From Roslin O Roslin, Autumn 2001 (Vol 3 No 4), Rory Sinclair,
by Iain Laird
Based on accounts gathered in the Gudbrandsdalen Valley by Hans Petter
Schnitler Krag, Pastor of the Parish of Vågå, 1820-1845.
The above account, first published in 1838, has just been revised and
re-published in Norwegian and an English translation by Per A Holst. This
important work, based on the oral traditions in the Gudbrandsdalen Valley
contains many new details of the events which led up to the ambush at
Kringen, and its aftermath.
Contrasting with the more popular accounts which possibly sanitise
details to make them sit more comfortably with modern values, the 1838
collection is uncompromising, and a little uncomfortable to read at times.
Yet it is resonant of contemporary conflicts in its brutality, such as in
the Balkans, and when it comes to the aftermath of battle, one can think
of the events of our own Flodden in 1513, Glencoe in 1692, and much later
Culloden in 1746 where great savagery was meted out by regular soldiers,
in contrast to the untrained but provoked farmers of Gudbrandsdalen who were
on their home ground.
There are some quite important differences of detail from the modern
accounts. The first is the nature of the participation of Peder Klungnes,
in this account Peder Klognæs, who heads out to the Scots ships when they
arrive in the Romsdalfjord, thinking they are merchants. He is seized by
the Scots and forced to pilot them against his will and then guide them
through to Gudbrandsdalen.
It is Klognæs who contrives to conceal and then send a em>budstikke,
or message of alarm, which allows the farmers to protect themselves and
organise a defence. Colonel Sinclair is said to have threatened to re-cast
the Norwegian Lion into a mole that will never again leave its mole-hill,
and that as soon as the country has been conquered his soldiers will be
given the best farms and the most beautiful maidens, and that Hedmark will
be their Land of Canaan. The soldiers are said to have ravaged and stolen,
mutilated their victims and left them to die and cut the legs off a dog tied
to a gate at one farm to warn of their arrival. In Storm's
melodramatic poem this is summarised as:
And with him fourteen hundred men;
On mischief all that band was bent;
They spared nor young nor aged then,
But slew and burnt as on they went.
The child they killed at the mother's breast,
Nor cared how sweet so'er its smile;
Of widows' tears they made a jest;
Sorrow' loud cry arose the while.
Here we also see a difference in the number of the Scots. The total
number of mercenaries raised in Scotland in 1612 was 2,200 or 2,300.
Of these some 1,400 were in the first force to land, led by the Swedish
Colonel Munkhaven. This would leave Ramsay's force as 800 or 900, so not
the 1,400 detailed here or the 600 subsequently related by Slange. There
is also some speculation that Ramsay's force divided before the Battle of
There is a note of human frailty on the farmers, led by Laurits Hage,
the sheriff of Dovre, as they gather at Nord Sel to plan their ambush.
Finding an ample supply of home brewed beer they start to drink heavily
late into the night, until the more sensible hammer in the spigots and cut
them off flush with the staves to curtail their enjoyment. Had they not done
so the Scots would have found them less than alert and events could have
turned out differently.
It is in this account that we find the now discounted detail of the logs
and rocks used in the ambush. They picked the ambush site well. Kringen, in
older language "Kringlen" and in local dialect "Kringom"
or "Høg Kringom", was well suited for an ambush, as the slope
where the farmers positioned themselves above the old King's road is about
the steepest in the valley.
The farmers are said to have constructed "tømmervelter", great
sleighs of rocks and logs, held in place with ropes and wooden stakes, and
the farmers concealed the sleighs and themselves behind cut branches of
birch and evergreen. North and south of the ambush smaller groups formed
cut-offs with spiked logs ready to roll down to contain the front and rear
of the Scots column once the ambush was triggered. Audon Skjenna from Sel
was sent out to see if the Scots were coming and on sighting them rode back
and one of the Scots called out "Look at that boor, he runs away on
The farmers also needed to know how the Scots were advancing, and to
distract them from the ambush preparations. One of the farmers went out
to the islet of Storoy, out of range of the Scots, in the Lågen River on
his horse and kept pace with the column. Tradition has it that he sat
backwards on his horse, as represented by the badge of Sinclair's Club.
A small group of farmers were sent to the other side of the river
to feign an attack as a further diversion. The final piece was the village
girl, Guri, later known as Pillarguri, who was set on top of the
Seljordskampen hill, where she could observe the progress of the column
and signal when they were in optimum position for the ambush. Pastor Krag's
notes suggest that she used a cow horn rather than the "lur" or
wooden trumpet now favoured by the Gudbrandsdalers as her probable
Included in his account is the music to Pillarguri's Song
as well as the Sinclair March. These tunes were popular in the
valley when Krag put them to paper, but have long since passed from use,
and are an important feature rediscovered here. It is significant that the
melody of "Pillarguri's Song" contains half-tones in a minor key
which are not playable on a lur, which only allows natural tones and
The advance party were allowed to pass, and, as the main force reached
the ambush, Guri played her horn. She was answered by the pipes. She played
again and the farmers on the far side feigned their attack. At this point,
with the Scots looking in quite the wrong direction, the sleighs were
released and Berdon Sejelstad fired his ancient arquebus directly at Colonel
Sinclair, killing him outright. Hundreds were killed by the avalanche of
logs and rocks which struck seconds later. The farmers then fell on the
dazed and disoriented survivors with their axes, and "Those who were
not shot jumped into the river and many there were drowned." Those who
got across were killed by the farmers on the other side. Colonel Sinclair's
wife, Ellen, was shot after attacking one of the farmers who was trying to
save her child, and the child was also killed.
The advance party was then pursued and initially laid down their arms.
Then seeing that the farmers were fewer than they supposed they attacked
them, but were quickly over come. Peder Klognæs was among them and called
out in Norwegian "I am Peder Klognæs, I am Peder Klognæs, I am one of
you!" and was spared.
The farmers numbered between 400 and 500 and lost six men and a few
wounded. Of the Scots, 134 survived and were led off to a barn at Klomstad
in Kvam, with the intention that they be taken to the Akershus fortress at
Oslo. But the next day, in an action that was regretted shortly thereafter
and to this day, they were brought out one by one and executed, until 18
remained. These included Alexander Ramsay, commander of the force, Jacob
Mannepenge, his Swedish second-in-command and Henry Bruce, all officers.
The account also gives details of other survivors of the battle,
reflecting the broader composition of the Scots force. We tend to think
of this as a Sinclair battle, because of the prominent and romantic role
of Colonel George Sinclair of Stirkoke. One is named as Matheson. A work
colleague of whose surname is Matheson, which he pronounces as
"Matιyson" is thought to be descended from this
Of course, oral tradition is subject to the vagaries of time. There is
still a sadness in the valley that so many lives were lost that grim day in
1612. Colonel Sinclair has been built up into a formidable symbol of the
vanquished foe. His gravestone at Kvam is literally monumental.
It has to be remembered that this is the first sign of the militant
rediscovery of nationhood after being under Danish sovereignty from 1300's
to 1814 and forced to accept a united kingdom with Sweden as Sweden's reward
for being on the winning side in the Napoleonic Wars, until free again in
1905 after a negotiated nonviolent separation.
It may have suited to emphasise the villainy of the formidable and
unwelcome invader and the valour and skill of the local farmers. It
certainly does not accord with the more recent and thoroughly researched
accounts which accord the Scots a much more cordial welcome before Kringen,
but it adds something to our understanding of the Pillarguri and Sinclair
traditions in Gudbrandsdalen.
Pastor Krag's summary of local oral tradition is accompanied by
contemporary reports confirming details of the events leading up to the
26th August, the battle and the aftermath. These include "The Report
to the Danish Chancellor about the Battle of Kringen from the Norwegian
Vice Regent (Stadtholder), Enwold Kruse and others, dated 17th September,
1612"; Christian IV's Letters-Patent Gift to Laurits Hage; Christian
IV's Letters-Patent Gift to Peder Randklev and Christian IV's Letters-Patent
Gift to Berdon Sejelstad.
[Iain Laird is a member of Clan Sinclair U.K., a prodigious
researcher and was actively involved in the Gathering 2000 last year.
Remember the little girl who sang happy birthday to her father??
The father in question is Iain Laird!]
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