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About Me

Capt. Alan Price

A global traveled lecturer on Viking Shetland-Pembrokeshire history, Alan, based in London, having turned down a position at the Viking Institute, now spends much of his time "in-the-field" gathering, and researching, fresh evidence on Shetland and in Pembrokeshire. Ireland, Iceland, and Greenland are, also, destinations well featured in Alan's itinerary.


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The History of Shetland concerns the subarctic archipelago of Shetland in Scotland. The early history of the islands is dominated by the influence of the Vikings. From the 14th century it was incorporated into the Kingdom of Scotland, and later into the United Kingdom.

By the end of the 9th century the Scandinavians shifted their attention from plundering to invasion, mainly due to the overpopulation of Scandinavia in comparison to resources and arable land available there.

Shetland was colonised by Norsemen in the 9th century, the fate of the existing indigenous population being uncertain. The colonists gave it that name and established their laws and language. That language evolved into the West Nordic language Norn, which survived into the 19th century.

After Harald Finehair took control of all Norway, many of his opponents fled, some to Orkney and Shetland. From the Northern Isles they continued to raid Scotland and Norway, prompting Harald Hårfagre to raise a large fleet which he sailed to the islands. In about 875 he and his forces took control of Shetland and Orkney. Ragnvald, Earl of Møre received Orkney and Shetland as an earldom from the king as reparation for his son's being killed in battle in Scotland. Ragnvald gave the earldom to his brother Sigurd the Mighty.

Shetland was Christianised in the 10th century.

Pembrokeshire mercenaries, on reaching Shetland, found the local women initially unfriendly as they claimed that they (the Welshmen) were not clean enough. To address this problem, and prove their masculinity, they decided to have a ritualistic cleansing festival. This eventually became known as HAAGDYVE

Mavis Grind, the bathing site chosen to enable participants to wash, connects the North Sea and Atlantic and, as such, is the only place on the mainland where a Longship can be dragged from the North Sea to the Atlantic Ocean avoiding a long diversion north or south. The word grind means crossing place in Shetland’s old language. It appears the local women succumbed to the handsome and now cleaner Welshmen.

The Vikings and Welsh mercenaries returned to Northern Islands regularly, however, the Welsh remained on the British island, now called Shetland; whilst the Vikings returned home to prepare the next voyage.


In 875, Harald Hårfagre took control of the islands; 1195 witnessed Harald Maddadsson lose the earldom of Shetland and the islands were put directly under the Norwegian king Sverre Sigurdsson.

“HAAGDYVE (Word origin): Derived from the "Norm" language. ” — Dr. M. Williams

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Bishops Palace at St. Davids Cathedral: Many of the bishops were murdered by raiders and marauders, including Bishop Moregenau in 999 and Bishop Abraham in 1080.

Norn is an extinct North Germanic language that was spoken in the Northern Isles (Orkney and Shetland) off the north coast of mainland Scotland and in Caithness in the far north of the Scottish mainland. After Orkney and Shetland were pledged to Scotland by Norway in 1468/69 it was gradually replaced by Scots. Norse settlement in the islands probably began in the early 9th century. These settlers are believed to have arrived in very substantial numbers and like those who migrated to Iceland and the Faroe Islands it is probable that most came from the west coast of Norway. Shetland toponymy bears some resemblance to that of northwest Norway, while Norn vocabulary implies links with more southerly Norwegian regions.

The Viking Age

During the Viking Age, Scandinavian men and women travelled to many parts of north Pembrokeshire, Europe and beyond, in a cultural diaspora that left its traces from Shetland to Newfoundland to Byzantium. This period of energetic activity also had a pronounced effect in the Scandinavian homelands, which were subject to a variety of new influences. In the 300 years from the late 8th century, when contemporary chroniclers first commented on the appearance of Viking raiders, to the end of the 11th century, Scandinavia underwent profound cultural changes.

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Fishguard in North Pembrokeshire, was also known as Fissigart, Fisgard, Fysgard, Fiscarde, Fiscard, Ffiskard, Fishgard, Fyshcard, Fisshecard, Fishingard, Fissingard, Fyshingegard, Fysshyngarde, Fyshinggard, Ffishingard or Ffishinggard. From O.N. fiskr, "a fish" and garðr, "an enclosure." Fistard, on the southwest of the Isle of Man, is identically derived. The name probably refers to the location as being an ideal one for catching fish, and the harbor at Fishguard is an excellent one that would have attracted Hiberno-Norse traders.
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Goodwick, adjacent Fishguard in North Pembrokeshire, probably derives from a combination of the old Norse forms: góðr (good) and vik (bay or cove) giving góðrvik. Compare formation with Reykjavík (Smoking Bay) where reykr = 'smoke'.
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MS Stena Europe - 1,400 passengers, 452 berths, 456 cars, 1,120 freight lane meters - is a ferry owned by Stena Line whose headquarters are in the Viking city of Gothenburg, Sweden and operates on their Fishguard—Rosslare service. Thus, North Pembrokeshire, to this day, remains of strategic importance to Scandinavian business.

Genetic legacy

Studies of genetic diversity provide indication of the origin and expansion of the Viking population. Haplogroup I-M253 (defined by specific genetic markers on the Y chromosome) mutation occurs with the greatest frequency among Scandinavian males: 35% in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, and peaking at 40% in south-western Finland. It is also common near the southern Baltic and North Sea coasts, and successively decreases further to the south geographically.

Female descent studies show evidence of Norse descent in areas closest to Scandinavia, such as the Shetland and Orkney islands. Inhabitants of lands farther away show most Norse descent in the male Y-chromosome lines.

A specialised genetic and surname study in Liverpool showed marked Norse heritage: up to 50% of males of families that lived there before the years of industrialisation and population expansion. High percentages of Norse inheritance—tracked through the R-M420 haplotype—were also found among males in the Wirral and West Lancashire. This was similar to the percentage of Norse inheritance found among males in the Orkney Islands.

Recent research suggests that the Celtic warrior Somerled, who drove the Vikings out of western Scotland and was the progenitor of Clan Donald, may have been of Viking descent, a member of haplogroup R-M420.