The Strangford Lough Brewing Company beer Barelegs Brew is named in honour of King Magnus Barelegs. Magnus reigned as King of Norway from 1093 until his death in 1103, when he was ambushed and killed by the Ulaid Men of Ulster. His campaigns led to warfare in Ireland, Britain and the Isle of Man.
Our Barelegs Brew label portrays an image of Magnus’ Viking ship emerging from the dawn mist of Strangford Lough. The orange glow represents dawn, the ideal time for Barelegs and his Vikings to raid the unexpecting shores of Strangford Lough.It is reputed that he is buried in Downpatrick.
The Vikings of Strangford Lough and Magnus Barelegs
The Beginning of BarelegsThe Viking dominance over the Strangford Lough area stretched over a 200 year period from the 9th to the 11th Century, when an incident of near international proportions occurred - when Magnus Barefoot, King of Norway (nicknamed ‘Barelegs’) was killed in battle near Downpatrick in the year 1103.
In the same year he built his hall on St. Patrick’s Isle near Peel, and from there he set his final course for Ireland.Magnus was born in 1073. He was described as being very tall with bright yellow hair and bright blue eyes. He became king on the death of his father, King Olaf The Peaceful, in 1093. His grandfather was Harald Hardrata, the Viking warrior king who died at the battle of Stamford Bridge while attempting to conquer England in 1066. Magnus reigned as King of Norway from 1093 to his untimely death in 1103. At first Magnus jointly ruled Norway with his cousin Hakon, however their joint reign was short and Hakon died only a year later, leaving Magnus sole ruler of Norway. Described as ambitious, his military campaigns were persued in Sweden, Wales, Scotland, and Isle of Man and along the eastern coastline of Ireland.
Origin of the Famous Nickname
Magnus set out on an expedition, to bring his widespread empire under control, in which the Norwegian King conquered the Orkney Islands, the Hebrides and the Isle of Man in a swift campaign in 1098. It was on his return that the nickname ‘Barelegs’ came into being. The story goes that Magnus was greatly taken with the clothing worn by the men of the Hebrides. At that time men would have worn long tunics which would have reached the ankle. He attracted a lot of attention walking round Bergen in tunics which barely reached the knees - a novel sight in the late eleventh century Norway.
Magnus decided that it was time to collect his cattle and return for Norway. Having sailed his long boats in from Strangford Lough, up the River Quoile, and beaching them on Plague Island, 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. Marching along the side of the tidal marshes he came to a high hill, the possible 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 be homeward bound. Perhaps in a joyous mood and letting their guard slip, suddenly ‘the trees came alive,’ and they had been ambushed by the Ulaid, ‘men of Ulster.’The Untimely Death
He formed an alliance in 1102 with Muirchertach O’Brien, High King of Ireland (1086 - 1119). The alliance arrangement was 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 aid his quest for Irish dominance, and in return Magnus was to be given cattle to provide much needed provisions for his homeward journey to Norway. Magnus and Muirchertach were both highly ambitious; but Muirchertach was growing aware of Magnus’ plans to overthrow him as High King of Ireland.
The Legbiter SwordIn 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 guards to fight to the death. The Norse King died after receiving a javelin thrust through his body and then struck in the neck with an axe.
After he was killed, Magnus’ famous sword – named ‘Legbiter’, was retrieved and taken home to Norway, but the remains of its Loyal Master lie in a grave in the Downpatrick Marshes, in a mound distinguished by a small group of trees and now marked by a stone. Legbiter is another name of one our Irish beers and it is the topic of our Legbiter article.