Friday, March 12, 2010

Malcolm Redfellow learns something new every day ...

Friday, 12th March, 2010: Malcolm makes a Scandinavian connection

Today the BBC web-site has this:
The burial pit (Copyright: Oxford Archaeology)
Archaeologists are trying to link the find to historical events

Weymouth ridgeway skeletons 'Scandinavian Vikings'

Fifty-one decapitated skeletons found in a burial pit in Dorset were those of Scandinavian Vikings, scientists say.

Mystery has surrounded the identity of the group since they were discovered at Ridgeway Hill, near Weymouth, in June.

Analysis of teeth from 10 of the men revealed they had grown up in countries with a colder climate than Britain's.

Archaeologists from Oxford believe the men were probably executed by local Anglo Saxons in front of an audience sometime between AD 910 and AD 1030.

The Anglo Saxons were increasingly falling victim to Viking raids and eventually the country was ruled by a Danish king.

The mass grave is one of the largest examples of executed foreigners buried in one spot.

Now that rings bells.

So Malcolm went back to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which reported local skirmishes with Danish invaders in:
A.D. 837. This year Alderman Wulfherd fought at Hamton with thirty-three pirates, and after great slaughter obtained the victory, but he died the same year. Alderman Ethelhelm also, with the men of Dorsetshire, fought with the Danish army in Portland-isle, and for a good while put them to flight; but in the end the Danes became masters of the field, and slew the alderman.
A.D. 845. This year Alderman Eanwulf, with the men of Somersetshire, and Bishop Ealstan, and Alderman Osric, with the men of Dorsetshire, fought at the mouth of the Parret with the Danish army; and there, after making a great slaughter, obtained the victory.
Both those dates lie outside the predicted period in the story above. Then we have:
A.D. 982. In this year came up in Dorsetshire three ships of the pirates, and plundered in Portland. The same year London was burned.
A.D. 998. This year coasted the army back eastward into the mouth of the Frome, and went up everywhere, as widely as they would, into Dorsetshire. Often was an army collected against them; but, as soon as they were about to come together, then were they ever through something or other put to flight, and their enemies always in the end had the victory. Another time they lay in the Isle of Wight, and fed themselves meanwhile from Hampshire and Sussex.
and finally:
A.D. 1015. This year was the great council at Oxford; whereAlderman Edric betrayed Sigferth and Morcar, the eldest thanes belonging to the Seven Towns... At the same time came King Knute to Sandwich, and went soon all about Kent into Wessex, until he came to the mouth of the Frome; and then plundered in Dorset, and in Wiltshire, and in Somerset. King Ethelred, meanwhile, lay sick at Corsham...
Pick the bones out of that lot.

Sing a song of ...

At some point in there, we had the origin of London Bridge in falling down ...

Then another link came to Malcolm's mind.

When it came out in about 1972, Malcolm acquired a copy of Karl Dallas's book of folk songs, The Cruel War [out of print: ISBN-13: 9780723404934; ISBN: 0723404933]. It's still there on Malcolm's shelves, and (like so much of his library) he wouldn't part from it this side of the crematorium.

The Cruel War includes a song Ruth Tongue, in her The Chime Child [out-of-print SBN: 0710029675/ ISBN-13: 9780710029676], claimed to have collected in 1918:
I had just finished a Folk Song Recital in London, and made my way back to sink exhausted into my dressing-room chair, when there came a hearty bang on my door which opened, and an elderly sea captain came in. He was smart, grey-haired, scarlet-faced, and as full of enthusiasm as a young westerly gale -- and he had a ballad for me. His family had been Porlock folk right back to Drake's time and before, and they had treasured and kept strictly to themselves this ancient ballad. Now having listened to that evening's Somerset wealth, he had decided regardless of family traditions that it must be brought to the free air of a singing world and that I was the one to do it. Before the force of this Severn Gale, I found my weariness blown clean away, and was soon singing too. He had a tremendous voice and it hit like hammer-blows into my memory. He sailed tomorrow he said, so I must learn it then and now. I did, every verse, and sang it back to him. He gave me a delighted smile, a hearty farewell and a handshake that clamped my fingers for the rest of the evening, and went away, forgetting to leave his name.
There are all kinds of suspicions about Ms Tongue's "accuracy", and her anecdote here seems as bit ... fishy.

However, hers is a good story. The ballad is Three Danish Galleys:
Three galleys come sailing to Porlock Side,
And stole me away a new-wed bride,
Who left my true love lying dead on the shore,
Sailing out and away.
I never shall see my dear home no more.
What makes that even more curious is a reference, again from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle:
A.D. 918. This year came a great naval armament over hither south from the [Breton-based pirates]; and two earls with it, Ohter and Rhoald. They went then west about, till they entered the mouth of the Severn; and plundered in North-Wales everywhere by the sea, where it then suited them; ... but the men of Hertford met them, and of Gloucester, and of the nighest towns; and fought with them, and put them to flight; and they slew the Earl Rhoald, and the brother of Ohter the other earl, and many of the army. And they drove them into a park; and beset them there without, until they gave them hostages, that they would depart from the realm of King Edward. And the king had contrived that a guard should be set against them on the south side of Severnmouth; west from Wales, eastward to the mouth of the Avon; so that they durst nowhere seek that land on that side. Nevertheless, they eluded them at night, by stealing up twice; at one time to the east of Watchet, and at another time at Porlock. There was a great slaughter each time; so that few of them came away, except those only who swam out to the ships...
These things come back to haunt us. Sphere: Related Content

No comments:

Subscribe with Bloglines International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
Add to Technorati Favorites