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Monday, October 17, 2011
Peel Vikings Triumph in Ireland
1974 The Young Vikings then...
A liberal dose of Centrium Silver may well have helped provide a winning
boost to the Manx Viking rowing team in Northern Ireland recently, according to
their spokesman Ernie Baker, when they won the Mixed Class event at the annual
Viking Boat Races. With two of the Manx rowing team having to leave the event
early before the races commenced, ironically due to a warning of bad weather in
the Irish Sea, their involvement looked to be in some doubt. But landscape
gardener Averil Morton stepped into the breach and helped win the day.
Held as part of the long running Magnus Barelegs Festival amidst the
picturesque setting of Killyleagh Bay and scenic splendour of Delamont Country
Park in County Down, the Manx team who travel under the banner of ‘Young
Vikings Again’, has a combined age in excess of 500 years! Reputed to be the
oldest, continuous rowing team in existence (according to their manager) the
Peel based team is well known in the Irish fishing port.
friendships, discussing rowing techniques and perhaps most importantly checking
the quality of the beer, the Manx boys soon adopted the generosity of the local
people. With the Manx national flag draped decorously over their unofficial
headquarters at the Dufferin Arms and a cosy bed and breakfast in the twelfth
century Killyleagh Castle a short distance away, is it any wonder that the
competitions attract them like ducks to water?
But this isn’t the only Manx connection to the area. Killyleagh
Castle, with its striking Loire style architecture, is believed to have been
built as a wedding present for Auffrica, the daughter of Godred the Black,
formerly King of Mann and the Isles. Thought to be the oldest inhabited castle
in Ireland and said to be haunted by a previous occupant who poisoned her
husband for his wealth, this stronghold played an important part in
Ulster-Scots history, and if any of the Manx lads misbehaved during their stay
they might find their accommodation downgraded to the less salubrious dungeon.
Seen as the greatest Viking festival in Ireland, the event incorporates
School Education Days, Living History days and provides a good excuse for a
mass invasion of adrenaline-fuelled warriors ready for battle.
Magnus Barelegs, after whom the festival is named, lies just a few
miles away from this annual mayhem. After heading numerous military campaigns
and remembered as the last Norse King of the Irish Sea, he was brutally
murdered and buried in a common grave, although his famous sword ‘Legbiter’ was
salvaged and returned to Norway. His nickname of ‘barelegs’ came about after
Magnus took a liking for the ankle-length tunics worn by the Hebridean men, but
his adaptation of wearing a knee-length version in Bergen inevitably raised a
Also known as Magnus Barefoot, he was likewise attracted to the Isle of
Man not least because of its military value for his projected attack on
Ireland, and is said to have built a fort and residence on St Patrick’s Isle.