Session 56: Ystafell 8
Celtic and Norse: literature, culture and society

Chair: Jason Walford Davies

Rǫgnvaldr, king of Man and the Isles, and the Welsh Charlemagne stories

Barry Lewis
Institiúid Ard-Léinn Bhaile Átha Cliath (DIAS)

Some manuscripts of the Welsh Charlemagne cycle contain what appear to be dedications to one Ranallt vrenhin yr Ynysed. Dismissed as nonsense by the editor, Stephen J. Williams, these passages were partially rehabilitated by Ronald Walpole and Annalee Rejhon, who showed that Ranallt was Rǫgnvaldr/Reginald, king of Man and the Isles (d. 1229). However, the precise role of Rǫgnvaldr in the making of the Welsh texts has not been properly understood. In this paper I review the passages and seek an economical explanation of their presence. I cast doubt on whether Rǫgnvaldr had any role in commissioning the Welsh text. Nevertheless, the translator did use an exemplar that had reached him through Rǫgnvaldr in some way, and this fits with other evidence for links between Man and Wales around the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.


Cultural borders overcome?! Vikings and the Gaelic-speaking population on the Western Isles and the Isle of Man

Gerit Schwenzer

In the medieval period, the Western Isles of Scotland and the Isle of Man were occupied by both Vikings and descendants from Irish immigrants. Evidences of settlements and burial grounds of both cultures are known and documented. The question of co-existence or peaceful communal life of the two parties is not settled yet.

In the archaeological record hints of evidence for both types of cases can be found. This paper focuses on the possiblity of a peaceful community life shared by Vikings as well as the Gaelic-speaking population using specifically archaeological evidence, but also contemporary historical evidence and linguistics. These include notes in chronicles as well as place names. Considering the archaeological records, settlements, burial grounds and hoards are looked at regarding features and finds that might indicate an intercultural life in a variety of categories, from family life to community and maybe even trade.

A choice of archaeological sites on the Western Isles and the Isle of Man will be introduced and discussed. The time span covered is around 800-1200 A.D. In that time frame the social development in these chosen communities, as far as it is possible, shall be demonstrated as well as compared.

Gaelic society in Argyll and the southern Hebrides in the ‘Norse Age’

Alasdair Whyte
Oilthigh Ghlaschu (Glasgow)

This paper analyses Gaelic society in Argyll and the southern Hebrides in the eighth and ninth centuries through local place-names, with particular focus on evidence from the island of Mull. The paper is based on proposals made in the speaker’s doctoral thesis (University of Glasgow, 2017), supervised by Professor Thomas Owen Clancy and Dr. Simon Taylor, and on subsequent research. Local place-names of the period were coined in two languages: Gaelic and Old Norse. Close analysis of the syntax, etymology and referents of these Gaelic names, as well as their distribution within the context of Old Norse place-names, local archaeology, topography and soil analysis, provides evidence for the continued presence of Gaelic-speakers from the eighth century into the ninth century and beyond. This paper considers the dynamics of local secular and ecclesiastical authority in proposing a nuanced view of local society in the period.