Inishowen and the Vikings
Inishowen holds the distinction of having the largest number of finds of hoards of Viking silver in Donegal. In the tenth century, a fleet of Viking ships sailed up Lough Foyle, thirty-two in total and engaged local chiefs in battle. In another incident, they were attacked by Fergal, a local chief and son of Donal, who slaughtered the crew and confiscated the ship and its cargo. In the 1930s a hoard of Viking brooches was discovered in a court tomb at Quigley’s Point known as the Dane’s House. They were described as arm bands and can be viewed in the National Museum in Dublin. These objects may well have been deposited following one such battle in Lough Foyle or its vicinity. From their base in Lough Foyle, the Vikings had launched murderous attacks on Armagh and other renowned sites.
There is no sound archaeological evidence for Viking settlement along the coast of Inishowen but, like the remnants of a great jig-saw, there are numerous references to them in names of places and headlands, mooring places, family Christian names and surnames, and in tenth century literature. Because of its location and proximity to the shallow and sheltered waters of Trabrega Bay, the castle at Carrickabraghy is reputed to have been close to the site of a Viking base. An early tenth century poem, “Ard na Scela, a mhic na ccuach” makes one such reference. There is also a comment about about one hundred ounces of Viking silver in the same poem. It begins with an address, “A mheic na ccuach”, (O son of the goblets) to an unidentified bearer of the news that Eichnechan, son of the Dalach, is dead. The poet comments that it would be hard for him to enumerate all the gifts given to him by Eichnechan, the lord of Fanad: 15 steeds, 5 gold armulets and five drinking horns, 100 ounces of pure Viking silver and pure white silver a herd of cattle and seven teams of oxen. The language is ostentatious, propagandist and colourful but there is no reason to doubt that the references to such great riches as Viking silver are genuine.
Plans are afoot to restore Carrickabraghy, a deserving enterprise because of its place in medieval folklore and literature.
2 Replies to “Inishowen and the Vikings”
Great article Sean! There is a place called “Norway” in Tullagh in Clonmany…..also an alleged Viking Fortress remains in Dunaff in Urris. Sarah Owen from Gortnahinchin, Clonmany once told me of a Viking battle which was supposed to have taken place in the “cuts” between Effishmore and Tirhoran, Clonmany. She said that the Vikings came in over Pinch, having moored their boats in the Swilly, most likely off Dunree and met in battle with locals who were protecting the monastery in Straid. I must get some more information on this and pass it to you.
Jennifer – thanks for your information which is of great interest especially the reference to Norway.