Moray man to steer a safe course for Viking raiders

Freydis - to visit Burghead this weekend
Freydis – to visit Burghead this weekend

A BURGHEAD VILLAGER is to join a multi-national crew on a historically accurate replica of a Viking Long ship as it voyages back to its spiritual home.

Local man Lachie Ralph, 34, will take up twin roles on the ‘Freydis’ when he joins her eight-man crew that includes a Dutchman, Dane and representative from landlocked Switzerland.

While at sea Lachie, 34, will act as night watch helmsman so that others can catch up with sleep – but he will also take on a ceremonial role as the Freydis is rowed into harbours during its two week tour ending at the Tønsberg Viking Festival in mid-September.

Lachie said: “Crossing the North Sea has always been something I’ve wanted to do. My dad sailed out to Norway in 1993 in order to raise money for the Buckie Lifeboat and I really wanted to go with him – but I was too young, so I had to go by air instead.

“So when I heard about the expedition and that the people behind it were in Burghead, I took the day off work and went and introduced myself. I have some maritime experience and, fortunately, they agreed I could join them.”

Freydis was constructed by enthusiasts in Tarbert in celebration of the Kintyre village’s Viking links. The boat will voyage to Tarbert to Burghead via the Caledonian Canal and is due to arrive in Moray in good time for the village’s Norwegian Weekend on Saturday.

There the boat will take part in celebrating another close link between Scotland and Norway – Burghead’s role in the ‘Shetland Bus’ which maintained a link between Scotland and Nazi-occupied Norway in the Second World War.

On Sunday a memorial is being unveiled to commemorate the deaths of eight men who set out on a secret wartime mission from Burghead.

The operation’s main base was at Scalloway in Shetland, but a subsidiary base was located at Burghead.

The Burghead Norwegian Weekend will begin at noon on Saturday and amongst a variety of attractions there will be a battle between Vikings and Picts, a beer tent and paella at the pier, courtesy of the Bothy restaurant.

The event is being sponsored by Burghead Headland Trust with financial assistance from Diageo, The Gordon and Ena Baxter Foundation and the MacIntosh Trust.

Sunday’s memorial service will be begin at 2pm when descendants of the Norwegian crews will be joined by local villagers and dignitaries.