Holy Island Coast


Holy Island

Mark Horton is on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, reliving the first Viking raid on our shores. He hears how the Norsemen galvanised the warring Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.


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Transcript


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It's June, 793. For over a century,

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Northumbria has been the most powerful kingdom

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in Anglo-Saxon England.

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Over there, on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, something shocking is about to happen.

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The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle describes it in gory detail.

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"In this year, terrible portents appeared and miserably frightened

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"the inhabitants, flashes of lighting, fiery dragons in the sky,

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"a great famine." And a little after in the same year...

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"The harrying of the heathen miserably destroyed God's church in Lindisfarne

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"by rapine and slaughter."

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Vikings - plundering, pillaging and raping on our shores

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for the very first time.

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'The attack on Holy Island in 793 sent shockwaves across the land

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'and created a powerful new mythology - the marauding Norseman.

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'From an early age, I've been fascinated with the Vikings.

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'Today I get to realise an ambition and meet a Viking.

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'Well, a part-time one -

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'Kim Siddorn is secretary of a re-enactment society.'

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So, Kim, you're the most magnificent Viking warrior.

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-Thank you!

-This is a leather jerkin.

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Yes, leather jerkin and linen tunic below it.

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-And this is what?

-That's seal skin, and this is horse hide, lined on the inside with silk.

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It's worth a king's ransom, this thing.

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-And what else have you got? This must be a scramasax.

-This is a scramasax.

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-You can see the pattern welding here in the blade.

-Extraordinary.

-All the fittings on that are silver.

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-That's to sort of finish people off in battle, isn't it?

-I'd eat my tea with it, actually.

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SHOUTING

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The principle defence of a Dark Age warrior...

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-Oh, the home of the warrior is his shield.

-His shield.

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The shield itself is the first line of defence for the warrior.

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It also makes a convenient thing to bang - hai, hai, hai!

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MARK LAUGHS

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The sword is very much a slashing weapon -

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none of this fine point work. It's intended purely for butchering.

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It's a weapon which you'd use on a figure of eight system.

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You'd have come down across the body from your initial...

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and then across this way and then, bringing your shield up,

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lead with the sword down across the body, perhaps cleaving you in two, if a man's unclad in armour.

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And of course, the monks at Lindisfarne would have had no escape.

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It must have been such a nasty shock. They weren't expecting it at all.

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You can hear it in what they said. "500 years we've lived in this island,

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"and nothing ever like this happened before! They came into God's house and killed us all!" Silence!

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Up at Bamburgh Castle, Kim's fellow re-enactors have set up a camp

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at a festival celebrating Saxon life.

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It was this Saxon world that was rocked by the first Viking raid

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here on the Northumbrian coast, and the assaults that followed.

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Before those Viking raids, wars between the different kingdoms of England were common,

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but the appearance of a common enemy here 1,200 years ago was to alter the country's destiny.

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That early raid really changed England/Britain for ever.

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Yes, it did, it gave us the beginnings of a national identity. It was...the warring Anglo-Saxon

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kingdoms began to come together for the first time, and it was the Viking raids that did it.

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After the cataclysm that happened here in 793, wars with the Vikings

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continued for another 200 years, but one beneficial consequence

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was that in those wars, the nation of England was formed.

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Mark Horton is on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, reliving the first Viking raid on our shores in June 793 AD. He discovers how those marauding Norsemen galvanised the warring Anglo-Saxon kingdoms to come together and form the English nation.


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