You can lead a Norse to water…..

The annual Scottish Traditional Boat Festival at Portsoy, a village located on the Moray Firth Coast of North East Scotland, 50 miles North West of Aberdeen. Picture: www.pressandjournal.co.uk
The annual Scottish Traditional Boat Festival at Portsoy, a village located on the Moray Firth Coast of North East Scotland, 50 miles North West of Aberdeen. Picture: www.pressandjournal.co.uk

28 June 2016

Tim Koch is still in Caledonian mode:

I recently reported on my visit to the dinner held in honour of W.D. Kinnear, the 1912 Olympic sculling champion, in his home village of Laurencekirk on the North East Scottish coast. While I was there, I found a wonderful story in the local newspaper, the Kincardineshire Observer, which is affectionately known as ‘The Squeaker’. It said:

An urgent call has been made to Prime Minister David Cameron to repeal legislation that prevents Vikings from visiting the North East of Scotland.

The call comes ahead of the arrival of a delegation of Vikings who are to be special guests at this year’s Scottish Traditional Boat Festival at Portsoy.

Organisers of one of Scotland’s largest maritime events have made a formal approach to Mr Cameron after an ancient law banishing Vikings from the North-east of Scotland was brought to their attention.

This legislation followed a fierce battle between the Norsemen of King Malcolm II and natives of the North East in the early 11th Century. Casualties on both sides were very high and a peace treaty was signed, including the terms that the Vikings had to evacuate the North East of Scotland. The legislation banning the Vikings has never been repealed.

Without a lifting of the ban, festival organisers fear they may be forced to turn away Vikings from Shetland’s famous Up Helly Aa Jarl Squadwho are due to arrive by NorthLink Ferries and whose visit is being billed as among the main attractions of this year’s event……..

St Ayles Skiffs in Portsoy harbour. Picture: scottishcoastalrowing.org
St Ayles Skiffs in Portsoy harbour. Picture: scottishcoastalrowing.org

Looking at its website, the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival at Portsoy, held this year on the 25 and 26 June, looks like a splendid affair. As it says:

With our combination of History (maritime and rural)…Creativity (crafts, music and art)…Activity (sailing, rowing and so much more)…Food and Drink (the very best of the region)…all in the superb natural setting of Portsoy’s harbour, there’s no better place to celebrate Scotland’s rich cultural heritage.

The rowing part of the festival is in the form of a regatta for the St Ayles Skiffs of the Scottish Coastal Rowing Project. As the website explains:

The Skiffs are community based projects encouraging (people) to become involved, either for the first time or, perhaps, handing on essential skills, using the sea for fitness, friendship, and competition. The design of the St Ayles Skiff was commissioned (in 2009) from Iain Oughtred by the Scottish Fisheries Museum at Anstruther, Fife……. The basic principle of this project is that the boats to be raced should be available at as low a price as possible…… The standard crew is four rowing with the coxswain steering, though other crew combinations are possible. Throughout Scotland, more than 100 boats are in use or are being built with others being built in America, the Netherlands and even Australia. In fact, the 200th kit worldwide has just been sold!

Scotland in summer. Picture: scottishcoastalrowing.org
Scotland in summer. Picture: scottishcoastalrowing.org

As to the ‘Viking question’, perhaps it is a genuine concern of the organisers that the UK Border Force will turn away any visiting Norsemen in order to prevent a return to what was known as ‘Scandinavian Scotland’. Alternatively, it could be a clever way of getting free publicity for the Boat Festival. If it is the latter, then it seems to have worked.

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