallen with one another.
Numerous Scandinavian warriors from England, Scotland, and the
surrounding islands, fought now and then in conjunction with the
Norwegians settled in Ireland, against the native Irish. But the
Norwegian kings in Ireland frequently supported their friends in England
and Scotland against the Anglo-Saxons and the Highland Scots, and at
times won kingdoms there by force of arms. Mutual marriages, also, were
frequently made, whilst Scandinavian merchants and Vikings, for
instance, dwelt in Dublin at the court of the Norwegian kings. Thus the
Norwegian prince Olaf Tryggvesön, after having been christened at
Dublin, stayed there for some time with the Norwegian king Olaf Kvaran,
and married his sister Gyda.

Many accounts testify that the Norwegians in Ireland, at least in the
cities, and especially Dublin, were powerful enough to maintain their
language, and the rest of their Scandinavian characteristics, in spite
of the Irish. The Icelandic bards, Thorgils Orraskjald and Gunnlaug
Ormstunga, are expressly stated to have visited the court of the
Norwegian kings in Dublin in the tenth and eleventh centuries, where
they diverted the Scandinavian warriors with their national songs.
Ancient Irish manuscripts contain proofs not only of the peculiar
language, but also of the peculiar writing, of the Norwegians, or runes,
which in Irish were called “Ogham na Loochlannach” or “Gallogham” (the
Northmen’s, or strangers’, Ogham). Ogham was the name of a mode of
writing then used by the Irish. There are also some traces of
characteristic Scandinavian institutions among the Norwegians and Danes
in Ireland. In an Irish poem of the early middle ages, about the
Norwegian chief “Magnus the Great,” the Norwegians are called “the
people with the twelve counsellors.” This leads us to think that the
Norwegians, like the Danes in England, must have employed in their
judicial proceedings a sort of jury, consisting of twelve men of repute,
an institution so foreign and striking to the Irish, that they were led
to characterize the Norwegians by it. It is at least quite certain that
the Norwegians in Ireland, as the Irish chronicles admit, kept
themselves entirely separate from the Irish with regard to their
ecclesiastical institutions, and that they likewise had their own assize
place in Dublin, which bore the Scandinavian name _Thing_. A document of
the year 1258 conveys a gift of some ground in the suburbs of Dublin, in
“Thengmotha” (from “mote,” a meeting), which the Irish publisher of it
(the Rev. R. Butler) correctly explains by “the place of legal assembly
in the Danish times of Dublin.” The _Thing_ place, which seems to have
been not far from the present site of Dublin Castle, where the
Norwegians had erected a strong fortress, gave to the surrounding parish
of St. Andrew the surname of “de Thengmote.”

One of the chief causes that the Norwegians in the Irish cities
maintained uninterruptedly their Scandinavian characteristics, and
consequently their independent power likewise, was that they not only
lived in the midst of the Irish, but that, as Giraldus Cambrensis
expressly intimates, they erected in every city a town of their own,
surrounded with deep ditches and strong walls, which secured them
against the attacks of the natives. They built a rather extensive town
for themselves on the river Liffey, near the old city of Dublin, which
was strongly fortified with ditches and walls, and which, after the
Norwegians and Danes (or Ostmen) settled there, obtained the name of
Ostmantown (in Latin, “vicus,” or “villa Ostmannorum”), _i. e._ the
Eastmen’s town. Even the Irish chronicles, which attest that, as early
as the beginning of the tenth century, the Norwegians in Dublin had well
intrenched themselves with walls and ramparts, also state that in the
art of fortifying towns they were far superior to the Irish. Ostmantown
continued through the whole of the middle ages to form an entirely
separate part of Dublin, and the gates of the strong fortifications with
which it was surrounded were carefully closed every evening. The walls
were at length razed, and Ostmantown, or, as it was now corruptly
pronounced, “Oxmantown” (whence an Irish peer has obtained in modern
times the title of Lord Oxmantown), was completely incorporated with
Dublin. But to the present day the name of Oxmantown remains an
incontrovertible monument of an independent Norwegian town formerly
existing within the greatest and most considerable city of Ireland.



Norwegian Names of Places, near Dublin.—Norwegian
Burial—Places.—Norwegian Weapons and Ornaments.

The few Scandinavian names of places in Ireland are, with the exception
of the previously-mentioned provinces, confined to the coasts, and there
particularly to the names of islands and fiords. On the west coast there
are only two rather doubtful ones; namely, Enniskerry, an island (the
first part of which is the Irish _Inis_, an island, whilst the latter
part seems to include the Scandinavian name “_Sker_,” or _Skjær_, a
reef); and the harbour, Smerwick. Several places on rivers are still
called _Laxweir_, as for example on the Shannon near Limerick and
Killaloe, where salmon are caught in a net stretched across the river.
The word “Lax” (salmon) is unknown in the Irish language, but appears,
as we have seen, in several Scandinavian names of places in Scotland. On
the south coast, besides Waterford, we can mention at most only the Isle
of Dursey (Þorsey?) with the small adjoining island of Calf. The
greatest number of Scandinavian names appears on the east coast. In some
names of places situated on the finest fiords we may trace the
Scandinavian ending “fjörðr;” as, for instance, to the south of Dublin
in Wexford (in Irish, Loch Garman), and to the north of Dublin, in
Strangford and Carlingford (in Irish, Cuan Cairlinne). But in general,
all the names of places of Scandinavian origin, or with Scandinavian
terminations, are collected round Dublin as the central point.

At the southern entrance of the bay of Dublin is the Island of “Dalkey”
(in Irish, “Delg Inis”), and at the northern entrance the high and
rounded cape Howth (in Irish, “Ceann Fuaid,” or “Beann Edair”), which in
ancient letters is also called Hofda, Houete, and Houeth. This is
clearly the Scandinavian “höfud,” or “Hoved” (head), a name particularly
suited to the place. In the immediate neighbourhood is also the old
Danish town Baldoyle, and the district of Finngall, colonized by the
Norwegians. Directly north of Howth rises “Ireland’s-eye” (in Irish,
“Inis Eirinn” and “Inis Meic Ness-áin”); and still farther to the north
the islands of “Lambay” (in Irish, “Rachrainn”) and “Skerries,” or the
Skjære (reefs). Close to the west side of Dublin is the little town of
Leixlip, where there is a famed salmon-leap in the river Liffey. In old
Latin epistles the name of Laxleip is translated by “saltus salmonis,”
which is plainly neither more nor less than the old Norsk “lax-hlaup”
(_Dan._, Laxlöb; _Eng._, salmon-leap): which name reminds us again of
the salmon fishery, so highly cherished by the ancient Norwegians. It is
doubtful whether the county of Wicklow, which adjoins that of Dublin,
derived its name from the Norwegians; though it is not improbable that
it did, as in Irish it is called Inbhear Dea, but in old documents
Wykynglo, Wygyngelo, and Wykinlo, which remind us of the Scandinavian
Vig (Eng., _bay_) or Viking.

At all events the decidedly Scandinavian names of places around Dublin
sufficiently indicate the predominance of the ancient Norwegians and
Danes in that city. Discoveries made by excavations in and around Dublin
have also, in recent times, very remarkably contributed towards placing
this matter in a still clearer light.

In constructing a railway close by Kilmainham, now the most western part
of Dublin, the workmen some years ago laid bare a number of ancient
tombs. In these lay whole rows of skeletons, each in its own grave, and
by the side of them many kinds of iron weapons and ornaments.
Fortunately several of the specimens thus discovered were preserved,
principally for the museum of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin; by
which means Irish archæologists had an opportunity of convincing
themselves that these antiquities must be a good deal older than the
English conquest of Ireland; yet that they are by no means of the kind
usually found in Ireland, and belonging to the period of the Irish iron
age. It is thus placed beyond all doubt, that they are not Irish
remains, but derived from the Norwegians and Danes at that time settled
in Ireland. The few illustrations here annexed will present to every
Scandinavian archæologist mere well-known objects, corresponding so
exactly with the antiquities of the iron age preserved in our
Scandinavian museums, that we might even believe them to have been made
by the same hands.

[Illustration: [++] Swords: Fig. 1 to Fig. 3.]

The swords (Figs. 1-3), which very much resemble the Scandinavian swords
found in England (described at p. 45,) are from twenty-four to
thirty-two inches long. Some have two edges, others only one. The pommel
and guard of the hilt are in several of them ornamented with very neatly
inlaid pieces of gold, silver, and other metals. On one of them some
engraved Latin letters have been found, which may also be seen on a
sword of the iron age in the Museum at Copenhagen. Even the old Irish
chronicles relate that the Norwegians placed inscriptions on their
swords. Thus an ancient Irish poem says: “Hither was brought, in the
sword sheath of Lochlan’s king, the Ogham across the sea. It was his own
hand that cut it.” It is most probable that by the Ogham writing is here
meant “the Norwegian’s Ogham,” or runes, with which, as our Sagas state,
the old Northmen’s swords were frequently ornamented.

[Illustration: [++] Scandinavian Antiquities, Fig. 1. to Fig. 12.]

[Illustration: [++] Sword: Irish Iron]

Several genuine Irish iron swords of that ancient period have been
discovered in Ireland at various times, both in the river Shannon and in
old Irish castle-yards, or on the sites of castles. They are much
smaller than the Norwegian swords, and in general want both the guard
and the large pommel at the end of the hilt, as the annexed figure of
those most frequently found shows. On the whole the Irish iron swords
are of an older and more imperfect kind, and very strikingly resemble
the bronze sword used in Ireland in the age of bronze. On placing the
short and ill-formed Irish sword by the side of the much larger, better,
and handsomer Norwegian one, we may almost say that we obtain, as it
were, a living image of the degenerate and miserably-equipped Irish
people in comparison with the strong and well-armed Norwegians.

The Norwegian warriors who found their last resting-place at Kilmainham,
were evidently buried with all their arms, from the renowned “Danish
battle-axe” (Fig. 4), and the lance (Figs. 5, 6)—which must have been
deposited with the entire shaft, since the ferrule (Fig. 7) has been
found—down to the shield. But as the last was mostly of wood, nothing
more remains of the whole shield than the large iron boss (Figs. 8, 9),
which was placed in the middle, and which served to protect the hand
which bore the shield.

Among all the things discovered at Kilmainham, scarcely any more
decidedly indicate their Norwegian, or Scandinavian, origin, than the
bowl-formed brooches (Figs. 10, 11), already mentioned when speaking of
the coasts of Scotland, and which are not found in any other part of
Ireland. There are also some very peculiar small bone buttons (Fig. 12),
having a small hole in the flat side, penetrating the button for some
way without entirely piercing through it. Buttons of this form have not
been before found in Ireland, though they are very well known in the
Scandinavian North. They are discovered in Sweden and Norway, in graves
of the period of the iron age, or times of the Vikings. It is highly
probable that in those times they served as men, or counters in some
game, as they are generally found, especially in Norway, collected
together in great numbers, and in conjunction with dice. To judge from
the holes in the bottom, they have certainly been used in a sort of game
of draughts; for, till late in the middle ages, nay, almost down to our
own times, the Icelanders were accustomed to furnish their boards with
small pivots, on which they placed the men, that they might not by any
accidental shaking of the table be mixed with one another, and the whole
game thus suddenly disturbed. The Irish also seem to have had a somewhat
similar mode of proceeding at that time, as among a great number of
things undoubtedly Irish, discovered at Dunshauglin, there was found a
bone button or knob, certainly a draughtsman, which, instead of a hole,
is furnished with a metal point at the bottom, by which it was evidently
intended to be fixed in the board. But for the Scandinavian Vikings, who
were so much at sea, and who, it seems, liked to while away the time by
playing draughts, such a precaution was doubly necessary, as the rolling
of the vessel would otherwise have thrown the draughtsmen together every
moment. It is remarkable that at Kilmainham, as well as in Scandinavia
itself, the draughtsmen are found deposited in the graves, by the side
of the arms and ornaments of the warriors. This affords an instructive
proof that the old Northmen must have been very fond of gaming; and
consequently that the picture drawn by Tacitus of the passion of the
ancient Germans for play, which at times even led them to gamble away
their personal freedom, might apply to their neighbours, the

We can scarcely err in referring the antiquities found at Kilmainham to
the ninth, or at latest to the tenth century. The mode of burial is
heathenish rather than Christian; and, as is known, the Norwegians
settled in Ireland were converted to Christianity in the tenth century
at latest, and probably still earlier. It is not at all probable that
the graves are to be attributed to an isolated band of heathen Vikings,
who came over at a later period, and who, after a battle, buried their
dead on the field. The great number of graves, and the careful manner in
which each is said to have been set or enclosed with stones, rather show
that they were made in all tranquillity by the Norwegians and Danes, who
at that time dwelt in Dublin, or its immediate neighbourhood, and who
probably had a common burial ground there. Scandinavians appear also to
have been buried in an adjoining churchyard, which at that time belonged
to a convent dedicated to St. Magnen, but which afterwards became the
burial-place for a hospital of the knights of the order of St. John,
founded at Kilmainham. It has at length become one of the largest
churchyards in Dublin. In corroboration of the conjecture that
Scandinavians were buried in it, it may be mentioned that a tall upright
stone with carved spiral ornaments stands there—a sort of monumental, or
bauta-stone, under which, several years ago, various coins were
discovered, minted by Norwegian kings in Ireland; and near them a
handsome two-edged iron sword, with a guard and a longish flat pommel.
Some have, indeed, thought that this sword must have belonged to
Murrough, a son of Brian Boru, or to Murrough’s son Turlough, as both
these warriors, having fallen in the battle of Clontarf, are said to
have been buried in this churchyard. This, however, is only a vague
conjecture; whilst it is quite certain that the above-mentioned sword
agrees most accurately in form with the many swords of the Vikings’
times found in the North. There is, therefore, reason to suppose, that
the sword was formerly deposited there with the body of a Norwegian
warrior; and this supposition is strengthened by the discovery of the
Norwegian-Irish coins.

Other old Norwegian, or Scandinavian burial-places, have been discovered
in the Phœnix Park, near Dublin, where a pair of bowl-formed brooches
were found near a skeleton. In making, a few years ago, some excavations
in Dublin itself, in “College Green,” which formerly lay outside the
city, the workmen met with several iron swords, axes, lances, arrows,
and shields, of the well-known Scandinavian forms. It is probable that
this also was a burial-place similar to that at Kilmainham. With the
exception of the burial-place on the coast of Lough Larne, the ancient
Ulfreksfjord, no other decidedly Norwegian graves are hitherto known to
have been discovered in Ireland.

Just as the proportionally numerous Norwegian graves near Dublin prove
that a considerable number of Norwegians must have been settled there,
so also do the peculiar form and workmanship of the antiquities that
have been discovered in them afford a fresh evidence of the superior
civilization which the Norwegians in and near Dublin must, for a good
while at least, have possessed in comparison with the Irish. The
antiquities hitherto spoken of only prove, indeed, that the Norwegians
and other Northmen were superior to the Irish with regard to arms and
martial prowess. But there are other Norwegian antiquities, originating
in Ireland, and found both in and out of that country, which also prove
that the Danes and Norwegians formerly settled there contributed, like
their kinsmen in England, by peaceful pursuits, to influence very
considerably the progress of civilization in Ireland.



Ancient Irish Christianity and Civilization.—Trade.—No Irish, but
Norwegian Coins.—Sigtryg Silkeskjæg.—Norwegian Coiners.

Centuries before the introduction of Christianity into the Scandinavian
North (in the tenth and eleventh centuries)—nay, centuries before the
actual commencement of the Viking expeditions—the Irish people had been
Christianized. At a very early period numbers of churches and convents
were erected in Ireland, which was also celebrated for its many holy
men. It was a common saying that the Irish soil was so holy that neither
vipers, nor any other poisonous reptiles, could exist upon it. Numerous
priests set out from Ireland as missionaries to the islands lying to the
west of Scotland; nay, they even went as far as the Faroe Islands and
Iceland, long before those islands had been colonized. Thus, when the
Northmen first discovered Iceland (about the year 860), they found no
population there; but on “Papey,” in “Papyli,” and several places in the
east and south of the country, they found traces of “Papar,” or
Christian priests, who had left behind them croziers, bells, and Irish
books; whence they perceived that these priests were “Westmen,” or
Irishmen; for just as the Irish called the Scandinavians “Ostmen,”
because their home lay to the east of Ireland, so also did the
Scandinavians call the Irish “Westmen.” The most southern group of
islands near Iceland is called to the present day “Vestmannaeyjar” (the
Westman Isles), because, at the time of their colonization, a number of
Irish serfs, or Westmen, were put to death there for deceiving their

Not even the Norwegian expeditions into Ireland, and the destruction of
churches and convents by which they were accompanied, were able to
annihilate the influence of the Irish clergy on the diffusion of
Christianity in the north-western part of Europe. Not only were the
Norwegians and Danes settled in Ireland and the rest of the Western
Isles soon converted from heathenism by Irish monks and priests, but
Christianity was communicated through these converts to many of their
Scandinavian countrymen, who visited Ireland partly as Vikings and
partly as merchants. Thus the Norwegian king Olaf Tryggvesön was
baptized by an abbot on the Sylling Isles near Ireland, or, as other
Sagas state, “to the west over in Ireland;” whence we may probably
conclude that the Sylling Isles are not, as was before supposed, the
Scilly Isles near England, but the Skellig Isles on the south-west coast
of Ireland, on one of which there was at that time a celebrated abbey.
At all events, it is certain that Olaf Tryggvesön, during his long abode
with his brother-in-law, King Olaf Kvaran, in Dublin, must, by his
constant intercourse with the Irish Christians, have been strengthened
in his determination to christianize Norway. Another proof of the
influence of Christianity in Ireland on the North is, that an Irish
princess, Sunneva, was at a later period worshipped as a saint in
Norway. Her body is alleged to have been deposited in a large and
handsome shrine over the high altar in Christ Church, in Bergen, and on
the 8th of July the Norwegians celebrated an annual mass in her honour.
Even in Iceland there is a fiord, or firth, on the north-west coast,
called “Patreksfjorðr,” after St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

As we have before stated, the commencements of a national Irish
literature were also developed among the clergy at a very early period;
which, together with the numerous ecclesiastical buildings in Ireland,
prove that the Irish clergy of those times must have attained no mean
degree of civilization, and that with regard to education they must, in
certain respects, have been a great deal in advance of the heathen
Scandinavians. But not to speak of the Icelandic literature—which
developed itself in the remotest North immediately after the heathen
times, and contemporaneously with the Norwegian dominion in Ireland, and
which both in form and substance was undoubtedly far superior to the
Irish—there is reason enough to doubt whether the Irish people of that
time, although christianized, were really more educated or more advanced
in true civilization than the certainly too much decried heathen
Norwegians and their Scandinavian kinsmen. It is true, indeed, that the
Norwegian Vikings made their way with fire and sword, that they
destroyed a number of churches and convents in Ireland, and that in this
manner they often occasioned the most violent intestine commotions,
which for a time, at least, could not but tend to hinder the progressive
development of Christian civilization. But the Irish chronicles
themselves teach us that the Christian Irish acted precisely in the same
manner at the same period. In their mutual contentions they often burnt
ecclesiastical buildings, plundered the shrines of saints, and
maltreated the clergy, besides, as is well known, constantly
perpetrating amongst themselves the most horrible butchery. Lastly, in
Ireland, as in England, we must certainly distinguish between the
Vikings, who came to the country for the sake of war and plunder, and
the colonists, whose aim it was to obtain a new home in Ireland. The
latter brought with them not only great skill in the forging and
management of arms, as well as in building and navigating ships for
expeditions, both of war and trade, but likewise had their own runic
writing; and by the readiness with which they imbibed the newer
Christian civilization, soon acquired the ascendancy in the most
important Irish cities, so as to become perceptibly enough, not only the
equals, but the superiors of the Irish.

What particularly warrants us in doubting the alleged early and
extensive civilization of the Irish, is the very striking circumstance
that, previously to the arrival of the Norwegians, they do not appear to
have carried on any very great trade, or on the whole to have had any
very extensive intercourse with the rest of Europe. This appears
particularly from the fact that the Irish at that time (about the year
800) had not yet minted any coins of their own; although their Celtic
neighbours in Britain and Gaul had for centuries—that is, from about the
birth of Christ—minted a great number, mostly in imitation of Greek and
Roman coins. And though the Romans, Franks, and Anglo-Saxons, after
their conquests of France and England, had made very considerable
coinages in those countries, we do not even find in Ireland any trace of
the coins of these neighbouring people being brought over the sea in any
considerable quantity before the period mentioned. Yet in other
countries, where the minting of coins also came late into use—as, for
instance, in the Scandinavian North—so great a quantity of older foreign
coins, together with all sorts of foreign valuables, is continually dug
up as to show that even at a very early period active connections of
trade must have existed between the Northmen and more southern nations.
Neither Phenician nor Celtic coins are known to have been found in
Ireland, and discoveries even of Roman and the more ancient Anglo-Saxon
coins are very rare.

That Ireland should have remained for so long a period and to so great
an extent unconnected with the neighbouring nations, was undoubtedly
caused partly by its remote situation, partly by the indolence of the
Irish and the disinclination so general among the Celts to traverse the
sea, to which an old author (Giraldus Cambrensis) expressly alludes. It
must partly also be ascribed to the peculiar hostile position which the
Irish were obliged to assume towards the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, and
Franks; since these people having gradually conquered the Celtic
countries, France and England, naturally only awaited a favourable
opportunity to make themselves masters of Celtic Ireland also. According
to this we might even, perhaps, regard the isolation of Ireland as a
necessary system of self-defence adopted by the Irish.

But no sooner were the Norwegians and Danes settled in the chief cities
of Ireland, than Irish trade and navigation obtained an extent and
importance before unknown. An active commerce was opened with England
and Normandy through the numerous and influential Scandinavian merchants
settled in those countries, as well as, of course, with the mother
countries of Scandinavia. In Ireland, therefore, as well as in England,
Arabian coins, minted in countries near the Caspian Sea, are here and
there found buried, which have evidently been imported by Scandinavian
merchants. The Sagas mention regular trading voyages to Ireland from
Norway, and even from Iceland; where there was, for instance, a man
named Rafn, who was commonly called Rafn Hlimreksfarer (Eng., _Limerick
trader_), on account of his regular voyages to Limerick (Limerick being
called by the old Northmen, Hlimrek). The Sagas further mention, under
the head of Ireland, “Kaupmannaeyjar” (Eng., _the merchant islands_),
probably what are now called “Copeland Islands,” on the north-eastern
coast, where there may have been a sort of rendezvous for the ships of
Scandinavian merchants. The Icelandic and Norwegian ships brought fish,
hides, and valuable furs to the English and Irish coasts; whence, again,
they carried home costly stuffs and clothes, corn, honey, wine, and
other products of the south.

These accounts of the old Northmen, respecting their commerce in
Ireland, are far from being unsupported. The Welsh author, Giraldus
Cambrensis, who visited Ireland during the English conquest, whilst the
Ostmen were still living there in considerable numbers, says in plain
words that they had settled near the best harbours in Ireland, where
they built themselves towns, and that they had by no means come to the
country as enemies, but with the design of carrying on a peaceful trade.
He adds that for this reason the Irish chiefs, who clearly saw the
importance and advantages of commercial connections with other
countries, had not at first in any way opposed the establishment of
these foreign towns in their country; but that, after the Ostmen had
very much increased, and after their towns had become well fortified,
the old dissensions between them and the Irish revived.

In perfect accordance with this are the statements of the Irish
themselves respecting the many Scandinavian merchants in the towns of
the Ostmen. An old Irish manuscript relating to the battle of Clontarf
(“Cath Chluana Tarbh”) states that, after the battle, “no Danes were
left in the kingdom, except such a number of artisans and merchants in
Dublin, Waterford, Wexford, Cork, and Limerick, as could be easily
mastered at any time, should they dare to rebel; and these King Brian
very wisely permitted to remain in these seaport towns, for the purpose
of encouraging trade and traffic, as they possessed many ships, and were
experienced sailors.” Duald Mac Firbis also says in his chronicles that
in his time (1650) “most of the merchants in Dublin were the descendants
of the Norwegian-Irish king, Olaf Kvaran.”

That the Norwegians and Danes must really have possessed themselves of
the Irish trade, and given it a new impulse, clearly appears from the
circumstance that the Norwegian kings in Ireland were the first who
caused coins to be minted there. One of these coins, which formerly
belonged to the Timm’s collection in Copenhagen, but which is now in the
collection of M. von Römer, in Dresden, seems (according to the opinion
of that distinguished numismatologist C. J. Thomsen, of Copenhagen) to
have been minted by a Scandinavian king of Dublin, as early as the
eighth or ninth century. It is an imitation of the ancient Merovingian
coins, and has a remarkable inscription on the obverse, half in runes
and half in Latin letters, but which can scarcely be read otherwise than
“Cunut u Dieflio,” or, Canute in Dublin.

[Illustration: [++] Coin: Canute in Dublin]

The Old Northmen call Dublin “Dýflin,” whence the surrounding district
also obtained the name of “Dýflinarskiri,” as appears in the Sagas. This
legible inscription encircles the bust of a royal warrior, clad in scale
armour. On the reverse are seen the letters ENAE, and under them two
figures, both turning their faces upwards in the same direction, and
each extending a very large hand, whilst in their other hands, joined
together, they hold a ring, as if they were taking an oath on the holy
ring. They are, besides, represented as standing before, or sitting on,
an elevated platform (perhaps an altar?), under which is a mark (∾) like
the letter S placed on its side. These figures probably contain an
allusion to some treaty concluded between an Irish king and the
Scandinavian king Canute.

By the kindness of Mr. C. F. Herbst, of Copenhagen, I have been enabled
to give a woodcut of this silver coin, the only one of its kind, and
never before copied. The drawing was made from a cast taken in Dresden.
If the preceding explanation, which is certainly by no means
far-fetched, be the right one, we shall consequently have a proof that
other Scandinavian kings, besides Olaf the White, the first-mentioned in
the Sagas, reigned at a very early period in Dublin, if only for a short
time. But all the rest of the Norwegian coins minted in Ireland are of
the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries. They are of silver, and
undoubtedly coined in various towns of Ireland besides Dublin, as in
Limerick, Cork, Waterford, and several other towns where the Ostmen had

The most remarkable of all are the Dublin coins, especially those with
the legend “Sihtric rex Dyfl,” or, Sigtryg king of Dublin. It is true
that there were several kings of Dublin of this name in the ninth,
tenth, and eleventh centuries; but the coins alluded to, to judge from
the impressions, all of which are imitations of contemporary Anglo-Saxon
dies, and especially of those of King Ethelred the Second, must for the
most part have belonged to Sigtryg, surnamed “Silkbeard,” who reigned in
Dublin at the close of the tenth and beginning of the eleventh century,
and who was one of those who fought the battle of Clontarf against Brian
Boru. It is very remarkable that on Sigtryg’s coins, as well as on
several of the Danish coins minted in the north of England, we find not
only the Latin title “Rex,” but also the Scandinavian “Cununc” (king),
as, for instance, on the annexed coin (in Mr. C. F. Herbst’s
collection), which has never before been copied:—

[Illustration: [++] Coin: Sigtryg King of Dublin]

On the obverse is the legend “Sihtric cunuic dyn,” or Sigtryg king of
Dublin; and on the reverse, “Byrhtmer mo on Vin;” whence we see that the
coiner had an Anglo-Saxon name, and was certainly an Anglo-Saxon,
particularly since he is said to have been “on Vin,” that is, of
Winchester. Among the coiners’ names on the Norwegian-Irish coins, we
meet, indeed, with several Scandinavian names, such as Stirbirn
(Styrbjörn), Azcetel (Asketil), Ivore (Ivar), Colbrand, Tole (Tule), and
Oadin (Odin?); whence we may reasonably conclude that the Norwegians in
Ireland soon learned to coin, and were not, therefore, always compelled
to avail themselves of foreign coiners. But most of Sigtryg’s coiners
were Anglo-Saxons; and not a few of his coins are, like that above
delineated, even struck by coiners in England; as, for instance, in
“Efrweec,” or “Eofer (wick)” (York), “Veced” (Watchet, in
Somersetshire), “Vilt” (Wilton), “Vint” (Winchester), and “Luni”
(London). This admits of two explanations; either that these comers at
Sigtryg’s request minted coins for him, or that Sigtryg, who at one time
was driven from his kingdom, resided in some at least of the above-named
places, and caused coins to be minted there(?). The origin of several
coins minted in Dublin about Sigtryg’s time by the Anglo-Saxon king
Ethelred the Second—as well as by the Danish-English king Canute the
Great, and which for the most part are struck by the same Dublin coiner,
Færemin, who minted most of Sigtryg’s own coins—is involved in no less
obscurity. Although history is silent, we might be almost tempted to
believe that Ethelred and Canute were acknowledged by Sigtryg as his
liege lords, or that possibly they ruled in Dublin for a short time; but
in weighing these probabilities it must be remembered that neither
Ethelred nor Canute calls himself on these coins king of Dublin, but
simply “Rex Anglorum,” or king of the English.

The great number and variety in which Sigtryg’s coins appear, and the
comparatively good stamp that distinguishes them from the rest of the
Norwegian-Irish coins, seem to show that the years of Sigtryg’s reign
must have been a period very favourable to Scandinavian trade and power
in Ireland. In later times the Norwegian-Irish coins became worse, as
the coiners did not confine themselves to imitating coins of the older
Norwegian-Irish kings, and of the later English kings, Canute the Great,
Hardicanute, Edward the Confessor, William the Conqueror, and others,
but even copied copies to such a degree that the stamp and inscriptions
of the original coins were very frequently not to be recognised. Of the
coins current in Ireland in the last half of the eleventh, and in the
whole of the twelfth, century, pretty large quantities have been dug up,
both in and out of Ireland, and particularly in the neighbouring Isle of

It must, however, be regarded as very doubtful how far this
deterioration of the coins affords any reasonable confirmation of the
justness of the usual conviction among the Irish, that after Sigtryg’s
time, or rather after his defeat in the battle of Clontarf, the power of
the Norwegians in Ireland was completely broken. For, in that case, we
might expect, among other things, that the victorious Irish kings,
during the long period of more than a hundred and fifty years, which
elapsed from the time of the battle of Clontarf until the English
conquest of Ireland, would have minted their own coins. But during the
whole of this period there are very few coins that can possibly be
regarded as having been minted for native Irish kings. For the rest, the
whole of the coins minted in Ireland, from the commencement of minting
there (at latest in 950) till the English conquest (1171), seem to owe
their existence exclusively to the kings and bishops of the Ostmen, who
ruled in the most important trading towns of Ireland[10].

Footnote 10:

See Appendix, No. II.



The Battle of Clontarf.—Power of the Ostmen after the Battle.—Their
Churches and Bishops.—Their Land and Sea Forces.—The English
Conquest.—Remains of the Ostmen.—Their Importance for Ireland.

The cause of the battle of Clontarf, so celebrated in song and legend,
or, as it is called in the Sagas, “Briánsbardagi” (Brian’s battle, after
King Brian, who fell in it in 1014), is not precisely known. All that we
are acquainted with is, that Brian, who was connected by very close ties
of relationship with the Norwegian royal family in Dublin, had long
availed himself of the assistance of the Norwegians to subdue other
Irish princes, until, at length, after gaining victories in that manner,
he came to a rupture with King Sigtryg of Dublin. The prospects of
Sigtryg, and of the Norwegian power in Ireland, seem really to have been
threatening enough; at least it is said that Scandinavian warriors
hastened in numbers to Sigtryg’s assistance from the Scandinavian
kingdoms in England, the Isle of Man, the Syder Isles, and Orkneys. From
the last, in particular, came Jarl Sigurd the Stout, with a chosen
force, in the midst of which waved a flag with the image of Odin’s holy
raven. Sigurd’s own mother had woven this raven, which, with fluttering
wings, had often before led the warriors to victory and glory.

This time, however, the raven was checked in its flight. After many of
the standard bearers had been killed, Sigurd Jarl himself took the flag
from the staff, and wrapt it about his body. He seemed to foresee, what
really happened shortly afterwards, that the raven-flag would be his
winding-sheet. The Norwegians were at length forced to give way, even if
the battle was not so entirely lost as the exaggerated Irish accounts
represent. The Scandinavian auxiliaries withdrew to their ships, and
King Sigtryg retired with the remnant of his army to Dublin.

But, as the Irish chronicles contain nothing about Sigtryg and his men
having been afterwards expelled from Dublin, or about the Norwegian
dominion there having been entirely destroyed, we cannot conclude from
them that the power of the Ostmen in the rest of the Irish cities was
annihilated in consequence of Sigtryg’s defeat in the battle of
Clontarf. It would, besides, have been singular enough if the power of
the Norwegians in Ireland had been perfectly destroyed so early as the
year 1014, since it was just after that time that the Northmen in the
neighbouring countries acquired their greatest power by means of their
victories. Instead of the Norwegian influence in Ireland having ceased,
we not only find, long after this battle, King Sigtryg of Dublin
fighting bravely with his Ostmen, though at times with varying fortune,
against several Irish kings and chiefs, but we further behold the Ostmen
displaying a very remarkable degree of strength and independence in
various places in Ireland.

About five-and-twenty years after the battle of Clontarf (say the Irish
chroniclers themselves), Sigtryg, king of the Ostmen in Dublin, and
Donat (Dunan), their bishop, built, in the middle of that city, the
church of the Holy Trinity, also called Christ Church. That the Ostmen
should then have founded one of the principal churches of Dublin, which
even lay without their own town (Ostmantown), in the very heart of
ancient Dublin, is highly significant. After the church was built,
Bishop Donat presented several relics to it, amongst which are mentioned
“pieces of the clothes of King Olaf the Saint.” The great respect in
which the name of the Norwegian Saint Olaf was held in Dublin is also
manifest from the circumstance that a church consecrated to St. Olave,
or, as the Irish common people gradually corrupted the name, to
“Tulloch” (compare the name of Tooley Street in London, corrupted from
St. Olave Street), was to be found there till at least far into the
sixteenth century. This church adjoined the northern end of Fishshamble
Street, near Wood-Quay; but originally, perhaps, it was just outside the

In the same year (1038) that Christ Church was, partly through the
exertions of Bishop Donat, erected in Dublin, he likewise built the
chapel of St. Michael. Half a century later (1095) another “Ostman”
built Saint Michan’s Church in the “Ostmen’s” town in Dublin; and about
the same time the cathedral in Waterford, dedicated to the Holy Trinity,
was founded and erected by the Ostmen there.

The “Ostmen” in Ireland thus possessed not only their own churches, but
likewise, as the Irish records also mention, their own bishops, who were
consecrated in England by the archbishop of Canterbury; whilst the Irish
bishops were consecrated in Ireland itself by the Irish archbishop of
Armagh. The Dublin “Ostmen’s” first bishop Donat, or Dunan, died in the
year 1074, and was buried in Christ Church, to the erection of which he
had himself so considerably contributed. After him, by desire of the
Dublin king Godred, or Godfred, another “Ostman,” Patrick, was chosen
bishop of the Ostmen in Dublin, but perished by shipwreck on his voyage
home from Canterbury (1084). He was succeeded by the “Ostman” Donat
O’Haingly (+1095); whose cousin, Samuel O’Haingly, previously a monk in
the convent of St. Alban’s in England, afterwards filled the see of the
“Ostmen” in Dublin until the year 1121. His successor, Gregorius, was
the first of these Ostmen’s bishops in Dublin who was made archbishop.
This probably arose from the circumstance of the “Ostmen” in the other
Irish towns having in the meantime obtained bishops, who were now to
have a common superior in the Archbishop of Dublin. In the year 1096 the
“Ostmen” in Waterford are said to have obtained a bishop, Malchus, who
is stated to have been a native of Ireland. In the year 1136 Waterford
had an “Ostman” named Toste (Tuistius, or Tostius) for its bishop. A few
years later (1140) Gille, or Gilbert, the “Ostmen’s” bishop of Limerick,
died; after whom the “Ostmen” chose a certain Patrick. In the year 1151
the “Ostman” Harald, bishop of Limerick, died, and was succeeded by his
countryman Thorgils (“Thorgesius”). Twenty years previously (1131) the
death of the “Ostman” Everard, or Eberhard, abbot of the convent of St.
Mary, near Dublin, is mentioned; which confirms, what is indeed almost a
matter of course, that the Ostmen, who had their own churches and
bishops, must also have had their own convents partly filled with
Scandinavian monks and abbots. At length, in the year 1161, Gregorius,
archbishop of Dublin, died; and from his time until the present Dublin
has constantly been the seat of one of Ireland’s principal archbishops.
But precisely because this archbishopric was originally founded by
Ostmen, or foreigners, the archbishop of Dublin did not afterwards
become the primate of all Ireland, as, from the importance of Dublin, we
might otherwise have expected. That dignity, on the contrary, has
constantly been reserved for the genuine old Irish archbishopric of
Armagh, in the north-east of Ireland. Even Gregorius’ successor in the
archiepiscopal see is said to have been consecrated in Dublin by the
archbishop of Armagh. It has lately been discovered (compare P. Chalmers
in the Journal of the Brit. Archæol. Assoc., Oct., 1850, p. 323, &c.)
that these archbishops of Dublin not only administered their own
diocese, but, at least at times, acted as superintendents of the
Norwegian bishoprics in the Isle of Man and the Sudreyjar. There is a
letter of Pope Honorius of the beginning of the thirteenth century, from
which it appears that the archbishop of Dublin at that time consecrated
a bishop of Man and the Sudreyjar, a privilege which in more ancient
times belonged to the archbishops of York, and afterwards (from 1181 to
1334) to the archbishops of Trondhjem. It is quite certain that this was
a result of the lively intercourse which undoubtedly took place between
the successors of the Ostmen in Ireland and their near kinsmen in the
Norwegian kingdoms in Man and the Sudreyjar.

It was, above all, a very fortunate circumstance for the independence of
the Irish Ostmen that such powerful Norwegian kingdoms continued to
exist on the west coast of Scotland. From these they could usually
obtain assistance in their battles with the Irish; and by means of them
they also kept up a constant connection with their Norwegian fatherland.
That they were able to maintain their peculiar independent position in
Ireland for more than a century after the Danish dominion in England had
ceased to exist, was clearly not so much owing to their military skill
and compact force, in comparison with the internal dissensions and
perfect want of union among the Irish, as to the considerable wealth and
power which they constantly derived from their extensive trade and
navigation, and the influence which by such means they must necessarily
have exercised in Ireland. The Irish chronicles and pedigrees teach us
that friendly connections and reciprocal marriages increased more and
more between the Irish and the Ostmen, both in Ireland and Norway, so
that the Irish aristocracy became mixed in a considerable degree with
Norwegian blood. We also learn from the same documents that the Ostmen
and their kings constantly continued to ally themselves with Irish
princes, whose power they often essentially contributed to support. The
Irish king Konofögr gained a naval battle in Ulfreksfjord against Einar,
jarl of Orkney, because, as it is stated, the Norwegian Viking, Eyvind
Urarhorn, had joined the former with his ships. When King Magnus Barfod
of Norway undertook his expedition to Ireland, he concluded an alliance
with Myrjartak, King of Connaught (_O. N._, “Kunnáktir”), whose
daughter, Biadmynja, was married to Magnus Barfod’s son Sigurd. But when
Magnus fell in Ulster (in 1103), Sigurd abandoned Biadmynja. Yet the
connections formed in Ireland by Magnus through this expedition produced
important results for Norway. An Irishman named Harald Gille came
forward and passed himself off for a son of that monarch by an
Irishwoman; and after proving his descent by walking over red-hot iron,
actually became king of Norway, and left its throne as an inheritance to
his family.

The Ostmen settled in Dublin and other places in Ireland were more and
more induced to form connections with native Irish princes, nay, even
sometimes to submit to them, as the support which they derived from
their own country continually decreased during the eleventh and twelfth
centuries. Shortly after the battle of Clontarf, Christianity was
introduced into the Scandinavian North, and thus an end was put to the
Vikings’ expeditions, which had hitherto incessantly brought colonists
and auxiliary forces into Ireland. Even the reinforcements which the
Ostmen were able to obtain from their countrymen in Man, the Sudreyjar,
and the Orkneys, were naturally not so important as before; since on
these islands also Christianity gradually annihilated the bold Viking
spirit of the people.

Under such circumstances it is surprising that Godfred (or Godred)
Merenagh, king of the Ostmen in Dublin, had in the year 1095 a naval
force of not fewer than ninety ships in the harbour of Dublin; and that
the land forces of the Ostmen in that city were proportionately
powerful. The Irish chronicles mention many battles in the eleventh and
twelfth centuries in which the Dublin Ostmen brought numerous warriors
into the field, and in which they often suffered very considerable loss,
without, however, being entirely annihilated or driven out of the town.
Even in the year 1167, and consequently a hundred and fifty years after
the battle of Clontarf, a great meeting of the Irish people was held by
Athboy of Tlactga, at which, the Irish themselves say, _thousands_ of
the first Ostmen in Dublin were present.

That this account is not exaggerated, and that the number of Ostmen in
Dublin, as well as in the other Irish cities, was really very
considerable at the close of the twelfth century, is clearly shown by
the notorious fact, that when the English, under Earl Strongbow and
Miles de Cogan, obtained, in the years 1170 and 1171, a firm footing in
Ireland, the Ostmen in Dublin, Limerick, and Cork, were able to offer a
very powerful resistance. Respecting the conquest of Dublin by the
English we find the following statement in the “Dublin Annals” (by

“The year 1170. The Danes of Dublin were treacherously slaughtered in
their own garrison by Mac Morough and the English; and they carried away
their cattle and their riches. Asgal, the son of Reginald, king of the
Danes in Dublin, fled from them.

“1171. A battle was fought at Dublin, between Miles de Cogan and Asgal,
son of Reginald, king of the Danes of Dublin. Many fell on both sides,
both of the English archers and of the Danes; among whom was Asgal
himself, and Hoan, a Dane from the Orkney Isles.”

On this occasion Asgal, or “Hasculph,” is said to have returned to the
city with sixty ships. His warriors, say the chronicles, were accoutred,
according to the usual custom of the Danes, in armour and coats of mail,
and had red circular shields bound with iron. But though these men were
“just as steeled in soul as in arms” (homines tam animis ferrei quam
armis), and though, as well as their brethern in Limerick and Cork, they
fought the fight of desperation in defence of their property and
liberties, yet they were not able to withstand the English. Thus these
new conquerors succeeded in annihilating the dominion of the Ostmen in
Ireland, or rather in the most important cities of that country, after
it had lasted above three hundred years.

Nevertheless we must not believe that the Ostmen were even now wholly
expelled from Ireland, or that their influence there was entirely at an
end. After the taking of Dublin by the English, so many Ostmen still
remained in the city that “the Galls of Dublin” continued to have their
own separate army, which even seems to have acted pretty independently
of the English conquerors. An Irish chronicle (Annals of the Four
Masters) states that Mulrony O’Keary, Lord of Carbury, was treacherously
slain by the “Dublin Ostmen” in the year 1174, and consequently some
years after the taking of Dublin. In the same year the English
themselves were forced to obtain the assistance of the “Dublin Ostmen”
against the Irish; and it is expressly stated that in a subsequent
attack of the Irish on this united Anglo-Norwegian army not far from
Dublin, there fell no fewer than “_four hundred_ Ostmen.” The
contemporary author, Giraldus Cambrensis, to whom we owe this account,
also speaks of the Ostmen, after the conquest of Ireland, as a peculiar
and decidedly separate people, who carried on trade and navigation
(“gens igitur hæc, quæ nunc Ostmannica gens vocatur,” &c).

Even more than a century afterwards we can still trace many Ostmen in
the chief cities of Ireland, where, it seems, they continued to preserve
those Scandinavian characteristics which distinguished them from the
Irish and English. In the year 1201 a verdict was pronounced by twelve
Irishmen, twelve Englishmen, and twelve Ostmen in Limerick, concerning
the lands, churches, and other property belonging to the church of
Limerick; which shows that the Ostmen were sufficiently numerous there
to be placed on an equal footing with the English and Irish. There is in
the Tower of London a document of the year 1283, issued by the English
king Edward I., ordering that the Ostmen in Waterford (“Custumanni,”
Oustumanni, Austumanni?) should, pursuant to King Henry the Second’s
ordinance, have, and be judged by, the same laws as the English settled
in Ireland, which clearly indicates that the Ostmen at that time still
formed a distinct and separate people. We might almost believe that the
Ostmen in Waterford had even refused to observe the English laws, or
that at least there was a doubt how far these laws could be applied to
them; since King Edward found it necessary to enforce Henry the Second’s
ordinance, and to enjoin his chief justice and magistrates in Ireland
that the three men named in the document should, “like other Ostmen in
Waterford,” be judged, and as far as possible (“quantum in vobis est”),
punished, according to the laws in force for Englishmen in Ireland. (See
the Latin document in the Appendix.) The striking historical account
that in the year 1263 the Irish applied to the Norwegian king Hakon
Hakonsön, then lying with his fleet on the south-west coast of Scotland,
for assistance against the English, will now no longer be inexplicable
or improbable; for it is placed beyond all doubt that amongst the Irish
who thus in vain implored King Hakon for help, there must have been a
number of the Ostmen still living in Ireland, who naturally continued to
maintain a connection with their countrymen in the Norwegian kingdoms on
the south-west coast of Scotland, until these kingdoms also were
destroyed in the middle ages.

But from this time forward the “Ostmen” do not play any prominent part
in the history of Ireland. Their political independence was annihilated;
and their national characteristics were not sufficiently supported by
fresh arrivals from the mother-country, to enable them in the long run
to maintain a distinct position in face of the rapidly advancing English
nationality. Their descendants continued, nevertheless, to dwell in
Ireland; where they gradually became amalgamated partly with the English
conquerors and partly with the native Irish. The Irish chronicles point
out various clans in Ireland which were either of Norwegian descent, or
at all events had been much mixed with Norwegian blood. In the annals
and pedigrees of the middle ages we also meet with both laymen and
clergy in Ireland bearing Scandinavian names. For instance, in Christ
Church in Dublin, built by the Norwegians, canons and monks are spoken
of in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries called “Harrold,” “Olof,”
“Siwird” (Sivard), “Regenald,” (Ragnvald) “Iwyr,” &c., names entirely
unknown in Ireland previously to the arrival of the Norwegians. The
often-mentioned Irish chronicler makes use of a highly remarkable
expression. In stating that most of the merchants’ families in Dublin in
his time (about the year 1650) were descendants of the Norwegian-Irish
king Olaf Kvaran, by Brian Boroihma’s (Boru’s) daughter Save, he adds:
“and the descendants of that Amlave Cuaran are still in Dublin opposing
the Gadelians of Erinn:” whence we clearly see that national
distinctions and national disputes between the descendants of the Irish
and of the Norwegians, were still very prominent only two hundred years
ago, or full six hundred years after the battle of Clontarf (1014).

Even to the present day we can follow, particularly in Leinster, the
last traces of the Ostmen through a similar series of peculiar family
names, which are by no means Irish, but clearly original Norwegian
names; for instance, Mac Hitteric or Shiteric (son of Sigtryg),
O’Bruadair (son of Broder), Mac Ragnall (son of Ragnvald), Roailb
(Rolf), Auleev (Olaf), Mánus (Magnus), and others. It is even asserted
that among the families of the Dublin merchants are still to be found
descendants of the old Norwegian merchants formerly so numerous in that
city. The names of families adduced in confirmation of this, as Harrold
(Harald), Iver (Ivar), Cotter or Mac Otter (Ottar), and others, which
are genuine Norwegian names, corroborate the assertion that Norwegian
families appear to have propagated themselves uninterruptedly in Dublin
down to our times, as living evidences of the dominion which their
forefathers once exercised there.

It is thus satisfactorily proved, by notorious facts of the most various
kinds, that for more than three hundred years the Norwegians lived
according to their own manners and customs, and under their own bishops
and kings, in the most important towns of Ireland, which they in part
ruled, down to the time of the English conquest (1170); that they were
the first who minted coins, and carried on any considerable trade and
navigation in Ireland; and lastly, that great numbers of their
descendants continued to reside in that country even after it had long
been conquered by the English. No impartial person, therefore, will be
able any longer to deny that the settlements of the Ostmen, although
commenced by the frequent demolition of churches and convents, were
ultimately in the most essential matters particularly fortunate for
Ireland; since, by introducing trade and navigation to an extent before
unknown, they opened for that sequestered country channels of animated
communication and intercourse with the rest of Europe and its
continually advancing civilization. The Irish towns occupied by the
Ostmen, which have continued to be the principal depots for foreign
merchandise, and consequently also the central points of intercourse
with foreign countries, may with justice be said to be indebted chiefly
to that people for their present greatness, wealth, and power.

Nor, on a larger historical survey, will it appear less evident that, as
the Norwegians first opened the way for peaceful connections between
Ireland and the rest of Europe, so they also facilitated the English
conquest. In consequence both of their frequent wars, and of their
frequent alliances with Irish kings, party feeling had rather increased
than diminished among the Irish chiefs; whilst numerous Irish families,
even the greatest in the land, had by degrees become so much mixed with
Norwegian blood, that the strength of the Irish as a nation was not a
little weakened and divided. This was particularly the case in those
districts of the east coast of Ireland where the English or Norman power
afterwards obtained its chief seat. Add to this that the Irish, through
the long dominion of the Norwegians in their chief towns, and the
advantages which they reaped from it, had become more and more
accustomed to behold with indifference the sway of strangers in their
country; a circumstance which contributed to the powerful support given
to the English on their first invasion of Ireland by several of the
native chiefs.

It may possibly be said that the Norwegians in Ireland, by thus
preparing the way for the Norman or English conquest, rendered a far
greater service to England than to subjugated Ireland. But all the
chronicles, it must be recollected, bear witness that the Irish were
neither strong enough to govern their own country independently, nor
capable of keeping pace with the advance of European civilization by
means of an active commerce. We have seen that even in later times the
same baleful and sanguinary spirit of dissension which weakened Ireland
in ancient days is yet scarcely extinct among the original Irish race.
It is manifest, therefore, that Ireland, which would otherwise have been
divided from the rest of Europe, and devastated by terrible intestine
contentions, has been much benefited by being united to so great and
powerful a country as England, which has both the ability and the will
to promote the true welfare of the Irish people. England will, by
degrees, employ the great advantages afforded by the excellent soil and
situation of Ireland, and thus conduct that country, torn as it is by
all possible distresses and misfortunes, to a happier existence.



Conclusion.—Warlike and Peaceful Colonizations.—Resemblances and
Differences.—Before and Now.

Denmark and Norway, as is known, are not distinguished by any remarkable
extent of fertile and densely-populated country. The whole population in
both those kingdoms does not at present amount to three millions; and in
ancient times it scarcely seems to have been greater, even when the
southern portion of the present kingdom of Sweden still belonged to

Nevertheless, Denmark and Norway were able, in ancient times, to send
forth great multitudes of people to other countries. Not only were
Greenland, Iceland, the Shetland Isles, the Orkneys, and Faroe Isles,
colonized from Norway, but also considerable districts in Scotland and
Ireland. Many Norwegians, moreover, settled in England and Normandy. At
the same time Danes emigrated in great numbers to Normandy, North
Holland, and especially England, where they colonized, we may say, the
whole of the extensive district to the north of Watlinga-Stræt, or
almost half England.

We are not informed that Denmark and Norway were emptied of their
population in consequence of these great emigrations, or even that there
was any sensible want of inhabitants to supply agricultural labourers
and soldiers. In the immediately following centuries Denmark was
powerful enough to make the Baltic a Danish lake. We can hardly,
therefore, assume, like the monkish chronicles of antiquity, which
naturally breathe both fear and hatred of the Scandinavian heathens,
that the Norwegians and Danes were merely barbarous Vikings, who
procured themselves a footing in the western countries only through
brute force. On such grounds we should be perfectly unable to explain
satisfactorily how Denmark and Norway, with a proportionately small
population, should have been able (without becoming too depopulated) to
send out at once such a host of people as were evidently required to
take possession, by force of arms, of those rich western lands, and
also, it must be observed, to maintain their conquests for centuries.
If, instead of blindly following these partial and prejudiced
chroniclers, we adhere to what the traces of the nature and importance
of the Scandinavian emigrations clearly prove, namely, that from the
eighth to the twelfth century, and contemporary with the destructive
Viking expeditions, peaceful emigrations from the North constantly took
place—which, in reality, were just as effective, perhaps even more so,
than the purely warlike expeditions of conquest—this matter will be
placed in a far more probable and intelligible point of view. As we have
seen, sagacity and the arts of peace, together with navigation and
trade, in no slight degree assisted the Danes and Norwegians to procure
a footing in the British Islands, and especially in England and Ireland.
By perseverance and ability in the occupations of peace as well as war,
they were soon enabled to gain the ascendancy in the most important
seaport towns; whence, by means of various connections of trade,
friendship, and family alliances, they extended their influence and
dominion over the adjacent towns and districts. They gradually
multiplied themselves, and were joined by fresh immigrants; and thus the
foundations were almost imperceptibly laid of Scandinavian colonies,
which awaited only the coming of some bold military adventurer to appear
as independent, nay, even as dominant states. The great warriors to whom
history assigns the honour of the conquests in England and Ireland—and,
we may also add, Normandy—would scarcely have been able to obtain them
with the generally inferior numbers under their command, had not the
Scandinavian merchants, and other peaceful colonists, both opened the
way for them, and afterwards supported the conquests they had achieved.
It is, on the whole, obvious that the ancient Northmen possessed a very
great talent for colonization, which their kinsmen, the English of
modern times, seem to have inherited from them.

But as the Scandinavian colonies in the British Islands varied greatly
in importance, so also must the effects which they produced have been
somewhat different. In Ireland, as well as in Scotland, where the
Norwegians met with tribes who, in spite of their apparent Christianity,
stood rather below them in civilization, they kept themselves more apart
from the natives. In Ireland, especially, they dwelt in their own
strongly-fortified towns; where, until late in the middle ages, they
maintained their own characteristic language, manners, customs, and
laws. But in consequence of this, their Norwegian institutions had no
real influence on the development of the national life or institutions
of Ireland. At most they merely contributed to facilitate the
introduction and establishment of the analogous Anglo-Norman
institutions into the Irish cities. In England, on the contrary, where
the Scandinavian colonies were far more numerous and powerful than in
Scotland and Ireland, the Danish colonists certainly sought, after the
Scandinavian fashion, to maintain in the midst of a foreign country
their pure Danish laws, manners, and customs. Yet here the Danes, owing
to the superior civilization which prevailed among the earlier
Anglo-Saxon inhabitants of England, were soon influenced by their
language and culture, and became more and more amalgamated with them.
Nevertheless the Danes in England were sufficiently numerous and
independent to maintain the most important of their free Scandinavian
characteristics, which coalesced with, and by degrees visibly impressed
themselves upon, the more modern English manners and institutions.

The Danish colonies in England, and the Norwegian colonies in Scotland
and Ireland, had so far the same historical importance that they
essentially conduced to found a new life, both externally and
internally, in the British Islands, partly by extending trade and
navigation, partly by subduing, or at least weakening, the power of the
Anglo-Saxons, the Scotch, and the Irish, and thus in general preparing
for a kindred race (the Normans) the dominion over all these people. It
is well known that the Norman sway and the Norman spirit established
themselves in Scotland and Ireland far later than in England—a
circumstance chiefly owing to the conquests and settlements of the
Norwegians in those countries having been far less extensive and
important than the Danish conquests in England. Yet that the
Danish-Norman spirit predominating in England has been able to maintain
to our times its dominion in Scotland and Ireland also, is no slight
evidence of the excellent and solid manner in which the Norwegians must
originally have prepared the way.

I have shown that the memorials of the great exploits performed by the
Danes and Norwegians in the British Islands still appear as fresh and
vivid as if they were of modern date. In this respect, the national
pride of those nations will find complete gratification. Still, however,
it is possible that a general view of the mighty achievements of the
ancient Northmen in the western lands may awaken mingled feelings in
many a Scandinavian of the present day. The thought may involuntarily
arise in him of what the North _was_, when its victorious fleets
appeared in the north, south, east, and west, and when Scandinavians
exercised dominion far and wide, and what it _is now_—confined within
narrow boundaries, menaced from many quarters, and without any
preponderating influence on the state of Europe. Beyond the precincts of
the North, he will no longer hear his native language, which in former
times frequently resounded on foreign shores. The North was forced to
shed some of its best and noblest blood; and yet the Northman must now
be content, if he can succeed in tracing out, by means of a few words in
the popular language, by the names of towns and districts, or by
half-erased runic inscriptions on bauta stones, where it was that the
“Danish tongue” once prevailed, and where the barrows still rise which
cover the race that spoke it.

But such morbid complaints will necessarily vanish when the Scandinavian
considers how vividly the ancient power of his race has again displayed
itself to the world, and how mighty have been the results of the Norman
expeditions; but especially when he ponders on the notorious fact, that
the North sent out the flower of its youth and strength, not merely to
destroy and plunder, but rather to lay the foundations of a fresher life
in the western lands, and thus to impart a new and powerful impulse to
human civilization. In our times, besides, it is not chiefly in
conquests and the lustre of external greatness that the true happiness
and glory of a nation should be sought.

A people, which, like the Scandinavian, have preserved—together with the
memorials of former great achievements, and of conquests bringing
blessings in their train—enough of the character and courage of their
forefathers, not only to maintain the freedom and independence of their
country, but also, in comparison with other nations, an honourable place
in science and art, cannot justly be said to want either glory or






(_From a Register in the Tower of London; Patent Roll II. Edward I.
Memb. 9. Communicated by Mr. Duffus Hardy._)

“Pro Custumannis[11] Waterfordi in Hibernia. Rex Justiciario suo
Hibernie et omnibus aliis Ballivis et fidelibus suis Hibernie ad quos,
&c., salutem. Quia per inspeccionem carte Domini Henrici Regis, filii
Imperatricis, quondam Domini Hibernie preavi nostri, nobis constat quod
Custumanni nostri Waterford legem Anglicorum in Hibernia habere et
secundum ipsam legem judicari et deduci debent. Vobis mandamus quod
Gillecrist Makgillemory, William Makgillemory, et Johannem Makgillemory,
et alios Custumannos de Civitate et Communitate Waterford, qui de
predictis Custumannis predicti domini regis preavi nostri originem
duxerunt legem Anglicorum in partibus illis juxta tenorem carte predicte
habere et eos secundum ipsam legem quantum in vobis est deduci faciatis,
donec aluid de consilio nostro inde duximus ordinandum. In cujus, &c.
… v. die Octobr.”

Footnote 11:

This is undoubtedly an old fault in the way of writing or reading for
“Oustumannis,” “Austumannis.” That the word is at all events meant to
signify the Ostmen is also assumed in Sir John Davies’ “Reports” (fol.





(_See page 338._)

While this work was going through the press, a silver coin, forming an
entirely new and highly remarkable contribution to our knowledge of the
early Norwegian coinage in the capital of Ireland, was discovered among
the collection bequeathed by the late Mr. Devegge to the Royal Cabinet
of Coins in Copenhagen. It is represented in the annexed woodcut.

[Illustration: [++] Coin: Olaf in Dublin.]

The legend on the obverse is “_Oolaf i divielin_,” or “Olaf in Dublin.”
That on the reverse almost seems to be “_Oolafn me feci(t)_,” or “Olaf
made me;” in which case the coiner must have had the same Scandinavian
name as the king. However this may be, it is clear enough that the coin
owes its origin to a Norwegian or Scandinavian king Olaf in Dublin; and,
as the stamp shows, it must have been struck in the tenth century. It
thus forms a link between the runic coin of Canute in Dublin, and the
somewhat later coins of Sigtryg, before described. (See p. 338, _et

A great number of coins have been mentioned as minted in Ireland by
Scandinavian kings named Olaf; but that above delineated is in reality
the first, and, as far as is known, the only one on which we can with
certainty read “Olaf in Dublin.”

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