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Wednesday, 24 August 2016

24‭ ‬August‭ ‬1103:‭ ‬Magnus‭ ‘‬Bare Legs‭’‬,‭ ‬King of Norway,‭ ‬was killed by the Irish in a battle on this day.‭

King Magnus reigned as King of Norway from‭ ‬1093‭ ‬to his untimely death in‭ ‬1103,‭ ‬described as ambitious,‭ ‬his military campaigns were sought in Sweden,‭ ‬Wales,‭ ‬Scotland,‭ ‬Isle of Man and along the eastern coastline of Ireland.‭ ‬He was described as being very tall with bright yellow hair and bright blue eyes.‭ ‬His grandfather was Harald Hardrata,‭ ‬the Viking warrior king who died at the battle of Stamford Bridge,‭ ‬fighting the English in‭ ‬1066,‭ ‬and his father was Olaf the Peaceful.
Having formed an alliance in‭ ‬1102‭ ‬with Muirchertach O'Brien,‭ ‬King of Ireland‭ (‬1086‭ ‬-‭ ‬1119‭)‬,‭ ‬the arrangement being formalised by the marriage of Siguard the‭ ‬12‭ ‬year old son of Magnus to O'Briens‭' ‬5‭ ‬year old daughter,‭ ‬Biadmaynia.‭ ‬The deal was for Magnus to supply man power to O'Brien to assist him in his on going local wars,‭ ‬and in return Magnus was to receive cattle,‭ ‬to provide much needed provisions for his homeward to Norway.

Having sailed his long boats in from Strangford Lough,‭ ‬up the river Quoile,‭ ‬and beaching them on Plague Island to the present day Down Cathedral along the Ballyduggan Road,‭ ‬Magnus impatiently waited for the cattle to arrive on the agreed day St.‭ ‬Bartholomew's Day,‭ ‬23rd August‭ ‬1103.‭ ‬Evening came and no cattle had arrived,‭ ‬against the advice of his commander Eyvind Elbow he decided next morning to leave the safety of his ship and seek out the missing cattle,‭ ‬believing that O'Brien had broken his promise.

Marching along the side of the tidal marshes he came to a high hill,‭ ‬possible to site where Dundrum Castle now stands,‭ ‬looking west-wards he saw a great dust cloud,‭ ‬the cattle were on their way and soon he and his men would homeward bound.‭ ‬Perhaps in a joyous mood and letting their guard slip,‭ ‬suddenly‭ '‬the trees came alive,‭' ‬they had been ambushed,‭ ‬by the‭ '‬men of Ulster.‭' ‬In the ensuring battle that raged across the mud flats of the Quoile Estuary,‭ ‬now in total confusion,‭ ‬the Vikings,‭ ‬led by Magnus were slaughtered.‭ ‬

Some of the Vikings made it back to their boats,‭ ‬leaving King Magnus and a few of his loyal guard to fight to the death.‭ ‬The Norse King receiving a javelin thrust through his leg and then struck in the neck with an axe,‭ ‬he died.‭ ‬However his famous sword‭ '‬Legbiter,‭' ‬was retrieved and brought home to Norway,‭ ‬but the remains of its Loyal Master,‭ ‬and those of his loyal guard lie in a common grave on the marshes of Down.‭ ‬King Magnus Barefoot,‭ ‬nicknamed‭ '‬Barelegs,‭' ‬said,‭ "‬That Kings are made for honour not for long life,‭" - and ‬he was right in his own case ‬for he was not thirty years of age when he died.