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Latter-day Vikings: Gaels in the Northern Isles in the 16th Century
Andrew Jennings

Journal of the North Atlantic, Special Volume 4 (2013): 35–42

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A. Jennings 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 35 There had been some contact between the Northern and Western Isles of Scotland (Fig. 1) in the century before the focus of this paper. In the later 16th century, the enigmatic Jo Ben related a tradition from Westray in Orkney: “In times past the farmers living here, going out to fight cum hybernibus, the Lewismen, in the vernacular, and turning and fleeing the invaders all perished together. One man, nevertheless, fought more bravely and fiercely after the others were slain; having his hamstrings cut, he, however, was brought to his knees, when still engaged in the contest.” (Barry 1805:437) The Rev. John Armit in the 1830s, in his description of Westray in the New Statistical Account, shows that a tradition about this mighty warrior was still alive in his day. He reports that the legless hero supported his back against a huge rock, “to this day called the Highlandman’s hammer, he did no little execution about him, until, overpowered by numbers, he was Latter-day Vikings: Gaels in the Northern Isles in the 16th Century Andrew Jennings* Abstract - The Northern and Western Isles of Scotland were closely connected during the Norse period. Both were part of the Kingdom of Norway and the Archbishopric of Nidaros, and indeed, for extensive periods, all these islands were ruled by Jarls of Orkney, such as Sigurðr the Stout and Þorfinnr the Mighty. The situation changed with the hand-over of the Hebrides to Scotland in the Treaty of Perth of 1266. The Hebrides were annexed to the Scottish realm, while the Northern Isles remained Norwegian. A cultural and political wedge was driven between the island groups, and connections between the two areas become much harder to identify in the record. However, connections there were, usually, but not always, in the form of violent raids waged against the Northern Isles. The modern folklore of both Orkney and Shetland still contains references to raids by Lewismen. A Lewis Scord (hill pass), where Lewis raiders were slaughtered and buried, can still be identified by locals at Scousburgh in Shetland today. In this paper, I have taken folklore seriously as an historical source. Folklore can be problematical as it is notoriously difficult material. It also raises justified suspicions in the minds of the critically schooled historian. However, there is an ulterior purpose: because in this case elements of folklore can be traced back to actual, recorded events, I wished to show that folklore should not be dismissed out of hand, especially where oral tradition is strong and other sources in short supply. The paper provides a small demonstration of the value of folklore, but it also shows how changes in folklore and errors in the transmission of the story can be traced through time. This paper focuses on the ramifications of a hitherto unremarked marriage between two of the most powerful figures in 16th-century Orkney and Lewis: Lady Barbara Stewart, widow of James Sinclair of Brecks, and Ruaraidh Mac Leod, Chief of the Sìol Torcail and Baron of Lewis. The reality of Scottish historiography is that scholars of the Northern Isles and the Hebrides have not always been aware of the history of each other’s islands. So perhaps it is not surprising that this marriage has effectively slipped under the historians’ radar. However, it could provide hitherto unrecognized evidence of intimate elite contact between Northern and Western Isles in the mid-16th century and a possible attempt to extend MacLeod Lordship to Orkney and Shetland. Across the Sólundarhaf: Connections between Scotland and the Nordic World Selected Papers from the Inaugural St. Magnus Conference 2011 Journal of the North Atlantic *Centre for Nordic Studies, NAFC Marine Centre, Port Arthur, Scalloway, Shetland, ZE1 0UN; Andrew.jennings@nafc. uhi.ac.uk. 2013 Special Volume 4:35–42 Figure 1. Places mentioned in the text. A. Jennings 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 36 forced with violence against the rock and slain.” (Armit 1834–1845:122). He would have made an ideal partner for the famous Lilliard who, before being killed at the Battle of Ancrum in 1545, fought upon her stumps (Groome 1882:49)! The Rev. Armit (1834–1845:126) also adds that after the battle on Westray, the slain: “seem to have been collected into two spots, the one separated from the other by a distance of 30 or 40 yards,, where graves in each spot are seen huddled close together, and covered over with earth and stone. These spots are, to this day, known by the name of the bloody Tuacks, and it is not improbable that the one contains the ashes of the brave who fell in the common cause, and the other those of the vanquished foe.” Both the Highlandman’s Hammer and the Bloody Tuacks still appear on the 1:25000 OS map. Appropriately, the dialect word tuack comes from Old Norse þúfa meaning a “mound” (Jakobsen 1928:977). It is likely that here we have the attachment of the Lewismen tradition to a couple of early prehistoric burial mounds (RCAHMS Canmore 2011). The traditions from Westray must surely relate to the historical devastation wrought on Orkney by the forces of Alexander, Lord of the Isles and Earl of Ross in 1460 and 1461. These were on a large scale. They included forces from throughout the Hebrides and probably Ireland. Alexander was arguably the most powerful magnate in his time in Scotland, with considerable forces. The Bishop of Orkney described the devastating attacks thus in a letter of June the 28th, 1461 to King Christian of Denmark: “The foresaid caterans and men of Sodor and Ireland and others in the foresaid month of June entered in great numbers with their fleets and boats in warlike manner the said earldom of Orkney and burned your lands, towns, houses, and buildings to the ground and most cruelly destroyed your people of both sexes and all ages with the sword and carried away with them their goods, animals, plenishings, jewels, money, and everything they could for their own use, leaving little or nothing unless the burnt soil of the ground empty and useless.” (Clouston 1914:54) This description could have been transcribed from a monastic account of a Viking raid 500 years earlier. Lewismen also appear in Shetlandic folklore. In 1774, the Rev. George Low paid a visit to the island of Foula, where he collected folklore material and rescued some invaluable fragments of the Norn language from extinction. While he was enjoying the hospitality of the islanders, he heard stories, similar to those he knew from Orkney, about raids on Foula carried out by wild Lewismen: “Tradition says the Lewis-men in their plundering parties thro’ the isles landed here, and after pillaging Foula burnt the wood, lest it should be a shelter to the natives in future times. In Orkney we have many like traditions, true or false is hard to determine; however, it is certain the Western Highlanders did often make summer trips to these isles, and seldom returned empty handed. What further confirms this Foula tradition is, the old people here told me they, viz. the Lewis-men, went thence to the Ness of Schetland where members of them were killed, and I have the best information from Mr. Bruce of Sumburgh, that on his estate the sand often blows off and discovers heaps of bones, all thrown indiscriminately together, and to this day called Lewis-men’s grave.” (Low 1879:103) We can safely exonerate the Lewismen from Foula’s deforestation. Wood burning is a folk motif that occurs in other areas with a distinct lack of trees or with bogs full of tree roots. For example, Laurence Williamson of Mid Yell told how, after the Vikings, or Danes as he called them, had settled Fetlar, the woods were “burned by warring tribes to hinder each other” (Johnson 1971:143). Writing a few decades after George Low in 1822, Samuel Hibbert provided further information about the Lewismen: “… the natives of Lewis gratified their animosity by annually visiting this province for the sake of plunder. Upon landing in Shetland, they are said to have constructed some sort of inclosures on the steep banks of the coast, for the purpose of holding cattle and other plunder, preparatory for embarkation. Two fortresses well adapted for this purpose, appear on the south shores of Dunrossness; but at the Ness of Skeld, in the parish of Sandsting, there is the vestige of an enclosure to be seen, which is distinctly ascribed to these marauders. The Lewismen are affirmed to have had many battles with the Shetlanders, the last of which was with one of the Sinclairs of Brow, who is said to have marshalled the men of Dunrossness in goodly array on the plains of Sumburgh, and to have resolutely opposed the landing of the Highlanders. A severe engagement ensued, of which no particulars are handed down, except it had so sanguine a character, as perhaps A. Jennings 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 37 to have rivalled the best got-up skirmish of the times ... Not a Lewisman is said to have returned, who might report the fate of his companions. The Highlanders were rudely buried on the Links of Sumburgh, and tumuli of sand raised on their remains. Several of these, about half a century ago, were removed during the devastations of the blowing sand, when heaps of bones were discovered thrown indiscriminately together” (Hibbert 1931:93; Fig. 2) Hibbert does not merely copy Low, although he had clearly read him. Intriguingly, according to Hibbert, Shetlanders—just like the Orcadians as seen above—were attributing the building of archaeological structures to the Lewismen. Again the Lewismen have donned a folkloristic mantle. This story is reminiscent of the tradition, which occurs throughout Scotland, of attributing the building of forts, brochs, and crannogs to the Danes. It is unlikely that raiders would have had time to build an enclosure on the Ness of Skeld to hold their stolen cattle, although they might have used a pre-existing one. Hibbert also reports that the last battle was with a Sinclair of Brow and it is here, as we will see, that we leave folklore and enter history. It must also be clear that one feature the Shetland and Orkney traditions have in common, perhaps not surprisingly, is that, in these affrays, victory always goes to the Northern Islanders and the Westerners are justly slaughtered. Of course, it is possible there were occasions when this occurred; however, the earliest extant version of the tradition surrounding the Sumburgh affair records completely the opposite outcome. This earlier account was discovered by pioneering Shetland antiquary Gilbert Goudie in a curious manuscript in the Advocate’s Library in Edinburgh, which he published in an article in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1890 (Goudie 1890–1891:34–35). The manuscript was a description of the parish of Dunrossness by the Rev. James Kay, Minister there from 1682 to 1716. Kay evidently had access to a great deal more detail about the affair than survived a century later, when Hibbert was collecting his material, and clearly Hibbert did not have access to Kay’s manuscript. According to the Rev. Kay: "I can hear of no Battels fought in this place [Dunrossness]; only here (as in other places) they have not wanted Feuds, which have occasioned some skirmishes. One in the reign of Queen Mary between Oliver Sinclair of Brow in this parish and Hutchen of the Lews, the occasion whereof was this. William of the Lews having married an Heretrix in this Countrey, Oliver Sinclair being Fowd or Governor of the Country, feared lest William of the Lews, being a great man, should possibly have opposed him; therefore he concluded to make him away, to which he was not a little instigated by his wife. And because he could not avowedly effectuate his murderous design, he resolves at length upon this expedient, that he would go, and, in show of friendship, visit him, which done, under pretext of intimate Comradship, he would exchange pages with him. In the meantime he had conduced his page, thus exchanged, to kill him, which he did that same night. In revenge of whose death Hutchen of the Lews, brother to the deceased William, made several inroads into this Country; but his people here having advertisement given them by some of the inhabitants of the Fair Isle whom they had conduced to that purpose, for the first two attempts he prevailed not. But the third time he overtook the Fair Isle boat before she landed and put the boatmen to the edge of the sword. Which done, he landed at Gairth Banks without opposition, and made a great slaughter, especially about Figure 2. Quendale Beach, Dunrossness. A. Jennings 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 38 Quendale, a quarter of a mile from Brow, where in one morning fell above sixty souls. But Oliver himself fled to Soumburghhead, where being hotly pursued he leapt over, but eventually falling upon a bit of green in the clift of a rock, he escaped without more prejudice but the loss of an eye, and Hutchen is by Queen Mary commanded back." It is unclear where the Rev. Kay got his material, but it makes fascinating reading, with all the elements of a short Icelandic þáttr—jealousy, problematic females, murder most foul, revenge, and violence. Unfortunately, the Shetlanders seem to have been worsted in the skirmish. Goudie felt that the story was likely to “approximate to accuracy”, although it was not corroborated by any records that he was aware of. Goudie’s instincts were correct because documents have subsequently been published which support them. These documents, although lacking some details, corroborate Kay’s story. They show that there was a William of Lewis who was murdered in Shetland by the Foud (Governor) Olaf Sinclair and that a certain Hugh carried out attacks on Shetland, leading to the death of Olaf’s son. On 20 November 1544, a respite, or postponement of sentence, was issued at Stirling to Olaf Sinclair and five others, including his son Henry, and his uncles Magnus and Laurence, for the slaughter of William Lowis and his three servants in the previous year: “respite to Olaif Sinclare in Yetland, Henry Sinclare there, Maunis Sinclare there, Laurence Sinclare there, Henry Mowat there ,and David Sinclare there, for the slauchter of William Lowis and his three servants, committed in Yetland.” (Ballantyne and Smith 1999:53) This reprieve was followed by a further three respites, including one in 1564, where Olaf is given respite for: “the slaughter of William Lewis, William Makmaister, Nichol Donaldsoun and their complices, killed under silence of night in Yetland in June or thereabouts 1543, and for fireraising against them in manner of hamesucken of old enmity and forethought felony.” (Ballantyne and Smith 1999:53) Hamesucken means the invasion of a person in his dwelling house (DSL 2012). It appears that these Lewismen, perhaps asleep, were attacked in their house at night, and that the house was burned. They appear to have been domiciled in Shetland. Unfortunately for them, they had powerful enemies. Their murderers were amongst the most powerful men in Shetland, Olaf Sinclair, and his two uncles Magnus and Laurence Sinclair of Houss in Burra. Such illegal violence seems to be out of character for Olaf. To have acted in this way, he must have felt severely threatened. There are many details missing about this affair: for example, what were the Lewismen doing staying in a house in Shetland, where did the murder take place, and who exactly was William Lewis? It is likely that the murder was committed in the south of Shetland since the reprisals seem to have occurred there. The heart of Olaf Sinclair’s estates were in South Havera, where there is the place-name Sinclair’s Stove, and Brow in Dunrossness, which has disappeared beneath the sands. Houss in Burra is also in the south. The Rev. Kay relates that William’s brother was Hutchen of the Lewis, and that he attacked Shetland in revenge for his brother’s murder. Ballantyne and Smith (1999:71) have identified Hutchen with the Hugh Breif who received a remission in 1556 for earlier violent activities in the Northern Isles and elsewhere. Hugh and Hutchen are both anglicized versions of the Gaelic name Uisdean, itself a form of the Old Norse name Eysteinn. He is not described as William’s brother in the document, but there is no reason to doubt that this was the case. Hugh’s activities are described thus: “Remission to Hugh Breif in Trouternes, for the burning and destruction of corn houses and goods within the bounds of Yeitland, Orknay or other parts of the kingdom; and for the slaughter of the deceased Henry Sinclare, son of Ola Sinclare, ‘lie fowde’ of Yeitland; and for all other treasons, homicides, depredations, rapine, and spoliation committed by him.” (Ballantyne and Smith 1999:71) Henry Sinclair had been one of the slaughterers of William Lewis, so revenge could have been a motive. Presumably, the slaughter of 60 souls at Quendale was one of the “depredations”. However, there is likely to have been more to the affair. Hugh was a fascinating figure and is known from other sources. He was the chief of Clan Morrison and the hereditary breitheamh or lawman of the Sìol Torcail Lordship of Lewis, which encompassed both sides of the north Minch basin (Fig. 3; Thomas 1876–1878:506). He had a checkered relationship with the powerful chief of Sìol Torcail, Ruairidh MacLeod, having confessed on his deathbed in 1566 to having adulterously fathered Torquil Connonach on Ruairidh’s first wife, or, as his confession says “having carnale copulation with her” (Thomas 1876–1878:512). Accusations of this affair led to Ruairidh repudiating his first wife, who then departed to live with his nephew. In 1541, he subsequently married Barbara Stewart, one of the A. Jennings 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 39 leading figures in Orkney and Shetland, creating a specific, elite connection between the Northern and Western Isles, which is the crux of this story. Ambitious Gaelic chiefs desired to take wives who furthered their political ambitions. It is not coincidental that in 1543, two years after this marriage, which created a clear connection between Northern and Western Isles, Lewismen were murdered in Shetland. The Lewismen are likely to have been there at Barbara and Ruairidh’s behest, pursuing their claims to the skat (tax) of Shetland. William and servants were probably staying on one of their Shetland estates. Barbara Stewart was the sister-in-law of Margaret Tudor, the mother of James V of Scotland, and a powerful heretrix, having been married to the very independent-minded James Sinclair of Brecks. He had been the most domineering and energetic figure in both Orkney and Shetland from the 1520s until his death in 1536. He was criticized in a complaint sent by his cousin William, Lord Sinclair, to King and Lords of Council for acting, “as he war ane king in thai parties” (Ballantyne and Smith 1999:38). His brother was Edward Sinclair of Strom, Foud of Shetland in the 1530s. In 1535, Barbara, along with her husband James, had been given a feu charter by King James V, the first such in Orkney, to the islands of Sanday and Stronsay, and the holms of Auskerry, Papa Stronsay, and Rymstay, which might be North Ronaldsay (Clouston 1914:219–220). In 1539, she received a grant in her own name to her dead husband’s estate (Livingstone 1966). Her Orcadian lands were extensive, and she added to them throughout her life. In 1550, she gained a 19- year lease to Burray, Flotta, and Swona (Clouston 1914:243), giving her control of most of the islands on the eastern side of Orkney. Barbara had interests in Shetland, in which she followed her husband. James Sinclair of Brecks believed he had the right to collect rents from the extensive Shetland estate of his great uncle, the late Sir David Sinclair of Sumburgh. Thomson has suggested that James and his brother Edward completely laid waste the islands in 1524 in reprisal for Margaret Hepburn, Lady Sinclair (widow of James’ uncle, the late lord Henry Sinclair and another powerful heretrix) having obtained Sir David’s estate as a gift of bastardy from the Crown (Thomson 1987:136). Despite, or perhaps because of, his violent ways, James Sinclair was officially installed in 1535 as the tacksman, or lessee, for the Earldom, allowing him to collect the rents and skat from Shetland, as well as Orkney. After his death, Barbara Stewart seems to have tried to continue the tradition, although the tack and the right to collect the dues had returned to Margaret Hepburn, Lady Sinclair. In 1537, Barbara and 12 others were ordered to appear before the Council: “for art and part the stouthrief (theft carried out with force) and detention from Margaret, Lady Sinclare, of her rents of her lands and lordship of Scheitland, and for art and part of stouthrief from the tenants and inhabitants of the lordships of Scheitland and Orknay.” (Ballantyne and Smith 1999:40). Thomson has pointed out that the commodities recorded—marts, hides, swine, sheep, Figure 3. The Maritime locus of the Sìol Torcail. meal, butter, oil and A. Jennings 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 40 the Isles, acquired the extensive lands of Garmoran in 1346 and Ross in 1436 in the same way (Grant 1988:129). The Sìol Torcail were also no strangers to acquiring territory through marriage to an heiress. According to genealogical tradition, the MacLeods had acquired Lewis itself through marriage to a Nicolson heiress (Sellar 1997–1998). The couple remained married until Barbara’s death. They had a son, Torcail Oighre (Torquil the Heir), who would have become Chief of the Sìol Torcail if he had not drowned in the Minch in 1566, causing the struggles that ultimately led to the extirpation of the Lewis MacLeods. I would suggest that Olaf Sinclair and others would have felt threatened by this marriage. Barbara now had the support of Ruaraidh in pursuing her claims to the skat and the tack. One can imagine that for Olaf, the fact that Barbara, as relict of Sir James of Brecks, was imposing herself upon Shetland was bad enough, but any involvement of the warlike Gael Ruairidh MacLeod and his henchmen would have been a step too far. Of course, the Shetlanders would not know, and would not have cared in the least, that the MacLeods claimed to share the same Norse ethnic origin as themselves. According to the 17th century genealogy written by Duald Mac Firbis, the eponymous Leod was supposedly descended from “Helga of the beautiful hair, daughter of Harald, son of Ivar the Old, king of Norway” (Matheson 1981:78) If we view the presence of William Lewis in Shetland as a consequence of Barbara and Ruairidh’s attempts to support their ambitions there, it is hard not to see Hugh’s activities, perhaps in his role as breitheamh (law man) of the Sìol Torcail Lordship, as a chastizing reprisal on the Shetlanders for trying to thwart these very ambitions. From the Gaelic perspective, the breitheamh was expected to enforce the chief’s rights. Despite cuckolding Ruairidh, he and Hugh were associated at the time. On 23 July 1551, Patrick Davidson was paid £10 by the king's treasurer to go to Lewis to charge “M’Cleude of the Lewis and Hucheon of the Lewis to come to my Lord Governor [Arran] at the aireat Inverness.” (Thomas 1876–1878:511) It was as a result of his non-appearance that the Letters of Fire and Sword were issued against Ruairidh, meaning that both these instruments could be used against him. The extensive nature of Barbara’s and Ruairidh’s ambitions in the Northern Isles is probably corroborated by this report on 30 July 1550 from the Dutchman M. d’Eecke to Queen Mary, Governor of the Netherlands contained in the Spanish State papers: “Madam: We have been informed from Flushing that the wild Irish have taken from the Scots the islands of Farahil and Hetland, malt—make it clear they were collecting the skat and rents of Shetland (Thomson 1987:140). Barbara was clearly disputing the loss of the tack by collecting the skat. She was upholding her rights as she saw them. Lady Barbara Stewart, relict of James Sinclair of Brecks, was an extremely formidable woman. In 1541, she became the second wife of Ruairidh MacLeod, a man perhaps even more independentminded and intractable than her previous husband. Although he was a peculiar catch, who was famous for his adulterous behavior, they made a formidably powerful team. Barbara may have met him while he was being transported to Edinburgh as a prisoner. He, along with many other Hebridean chieftains, had been taken into custody by James V in 1540, and was being conveyed by sea along the north coast to the capital. He had been involved in the ill-fated insurrection against the Crown in 1539, which ended with the death of Donald Gorm MacDonald of Sleat at Eilean Donan Castle in Kintail. Ruairidh was one of the most powerful men in the Hebrides: as chief of the Sìol Torcail, he effectively controlled the entire north Minch basin. In addition to Lewis, he controlled the lands of Waternish on Skye, Assynt, Eddrachillis, Coigach, and Gairloch on the western littoral. His marriage to Barbara must have found favor with King James because, on its taking place, his lands were erected into the free barony of Lewis (Roberts 1999:131). However, this did not stop Ruairidh taking part in the next big rebellion in the Hebrides in 1544, the year after the killing of William of Lewis in Shetland, when the tragic Donald Dubh, who, freed after 37 years in captivity, attempted to re-establish the Lordship of Isles. Ruairidh attended the Council of the Isles on 28 July 1545, one of the purposes of which was to appoint commissioners to treat with Henry VIII, the brother of Barbara’s sisterin- law, on behalf of Donald Dubh. Ruairidh was later pardoned for this act of treason. However, this did not stop him from continuing to act independently. Letters of Fire and Sword were issued in 1554 for his utter extermination, after he refused to attend a Parliament at Inverness. Barbara must have seen in Ruairidh a powerful, warlike man who could help her maintain her position in the Northern Isles. MacCoinnich (2007:23) shows he must have had a large retinue of 1300 men, as well as numerous war galleys. He was a worthy replacement for James Sinclair of Brecks. For Ruairidh, there was Barbara’s estate of Sanday and Stronsay, and, of course, the tack of Orkney and Shetland. As James Sinclair had no male heirs, Ruairidh, through marriage to Barbara, became the effective owner of these Orkney islands. Heiresses could transmit territory. The MacDonald, Lord of A. Jennings 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 41 tories, perhaps as a subsidiary lordship? The answer surely lies both in the manifest opposition mounted in Shetland by Olaf Sinclair and in the political situation in later 16thcentury Lewis. After the death of Ruairidh and Barbara’s son Torquil Oighre, there was civil war, and the island descended into complete chaos. Ruairidh found himself imprisoned in Stornoway castle by Torquil Connonach on a couple of occasions, once for a period of 4 years. The MacLeods were ultimately too involved in fighting over who should rule Lewis to think about Orkney and Shetland. In addition, at some point between 1566 and 1570, Barbara Stewart must have died, because Ruairidh married for a third time. However, if the ill-fated Torquil Oighre had not drowned in 1566, he would have inherited lands in Lewis and the Northern Isles, and close connections would have been maintained between Scotland’s Gaelic and Norse archipelagos. One might even have seen the permanent settlement of some Gaelic speaking Lewismen in Shetland. However, this was not to be. Literature Cited Armit, J. 1834–1845. Parish of Westray. Pp. 114–132, In the New Statistical Account of 1834–1845 vol.15. William Blackwood and Sons Publishers, Edinburgh and London, UK. Available online at http://stat-accscot. edina.ac.uk/link/1834-45/Orkney/Westray/. Accessed 26 October 2011. Ballantyne, J.H., and B. Smith. (Eds.). 1999. Shetland Documents 1195–1579. Shetland Islands Council and The Shetland Times Ltd Publishers, Lerwick, UK. 359 pp. Barry, G. 1805. History of the Orkney Islands. Archibald Constable and Company Publishers, Edinburgh, UK. 509 pp. Clouston, J. (Ed.). 1914. Records of the Earldom of Orkney 1299–1614 (Vol. VII). Scottish History Society Publishers, Edinburgh, UK. 515 pp. DSL = Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2012. Available online at http://www.dsl.ac.uk/. Accessed 3 August 2012. Donaldson, G. 1958. Shetland Life under Earl Patrick. Oliver and Boyd Publishers, Edinburgh and London, UK. 149 pp. Goudie, G. 1890–1891. Some forgotten incidents and personages in the local history of Shetland. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 25:30–63. Available online at http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/ catalogue/adsdata/arch-352-1/dissemination/pdf/ vol_025/25_030_068.pdf. Accessed 26 October 2011. Grant, A. 1988. Scotland's Celtic fringe. Pp. 118–141, In R.R. Davies (Ed.). The British Isles 1100–1500: Comparisons, Contrasts, and Connections. J. Donald Publishers, Edinburgh, UK. 159 pp. Groome, F.H. 1882. Ordnance Gazeteer of Scotland. T.C. Jack Publishers, Edinburgh, UK. 339 pp. Hibbert, S.A. 1931. A Description of the Shetland Islands. T. and J. Manson Publishers, Lerwick, UK. 334 pp. (fn. 7) and are practising piracy in those regions. They have already taken several herring-boats from this country, and we have since heard that the Scots are arming some ships, which will also harm our fishermen unless your Majesty's men-of-war see to it. It may well be that the Scots and Irish will join forces, for they are almost one people, and the inhabitants of the Hebrides and Orcades, though subjects of the crown of Scotland, often rebel and prey upon all comers.” (Tyler 1914: 135–149) Despite neither Barbara nor Ruairidh being mentioned by name, I would suggest they were involved. Gaels were often referred to as Irish, reflecting their cultural and linguistic identity. It is possible that they had seized Fair Isle, adding it to their territories. Barbara may have had some claim to the island, but, Ruairidh was perfectly capable of taking it as swordland. After all, he held the Hebridean island of Raasay, from the Bishop of the Isles, by the sword (Mac- Coinnich 2007:19). The report also supplies a likely reason why they would have wanted to hold Fair Isle. Any fishing boats sailing between Orkney and Shetland would have to run the gauntlet. The men of Lewis were no strangers to piracy. Low’s account of attacks on Foula should be taken into account here too. Control of Foula would have increased their effectiveness; perhaps there was a desire to control the fishing. MacCoinnich (2007:24) has argued that the Sìol Torcail controlled the fishing in the North Minch Basin; perhaps a similar process was at work here. It may also have been Ruairidh behind the attacks on Westray and Papa Westray, islands which did not belong to Barbara, recorded in the Books of Assumption, which list, for the newly reformed kirk, the income of church properties in Scotland in the first half of the 1560s. Here, it claims that the lands of the Orkney bishopric in Westray and Papa Westray “is lyand waist in hieland menis punisoun this last year” (Kirk 1995: 655) and further, that the parsonage of Westray Cross Kirk “is wastit be the Lewis men.” (Kirk 1995:666) Perhaps Ruaraidh was still considered a threat in 1576, when Robert Cheyne, in his grant of the island of Vaila, was required according to the Register of the Privy Seal: “to big ane hous and fortrice upoun the said islandis of Valay for sauftie thairof fra the heland men, perattis and utheris invasionis.” (Donaldson 1958:78) If Ruairidh MacLeod’s ambitions were as extensive as I have suggested in the Northern Isles, why did Sanday, Stronsay, and perhaps lands in Shetland not become permanent additions to MacLeod terriA. Jennings 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 42 Jakobsen, J. 1928. Dictionary of the Norn Language in Shetland. 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Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness 51:68–80. Roberts, J.L. 1999. Feuds, Forays, and Rebellions: History of the Highland Clans 1475–1625. Edinburgh University Press Publishers, Edinburgh, UK. 240 pp. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) Canmore. 2011. Westray, the Bloody Tuacks. Available online at http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/2793/details/ westray+the+bloody+tuacks/. Accessed 3 August 2012 Sellar, W.D. 1997–1998. The ancestry of the MacLeods reconsidered. Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness 55:233–258. Thomas, C. 1876–1878. Traditions of the Morrisons (Clan MacGhillemhuire), hereditary judges of Lewis. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 12:503–556. Available online at http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/ catalogue/adsdata/arch-352-1/dissemination/pdf/ vol_012/12_503_556.pdf. Accessed 23 October 2011. Thomson, W P. 1987. History of Orkney. The Mercat Press Publishers, Edinburgh, UK. 321 pp. Tyler, R. (Ed.). 1914. Calendar of State Papers - Spain Volume 10: 1550–1552. 650 pp. Available online at http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report. aspx?compid=88408. Accessed 26 October 2011.