The House

Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross

- Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat MP

While the locals in my constituen­cy are known to become a touch boisterous after a good Highland wedding, this is as nothing compared to the days when the Vikings were all powerful in the furthest north of Scotland. Nordic place names in Caithness (eg Wick meaning ‘inlet’ or ‘bay’) are everywhere. Indeed, in Easter Ross, my hometown of Tain probably derives from the Norse word ‘althing’, meaning “meeting place”. More of that town anon.

The real thug was Sigurd the Mighty, the second Earl of Orkney, who specialise­d in duffing over the locals and generally conquering most of my constituen­cy. He was a noise in the land in his day (875-892) and was much feared by humble folk who wanted to get on with a quiet life. Indeed, when the word got out that he was due to leave Orkney and come looting and pillaging, most sensible people headed for the hills.

But – and it’s a big but – Sigurd’s dodgy reputation was ultimately to be his undoing. Towards the end of his reign, Sigurd challenged a local bigwig, Máel Brigte, to a 40-man-a-side battle but because Sigurd cheated big time and brought along 80 toughs to Máel’s 40; Mael was defeated and subsequent­ly beheaded. Wahey! After battle, Sigurd tied Máel’s head to his saddle and while he was galloping along, alas and alack, one of Máel’s famous buckteeth cut Sigurd’s leg and poisoned him.

That was the finish of Sigurd the Mighty.

Apart from numerous clan wars, and an unfortunat­e episode when King Robert the Bruce’s wife took sanctuary in St Duthuc in Tain but was neverthele­ss betrayed and handed over to the English in 1306, life has been generally peaceful. Oh! Apart from the 1745 Rebellion during which one of my ancestors was assassinat­ed.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom