were a people who dominated much of the Irish Sea
region and western Scotland
for a large part of the Middle Ages
, who were of Scandinavian
origin and as a whole exhibited a great deal of Gaelic
. They are generally known by the Gaelic name which they themselves used, of which "Norse-Gaels" is a translation. This term is subject to a large range of variations depending on chronological and geographical differences in the Gaelic language
, i.e. Gall Gaidel
, Gall Gaidhel
, Gall Gaidheal
, Gall Gaedil
, Gall Gaedhil
, Gall Gaedhel
, Gall Goidel
, etc, etc. The terminology was used both by some Irish and some Scots who wished to alienate them, and by the Norse-Gaels themselves who wished to stress their Scandinavian heritage and Gaelic heritage and their links with Norway
and other parts of the Scandinavian world and Gaelic world. The nativised presence of Norsemen in Ireland
also lent at least one self-reference, that of Ostmen
. Other modern translations used include Scoto-Norse
and Foreign Gaels
The Norse-Gaels originated in Viking colonies of Ireland and Scotland who became subject to the process of Gaelicization, whereby starting as early as the ninth century, most intermarried with native Gaels (except for the Norse who settled in Cumbria) and adopted the Gaelic language as well as many other Gaelic customs. Many left their original worship of Norse gods and converted to Christianity, and this contributed to the Gaelicization. Gaelicized Scandinavians dominated the Irish Sea region until the Norman era of the twelfth century, founding long-lasting kingdoms, such as the Kingdoms of Man, Argyll, Dublin, York and Galloway. The Lords of the Isles, a Lordship which lasted until the sixteenth century, as well as many other Gaelic rulers of Scotland and Ireland, traced their descent from Norse-Gaels. The Norse-Gaels settlement in England was concentrated in the North West
The Norse are first recorded in Ireland in 795 when they sacked Lambay Island. Sporadic raids then continued until 832, after which they began to build fortified settlements throughout the country. Norse raids continued throughout the tenth century, but resistance to them increased. They suffered several defeats at the hands of Malachy II, and in 1014 Brian Boru broke the power of the Norse permanently at Clontarf.
The Norse established independent kingdoms in Dublin. Waterford. Wexford, Cork and Limerick. These kingdoms did not survive the subsequent Norman invasions, but the towns continued to grow and prosper. The Norse became fully absorbed into the religious and political life of Ireland.
Iceland and the Faroes
It is recorded in the Landnamabok
that there were papar
before the Norse, and this appears to tie in with comments of Dicuil
. However, whether or not this is true, the settlement of Iceland and the Faroe
islands by the Norse would have included many Norse-Gaels, as well as slaves, servants and wives. They were called "Vestmen
", and the name is retained in Vestmanna
in the Faroes, and the Vestmannaeyjar
off the Icelandic mainland, where it is said that Irish slaves escaped to. ("Vestman" may have referred to the lands and islands "west" of mainland Scandinavia
A number of Icelandic personal names are of Gaelic origin, e.g. Njáll Þorgeirsson of Njáls saga had a forename of Gaelic origin - Niall. Patreksfjörður, an Icelandic village also contains the name Padraig. A number of placenames named after the papar, Irish monks, exist on Iceland and the Faroes.
According to some circumstantial evidence, Grímur Kamban, seen as the founder of the Norse Faroes, may have been a Norse Gael.
- "According to the Faereyinga Saga... the first settler in the Faroe Islands was a man named Grímur Kamban - Hann bygdi fyrstr Færeyar, it may have been the land taking of Grímur and his followers that cauysed the anchorites to leave... the nickname Kamban is probably Gaelic and one interpretation is that the word refers to some physical handicap, another that it may point to his prowess as a sportsman. Probably he came as a young man to the Faroe Islands by way of Viking Ireland, and local tradition has it that he settled at Funningur in Eysturoy.
Even today, many surnames connected particularly with Gaeldom are of Norse origin, especially in the Western Isles and Isle of Man.
|Gaelic||Anglicised form||"Son of-"|
|MacCorcadail||MacCorquodale/Corquadale, Corkill, McCorkindale||Þorketill|
|MacIomhair||MacIver, MacIvor ||Ívarr (Ingvar)|
|MacLeòid||MacLeod||Ljótr (lit. "the ugly one")|
|Gaelic||Anglicised form||Norse equivalent|
|Amhlaibh (confused with the Gaelic name Amhlaidh/Amhalghaidh)||Aulay (Olaf)||Óláfr||
|Goraidh||Gorrie (Godfrey, Godfred), Orree (Isle of Man)||Godfriðr|
|Raghnall||Ranald (Ronald, Randall)||Rögnvaldr|
|Somhairle||Sorley (sometimes Englished as "Samuel")||Sumarliði (Somerled)|
|Tormod|| NA (Englished as "Norman")||Þormundr|
- Haywood, John (1995). The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings. London: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-051328-0.
- McDonald, R. Andrew (1997). The Kingdom of the Isles: Scotland's Western Seaboard, c.1100-c.1336. East Linton: Tuckwell Press. ISBN 1-898410-85-2.
- Ó Cróinín, Dáibhí (1995). Early Medieval Ireland, 400-1200. London: Longman. ISBN 0-582-01566-9.
- Oram, Richard (2000). The Lordship of Galloway. Edinburgh: John Donald. ISBN 0-85976-541-5.
- Scholes, Ron (2000). Yorkshire Dales. Derbyshire: Landmark. ISBN 1-901522-41-5.