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The case is much the same with most of the so-called “ Danish ” forts, camps, stone-circles, and bauta stones ;
which are in general of Pictish or Celtic origin. Had they really been erected by the Danes and Norwegians, those nations must evidently have held confirmed dominion in these parts for a length of time; but it is well known that, in the early period in which these monuments were raised, they can be regarded as masters, in the south and central Lowlands, only at very short and far-distant intervals.
North of the Grampian Hills, and particularly in the district of Moray (the “ Mærhæfi” of the Sagas), the Norwegians and the Danes, it is true, firmly established themselves for a somewhat longer period of time. In the beginning of the eleventh century, for instance, they defeated the Scots in a great battle near Kinloss, took the towns of Elgin and Nairn, whose garrisons they put to the sword, and afterwards settled themselves on the seacoast. But the kingdoms which they founded were speedily destroyed without leaving any remarkable traces behind them; so that, even in this district, we cannot place implicit reliance upon the many different stories about the Danish monuments. According to a common and not improbable tradition, the district of Moray, and the present Aberdeenshire, were the theatres on which the last battles between the Danish Vikings and the Scots were fought. Thus it is said that, in the reign of Malcolm the Second, the Danes, after the battle of Kinloss, suffered a great defeat at Mortlach in Banffshire, where Malcolm, as a thank-offering to God, caused a convent to be built. This, again, was partly the cause of Mortlach's becoming the seat of a bishop. Popular tradition states that the Scottish leader vowed during the battle to add to the church in Mortlach as much as the length of his spear if he succeeded in driving away the Danes. An ancient sculptured stone near the church is mentioned as pointing out the Danish leader's grave; and the skulls of three Danish chiefs are still shown, built into the north wall of the church, as a perpetual memorial. A similar tradition is preserved about the church of Gamrie, also in Banffshire. The Earl of Buchan vowed, in the heat of the battle, to build a church to St. John, to replace that which the Danes had destroyed, if he gained the victory over them. Three of the sacrilegious Danish chiefs, by whose command the church had been desecrated, were found upon the field of battle, and in a description of the church lately published we read as follows :-" I have seen their skulls grinning horrid and hollow in the wall where they had been fixed, inside the church, directly east of the pulpit, and where they have remained in their prison house 800 years !”
It is further stated that, on account of the repeated defeats which the Danes and Norwegians had suffered in the Scotch Lowlands, King Svend Tvskjæg sent, in the year 1012, his son Canute, who afterwards became king of England, with a large fleet and army to the northern part of the Lowlands. Canute landed on the coast of Buchan (Aberdeenshire), near the Castle of Slaines, in the parish of Cruden (or Crudane). Here a very fierce battle was fought, which can scarcely have been favourable to the Danes, since a treaty was afterwards concluded between them and the Scotch, according to which the Danes were to evacuate the fortress called “ Burghead,” in Moray, then occupied by them, as well as the rest of their possessions in the kingdom of Scotland. According to the same treaty the field of battle was to be consecrated by a bishop as a burial place for the Danes who had fallen on it, and a chapel was to be built there in which masses should be continually sung for their souls. In this neighbourhood also there was certainly, at one time, a chapel dedicated to the Norwegian saint, Olave; but the ruins of this chapel, as well as the old churchyard, have since been destroyed by quicksands. The wind, however, by blowing away the sand, still brings, at times, the fragile bones of the Danes to the light of day.
Straight out of the town of Forres, in Nairnshire, stands
a stone nearly twenty feet high, on one side of which is seen a large and handsome cross, and under it some indistinct human figures. On the other side is carved a number of horsemen and people on foot, evidently representing an execution on a great scale ; several bodies are seen, and by the side of them the dissevered heads. The sculpture is executed with the greatest care, and displays some very tasteful ornaments, which, however, are now partly effaced through the action of time on the soft stone. The pillar is commonly called “Svenós stone,” and tradition relates that it was erected to commemorate the treaty of peace concluded between Svend Tveskjæg and King Malcolm, and the expulsion of the Danes from the coasts of Moray. But the sculptures at present existing on the stone do not in the slightest degree represent anything of the kind. The stone belongs to the same class of monuments as the sculptured Scotch stones before described, which are so numerous in the Lowlands, and in the north-eastern Highlands, particularly Inverness-shire, Ross-shire, and Cromartyshire.
One of the few places in the Lowlands, which may with reason be assumed to have preserved considerable traces of the Danish expeditions, lies in the neighbourhood of the towns of Forres and Elgin. It is a promontory which projects in a north-western direction almost a mile into the sea. Towards its head its steep craggy shores are from eighty to a hundred feet high. This extreme point, which incloses a small harbour, and which presents a level surface on its top, where the fishing village of “ Burghead ” is situated, was formerly separated from the main land by three immense parallel ramparts, fifteen to twenty feet high, with cross ramparts lying between, as well as deep and broad ditches, of which there are still considerable remains. That the Romans had a fortress here (said to have been named “ Ultima Ptoroton ") was clearly proved several years ago, when a Roman well, which is still used, was discovered cut in the rock. But for Vikings, like the
founded. nd the neighbo very probable thon” (the castles.
Norwegians and Danes, this place afforded a still better refuge than for the Romans. Towards the land side, which is in some degree barren and uninhabited, they could easily defend themselves; and from the sea, the Scots could attack them only by entering the harbour, where the well-equipped vessels of the Northmen of course prevented their landing. In all probability, therefore, the Norwegians and Danes still further fortified this important point, and gave it, perhaps, its present name. Tradition, at least, relates that the Danes, after taking Nairn, isolated the town or fortress, and called it “Borgen” (the castle); in which account it is very probable that the names of Nairn and the neighbouring Burghead have been confounded. The latter place gradually gained such importance that it was the last stronghold the Danes possessed in the Lowlands.
It is therefore clear that the Danes, or rather the Norwegians and Danes, have scarcely a right to claim many of the numberless monuments in the Lowlands which both the learned and unlearned ascribe to them. In fact, the whole eastern coast of Scotland, from the Cheviot Hills to Moray Firth, is entirely destitute of characteristic and undoubted Scandinavian monuments. It must, however, be. remembered, that the actual Scandinavian immigrations into the Lowlands certainly took place after the Norman conquest of England; or, at all events, at so late a period that the Northmen could not remould the Scotch names of places into Scandinavian forms. Nor is it strange that the Scandinavian colonists in the Lowlands, who at the close of the eleventh century had long been Christians, and influenced by the civilization prevailing in England, should neither have erected such monuments as stone circles, bauta stones, cairns, and barrows, which presuppose a state of heathenism among a people, nor have impressed their characteristics generally on that district by means of peculiar memorials. For at that time they played a subordinate part there, and afterwards gradually became