Back to Fiona's Finding Service
Back to Index | Previous page | Next page


[From Torfaeus]

[From Barry]

[From Orkneyinga Saga]


NORWAY: 1122 Sigurd I; 1130 Magnus IV; 1134 Harald Gille
SCOTLAND: 1124 David I;
ENGLAND: 1099 Henry I;
ROME: 1119 Calixtus II; 1124 Honorius II; 1130 Innocent II

ORKNEY: William the Old 1102-1168 [See Historiettes]

Erlend, the son of Harald the Orator, passed his youth on Frakach's estate, and was brought up under her baneful influence. With Erlend, usually called the Younger, to distinguish him from Erlend the Exile, the male line of Rognvald, Earl of Orkney, came to an end; but as most of his doings occur later on, he will not be further referred to here. Of others gathered round Frakach were Olvir the Quarreller, the son of Thorliot; and Steinvor, her daughter; Thorbiorn Klerk, the son of Gudrun and Thorstein Hold; Margaret, daughter of Earl Hakon and Helga; and Eric Stagbrellir was also brought up by her. All these were of great families, and thought they had claims on the Orkneys. Frakach's brothers were Engus the Liberal and Earl Ottar in Thurso, a man of birth and rank.

Earl Paul then ruled the Orkneys, and was very popular. He was somewhat taciturn, spoke little at the Things, [general assemblages of Free men] and gave others a large share in the government with himself. He was a modest man, gentle to his people, liberal with his money, and spared nothing to his friends. He was not warlike, and kept himself very quiet. At that time there were many noble men descended from earls in the Orkneys. There lived at Westness, in Rousay (Hrolfsey) a noble man named Sigurd, who had married Ingibiorg the Noble. Their sons were Brynjolf and Hakon Peak. All these were vassals of Earl Paul; so also were the sons of Havard Gunnarsson, Magnus, and Hakon Claw, Thorstein and Dufniall. Their mother was Bergliot, and her mother was Ragnhild, daughter of Earl Paul the Exile. At Tankerness lived one Erling, who had four sons, all of whom were accomplished men. In Gairsay lived Olaf, Hrolf's son, who had another estate in Duncansby, in Caithness. Olaf was a great man, highly honoured by Jarl Paul. His wife was named Aslief, a wise woman, accomplished, and of great family. Their sons, Valthiof, Sweyn, and Gunni, were all accomplished men; their sister was named Ingigerd. Sigurd of Paplay had married Thora, the mother of Earl Magnus, and their son was Hakon Karl. Both Sigurd and his son were great chiefs. In North Ronaldsay there lived a woman by name Ragna; her son Thorstein was a man of great strength. In Westray there lived at a hamlet a farmer named Helgi, and at Hreppisness a wise and wealthy farmer named Kugi. Thorkell Flettir, a violent and powerful man, also lived in that isle; his sons Thorstein and Haflidi were unpopular men. At Swona, in the Pentland Firth, lived a poor man, Grim, who had two sturdy sons, Asbiorn and Margad. In Fair Isle lived Dagfinn, At Flydruness, in Hrossey, lived Thorstein, who had two wild sons, Asbjorn the Cross-eyed, and Bljan. Jaddvor, daughter of Earl Erlend, lived with her son Borgar at Knarstad; they were both rather unpopular. John Wing lived at Upland, in Hoey. Rikard, his brother, lived at Brekkur in Strjonsey. They were grand men, and related to Olaf Hrolfson. A mall named Grimkell lived at Glettnness. All these men will be mentioned hereafter.

All this time Kol of Agdir in Norway bad resided on his estates, and attended to the education of his son Kali, and the latter was now grown up into a most promising man. His hair was of a light auburn colour, and he was of middle size, well and handsomely proportioned, affable, popular, and very highly accomplished, being proficient in the nine arts then held highest in estimation. This we learn from his own verses: -

At the game-board I am skilful;
Knowing in no less than nine arts;
Runic lore I well remember;
Books I like; with tools I'm handy;
Expert am I on the snow-shoes,
With the bow, and pull an oar well;
And, besides, I am an adept
At the harp, and making verses.
[From Orkneyinga Saga]

Kali was frequently with his kinsman, Solmund, the son of Sigurd Sneis, who was Treasurer at Tunsberg, and had estates at Austr-Agdir. He was a great chief and had a numerous retinue. When Kali was fifteen he accompanied some merchants to England, taking with him a good cargo of merchandise. They went to a trading place called Grimsby where there was a great number of people from Norway, as well as from the Orkneys, Scotland, and the Hebrides. While there he met one Gillichrist, who asked him many things about Norway, and they became great companions. Gillichrist then confided to Kali that his name was Harald, that he was a son of King Magnus Barelegs, and that his mother was in the Hebrides. He further asked how he might be received if he went to Norway. Kali answered he thought King Sigurd would be friendly if not set against him by others. At parting Gillichrist and Kali exchanged presents, and promised each other mutual friendship wherever they might meet, - Kali then sailed homewards for Agdir, and held on to Bergen. He was then a dressy man, and being newly come from England had many braveries. In a hostelry there, kept by a worthy housewife named Unna, he met a young man of rank named John, son of Peter Sarksson, of Sogn, one of the king's liegemen. His mother was Helga, daughter of Harek of Saeter. John was also smart in matters of dress, and great fellowship arose between him and Kali, and they parted staunch comrades. John went north to Sogn, and Kali east to Agdir. Kali passed some years occupied in trading trips during the summer, spending the winters either at Agdir or with Solmund.

One summer, on his way to Drontheim, he was weather-bound at an island called Dolls, in which there was an enchanted cavern called the Doll's cave, and report stated that there was much treasure hidden there. A sheet of water stretched across the entrance, and no one dared cross it, save the hardy Kali and Havard, a domestic. They swam over the tiny lake, Kali carrying firewood on his shoulders; but after making a thorough search they failed to find any treasure. Kali raised a pile of stones as a remembrance of their entry, and with his usual facility commemorated the circumstance in verse. The company proceeded to Bergen. Arrived there Kali put up at an inn, where John Petrsson was also staying, and they became very friendly. One evening, after John and Kali had retired, the guests began comparing men, a favourite Norse custom, and Brynjulf, a retainer of John's, ventured to say his master was the best man and of the noblest family south of the Stad. Havard, the companion of Kali, immediately challenged the statement, asserting Solmund was in no way inferior to John, and would be more esteemed by the men of Vik. A quarrel ensued, and Havard, seizing a piece of wood, struck Brynjulf so severe a blow on the head that he fainted. Kali then sent Havard in to retirement, but John, divining his destination, despatched Brynjulf after him with ten men, who overtook and slew him. This raised a blood feud between John and Brynjulf on the one part, and Solmund and Hallvard, brother to Havard, on the other, resulting in the assassination of Brynjulf by Hallvard. This was followed by reprisals from John, who unsuccessfully endeavoured to surprise Solmund and Kol, but was wounded and defeated. The next summer, however, he contrived to kill Gunnar and Aslak, two of Kol's kinsmen. These differences were eventually submitted to King Sigurd for adjudication, when a reconciliation was arranged. Wounds and deaths were balanced against each other, and John was to marry Ingirid, daughter of Kol, and they who were enemies before parted good friends. At the same time King Sigurd gave Kali the half of the Orkneys which had belonged to his uncle St.Magnus, and created him an earl, re-naming him Rognvald, because his mother, the Lady Gunnhild, said that Rognvald Brusisson was the most accomplished of all the Orcadian earls, and thought the name would bring good fortune.

This winter King Sigurd died at Opslo (Christiania), the ancient Norwegian capital. His son Magnus succeeded him, and took possession of all the royal treasures. Harald Gillichrist was at Tunsberg when the news reached him, and he at once convened meetings with his friends, and sent for Rognvald and his father, because since they met in England they had always been friends. Rognvald and Kol had also done most to help Harald to prove his paternity to Sigurd. In this they were assisted by many barons - Ingimar, Thiostolf, and others. So Harald and his partisans held a Hauga-Thing [a general assemblage of Free men] at Tunsberg, and there Harald was accepted as King of one-half of Norway. A nominal peace was effected, Magnus and Harald dividing Norway; but the fourth summer they declared war and fought at Fyrileif (1134), where Magnus with 6,000 men defeated Harald, who had only 1,500. Harald's chief warriors were his brother Kristrod, Earl Rognvald, Ingimar, Thiostolf, and Solmund. Kristrod and Ingimar fell in the battle, and Harald fled to King Eric in Denmark, where he was presently joined by Thiostolf. At Yule, Harald returned to Bergen, seized King Magnus on board his flagship, and had him maimed. Harald then took possession of the whole kingdom, and the next spring he renewed the gift of the Islands and the title of earl to Rognvald.

Kol now resolved to send men to the Orkneys to ask Earl Paul to surrender the half of the Islands bestowed on Rognvald by King Harald, and they should be friends and good kinsmen. But if Paul refused, the embassy should proceed to Frakach and Olvir Rosta, offering them one-half of the Isles jointly with Rognvald if they were willing to acquire it by force of arms. On receiving the message Paul declined to entertain the proposal, and said, "With the assistance of my friends and kinsmen I shall defend the Orkneys as long as God grants me life. " The embassy then crossed the Pentland Firth, and made the alternative offer to Frakach and Olvir. Frakach received the message favourably, remarking that it was wise of Kol to seek their assistance, as their relatives and connections were both numerous and powerful. "I have now," said she, " married Margaret, Hakon's daughter, to Moddan, Earl of Atholl, who is of the noblest family of all the Scottish chiefs. His father, Melmari, is the uncle of King: Malcolm, the father of David, who is now King of the Scots. We have many and just claims on the Orkneys, and have ourselves some power. We have the reputation of being far-seeing, and during hostilities all things do not come on us unawares; yet we will be glad to entertain an alliance with Kol and his son for many reasons. Tell them I and Olvir shall bring au army to the Orkneys in midsummer. Let Rognvald meet us then, and have a decisive battle with Earl Paul. During the winter I will collect forces from my kinsmen, friends, and connections in Scotland and the Hebrides. " Returning to Norway, these matters were related to Rognvald.

Next summer he sailed west, accompanied by Solmund and John, with a fine body of troops and five or six ships. Adverse winds compelled them to put into Yell Sound, where they stayed feasting, being well received by the boendr. They heard nothing of Frakach, but of her it is to be told that in the spring she went to the Hebrides, where she and Olvir mustered troops and ships. They had in all twelve ships, all of them small and ill-manned. Olvir was the commander, and if they gained a victory he was to have an earldom in the Orkneys. Frakach was also there with many of her retainers. About midsummer they directed their course to the Orkneys to join Rognvald, Earl Paul was then at a feast with Sigurd of Westness in Rousay, when he heard that Earl Rognvald bad arrived in Shetland, and that an army was gathering in the Hebrides. So he sent word to Kugi in Westray, and Thorkell Flett, who were wise men; and many other of his chief men he called together. After consultation, it was resolved to summon the Islemen to resist the invaders, and to first advance to meet Rognvald and decide matters before the arrival of the Hebrideans. The Earl had with him Sweyn Briostreip (of the breastrope), whom he highly esteemed. Sweyn was of large stature and great strength, swarthy and ill-favoured. He was greatly skilled in ancient lore, and had frequently been engaged in out-sittings, In the summer he was always on viking raids, but in the winter stayed with the Earl. He was stationed in the forecastle of the Earl's flagship. During the night the following warriors came to Earl Paul: Eyvind, son of Melbrigd, in a ship fully manned; Olaf, son of Rolf, from Gairsay, had another; Thorkel Flettir, the third; Sigurd, the fourth; and the Earl himself had the fifth. With these five vessels they went to Hrossey, and arrived there in the evening about sunset. Troops gathered to him during the night, but no more ships were to be had. The next day they were to sail to Shetland to meet Earl Rognvald, but in the morning, shortly after sunrise, some men came to Earl Paul reporting that ten or twelve long ships were sighted approaching from the Pentland Firth.

Convinced that this was Frakach's party, Paul ordered his men to row against them as fast as possible. Olaf and Sigurd, however, in hourly expectation of further reinforcements, advised them to go leisurely. When Paul's fleet was off Tankerness the long ships, twelve together, sailed to the west from the Moul Head of Dourness, Earl Paul and his men fastened their ships together. The bondi Erling, from Tankerness, and his sons came to him offering their assistance, and then Paul's ships were so crowded that they could not use more men. The Earl asked Erling and his men to bring them stones, which Erling did till prevented by the fighting. When they had prepared themselves Olvir came up and made the attack with a superior force, but his ships were smaller. Olvir himself had a large ship, which he placed beside the Earl's, and there the fighting was the most severe. Olaf attacked the smaller ships of Olvir, and cleared three of them in a short time. Olvir attacked the Earl's ship so fiercely that all the forecastle men were driven abaft the mast. Then Olvir urged his men strongly to board, and set the example by himself jumping from the quarter-deck to the fore part of the ship, being the first to board. Sweyn Briostreip was the foremost of all the Earl's men, and fought bravely. When Paul saw that Olvir had boarded his ship, he urged his men forward and jumped from the quarter-deck to the fore part of the ship. Olvir perceiving this, grasped a spear and hurled it at the Earl, who received it on his shield, but fell down on the deck. Then there was a great shout, but in the same moment Sweyn seized a huge stone and threw it at Olvir. It struck him on the chest with such force that he was thrown overboard and sunk; but his men were able to drag him into one of their ships, and it was not known whether he was dead or alive. Then some cut the cables and wanted to flee. All Olvir's men were also driven off the Earl's ship, and began to withdraw. At that moment Olvir recovered, and begged them not to flee; but all pretended not to hear what he said. The Earl pursued the fugitives along the east of Hrossey and Ronaldsey, and into the Pentland Firth, where they parted. Then he returned, and five of Olvir's ships remained where they had fought: These the Earl captured and manned. The battle took place on Friday, but in the night the Earl had ships made ready, and many men and two long ships came to him, so that in the morning be had twelve ships all well manned.

On Saturday he sailed for Shetland and surprised those in charge of Rognvald's ships. He slew the men and seized the ships with all their contents. In the morning when Rognvald had news of this he mustered his men on the beach, and challenged Paul to come all shore and fight. Paul had little faith in the Shetlanders, and would not land, but retorted that they should get ships and fight. Rognvald, however, saw he could get no ships in Shetland which would equalise his chance, and they parted as matters stood, Paul returning to the Orkneys, while Rognvald passed the summer in Shetland, and in the autumn returned to Norway with some merchants. It was thought his expedition had come to a ridiculous end. When Rognvald got east he saw his father Kol, and they discussed the failure of his attempt to wrest the Isles from Paul, and how to ensure success on the next occasion. Paul, after gaining the two-fold victory, feasted all his friends and vassals, He now resolved to take precautions against being surprised, and arranged to have beacons lit on the various islands if enemies were seen approaching from Shetland. There was to be one in the Fair Isle, one also in North Ronaldsay, of which Thorstein, the son of Havard Gunnarsson, had the care; his brother Magnus had charge of one in Sanday; Kugi, of that in Westray; and Sigurd of Westness, of the one in Hrolfsey. Olaf Hrolfsson, crossed to Dungalsbae, in Caithness, and was to have the emoluments of that place. His son Valthiof was at that time in Stronsay.

Earl Paul gave presents to his men, and all promised him their unfailing friendship. He had many men about him in the autumn, until he heard that Rognvald and his men had left Shetland. Nothing happened in the Islands till Yule. Paul had a grand Yule feast, which he prepared at his estate at Orphir, and invited many guests. Valthiof from Stronsay was invited. He went with his men in a ten-oared boat, and they perished, all of them, in the West Firth on Yule Eve. That was thought bad news, as Valthiof was a most accomplished man. His father Olaf had a large party in Caithness. There were his sons Sweyn and Gunni, and the sons of Grim of Swiney, Asbiorn and Margad, brave looking fellows, who always followed Sweyn. Three nights before Yule, Sweyn, Asbiorn, and Margad had put out to sea to fish, and Asleif and her son Gunni had gone a short distance to meet their friends. The night after that Olvir Rosta arrived at Dungalsbae with the party that had been out with him on a viking cruise during the summer. He surprised Olaf in the house, and immediately fired it. There Olaf was burnt with five others, but the rest were permitted to escape. Olvir and his men took all the moveable property, and then re-embarked. After this event Sweyn was called Asleifsson, He came home on Yule Eve, and went immediately out north on the Pentland Firth. At midnight they came to Grim in Swona, the father of Asbiorn and Margad; he went into the boat to them, and he brought Sweyn to Knarstane in Scapa, where there lived a man named Arnkell, whose sons were Hanef and Sigurd. Grim and his sons returned to Swona, and at parting Sweyn gave him a finger-ring of gold. Hanef and Sigurd accompanied Sweyn to Orphir. Here he was well received, and conducted to his kinsman Eyvind, son of Melbrigd. Eyvind presented him to Earl Paul, who received him favourably and asked his news. Sweyn told him of his father's death, at which the Earl was much grieved, and said it had in a great measure happened through him. He invited Sweyn to stay with him, and the hospitable invitation was accepted with thanks. Then they went to evensong.

At Orphir there was a large homestead standing on the hillside, and behind the house was a height. From the top of the hill may be seen the Bay of Firth, and in it lies Damsa. In this island was a castle, the castellan being Blan, the son of Thorstein of Flydruness. In Orphir there was a large wassail hall, the door being near the east gable on the southern wall, and a noble church was in front of the door; and one had to descend steps from the hall to the church. On entering the hall there was a large flagstone on the left, farther in were many large ale vessels, but opposite the outer door was the stofa. When the guests came from evensong they were placed in their seats, Sweyn Asleifsson sitting next the Earl on one side, and on the other side next to the Earl was Swein Briostreip, and then John his kinsmen. When the tables were removed there entered men with the tidings of Valthiof's death by drowning. This the Earl considered sad news. He ordered that no one should tell it to Sweyn while the Yule feast lasted, adding that he had cares enough already. In the evening when the wassail was over the Earl and most of his guests retired, but Swein Briostreip went and sat out all night, as was his wont. At midnight the guests arose and heard mass, and after high mass they sat down to the table. Eyvind shared the management of the feast with the Earl and did not sit down. Table-boys and light-bearers stood before the Earl's table, but Eyvind handed goblets to each of the Sweyns. There had long been a coldness between Swein Briostreip and Olaf Hrolfsson and his son Sweyn Asleifsson since he grew up. When they came in again memorial toasts were proposed, and they drank out of horns. Then Swein Briostreip wished to exchange with his namesake, saying his was a small one. Eyvind, however, put a big horn into Sweyn Asleifsson's hand, and this he offered to his namesake, who became very angry, and was overheard by the Earl and some of his men muttering to himself, "Sweyn will be the death of Swein, and Swein shall be the death of Sweyn", but nothing was said about it, and the wassailing went on till evensong, when the Earl went out preceded by Sweyn Asleifsson, but the other Swein remained behind drinking. Eyvind apprehending danger to his kinsman, advised him to take the initiative, so, standing in the shadow of the flagstone, Sweyn Asleifsson struck at his namesake, who staggered, but recovering himself, drew his sword and struck at the person whom he thought was his assailant, but it was his kinsman John, and they both fell there.

Eyvind led Sweyn Asleifsson into the stofa, opposite the door, and he was dragged out through a window. There Magnus, Eyvind's son, had a horse ready, and accompanied him away behind the house and into the Orrida Firth (Bay of Firth). There he took a boat and brought Sweyn to the castle in Damsay, and the next morning Blan, the castellan, went with him to Bishop William in Egilsay. When they arrived there the Bishop was at mass, after which Sweyn was conducted to him secretly. Sweyn told the Bishop the news - the deaths of his father Olaf and brother Valthiof, and the slaughter of Swein and John. Then he besought the assistance of the Bishop. That prelate thanked him for slaying Swein, and said it was a good riddance. He kept Sweyn during the Yule-tide, and then sent him to Holdbodi, the son of Hundi, in Tiree in the Hebrides. Holdbodi was a great chief. He received Sweyn well, and there he spent the winter, highly esteemed of all the people.

All concluded that Sweyn Asleifsson had slain his namesake, and the Earl was confirmed in this by Sweyn's absence. It was thought that Sweyn had gone to Hakon Karl in Papla, the brother-uterine of St. Magnus. As the Earl did not hear of Sweyn that winter, he outlawed him, and meantime gave to Thorkell Flett the farm in Stronsa which Valthiof had owned. From Stronsa the Earl went to Rinansay, and was entertained there by Ragna and her son Thorstein. Ragna was accounted a wise woman. They had another farm in Papa, where the Earl spent three nights, as he was prevented by weather from going to Kugi in Westray.

When the spring advanced Earl Paul had the beacons kept up in Fair Isle, North Ronaldsay, and the other islands. Dagfinn, son of Hlodver, had charge of the one in Fair Isle. All this while Rognvald was spending the winter at home at Agdir, in Norway, but not forgetting to make arrangements for his next attempt. During February and March Kol despatched two transport vessels, one west to England to buy provisions and arms, and the other under Solmund south to Denmark to buy such things as Kol told him, because he had all the management of their equipment. When these vessels returned it was arranged to start the week after Easter. Kol, Rognvald and Solmund had each a warship; they had also a transport ship filled with provisions. When they came to Bergen, King Harald was there, and he gave Roguvald a warship fully manned. John Fol had also a warship. Aslak, son of Erlend, from Hern, and son of the daughter of Steigar-Thorir, had the sixth; he had also a barge filled with provisions. Thus they had six: large ships, five cutters, and three transports. Whilst lying at Hern waiting a, favourable wind, Rognvald made a long and eloquent speech, the conclusion of which was that he meant either to gain the Orkneys or die there. Kol then arose and suggested that he should seek the help of the holy St.Magnus, and vow if he gained those dominions to erect a stone minster at Kirkwall more magnificent than any other in the Isles, and dedicate it to St.Magnus, endowing it suitably that his relics and the Bishop's See may be brought there. All thought this good advice, and the vow was made and confirmed. They then stood out to sea, and with a fair wind soon reached Shetland. Kol's first plan was to mislead those in charge of the beacon in the Fair Isle. This he succeeded in doing by a well-executed stratagem. He had a flotilla of small boats brought just in sight of the island, and, gradually hoisting the sail, gave the impression of a large fleet nearing the place. Dagfinn immediately lit the Fair Isle beacon. Thorstein followed with that on North Ronaldsay, and presently the islands were all illuminated with signal fires. As soon as Kol saw the Fair Isle beacon burning he returned to Shetland, and then Uni, who had been an accomplice in the slaughter of Brynjulf, appeared on the scene. Taking some provisions and fishing tackle, he sailed in a sixareen [a six-oared boat] for the Fair Isle, accompanied by three Shetlanders. He made out that he had been ill-treated by Rognvald's men, and, making himself agreeable, was soon generally liked.

All the Islesmen had rallied round Earl Paul, and the soldiery were kept together for three days. But, as no enemies appeared, they begun to murmur at the absurdity of lighting beacons upon sighting a few fishers. Thorstein, son of Ragna, was blamed for having lit the beacon on North Ronaldsay. He replied that he could do nothing but light it, and blamed Dagfinn. This resulted in a fray. Sigurd of Westness, with his sons Hakon and Brynjulf, took part with Hlodver, father of Dagfinn, but Thorstein was aided by his kinsmen. Kugi of Westray shrewdly suspected the cause of the sails sighted from Fair Isle and said, "Now may we expect them any day. " One Eric was now appointed to the Fair Isle beacon, and Uni's opportunity arrived. Eric allowed him to attend to it, and Uni did so in his own way, pouring water over it, making it so wet that it would not light. Rognvald set sail for Westray, and came one Friday evening to Pierowall, where dwelt Helgi. When Eric sighted the sails he prepared to go to Earl Paul, and sent a man to tell Uni to fire the beacon; but Uni was absent, and the man, discovering his treachery, reported it to Eric, who informed Earl Paul.

When Rognvald arrived at Westray, Helgi, Kugi, and the rest of the Westray folk submitted to him, and swore fealty. On Sunday Rognvald had mass celebrated in Pierowall. Paul now held council with his nobles, and they were for fighting Rognvald. The latter, hearing of the result, sent men to see, and secure the intervention of the Bishop, and also to Thorstein, son of Ragna, and Thorstein Havardsson in Sanday with the like object. The Bishop procured a fortnight's truce in order that they might endeavour to establish a more lasting peace. Then the islands were allocated that should maintain each of them in the mean time. Earl Rognvald went to the Mainland and Earl Paul to Rousay.

At this time it happened that the kinsmen, Sweyn Asleifsson, John Vaeng of Upland in Hoy, and Richard of Brekkur in Stronsay, attacked Thorkell Flett on the estate which had belonged to Valthiof, and burnt him in the house with nine others. After that they went to Earl Rognvald, and told him they would go to Earl Paul with the whole body of their kinsmen if he would not receive them; but he did not turn them away. As soon as Haflidi, son of Thorkell, heard of his father's burning he went to Earl Paul, who received him well. After this John and his men bound themselves to serve Earl Rognvald, who had now many followers in the islands, and had become popular. Rognvald now gave leave to John Fol, Solmund, Aslac, and others to go home to Norway.

Early in the spring Sweyn left the Hebrides and went to Scotland to see his friends. He stayed for a long time at Atholl with Earl Maddad and Margaret, the daughter of Earl Hakon, and had many secret consultations with them. Hearing there were disturbances in the Orkneys, he became desirous of seeing his kinsmen. He went first to Thurso accompanied by Liotolf, a nobleman with whom he had stayed a long time in the spring. At Thurso they came to Ottar, the brother of Frakach, Liotolf tried to make them compose the matters done by her order, and Earl Ottar made compensation for his part. He promised Friendship to Sweyn, who, in return, promised to help Erlend, the son and heir of Earl Harald, to obtain his patrimony in the Orkneys when be should wish to claim it. Swevn changed ships there and took a barge manned by thirty men. He crossed the Pentland Firth with a north-westerly wind. and so along the west side of Hrossay, on to Evie Sound, and along the sound to Rousay. Earl Paul had spent the night at a feast with Sigurd of Westness, and was then hunting otters. Sweyn managed to surprise him with a slight retinue, and in the conflict that ensued took him prisoner, with a loss of six men, having slain about nineteen of Paul's party. The place is now known as Swendroog. They hurried Paul on board and stood to sea, making first for the Moray Firth, and thence to Earl Maddad and Margaret, at Atholl, by whom they were well received. Maddad placed Paul in his high seat, and when they were seated Margaret entered with a long train of ladies and advanced to her brother. Then men were procured to amuse them, but Paul was moody - and it was no wonder, for he had many cares. One day Margaret announced that Sweyn should go to the Orkneys, see Earl Rognvald, and ask him with whom he would prefer to share the dominions of The Orkneys - Earl Paul or Harald, her son, then three winters old. When Paul heard this, he asked permission to retire into a monastery, and that Sweyn might give out to the Islesmen that he had been blinded or slain. Sweyn then went to the Orkneys, but Paul remained behind in Scotland. This is how Sweyn related these matters. But some say Margaret induced Sweyn to blind Paul, and then threw him into a dungeon, and subsequently induced another man to put him to death. Which of these statements is correct is not known; but it is certain that Earl Paul came never again to the Orkneys, and that be had no dominions in Scotland.

It happened at Westness when the Earl did not return that Sigurd sent men to search for him, who reported twenty-five men slain near the stone-heap, where the conflict occurred. Sigurd recognised nineteen as the Earl's men, but did not know the other six. He then sent to Bishop William, at Egilsey, and stated he thought it was some of Rognvald's work.

Borgar, the son of Jatvor, who lived at Gatnip, had seen the barge coming from the South and returning. "When this was heard it was believed to have been done at the instigation of Frakach and Olvir. "When the news spread through the Isles that Earl Paul bad disappeared, the Islesmen mostly swore fealty to Earl Rognvald; but Sigurd of Westness and his sons, Brynjulf and Hakon, refused to do so till they heard of the fate of the Earl, and others also refused, though some agreed to do so if Paul's fate were not known by a given hour and day. Rognvald did not press them, as many were powerful men, and it was only a matter of time.

One day, at a Thing meeting [a general assemblage of Free men] in Kirkwall, it happened that nine armed men were seen walking from Scapa to the meeting. When they came near Sweyn was recognised and asked for news by his friends and kinsmen. He said very little, but retired with the Bishop to ask his advice. After consultation the Bishop came to the meeting, and pleaded for Sweyn, explaining for what reason he had left the Orkneys, and the penalties Earl Paul had imposed on him for slaying Swein Briostreip, a most wicked man. The Bishop concluded by asking Earl Rognvald and all the people to grant security to Sweyn.

Earl Rognvald granted him security for three nights, and made the Bishop responsible for his custody. The next day Rognvald, his father Kol, the Bishop, and Sweyn had a private interview, at which Sweyn related all that had occurred between him and Earl Paul, and they came to the conclusion to send away the bulk of the people at the meeting. The Earl arose next morning and gave the people permission to go home; but when the multitude had gone away, he called together all those that remained and made them all renew their promise of security to Sweyn while he told the news. In the morning Hakon Karl, the uterine brother of the holy Earl Magnus, was persuaded to tell Sigurd of Westness and his sons of Earl Paul's abduction, that he was not to be expected back to his dominions, and that he had been maimed. Said Sigurd, "Great news do I think this about the carrying away of the Earl; yet to me the saddest of all is that he should have been maimed, for he would not be anywhere where I would not go to him. " He afterwards told his friends Hakon would not have left him unharmed if he had had a sufficient force with him when he told him these tidings, so greatly was he moved by them.

When the news became generally known, all the Orcadians submitted to Earl Rognvald, and be became the sole ruler of Earl Paul's dominions.

[From Orkneyinga Saga; Barry and Torfaeus]

Back to Fiona's Finding Service
Back to Index | Previous page | Next page