The Viking connection.

            DNA comparisons have been made that show the  presence of  Viking markers in the Orr ancestry. This gels with a source of the name `orre` - meaning the game bird `black cock`.  There are a number of Orre families in Sweden that supports this argument; they are mainly in the 1800s but there was a Sven Orre son of Lars Orre in Sweden in 1660. It is equally so that the Orre spelling was common in Western Scotland - Ayrshire, Lochwinnoch and Glasgow around 1650-1720.  

              Studies of the Viking population have identified a Haplogroup ( R1a1) that is sometimes  referred to as the "Viking haplogroup". The mutation occurs with the greatest frequency among Scandinavian males: 35 percent in Norway, Denmark and Sweden, and peaking at 40 percent within western Finland. It is also common near the southern Baltic and the North Sea coasts down to Scotland, Ireland and England. Genetic studies have demonstrated that the Vikings settled in Britain and Ireland as well as raiding there. Both male and female descent studies show evidence of Norwegian descent in areas closest to Scandinavia, such as the Shetland and the Orkney Islands. A specialised surname study in Liverpool demonstrated marked Norse heritage, up to 50 percent of males who belonged to original families, those who lived there before the years of industrialization and population expansion. High percentages of Norse inheritance similar to the percentages found among males in the Orkney Islands—tracked through R1a1 haplotype signature—were also found among males in the Wirral and West Lancashire This clearly supports the facts that the Norsemen were very active down through the Irish Sea, having established trading bases in the Isle of Man, around Dublin and south east Ireland.

        The Vikings ( of which there are three strands of origin - Denmark, Sweden and Norway) or Norsemen were very active indeed down the western seaboard of Europe with the Danes mainly engaged in England, France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany. The Swedish Vikings were mainly in central Europe through Finland, they founded Russia and were active  down into the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean. The Norwegian Vikings sallied forth initially against England then focused on Scotland and Ireland. Other Norwegian Vikings led by Eric the Red ventured to Iceland  where they created a republic in 930 AD,  and Greenland; his son Leif may well have discovered America some 500 years before Columbus.

           In England the Vikings of Danish origin were very active and fought many bloody battles in the 8th -10th century. Importantly, after the blood letting was over they turned to settling the land and brought with them sophisticated manufacturing processes, poetry, literature  and a democracy that gave women equal rights with men. They ruled the "Dane Law" - the land north and west of a line roughly between London and Liverpool which included the Midlands, East Anglia, Yorkshire, and the ancient kingdom of  Northumbria, which had been agreed with King Alfred the Great in 886 AD. A unique genetic marker for the Danish Vikings was not isolated in "Viking Blood" Project (see below)  because they and the earlier raiders cum settlers - the Angles and the Saxons, originate in much the same region of Northern Germany and Denmark.

          The Norwegian Vikings mounted raids on monasteries and the like in England (Lindisfarne in 793)  but were mainly in evidence in Scotland (Iona in 795 AD , the first of three raids in the next ten years) and Ireland. In 870 AD they stormed the fortress of Dumbarton after a four month siege, and attacked the Pictish fortress at Dunnottar on the east coast in 890 AD. There was effectively a Viking Age in Scotland that lasted from ca 800 AD to 1050 AD during which the Vikings ruled a small empire from their base in the Orkneys and Shetlands.  One of the Saga`s is the thirteenth century story of  `The Saga of the Earls of Orkney`, otherwise known as the Orkneyinga Saga. ( see ). It should not be forgotten that there was the Norse "Kingdom of the Isles" based on the Isle of Lewis  that lasted until 1266 ; it was then sold for 4000 marks. Similarly the Norse influence continued in the Orkneys until the middle of the 15th century. There is a far richer heritage to be had from the Norsemen than popular beliefs would have us believe as ongoing archaeology `digs`find more and more evidence. Recently a hoard of some 92 assorted coins ,including two Arabic dirhams, were unearthed in Furness, Cumbria. An intact Viking grave,with assorted grave goods and human remains, has been found at Ardnamurchan in the Western Highlands that dates from the 10th century.

            The expansion of the Viking kingdoms was given great impetus when the great empire of Charlemagne fractured and France broke up into many small kingdoms. This gave the opportunity for the Vikings under Rollo (sometimes called `The Walker`, as he was a giant of a man and no horse could carry him) to invade. With their ferocious energy and ambition north western France was rapidly subdued . A military development was the establishment of armoured horsemen on horseback - the heavy cavalry. Properly armed and accoutred with chain mail and swords, and regularly trained, these became the knights and a new social hierarchy. The cavalry was above all a  machine for conquest.

          Brutal suppression of dissent was normal for the age  but Rollo was a new breed of Viking who saw the value of integration and stability. Subsequently the whole of north west France was acquired and the kingdom of Normandy came into existence. This was a fully functioning  medieval state with a hierarchy and permanence. Rollo`s descendants included William the Lion, known to history as William the Conqueror, who invaded England in 1066.

          The Vikings were dominant on the Isle of Man for a long time and  exercised their influence down the west coast of Scotland and the Western Isles. The last  King was Olaf who ruled from 1115 to 1153 and it was his son in law, Somerled, who defeated Olaf`s son, Godfrey, to become undisputed ruler of the southern Hebrides. The Vikings  were prominent in Cumbria, the northernmost part of England on the south side of the Solway Firth, where they settled for many years around Penrith. It is therefore a strong possibility that a Norwegian Viking gene should turn up in the Orr line that hitherto has been traced only as far as ca 1250 AD in West and South West Scotland.  The rich pasture lands of the valley of the River Urr in Dumfriesshire emerges into the Solway Firth south of Dalbeattie (which was once an ancient port for the area) and would have been accessible to Vikings both as raiders by sea and as traders from across the Firth in Cumbria. One of the explanations for the name of the Parish of Urr (pronounced Orr) is that it is derived from the Norse ur, a word for the wild ox or boar, that in ancient times abounded in the river valley. The ancient Norse method of "Haaf" netting salmon and trout continues in use in the Annan area, This is is a hand held single net  mounted on a wooden frame, and carried into the channel  by the fisherman.

        A TV program entitled "Viking Blood" , first shown in 2000,  was repeated on UK History TV recently. This involved substantial DNA sampling from all over the UK . So far as Vikings of Norwegian origin who raided ca 780-1100 AD, there is DNA evidence of them with as high as 60% of the male population in Orkney; 30 % in the Hebrides and 15 % in the Isle of Man. More can be read about this programme on the BBC web site

The Vikings remained in the Scottish Isles for longer than in any other part of Great Britain and Ireland. The Hebrides were part of the Viking kingdom on the Isle of Man until the 13th century, when they were lost at the Battle of Largs which is on the west coast of Ayrshire and only 10 miles or so from the Orr lands at Lochwinnoch. Shetland and Orkney were part of Norway and then Denmark until they too were given to Scotland, as part of a dowry payment, in the 15th century.

         The Norwegian Vikings first raided in Ireland ca 795 AD when they raided the monastery on Lambay Island, near Dublin. A later fleet in 830 AD captured Armagh. By 840 AD they had settled and enlarged Dublin, with bases at Wexford, Cork and Limerick. Dublin remained the main Irish base for them from which they traded with nearby England and Scotland and the coast of western Europe.

Also on the History site

The legacy of the Vikings in the English language, dialects and place names.


The Vikings in Orkney from the Orkneyjar Heritage site:


The Vikings in Man from Manx National Heritage:

An overview of of the Viking conquests

Haplogroups and earlier origins.

History of the Vikings at



Orr Name Study Ulster Scots Reference material