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The connection between Uig on Lewis and Iceland and Greenland in the Viking Age was celebrated on Wednesday with the unveiling and dedication of a bust of Leif Erikson.

Vikings first reached our shores in the late 8th century and their presence as raiders, settlers and traders is evidenced through archaeological finds, including the Norse-made chesspieces found two centuries ago in the Uig Sands.

Leif Erikson, c970-1020, was a Norse explorer, the son of Erik the Red, the founder of the first Norse settlement in Greenland, and of Thjodhild, both of Norwegian origin.

His place of birth is not known but he is assumed to have been born in Iceland. He grew up on the family estate in Brattahlid.

According to a 13th century saga, in 999 AD, Leif and his crew travelled from Greenland to Trondheim in Norway.  Blown off course, he landed in the Hebrides and stayed for most of the summer.

During his stay in the Hebrides, he fell in love with a noblewoman, Thorgunna, who gave birth to their son Thorgils.

Thorgils was later sent to his father in Greenland and some records suggest that Thorgunna joined them there.

Leif had two known sons: Thorgils, and Thorkill who succeeded him as chieftain of the Greenland settlement.

Wednesday’s event was an initiative of the Leif Erikson International Foundation

This is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the study, education and promotion of Leif Erikson as the first recorded European to have set foot on continental North America, and of Scandinavian culture and connections between Scandinavia and America.  The group donates busts and statues to places he was noted as visiting in the Viking sagas.

The event began upstairs in Uig community centre with tea and coffee and around 20 American guests had tour of Uig museum, especially the Viking display.   Later they toured the area by bus and in the evening there was a Viking-themed banquet.

The dedication took place outside in the sunshine where the Americans were joined by local people of all ages, including school pupils.

Local Councillor Norman A Macdonald, who is also Convener of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar gave the introduction and Kristine Leander of the Leif Erikson International Foundation told how the trust was set up and spoke of American enthusiasm for Vikings.  Professor Rolf Grankvist, from Trondheim spoke of the importance of history in Uig and the Islands.

Comunn Eachdraidh Uig say they would like to thank:

  • Leif Erikson International Foundation delegates for the donation of the very handsome bust and for travelling such a distance to visit Uig
  • Nick Smith, Heritage Manager, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for his suggestion of Uig as a site, and for his practical advice and help.
  • Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for funding the stately and durable plinth.
  • Uig Community Centre Association for their continued support and encouragement.