Orkney Rune Rede: The ninth full-day runic colloquium.

The Rune Rede in Kirkwall, Orkney, took place 21-23 May 2015. The Institute for Northern Studies, University of the Highlands and Islands, in collaboration with Uppsala Runic Forum, invited runologists and other interested researchers and postgraduate students to the a Full-Day Runic Colloquium, which, for the first time, was held in the Orkney Islands.

Memories from the Orkney Rune Rede, 21-23 May 2015

The Orkney Rune Rede ran over two and a half days, and had 29 participantsfrom Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Gotland, Scotland, England, Germany, Australia and the USA.


Write-up in the local newspaper, The Orcadian

Abstracts of presentations

Participant list:

Sarah Jane Gibbon
Henrik Williams
Jana Krüger
Jan Ragnar Hagland
Jonas Nordby
Judith Jesch
Michael Lerche Nielsen 
Aya Van Renterghem
Sonia Pereswetoff-Morath
Ragnhild Ljosland
Vivian Busch
Alexandra Sanmark 
Ashley Husband Powton
Lynn Powell
John Powell
Jane-Anne Denison
Myrna Smith
Karen Lundholm
Bonita Sindelir
Michael Barnes
Mindy MacLeod
Laila Kitzler Ahfeldt
Magnus Källström
Randi Alice Nilsen
Jan Owe
Christopher Gee
Marcus Smith
Siobhan Cooke
Susan Hardy
Lorraine Littlejohn

We started our Rune Rede with an introduction to the conference programme and an overivew of the Orkney runic corpus, followed by a nice, informal get-together at Lucano Italian Restaurant in Kirkwall.

After a morning of presentations, we visited the Orkney Museum in Kirkwall. The museum staff had kindly let us view some runic inscriptions from the store as well as the ordinary exhibition. We were delighted! In the photo: Henrik Williams, Jan Ragnar Hagland and Christopher Gee.

Student Susan Hardy was delighted to get a chance to inspect the Naversdale Rune Stone with Sarah Jane Gibbon from Orkney College's archaeology department!

After a full day of presentations and discussion on the 22nd, we headed out in the field on 23rd May. Here we are at Maeshowe, where Michael Barnes treated us to a full tour of all 33 runic inscriptions.

We debated whether the "Bjorn" runic inscription on the Ring of Brodgar is medieval or modern. In the photo: Michael Barnes. Photo by: Lynn Powell.

The runes in Unstan tomb, by Stenness Loch, are definitely modern, though! We went to see them nonetheless. The sun and the midges came out, too. Photo by Lynn Powell.

A much needed lunch break in gorgeous sunshine at the Standing Stones Hotel. Some playful delegates found a piece of metal and made an amulet for Ragnhild in the fashion of the Brough of Deerness runic amulet. Photo by Lynn Powell.

Some months earlier, while preparing for a publication on the archaeological excavations at the Earl's Bu site in Orphir, Colleen Batey had spotted some vertical marks on a stone built into the wall of an outbuilding. The Rune Rede delegates went to great lengths to create the right light conditions to find out whether the lines are runes or not. Conclusion: Some thought it might be "something", others thought not runes, but all agreed it would be impossible to read. Good fun, though! Photo by Lynn Powell.

Below is the call for papers and the presentation abstracts.

Call for papers

Dates: 21 - 23 May 2015

Submit abstracts to cns@uhi.ac.uk. You can also contact us on the same e-mail address if you have questions, or just wish to attend without speaking.


Conference fee: Free of charge!

Booking: Whether you are speaking at the Rune Rede, or just wish to attend as a non-speaking delegate, please take a moment to fill in the booking form.

The Institute for Northern Studies and Uppsala Runic Forum are delighted to announce this call for papers for the first Rune Rede (Full-Day Runic Colloquium) in the Orkney Islands. We would especially like to invite papers discussing runic inscriptions from Orkney, Shetland, and Caithness, STANDINGSTONESTENNESS3.jpgwith a particular focus on those which have been found in Orkney since 2000 (OR 20 Breckness stone, Brough of Deerness pendant, Quay lead fragment, Naversdale stone – see links below). However, contributions on related topics are also welcome, such as for example new thoughts on any of the runic inscriptions from the North Atlantic isles or Norse Britain or Ireland, considerations on the existence and extent of a runic literacy in Orkney and Shetland, or Victorian and modern responses to the runes in Maeshowe and elsewhere.

The Rune Rede will start in the late afternoon of Thursday the 21/5, with a welcome to Orkney at the Institute for Northern Studies MAESHOWERUNES2.jpg in Kirkwall. Papers will be presented on Friday the 22/5, while on Saturday the 23/5 there is an optional post-colloquium bus tour, including a visit to see the runic assemblage in Maeshowe chambered tomb and other places of interest.

As this is an event in the Uppsala Runic Forum series, we are delighted to say that Kungliga Humanistiska Vetenskaps-samfundet is sponsoring the Orkney Rune Rede. The event is therefore free of charge.


Links to pictures of the four latest runic finds from Orkney

Brough of Deerness pendant

Naversdale stone

Lead fragment from Quay, Deerness (upside down) Lead fragment with runic inscription, side A. Photo by Frank Bradford.

OR20 Breckness stone


This schedule may be subject to minor changes.

Thursday 21st May 2015

Friday 22nd May

9.00 – 9.15: Assemble at Institute for Northern Studies, opening remarks

9.15 – 11.15: Papers  (4 papers)

11.00 – 11.15: Tea and coffee break, chance to have a chat with people

11.15 – 12.45: Papers  (3 papers)

12.45 – 1.30:  Lunch (included)

1.30 – 3.00: Museum visit, including private view of Naversdale stone

3.15 – 5.15: Papers (4 papers)

7.00: Dinner at West End Hotel

Papers will be approximately 20 minutes long, with 10 minutes for discussion.

Saturday 23rd May
Optional bus tour of Orkney Mainland. The tour is free for conference delegates, but it is essential that you book your place on the tour when you fill in the conference booking form.

 Please let us know if you intend to take part in the excursion when you make your conference booking.

There will be the option to take a taxi to the airport from Orphir, for anyone catching flights in the afternoon.

Link to map showing find spots for Orkney runic inscriptions, OR 1- 23 + OR Barnes 1-33


Speakers and papers

Follow the links to see individual abstracts, or Abstracts of presentations.

Aya Van Renterghem: “To Twig or not to Twig: Secret Runes in the British Isles”

Henrik Williams: “Or Barnes10 Þorný sarð: Who did what to whom?”

Jan Ragnar Hagland: “The Corpus of Runic Inscriptions from Orkney and Shetland and the Notion of ‘Runic Literacy’.”

Jay Johnston: “Religion and Runology: How Religious Concepts Impacted Upon Antiquarian Interpretations of the Maeshowe Inscriptions”

Jonas Nordby: “A prayer or what?” (N 131 M Nore kirke)

Judith Jesch: “Vikings in Maeshowe. Some thoughts on Or Barnes 1 M.”

Michael Lerche Nielsen: “"A good word never broke a tooth”. The significance of the Brough of Birsay amulet, OR 11”

Ragnhild Ljosland: “The 12th century intruders’ attitude to Maeshowe”

Sarah Jane Gibbon: “'The Naversdale Runestone: Pater Noster to Pigs Nose'?”

Sonia Pereswetoff-Morath: “The Runic Inscription on the Pendant from the Brough of Deerness: Is it Lexical or not?”

Vivian Busch and Jana Kr?ger: “Or Barnes20: A metrical inscription?”



Travelling to Orkney


By airplane:

If you are coming by plane, the easiest way to get to Orkney is by making your connection through either Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, or Inverness. From these airports, there are direct flights to Kirkwall with Flybe. This airline collaborates with British Airways, so you can get a through ticket with them.

By railway, bus or car + ferry:

If you are coming over land, then make your way to either Aberdeen - from where you can get the Northlink ferry departing Thursday 21/5 at 5 pm and arriving in Kirkwall at 11 pm - or you can make your way to Caithness, where you can get the other Northlink ferry from Scabster at 7 pm (arriving in Orkney at 8.30 pm), or Pentland Ferries from Gills Bay at 1.30 pm or 6.30 pm (takes about one hour).


Where to stay

The Centre for Nordic Studies is right in the centre of Kirkwall, Orkney's biggest town, so there are several hotels close by. Within a 2-minute walking distance from the Rune Rede venue, there is the Albert Hotel, the Ayre Hotel, the Kirkwall Hotel, and The Shore. Hostel accommodation is also available close by: The Peedie Hostel where you can get a single room for £20 per night. There are also several nice Bed & Breakfasts nearby.

How to find the Rune Rede venue

The Rune Rede will be held at the St Magnus Centre, Palace Road, Kirkwall. This is in the centre of Kirkwall, behind St Magnus Cathedral.

Map by Google Maps:


Please get in touch on cns@uhi.ac.uk or phone (+44) (0)1856 569 302 if you have any questions.

What else is happening in Orkney?

The 21-24th May is also the Folk Festival weekend. Experience a real Scottish Ceilidh, enjoy performances in different venues throughout Orkney and get that real feel of Scotland while you are here!



Inside Maeshowe Rebecca Marr