Festningen Sinclair& Girnigoe ligger omtrent 5 km nord for Wick. Den skal være et av de tidligste tilholdstedene for Sinclairklanen. Bildet er lånt fra Wikipedia.


Translation into English by
Norman Henderson


 Web: Geir Neverdal (lektor/cand.philol) - Sel Historielag


Connections with Scotland




Background - The Battle - Myths?Significance - Objects - Literature - Scotland - Programme2012


Connections between Norway and Scotland have been close - and
important - since the early Viking era.

1) The Orkney Islands, Shetland og Scotland
The Orkney Islands and Shetland were populated by Norwegians towards the end of the 8th and the first half of the 9th centuries AD.

In relation to that times standards, Norway began to be overpopulated, and the availability of natural resourses and land for cultivation were reduced.

The Norwegians who arrived in the Orkneys forced the original inhabitants the Picts out, and Norrønt/Norwegian became the spoken language of the Islands.

After Harald Hårfagre (Harald Fairhair) had united Norway into one nation, many of his opponents left the country, and some established themselves on the Orkney Islands. From here they carried out raids, plundering both Scotland and Norway.


This resulted in Harald Hårfagre forming a large fleet and around the
year 875 Harald and his men took control of, and
annexed, both the
Orkney and Shetland Islands. Both these island groups were then
established as an Earldom governed by Rangvald Mørejarl. Harald gave
the Orkney Islands and Shetland (then known as Hjaltland) to Rangvald
Mørejarl as compensation for the loss of his unmarried son Ivar, who
had been killed in battle in Scotland. Rangvald Mørejarl passed the
islands on to his brother Sigurd Eysteinsson, who was known as Sigurd den mektige (Sigurd the Mighty). (Wikipedia)

2) The Normans
Gangerolv, Rangvald Mørejarl's son, conquered Normandie and many
Norwegians, including himself, remained and lived there in the 10th century. One of his decendants was Vilhelm Erobreren (William the Conqueror), who invaded England in 1066.

One of his men from Normandie was the founding ancestor of the Clan Sinclair. Another of his decendants later became Jarl av Orkney, and from 1455(?) Jarl av Katanes (Earl of Caithness). This title is also used by the present Clan Chief, Malcolm Sinclair.
The illustrations to the right are borrowed from Wikipedia.

More about this follows.

  1) The Viking Era ca 800-1050

Apart from these warring activities, there existed a more peaceful colonisation of the islands to the West.
Norwegians occupied the Orkney Islands, Shetland (Hjaltland), the Isle of Man and the
(Norroent Suðreyjar). The North of Scotland and Ireland were also areas of interest to the Norwegians.
Dublin was founded by Vikings in the 840s and was the seat of a Nordic kingdom until 1171, writes Bergljot Solberg in Store norske leksikon.

  The Norwegian/Norrønt (Old Norse) language existed for a long time

An attempt has been made on this map to show where Norwegian/Ol Norse was spoken.

Angell maintains:

"One has only to read the Orkney Islands Saga and our own Kings Sagas to see how strong and close the connections were between these aforementioned Scottish areas and the nearby Norwegian islands as well as with the old country. One doesn't have to go there to see the similarity between the Norwegian and Scottish languages, or to hear it in the tone; one can easily see it in the names of places and people, read it out of the folksongs which still survive. Fadervoret (Our Father) is to be found on the island on the other side of the Pentland Firth, and is still quite clearly Norwegian, that is old Norwegian. In a newly published historical work about St. Clairætten (i.e. the Sinclair family) it is written that in districts of the old Norwegian settlement areas, Norwegian was still spoken as late as the latter half of the 18th century. Norwegian was not driven out of the schools before then. (p.28)


"after hearing this, one can perhaps understand that the claim, put forward in Gudbrandsdalen, that Sinclair and many of his men could understand Norwegian, isn't so unreasonable. (p.29)

Language distribution early in the 1100s in Scotland:
Old Norse/Gaelic area
English-speaking area
Possible Cumbric-speaking, but probably also Gaelic in the West and English in the East.

The illustration is borrowed from Wikipedia.


  2) The Normans - "Gange-Rolv", ancestor of William the Conqueror  
  Rollo/Gange-Rolv Ragnvaldsson (lived around the year 900AD).
He was the son of Rangvald Mørejarl and Hild Rolvsdatter

"Snorri Sturluson relates in his Kings Sagas that Gange-Rolv conquered Normandie (in the North-West of France) after first having wreaked havoc in the Hebrides, the Irish Sea and France, and that many Norwegians settled in Normandie with him."

"Sources tell that he allowed himself to be baptised in 912 and that he most probably died sometime between 928 and 932. Rollo's descendants were Dukes in Normandie until 1202. (Claus Krag in Store norske leksikon)

The photograph shows the statue of Rollo in Rouen in Normandie, where Gange-Rolv was buried (The Sagas explain his nickname as being the result of the fact that he was so tall/heavy that he could not sit on a horse (Old Norse Gǫngu-Hrólfr, Rolf who walks)

Gange-Rolv was William the First of Normandie's father (893 - 942), also known as William Longsword. His son was Richard the First of Normandie (ca 935 - 996), who was father to Richard the Second of Normandie (963 - 1027).

The illustration is borrowed from Wikipedia.


His son, Robert the First of Normandie (1000 - 1035) was father to William the Conqueror 1027 - 1087) who conquered England in 1066 and became the ancestor to several English Kings.


The result of the victory was that for several centuries French was spoken at the Court in England - and that many words in today's English language are of French origin.

William the Conqueror as shown on the Bayeaux Tapestry.
To the left and right of him his half-brothers Odo from Bayeaux, and Robert. (Wikipedia)

The illustration is borrowed from Wikipedia.


"Gangerolv" = Rollo?

Norwegian and Icelandic history agree that Gangerolv and Rollo were one and the same person

"The oldest written support for this is to be found in the Latin Historia Norvegiæ (approx. 1180), which was written in Norway. Snorri relates in his Kings Sagas that Gange-Rolv conquered Normandie after first having wreaked havoc in the Hebrides, the Irish Sea and France, and that many Norwegians settled in Normandie with him." (SNL)

"A lively discussion ensued at the end of the 1800s as to who Rollo was. The discussion, which was in part governed by nationality (with Danish and Norwegian historians on respective sides), gained special relevance in the period leading up to the celebration of Normandie's thousand-year Anniversary in 1911. An important point in the debate, apart from Rollo's identity, was how the terms "Norwegians" and "Danes" should be interpreted in the Middle Age sources, and also where "Danish" or "Norwegian" settlements had been.

The Danish historian Johannes Steenstrup (1844-1935) started the debate. His main argument was based on clear statements by the French historian Dudo of St. Quentin that Rollo was Danish...

Norwegian historians - the most important of them being Gustav Storm, Alexander Bugge and Ebbe Hertzberg - cast doubt on Dudo's credibility as a source, and pointed out how completely unreliable his presentation was otherwise in his writings about Rollo and Denmark, based on historical and geographical information which bore no semblance to reality. They added weight to their argument by claiming that Rollo had a daughter, Gerloc (Geirlaug), whose name more closely suggested a Norwegian connection, and that based also on French reasoning in writings earlier than Dudo's, there is a traditional belief that Rollo was Norwegian.

The question as to who Rollo was will never be able to be answered with finality. But amongst Norwegian as well as French and British historians, it is now generally accepted that, based on the available sources - and given the choice between the two existing possibilities -
most things point to Norwegian origins. (


Investigations are being carried out to clarify this: Advanced gene technology is to be used to find the answer. According to the national newspaper Aftenposten, the research foundation Explico - with financial support from two major actors in the field of Business, Fred. Olsen and Christian Sveaas - will exhume two of his descendants, his grandchild Richard the First and his great grandchild Richard the Second, in the Autumn of 2010. (The whereabouts of Rollo's own remains is unknown, but the remains of his two decendants are entombed in sarcophagi in the town of Fécamp).
Read more about this in Aftenposten (Sat. 21. Aug. 2010
- in Norwegian)

  Clan Sinclair  

Richard of Saint-Clair and Brittel of Saint-Clair nevnes begge i "the Domesday Book".

The Sinclair family originally came from Normandie. The name has associations with the place name Saint-Clair-sur Epte. They originally came to England with William the Conqueror in 1066.

Angell maintains that the first St. Clair (Sinclair) who came to Scotland was the son of the daughter of Richard, Duke of Normandie, who had Gangerolv as one of his parents (and consequently ancestral connections with the North-West of Norway
(Angell p.22).

Richard of Saint-Clair and Brittel of Saint-Clair are both mentioned in
"the Domesday Book".

On the right: The Coat of Arms of the Earl of Katanes (the Earl of Caithness), who is today: Malcolm Sinclair, 20th Earl of Caithness.

The illustration is borrowed from Wikipedia

  How did they come to Scotland?  

William of Saint-Clair accompanied Saint Margaret of Scotland, daughter of Edward the Exile, to Scotland in 1068 where she married Malcolm lll of Scotland.

In appreciation, the Scottish KIng is said to have given Sinclair "the Barony of

Chief Sir Henry Sinclair, 2nd Baron of Roslin (1060 -1110), led a successful attack on England at the Battle of Alnwick in 1093.

The photograph on the right shows Roslin (Rosslyn) Castle. The fortress was built by the Sinclair family in the 1300s.

The illustration is borrowed from Wikipedia

  One of the first Sinclairs to be mentioned in Scotland was Chief Henry of Saint-Clair/Sinclair, 3rd Baron of Roslin, who was awarded a Charter in 1160 granting him the rights to the Herdmanston land area in Haddington.  
  Clan Sinclair in the Orkneys  
  (coming later)  
  Clan Sinclair's castles/fortresses  
Castle Sinclair & Girnigoe

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe is a fortified structure which lies some five km (3.1 miles) North of Wick, on the East coast of Caithness. It was built by William Sinclair, the second Earl of Caithness, probably sometime between 1476 and 1496, but before he died in the Battle of Flodden in 1513.

It wasn't before the 1600s that the name was changed from Castle Girnigoe to Castle Sinclair - but both names continued to be used.

In 1690 the fortress was besieged and destroyed.

In recent years
The Clan Sinclair Trust has started restoration of the Castle. It is of both historical and architectural importance. When the restoration is completed the castle will be one of the few open to the public which are suitable for handicapped visitors.

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe is a fortified structure which lies some five
km (3.1 miles) North of Wick, on the East coast of Caithness.
The illustration is borrowed from Wikipedia


Roslin Castle

The first Roslin/Rosslyn Castle was built in the 1300s for Henry Sinclair, Earl of Orkney.

In 1447? or 1452? the castle was partly destroyed by fire, and around 1650 it was bombarded by cannon fire from Oliver Cromwell's forces in Scotland.

Part of the structure has also served as living quarters in recent times and today's owner, the
Earl of Rosslyn, also a descendant of the Sinclair family, rents out the Castle as holiday accommodation.

 Roslin (Rosslyn) Castle.
The illustration is borrowed from Wikipedia

The Castle of Mey

George, the 4th Earl of Caithness, had "The Castle of Mey" built for his second son, William Sinclair.

It was owned by the Sinclair family until 1889. In 1952 Queen Elisabeth, the Queen Mother, bought the property and it has been in the care of "The Queen Elisabeth Castle of Mey Trust" since 1966.

It is now open to the public for much of the year, apart from a ten-day period at the end of July, beginning of August, when Prince Charles and Camilla are normally in residence.


The Castle of Mey was built between 1566 and 1572, possibly on the site of an earlier fortification, by George Sinclair, 4th Earl of Caithness.
The illustration is borrowed from Wikipedia.

  Rosslyn Chapel  
  (coming later)  
  Clan Sinclair - the 1500s  
  (coming later)  
  Clan Sinclair - the 1600s  
  (coming later)  
  George Sinclair - The Scottish March  
  (coming later)  
  Clan Sinclair - the 1700s  
  (coming later)  
  Clan Sinclair - the Tartans  
  (coming later)  
  Clan Sinclair members in Norway throughout history  
  (coming later)  
  Dagens Chief: Malcolm Sinclair, 20th Earl of Caithness
  Today's clan chief is a British Conservative politician and member of the House of Lords as one of the remaining hereditary peers. The Earl was educated at Marlborough College and Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester.

Lord Caithness served as a House of Lords government whip under Margaret Thatcher from 1984 to 1985. He then moved to the Department of Transport as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, serving until 1986 when he became a Minister of State at the Home Office. In 1988 he was once again moved, this time to be Minister of State at the Department of Environment.
In 1989, he became Paymaster-General.

The Earl of Caithness, Malcolm Sinclair
Takk til Ian Sinclair KGCTpl. {Hon. Archivist and
Historian to the Clan Sinclair Study Centre} for lån av bildet.


In 1990, Lord Caithness was again moved to the Foreign Office as a Minister of State, and then in 1992 back to the Department of Transport.



(More (coming later)


  Castle Sinclair Girnigoe  
  Rosslyn Chapel  
  The Halkirk Highland Games  
  Clan Sinclair in the USA  
  Clan Ramsay  
  (coming later)  

Background - The Battle - Myths?Significance - Objects - Literature - Scotland - Programme2012