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The Norwegian account of King Haco's expedition against Scotland, A. D. MCCLXIII online

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BlbltotiDeca Cuiioga


H^ovwcGian account



A.l). MCCi.XlIl,

ijlerally translated from the ori;^inal Ujla>!^it>
of the Flateyan and Frisian MSS.





|..1)MUN1) GOI.DSMIl), V.R.H.S.-

F.S.A. (Scot.)


IRorwcgian account

Kii}^ Skdo'^ 5<x|)edition.


TMs Edition is limited to 275 small-paper and 75
large-paper copies.

Bibliotl)eca Curtoga.


IRorwcGian account




Literally tratislaled fro/n the origittal Icelandic
of the Flat ey an and Frisian MSS.



anti editelt




F.S.A. (Scot.)





Printed "for the Author," the Rev. James
Johnstone, Chaplain to the English Embassy
at Copenhagen, in the year 1782, this translation
of the Norwegian account of King Haco's Expedi-
tion had become verj' rare, when, in 1882, Mr.
William Brown, of Edinburgh, issued a re-
print, limited to 250 copies. It was handsomely
printed, but, alas ! the opportunity of making the
book really interesting to the student of History
5 and the general reader — by adding a few Notes,

m explanatory of certain obscure passages— was lost,

and only a well-printed, and slightly inaccurate,
reprint of the 1782 edition w-as given by Mr.
^ Brown. Such an omission, especially after Mr.

^ Hugh Tennent's excellent translation of the


g= passages in P. A. Munch's Norske Folks Historie




6 Introduction.

which relate to this interesting episode, was really
unpardonable ; and, therefore, I trust that my
efforts, however poor, to supply the deficiency,
may prove useful to all who are interested in the
History and Archaeology of Scotland.

Such Notes as I have thought it necessary to
add are indicated by the initials " E. G."; all
others are Mr. Johnstone's own.


Edinburgh, 14th Feb, 1883.



The Editor, from some particular advantages he
enjoyed, was encouraged to collect such inedited
fragments as might elucidate ancient history.

He, lately, published "Anecdotes of Olave the
Black, King of Man;" and now lays before the
learned the Norwegian account of Haco's cele-
brated expedition against Scotland.

It was the Editor's intention to have given a
succinct detail of the descents made by the
northern nations upon the British Isles, but an
increase of materials induced him to reserve that
subject for a future work. At present, therefore,
he thinks it sufficient to premise that the /Ebuda?
were, long, the cause of much dispute between

8 Preface.

various kingdoms. They seemed naturally con-
nected with Scotland ; hut the superior navies of
Lochlin rendered them liable to impressions from
that quarter.

The situation of the Kings of the Isles was
peculiarly delicate ; for, though their territories
were extensive, yet they were by no means a
match for the neighbouring States. On this
account allegiance was extorted from them by
different sovereigns. The Hebridian princes con-
sidered this involuntary homage, as, at least,
implying protection : and, when that was not
afforded, they thought themselves justified in
forming new connexions more conducive to their

The Alexanders of Scotland having united
Galloway, then a powerful maritime State, to
their dominions, began to think of measures for
obtaining a permanent possession of the Hebrides
by expelling the Norwegians. The preparatory
steps they took were first to secure the Somerled
family, and next to gain over the insular Chief-
tains. Haco was no less earnest to attach every
person of consequence to his party. He gave his

daughter in marriage to Harald, King of Man ;
and, on different occasions, entertained at his
Court King John, Gilchrist, Dugall the son of
Rudri,' Magnus Earl of Orkney, Simon Bishop of
the Sudoreys, and the Abbot of Icolmkil.

All this, however, did not effectually conciliate
the Somerlidian tribe. The Norwegian monarch,
disappointed in his negociations, had recourse to
the sword, and sailed with a fleet, which both the
Sturlunga-saga and the Flateyan annals represent
as the most formidable that ever left the ports of

It would be improper for the Editor to draw
any comparison between the Scottish and Nor-
wegian narratives ; he, therefore, leaves it to the
discernment of the reader to fix what medium he
thinks reasonable.

The Flateyan and Frisian are the principal
MSS. now extant, that contain the life of Haco
the Aged. The first belongs to the library of His
Danish Majesty, the latter is deposited in the

' (Dugald M'Rory). In Gaelic, " Ruadh Righ,"
is the red king; whence Roderick, and in Scotch
parlance, Rory. (Note to Tennent's Translation
from Det Norske Folks Historic, p. 2 ). — £. C.


Magii^an LuUcctiuii. Ut them the Lditoi obtained
copies ; and by the help of the one was enabled,
reciprocally, to supply the imperfections of the
other. He has since examined the originals
themselves. The Fr. MS. relates the following
anecdote of Missel, at the coronation of Prince
Magnus A.D. 126 1. During Mass Missel the
Knight stood up in the middle of the choir, and
wondered greatly at some ceremonies unusual at
the coronation of Scottish kings. And when King
Magnus was robed, and King Haco and the Arch-
bishop touched him with the sword of state, the
Scottish knight said, " It was told me that there
were no knights dubbed in this land ; but I never
beheld any knight created with so much solem-
nity as him whom two noble lords have now
invested with the sword."

The conjectures in my note on page 43 are
confirmed by the following passage in the Fl.
MS. " Then came there from the Western seas
John the son of Duncan, and Dugall the son of
Rudra ; and both of them solicited that King
Haco would give them the title of king over the
northern part of the Sudoreys. They were with
the King all summer. '

Preface. ii

Antiquarians may be desirous of knowing some-
thing of the MSS. from which this work has
been taken, therefore, it was judged not improper
to subjoin the following account of them. The
Frisian MS, is a vellum quarto of the largest size,
in a beautiful hand, and the character resembles
that which prevailed in the end of the thirteenth
centur)'. The book of Flatey is a very large
vellum volume in folio, and appears to have been
compiled in the 14. age. It contains a collection
of poems ; excerpts from Adam Brebensis ; a
dissertation on the first inhabitants of Norway ;
the life of Eric the Traveller ; of Olave Trj'gvason :
of St. Olave ; of the Earls of Orkney ; of Suerir ;
of Haco the Aged ; of his son, Magnus ; of Mag-
nus the Good ; of Harald the Imperious ; of
Einar Sockason of Greenland ; and of Olver the
Mischievous ; it contains also a general chrono-
logy down to A.D. 1394, the year in which the
MS. was completed. The work, from the life
of Eric the Traveller to the end of St. Olave's
history, inclusive, was writtten by John Thordrson
the priest ; the rest by Magnus Thorvaldson, also a
clerg\-man. The initial letters, in some places, are

12 I'REKACt.

ornamented with liistorical niinialurc paintings.
In page 35 there is a representation of the birth of
Trygvason ; and, at the bottom of the leaf, there
is a unicorn and a lion. 217, An archer shooting.
272, Orme Storolfson carrying ofif a haycock.
295, Haldan the Black beheading the Norwegian
Princes ; one of them is represented on his knees,
dressed in a red cap, a short doublet, and in red
trousers reaching down to the middle of his legs.
310, Three men armed with swords and battle-
axes, despatching St. Olave at Sticklestadt ; at
the bottom of the page a man killing a boar, and
another fighting with a mermaid, 650, Haco
creating Sculi a duke. Sculi is drawn with a
garland or coronet, and receiving a sword,
together with a book by which he is to swear.
Most of the figures in these paintings are depicted
in armour or mail ; their helmets are sometimes
conical, sometimes like a broad-brimmed hat ;
their defensive armour is generally a round target
and a two-handed sword. This venerable volume,
the noblest treasure of Northern literature now
existing, though written in a very small character,
and much abreviated, consists of 960 columns —
two to every page.

'VUK m^'fOUW




^'A)T the time that King Haco' ruled over Nor-
way, Alexander,^ the son of William, King
of Scotland, was then King of Scotland. He was
a great prince, and very ambitious of this world's
praise. He sent, from Scotland in the Western
Sea, two bishops to King Haco. At first they
begged to know if King Haco would give up those
territories in the Hebrides,^ which King Magnus

' This was Haco IV., the bastard son of Swerro.
He began to reign in 1207. — E. G.

- Alexander H. — E. G.

* Sudr-Eyiar (orig.) The Hebrides or Southern
Division of the Scottish Islands, so called in contra-
distinction to the Orkneys.


Barefoot had unjustly wTested from Malcolm,
predecessor to the Scottish King. The King said
that Magnus had settled with Malcolm what dis-
tricts the Norwegians should have in Scotland, or
in the islands which lay near it. He affirmed,
however, that the King of Scotland had no sove-
reignty in the Hebrides at the time when King
Magnus won them from King Godred.' And
also that King Magnus only asserted his birth-
right. The commissioners then said that the
King of Scotland was willing to purchase all the
Hebrides from King Haco, and entreated him to
value them in fine silver. The King replied,
he knew no such urgent want of money as would
oblige him to sell his inheritance. With that
answer the messengers departed. From this
cause some misunderstanding arose between the
Kings. The Scottish Monarch, however, fre-
quently renewed the negotiation, and sent many
proposals ; but the Scots received no other ex-
planation than what is here related.


Alexander, King of Scotland, wished much for
possession of the Hebrides. He had often sent to
Norway to redeem them with money, and he did

' Godred Chrou-ban, i.e., the White-Handed,
King of Man.


SO this summer. But when he could nut purchase
those territories of King Haco, he took other
measures in hand which were not princely.
Collecting forces throughout all Scotland, he pre-
pared for a voyage to the Hebrides, and deter-
mined to subdue those islands under his dominion.
He made it manifest before his subjects that he
would not desist till he had set his standard east
on the cliffs of Thurso,' and had reduced under
himself all the provinces which the Norwegian
monarch possessed to the westward of the German

King Alexander sent word to John, King of the
Isles, 3 that he wished to see him. But King John
would not meet the Scottish king till four earls of
Scotland had pledged their honour that he should
return in safety whether any agreement was made
or not. \\'hen the kings met, the Scottish mon-
arch besought King John that he would give up
Kiamaburgh * into his power, and three other

' Thursa sker (orig.), i.e., the giant's rocks, Thurso.

- Solunder-haf (orig.), the Northern Ocean. So
called from the Soloe Islands near that promontory of
Norway called Stad. That species of sea-fowl which
frequent the Bass probably received their name from
being more commonly found in the Solund Isle;.

3 Eogan (in Gaelic, Eoin) Earl of Argyll. — £. G.

* Kiarna-borg (orig.), Fl. MS. Kianaborg, from the
Irish cam, a rock, and the Icelandic, hrg, a castle. This
castle was situated on a rocky islet near Mull. For-
Hun calls it Carnhjrg.

i6 XoKWEGiAN Expedition

castles which he held of King Haco ; as also, the
other lands which King Haco had conferred upon
him. The Scottish king added, that, if he would
join him in good earnest, he would reward him
with many greater estates in Scotland, together
with his confidence and favour. All King John's
relations and friends pressed him to assent. But
he behaved well and uprightly, and declared that
he would not break his oath to King Haco. On
this King John went away, and stopped not at any
place till he came quite north to Lewes.'

King Alexander, then lying in Kiararey Sound,*
dreamed a dream, and thought three men came to
him. He thought one of them was in royal robes,
but very stern, ruddy in countenance, somewhat
thick, and of middling size. Another seemed of
a slender make, but active, and of all men the
most engaging and majestic. The third, again,
was of very great stature, but his features were
distorted, and of all the rest he was the most un-
sightly. They addressed their speech to the king,
and enquired whether he meant to invade the
Hebrides. Alexander thought he answered, that

' Liorl-hus, i.e., the residence of Liot. It is not
unlikely that the isle of Lewes and the family of
M'Leod were so named from Liod, EarL of Orkney.

^ Kiarareyiar, in the MSS. Kiarbareyiar, the island
Kiararey (Karera, opposite Ohan), where .Alexander died
suddenly, Jul. 8th, 1249.

AGAINST Scotland. 17

he certainly proposed to subject the islands. The
genius of the vision bade him go back, and told
him no other measure would turn out to his ad-
vantage. The king related his dream, and many
advised him to return. But the king would not,
and a little after he was seized with a disorder,
and died. The Scottish army then broke up, and
they removed the king's body to Scotland. The
Hebridians say that the men whom the king saw
in his sleep were St. Olave, King of Norway; .St.
Magnus, Earl of Orkney ; and St. Columba.

The Scotch took for their king Alexander, the
son of King Alexander. He afterwards married
the daughter of Henry, King of England, and be-
came a great prince. '

In summer there came, from Scotland in the
west, an archdeacon, and a knight called Missel,^
as envoys from Alexander, King of Scotland.
They shewed more fair language than truth, as
seemed to King Haco. They set out so abruptly
on their return that none wist till they were under
sail. The king' dispatched Briniolf Johnson 3 in

' Alexander III. attained his majority in 1262: he
married Margaret, daughter of Henry III. — E. C.

^ Perhaps the author means Frissel, afterwards
Bishop of St. Andrews ; or Michael, i'/«., de Wemyss,
who was ambassador to Norway, a.d. 1290.

' More properly, Brynjulf Jonsson. — E. G.

18 Norwegian Expedition

pursuit, and he detained them with him. The
king declared that they should remain that winter
in Norway, because they had gone away without
taking leave, contrary to what other envoys did.'


In summer there came letters from the kings of
the Hebrides in the western seas.^ They com-
plained much of the hostilities which the Earl of
Ross, 3 Kiarnach, the son of Mac-Camal, and other

' Alexander complained of the treatment of his
ambassadors to Henry III. of England, who wrote on
the 23d of March 1262 to Haco on the subject. The
ambassadors were released before 1 5th November of
the same year, as is proved by letters from Henry to
Haco, of that date, thanking him for sending them
home. — E. G.

^ The letters referred to here were propably the
ones written by Dugal M'Rory. (See Tennent's Trans-
lation.) — E. G.

3 Jarlin af Ros ok Kiarnakr son Makamals (orig.)
The text here is much vitiated. The author might
have read in some Irish accounts, Jarl na Ross (Wil-
liam) M'Kerchar, M'Ca'om, i.e., the Earl of Ross
(William) the son of Ferchard, the son of Malcolm.
This William MacErchart was a young hero, and is
corruptly called Macentagart by the Scottish histo-
rians. Or, perhaps, three persons may be alluded to,
v z., the Earl of Ross, Kinneach — son (of Kintail),
and a MacCamal of Lochaw, all powerful chieftains
on the west coast of Scotland. It is, however, not
impossible that Kiarnak was some ancient chieftain,
from whom a branch of the Grants was called Clan-
Chiarnach. The Fl. MS. for Makamals reads Macha-

AGAINST Scotland. 19

Scots committed in the Hebrides when they went
out to Sky. ' They burned villages, and churches,
and they killed great numbers both of men and
women. They affirmed, that the Scotch had even
taken the small children, and, raising them on the
points of their spears, shook them till they fell
down to their hands, when they threw them away
lifeless on the ground.^ They said also, that the
Scottish king purposed to subdue all the Hebrides,
if life was granted him.

When King Haco heard these tidings, they gave
him much uneasiness, and he laid the case before
his council. Whatever objections were made, the
resolution was then taken, that King Haco should
in winter, about Christmas, 3 issue an edict through
all Norway, and order out both what troops and
provisions he thought his dominions could possibly
supply for an expedition. He commanded all his
forces to meet him at Bergen about the beginning
of spring.

' I Skid (orig.). In the Fl. MS. istrid, i.e., to war.

- The inhuman practice here described was common
in those times. From the Landnamaboc we learn
that Olver first discouraged this custom. We read,
Olver did not permit tossing infants from spear to
spear, as was usual among pirates, and was therefore
surnamed Barna-Kall, or the protector of infants.

^ Jol (orig.). The great brumal festival among the
Scandinavians. Hence the Scotch word Yule, i.e.,

20 Norwegian ExpRnirioN


Near the middle of Lent King Haco travelled
from Drontheim' to Orkadal, thence east through
the mountains^ to Bahus,^ and so eastwards to El-
far'' to see Earl Birger,^ according to an appoint-
ment that they should meet at Liodhus in Easter
week. But when King Haco came to Liodhus"
the Earl was already gone away, and so the King
returned north to Bahus.

King Haco arrived at Bergen on the day of the
invention of the Cross.' He remained there dur-
ing the spring, and proceeded in his preparations
with great diligence. Prince Magnus,® having
given the necessary directions through Rygia-
fulke^ concerning the expedition and the equip-

' Nid-ar-os (orig.), i.e., the mouth of the river Nid,
now Drontheim.

- Dovrefield mountains. — E. G.

3 Vikor (orig.), now Bahus, in Sweden.

* Elfa, the river at Gottenburg.

5 An earl of Sweden, and father-in-law to Haco the

* Liodhusa, a town of Sweden, demolished a.d.

7 May 3.

^ The son of Haco.

9 i.e., the hilly country. Harald Harfager divided
his kingdom into several counties, each of which was
to fit out a squadron of ships on an emergency. The
counties were again divided into skipreidor, or smaller
districts, each of which furnished a single vessel pro-
perly equipped.


ment of the fleet, went to join King Ilaco. After
that a great number of barons, and oflicers, and
vassals, and a vast many soldiers, flocked in daily
to the Capital.

Iving Haco held a general council near Bergen,
at Backa.' There the numerous host was assem-
bled together. The King then declared concern-
ing the expedition, that this whole army was
intended against Scotland in the western seas,
and to revenge the inroads which the Scotch had
made into his dominions. Prince Magnus begged
to command this expedition instead of King Haco,
who should remain at home. He thanked him in
many courteous words ; but he observed, that he
himself was older, and had longer acquaintance
with the western lands, and that, therefore, he
himself would go this voyage. He, however, gave
Prince Magnus full power to rule the nation in his
absence. At this council he settled many regula-
tions respecting the internal government of the
country ; and he granted to the yeomanry, that,
while he was away, no Sheriff" should decide on
any cause, unless such cause was of the greatest

During this voyage King Haco had that great
vessel which he had caused to be constructed at

' i.e, an eminence near Bergen.

22 N'OkWKniA.N Exi'KUrilUN

Bergen. It was built entirely of oak, and con-
tained twenty -seven banks of oars." It was orna-
mented with heads and necks of dragons beautifully
overlaid with gold.^ He had also many other well-
appointed ships.

In the spring King Haco sent John Langlifeson
and Henry Scott^ west to the Orkneys, to pro-
cure pilots for Shetland.-* From thence John
sailed to the Hebrides, and told King Dugal that
he might expect an army from the east. It had
been rumoured that the Scots would plunder in
the islands that summer ; King Dugal, therefore,
spread abroad a report that forty ships were com-
ing from Norway. And by this means he pre-
vented the Scotch from making a descent.

Some time before the king himself was ready,
he sent eight ships to the westward. The cap-
tains of these were Ronald Urka, Erling Ivarson,
Andrew Nicolson, and Halvard Red.s They con-
tinued some days out in the road, as the wind did
not favour them.*

' By banks of oars we are only to understand
benches for the rowers.

^ This ship was called the " Christsuden." — E.G.

3 Evidently a Scotchman. — E. G.

-* The meaning of this sentence is that they were
to procure pilots for the Scottish Seas, who were to
join the expedition in Shetland. — E. G.

5 Munch calls him Halvard Rand. — E. G.

* These ships were intended for the support of
Man. — E. G.

AGAINST Scotland.


\\ hen the king had prepared his ship, he re-
Tnoved all his army from the capital to Eidsvags;'
afterwards he himself returned to the city, where
he remained some nights, and then set out for
Herlover.- Here all the troops, both from the
northern and southern districts, assembled, as is
described in the Raven's Ode,^ which Sturla-*
sung: —


From the recesses of Finland,5 bands,
keen for battle, sought the potent Ruler
of the storm of javelins. The boisterous
deep, that girds this earth, bore the ships
of the Protector of thrones west from the
streams of Gotelfa/"

King Haco mustered all his force at Herlover.
It was a mighty and splendid armament. The

' i.e., Cape Bay, near Bergen.

- An island and excellent harbour near Bergen.
Munch calls it " Herdle-vaer." — E. G.

3 The "Ravnsmual" of Storla Thordssoen.— E. G.

•* A celebrated poet, uncle to Sigvat Bodvarson, who
attended Haco in this expedition, and from whom
Sturla probably had his information of facts.

5 The most northerly province of Norway.

^ Or Gota.— E. G. '

24 N t ' K \v K( ; 1 A N Scot land.

king had many large and well-appointed ships, as
is thus described : —


No terrifier of dragons,' guardians of
the hoarded treasure,^ e'er in one place
beheld more numerous hosts. The
stainer of the sea-fowl's beak/ resolved
to scour the main, far distant shores
connected by swift fleets.


A glare of light blazed from'' the power-
ful, far-famed monarch, while, carried by
the sea-borne wooden coursers = of Ges-
tils,* he broke to'' the roaring waves. The

" I.e., no warrior.

- The Scandinavian scalds and mythologists often
represented treasures as guarded by monsters, dragons,
sea snakes, &c. This notion probably originated from
the fabulous tales of those who trade to the Indies.
An ancient author, speaking of Scythia, says — "Nam
quum in plerisque locis auro & gemmis affluant, Gry-
phorum immanitate, accessus hominum rarus est."

"^ i.e., Haco.

■t Rather " upon."— E. G.

5 i.e., ships.

* Gestil, a famous sea-king or pirate.

? Dashed through. — E. G.

ACAiNsT Scotland. 25

swelling sails, of keels that ride the surge,
reflected the beams of the unsullied sun
around the umpire of wars.

Some nights after King Haco had arrived at
Herlover, Ronald and Erling sailed out of the
bay with their squadron. Ronald was separated
trom the rest at sea, and made for the Orkneys
with some of the ships. But Erling, and Andrew,
and Halvard steered south before Shetland, and
so to the west of Tharey- fiord,' and they saw no
land except Sulna-Stapa^ west of the Orkneys.
Afterwards they sailed in to Scotland under Dyr-
ness.3 They went up into the country, and de-
stroyed a castle, but the garrison had fled. They
burned more than twenty hamlets. Next they
steered for the Hebrides, and found there Magnus,

1 3 4