International Viking Day: The Vikings near Downpatrick

Alison McGrenaghan, the Jarl’s Wife, speaks about the increasing interest in Viking Culture

International Viking Day, launched in 2013 to spread awareness of Viking heritage, falls on Monday 8th May 2023. The Magnus Viking Association in Downpatrick is a ‘voluntary community group that re-enacts the dark age or early medieval period of Irish history.’ Their leader is called ‘The Jarl,’ the association welcoming people of all ages.

Alison McGrenaghan, The Jarl’s Wife


Alison McGrenaghan, whose official title is ‘The Jarl’s Wife,’ stated “We’re quite passionate about keeping the old ways, ancient crafts alive; we like to demonstrate things like ancient textile skills, old traditional cookery skills…pottery…”

The association offers training which focuses on western style Viking fighting. Members are taught how to handle weapons safely, and how to use a shield, spear and axe. “We also like to show the more dramatic stuff like some fight scenes and medieval archery…sometimes we work with other groups that bring in medieval horse riders…”

For International Viking Day, the association plan to put a slideshow or film loop together online to showcase previous and current projects. Projects have included rowing up the River Shannon and having their boats rowed from Denmark to England for a Channel 4 documentary. “Projects like that are good to talk to the public about because they’re a little bit different.”

The 8th and 9th of April will see the opening of their Viking settlement near Downpatrick, made mostly of recycled materials. “We’re hoping to develop the medieval village more, it is an opportunity for re-enactors to come and hone their skills and network…it’s a great tourism opportunity.”

Philip Campbell, The Jarl

The Magnus Viking Association welcomes members for £25 a year. “It’s hugely fun,” Alison said, “I’ve been doing this for about 12 years, it comes with an amazingly good social life…you learn skills that certainly I never thought I would have.” She added “Yes it’s a commitment, but it gives back so much.”

To find out more, visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MagnusVikingAssociation

Ballydugan Medieval Settlement, located near Downpatrick
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I am a second year Journalism student at Ulster University.