Ousdale Broch And The Caithness-Sutherland Border

The Caithness Broch Project  https://www.thebrochproject.co.uk/ are delighted to unveil a special fundraiser talk with Thomas Fairfax, an AHRC-funded PhD student at the University of Nottingham, all about…

𝑢𝒖𝒔𝒅𝒂𝒍𝒆 𝑩𝒓𝒐𝒄𝒉 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒕𝒉𝒆 π‘ͺπ’‚π’Šπ’•π’‰π’π’†π’”π’”-𝑺𝒖𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒍𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝑩𝒐𝒓𝒅𝒆𝒓

In the late twelfth century, Jarl Haraldr MaddaΓ°arson of Orkney and Caithness rebelled against King William of Scotland. In the closing chapters of Orkneyinga saga, an early thirteenth century text from Iceland, we are told that William marched north into Caithness with a huge army.

In the midst of this conflict, the text pauses to make a geographical statement, claiming that Eysteinsdalr is where Caithness and Sutherland meet. Scholars have linked Eysteinsdalr to Ousdale, the site of a broch recently conserved by the Caithness Broch Project.

In light of Orkneyinga saga’s statement, this talk will consider three questions.

  • Where was the Caithness-Sutherland border in the medieval era?
  • When was it created?
  • And why was the border created?

Using a range of Latin and Old Norse texts, this talk will follow the Caithness-Sutherland border from an imagined Pictish past, through the Viking Age and the Late Norse Period, into the Early-Modern era.

Finally, it will consider the possibility that Ousdale broch played an important role in the border’s creation.

Nottingham University PhD student Tom Fairfax has interests in northern Scotland and the Northern Isles during the Viking Age and the Late Norse Period. His published work includes an article for History Scotland magazine on a supposed Viking King of Scots, a biography of a signatory of the Declaration of Arbroath, and, most recently, an analysis of the murder of Bishop Adam of Caithness in 1222. His PhD research project focuses on kinship connections in Orkneyinga saga from c. 900 to 1263.

You can find out more about his research here: https://www.midlands4cities.ac.uk/student_profile/thomas-fairfax/

The talk takes place via Google Meets on Thursday 10th February, 6.30pm.

To sign up to this event, simply email caithnessbrochproject@gmail.com and they’ll send you out a link.

Donations are very much gratefully received for this event, and can be made on the link below:


credit Karen Munro

(Thanks BB)

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