Scotland’s Other Heritage: The forgotten legacy of Germanic Scotland
Celtic Guide, Vol.2:6 (2013)
Introduction: So much attention is placed on Scotland’s identity as a Celtic Nation, that we often overlook the other major influences that are a legitimate part of Scotland’s history and culture. It would be fair to say that Scotland is roughly half Germanic, but this part of the Scottish heritage is often downplayed while the Celtic side is discussed. Scotland’s ties to Scandinavia have been highlighted in the news media recently, especially as the country debates the possibility of independence from Britain. The country is re-evaluating its own identity, and considering historical ties to countries outside of the United Kingdom. In the May issue of Celtic Guide, we explored Orkney’s Viking heritage, and how both Orkney and Shetland were owned by Norway until they were handed over to Scotland in the 15th century. Both archipelagos spoke a Norse dialect called Norn from the time they were settled by Vikings (8th century) and even after they were handed over to Scotland, when usage of the Norn language began to erode. Use of the Norn language continued on for at least two centuries in Orkney, but was eventually replaced by the Scots language. It lingered longer in Shetland than in Orkney, however. As late as the 18th century, Shetlanders were documented speaking fluent Norn, and many Norn words are still used in regular Shetland speech today. Norn was also spoken in areas of mainland Scotland, particularly in Northeastern coastal regions, such as Caithness.