This year, the annual gathering of Clan Hay, which takes place over the firstweekend of August, coincides with a programme of celebrations to mark the 1000th anniversary of the Battle of Cruden.
The exact date of the battle is unknown: all we know for sure is that it was fought in the summer of 1012 on the shore where the village of Cruden Bay now stands, about half a mile from the Clan Hay seat of Slains Castle. This was a period when the coast of north east Scotland was subject to regular Viking raids, and the Danes had successfully established a settlement on Hack Law, the low hill immediately behind the village. Denmark was at the time ruled by the ferocious King Sven Forkbeard, who sent his son Canute over the sea to consolidate this holding and, if possible, extend this Viking foothold with a view to threatening the kingdom of Scotland itself.
In King Malcolm II of Scotland, who led his army in person to meet the Viking hordes, the 17 year old Canute met his match. The battle began by the beach, where Cruden Bay golf course is now situated. The fighting was fierce on both sides, quickly spreading inland, and relics of it have been found across a four mile stretch of countryside. However, the Scots prevailed and the Vikings were driven from the country. Canute returned to Denmark with his tail between his legs, although he would survive undaunted to conquer the kingdom of England four years later.
This important engagement in our history was commemorated soon after the event with the erection of a chapel, dedicated to St Olaf, on the site of the battle. By the Victorian era, only the font remained, which was rescued by the Rev Dr J. B. Pratt, the minister of the Episcopal church of Cruden and a well known antiquary and local historian. The font was later placed in St James’s Episcopal church, where it continues to be used for baptisms today. Tomorrow (Friday 29 July), by permission of Cruden Bay golf club, an ecumenical service will be held on the site of the chapel, conducted by the Episcopal church’s Bishop of Aberdeen, but involving both the parish church of Cruden and Cruden Bay congregational church.
Further celebrations will take place on Sunday 5th August. Following the annual Clan Hay lunch at Delgatie Castle, the Clan Hay Centre, the Clan Hay Society will offer a guided tour of the two castles of Slains. This will finish around 7.00 pm when we are invited to join the local community of Cruden Bay in a traditional Aberdeenshire ‘Bothy Nicht’ as part of these millennium celebrations, which promises a fun evening of Scottish food, drink and dancing in a marquee erected at Port Erroll, the harbour of Cruden Bay. The Earl of Erroll, Chief of Clan Hay, will be the guest speaker.
Entertainment will be provided by, among others, dance band CB Sounds and the Peterhead Pipe Band, and will additionally include performances of the area’s traditional folk music and recitals in the Doric, the rich vernacular of north east Scotland. A supper of stovies and oatcakes is included in the ticket price.
Contact Pam Rotheroe-Hay on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or for full details of how to participate.
Further events to commemorate the battle will continue later in the month of August. The annual Cruden Bay Gala begins on Sunday August 13th, also at Port Erroll, and will offer a range of events daily throughout the following week. The climax of this year’s gala will come on Saturday 18th August, when there will be a ‘Viking’ parade through the village, finishing at Port Erroll where a full size Viking longship has been constructed. The parade begins at 7.30 pm and will culminate in a reconstruction of the historic burning of the longship – a spectacular finish to a fitting commemoration of a little known but key event in Scotland’s long and proud history.
It is open to anyone to view the parade and the burning of the longship, but those who would like to join in the Viking parade are invited to contact the harbour cafe on 07974 580680 to discover how to participate.