Beyond the Shadow
of a Doubt

Niven Sinclair's article on proofs of Henry Sinclair's voyage to North America in 1398 was printed in Roslin O Roslin, Spring and Summer 1996 issues (Vol 3 No 3 and 4).

by Niven Sinclair


I would like to turn to the "proofs" of the Sinclair voyage of 1398 to North America. Fourteen points will be offered, each based upon fact which I have carefully researched.


Before Henry Sinclair left on his voyage, he made certain dispositions of his lands to his brothers, John and David. He assigned the lands of Pentland to his brother John, whilst transferring the lands of Auchdale and Newburgh in Aberdeenshire to David.

To his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, who married Sir John Drummond of Cargill, he left his lands in Norway, provided he died without a male heir. This would suggest that he took his three sons with him on the voyage, as they were alive at the time and of an age when they would have been considered able to accompany a military or naval force.


A map of the North Atlantic was drawn up by the Zeno brothers. In 1393, Henry Sinclair sent Nicolo Zeno to carry out a survey of Greenland. Nicolo returned to Orkney in 1395, where he died from prolonged exposure to the Arctic weather. He was succeeded as Henry's admiral by his brother, Antonio Zeno.


For the next several centuries, the Zeno Map was used by such well-known cartographers as Ruscelli (1561), Mercator (1569) and Ortelius (1574). And even subsequent maps made by Hondius (1597), Danckwertz, Corneille, and Tevernier (1628), and Bellini (1765) were, save for the orientation, inferior to the Zeno map. The authority for this statement is from Professor Hobbs of Michigan University.

The so-called Zeno Map had been compared by Professor Hapgood to an aerial survey of Greenland, carried out recently by the United States Air Force. Professor Hapgood found 37 points of identity with the Zeno Map. This is an incredible degree of accuracy.


In the Words of Professor Taylor of London University, "The authenticity of the Zeno account has been challenged, but on very flimsy grounds. It appears to the present writer (Prof. Taylor) that it would be quite out of the question for any author to invent a story which in every detail reflects fact about which it would be quite impossible for him to have been aware. Such is the story of Markland, which Antonio Zeno, then in the Faeroes, sent back to his brother Carlo in Venice and which a descendant edited and published in 1558. The later Zeno was personally known to Ramusio, the great authority of his day on voyages and discoveries, whom he could have hardly have deceived."


The Zeno Narrative speaks of the "spring of pitch" which the reconnaissance party of 100 soldiers found at Stellarton and which they reported back to Prince Henry at Guysborough, both places in Nova Scotia. On hearing this, Prince Henry considered it was "good omen" because there was a similar "spring of pitch" at his home at Rosslyn in Scotland. The "pitch" had been used as medicine against the Black Death. It is reputed to have saved the Sinclairs from the scourges of that particular plague, so much so that they erected a shrine over its site.

Now this story is faithfully recounted in the Zeno Narrative, although Antonio Zeno had never been to Rosslyn. In other words, he could only have heard of the "spring of pitch" of Rosslyn from Henry as they both stood listening to the report of the returning soldiers in Nova Scotia.

Incidentally, the number of men Henry sent out was 100. Those of us who have been in the army will know that if you can afford to send out a reconnaissance party of this size, the base camp must have comprised many times that number.


I have visited all these places where Prince Henry is understood to have visited. You could too. If I had to describe the places visited, my description would have been almost identical to the words used in the Zeno Narrative.


There is an effigy of a medieval knight carved on a rock ledge. It was "discovered" by an amateur geologist named Frank Glynn. I now quote from a report by Professor Lethbridge of Cambridge University:

"The sword carved on the rock can hardly be anything but a medieval sword. The whole hilt looks about AD 1200-1300. The significance of this is considerable. I do not see how this particular form of sword could be anything but European and pre-Columbian."


Sir Iain Moncrieffe, the Albany Herald and one of Scotland's most noted authorities on heraldry writes:

"There is, of course, nothing remarkable in the idea that the Jarl of Orkney, a Scotsman, but also the premier noble of Norway, should sail to America in the 14th Century, for Norsemen had been crossing the Atlantic Ocean since at least four centuries before, and the great Scandinavian houses were all inter-related. Henry Sinclair was also related to the Gunns, at that time perhaps the next most important family on the Pentland Firth to the Sinclairs themselves. So the discovery at Westford of what is apparently an effigy of a fourteenth century knight in a bascinet, ca-mail and surcoat, with a heater-shaped shield bearing devices of a Norse-Scottish character such as might have been expected of a knight in Jarl Henry Sinclair's entourage, and a pommelled sword of the period is hardly likely to be coincidence. I rather think that the mighty Jarl stayed awhile and possibly wintered in Massachusetts."


In Rhode Island, the Newport Tower is perhaps the oldest stone building (not including monuments such as tumuli or dolmens) in America. It is based on the plan of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem which has the octagon within the circle. Its stone construction is similar in style to the Norse-Scottish buildings of the Western and Northern Isles. More important, to allay any doubt as to the identity of the builders, every single measurement within Newport Tower is based on the Scottish ell which equals three Norse feet.

It was customary for Knights returning from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, to build a church on the design of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We find these round churches all over Europe. Henry was certainly familiar with them. He had two of them in his island principality at Orphir and Egilsay in Orkney. He would have seen the round church at Northampton when he travelled to London in 1392 because he would have stayed with his Sinclair kin in Northampton Castle close by. He also knew of the round churches in Norway at Nidaros (now Trondheim) and at Tunsberg because he visited both places with some regularity. And he would have known of the five round churches on the island of Bornholm in Denmark where he stayed between 1363 and 1365. In Greenland, at Karotok, there is also the remains of a church which has the characteristics of Newport Tower.

Another aspect of the Newport Tower which identifies its origin as Norse/Scottish is the fireplace on the first floor above ground level. The majority of the round churches in Scandinavia (18 out of 27) have this feature. The door is also on the first floor. People gained access by a ladder which was lowered from the upper floor.


Most historians of early European settlement in America pay scant regard to Indian legend and language from which we can learn much. An exception is Professor Roger McLeod of Lowell University in Massachussetts, who has compiled a huge dictionary of Norse and Gaelic words which have been assimilated into the language of the indigenous people most particularly into the language of the Algonkian group of the eastern seaboard of America. Reider T. Sherwin in his book The Viking and the Red Man also writes about Norse roots in the Algonkian language. Similarly, Arlington Mallery's book The Rediscovery of America, has an appendix showing the similarity between Norse and the language of the East coast tribes.

Whenever and wherever there is trade, there must be an assimilation of words by both sides in the transaction in order to facilitate that trade. The very scale of the infiltration of Norse words into the language of the indigenous population establishes, beyond all shadow of a doubt, that trade had been taking place for centuries before Columbus. There was even a Indian Chieftainess with the name of Magnus.

Henry Sinclair called the indigenous people of Nova Scotia "his beloved sons" or Micmac in Gaelic. Can it be coincidence that they are known as such to present day [now written Mi'kmaq] or that there is another tribe known as the Penikuk which is the title of the district (Penicuik) where Henry's lands were!

Incidentally, the Mi'kmaq Indians were by no means "savages" -- what post-Columbian explorers liked to call indigenous people. They had a written language which closely resembles hieroglyphics from Egypt. In fact, so closely are they similar that they are almost indistinguishable. See the works of Professor Barry Fell, who died recently while I was visiting America. Furthermore, skeletons have been found in America dating back to 37,000 BC. It is abundantly clear that the American Continent was visited by many people well before Columbus.

It is an on-going fact of life that language becomes assimilated when populations contact one another. For example, we are well aware that the English language owes much to French, Greek and Latin. We are not so aware of the Arabic words which we use every day such as alcohol, coffee, summit, zenith, and cotton. many other words are being absorbed all the time, especially as we eat at Chinese, Japanese and Indian restaurants. When I was a boy, I had never heard of pizza! Now it is a part of every child's vocabulary, if not their diet.


Let us examine some of the legends of the Amerindians. When Henry began to build a ship from local materials, the Mic-macs tell of how "he built himself an island, planted trees on it, and sailed away in his stone canoe". The word "trees" refers to the masts. The word "stone" obviously refers to the hard deck of Henry's ship, as opposed to the open canoes of the Mi'kmaqs. When the Narragansett Indians were asked who built the Newport Tower, they replied, "They were fire haired men with green eyes who sailed up the river in a ship like a gull with a broken wing" The "broken wing" is a reference to a flapping sail. Notice that they used "fire-haired" not "fair-haired".

In his book, Prince Henry Sinclair, Frederick Pohl said that the Mi'kmaqs thought of Henry Pohl as their god Glooskap who taught them many things. I suspect they likened him to their God rather than assuming that their God had returned. It is interesting to note that all the Amerindians have similar stories about their gods "appearing from the East on a column of "spray" and that they were all tall, fair, and blue-eyed.


Far across the ocean in Scotland at the Rosslyn Chapel, there are stone carvings of Indian maize, the American aloe cactus and sassafras. All were carved before Columbus was born. This proves quite conclusively that someone from the Sinclair family had travelled to America and had returned with samples or drawings of the plants which they had found in the New World.


From the Boston Herald in 1892 one can read:

"Lief Erickson came to the land of North America, built houses, made friends of the natives and explored the land giving names to places some of which exist to the present day. These names were placed on the charts and are the same which Henry St. Clair used, affixed to his maps now in possession of the Hakluyt Society in London, a reproduction of which can be found in Redpath's History of America."



From all of the foregoing, it is clear that the proof of Henry Sinclair's voyage is indelibly hewn in stone on both sides of the Atlantic. It is recorded in the stories of the Amerindians and has been authenticated by historians in Europe and America. Whilst the Crew of Christopher Columbus were on the point of mutiny, we find that Henry Sinclair's Admiral, Antonio Zeno could write in a letter to brother Carlo in Venice:

"If ever there was man who was worthy of immortal memory, it is this man because of his great bravery and goodness."

Henry's treatment of the indigenous people was impeccable by the standards of even today.

Columbus was mercenary with all the greed and brutality of that breed of man. And yet, it is Columbus who is credited with beginning The Great Age of Exploration and Discovery! It would be truer to say that he heralded The Great Age of Exploitation and Extermination.

It is incumbent upon us all to ensure that Prince Henry Sinclair gets his rightful place in History because whether you are an indigenous or immigrant American, you have every reason to be proud of this noble Scot who followed in the wake of his Viking forebears almost 100 years before Columbus.

The Story of Prince Henry Sinclair's voyage to America is part of our past, part of our inheritance. Henry combined courage with vision, humility with greatness, imagination with action. He was a true Prince of Men who espoused the Templar ideal of chivalry and fraternity.


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