Skip to main content

The Scottish Kayaks and the ‘Finn-men’

  • Ian Whitaker

Among the more obscure aspects of polar research the problem of the appearance off Scotland of kayaks of Eskimo type is one of the most formidable. A These craft, one of which has certainly survived, normally become waterlogged after about forty-eight hours in the water. How then were they brought to the British Isles, and by whom?

Apparently the earliest reference to their appearance off the Scottish coast is that of the Rev. James Wallace, Minister of Kirkwall, Orkney, who wrote about 1688 in his Description of the Isles of Orkney:

‘Sometime about this Country are seen these Men which are called Finnmen; In the year 1682 one was seen sometime sailing, sometime Rowing up and down in his little Boat at the south end of the Isle of Eda, most of the people of the Isle flocked to see him, and when they adventured to put out a Boat with men to see if they could apprehend him, he presently fled away most swiftly: And in the year 1684, another was seen from Westra, and for a while after they got few or no Fishes; for they have this Remark here, that these Finnmen drive away the fishes from the place to which they come.

‘These Finnmen seem to be some of these people that dwell about the Fretum Davis [Davis Straits].… One of their Boats sent from Orkney to Edinburgh is to be seen in the Physitians hall, with the Oar and the Dart he makes use of for killing Fish’.

Hide All
1947. Andersson, Otto.Väinämöinen och Vellamos Jungfru’ in Budkavlen 1947, 4, pp. 97132. Åbo.
1944. Anon. ‘The Voyage of a Kayak’, in Scottish Geographical Magazine, vol. 59, pp. 1045, Edinburgh.
1900. Avebury, Rt. Hon. Lord. Prehistoric Times, London.
1924. Birket-Smith, Kaj. Ethnology of Egedesminde District (Meddelelser om Grønland, vol. LXVI), København.
1881. Blind, Karl.Scottish Shetlandic and Germanic Water Tales, Part II,’ in The Contemporary Review, vol. XL, pp. 399423, London.
1883. Brand, Rev. John. A brief Description of Orkney, Zetland, Pightland-Firth and Caithness, Edinburgh.
1952. Christiansen, Reidar Th.Noai ’der og Finneferd’ in Sámi ÆllinSameliv (1951–2) pp. 5161, Oslo.
1951. Cluness, A. T. The Shetland Isles (County Books Series). London.
1826. Douglas, Francis. A General Description of the East Coast of Scotland. Aberdeen.
1873. Duben, Gustaf Von. Om Lappland och Lapparne, Stockholm.
1940. Evans, E. E. and Hawkes, C. F. C.An Eskimo Harpoon-head from Tara Co. Down (?)’ in Ulster Journal of Archaeology, vol. III, pp. 12733. Belfast.
1944. Gjessing, Gutorm. The Circumpolar Stone Age (Acta Arctica Fase. II). København.
1953. Gjessing, Gutorm.The Circumpolar Stone Age’, in ANTIQUITY, No. 107, pp. 1316. Newbury.
1952. Graham, Angus.Spruce and Pine Timber in two Scottish Prehistoric Buildings’, in Archaeological News Letter, vol. 4, pp. 1337. London.
1938. Holbourn, Ian B. Stoughton. The Isle of Foula, Lerwick.
1919. Holmström, Helge. Studier över Svanjungfrumotivet. Lund.
1925. Kvalén, Eivind.Kva meinast det met Finnar i gamalnorsk litteratur?’ in Maal og Minne, Oslo.
1890. MacRitchie, David.Notes on a Finnish Boat preserved in Edinburgh’, in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. XII, NS pp. 35369. Edinburgh.
1912a. MacRitchie, David.Kayaks of the North Sea’ in Scottish Geographical Magazine, vol. XXVIII, pp. 12633. Edinburgh.
1912b. MacRitchie, David.The Kayak in North-Western Europe’ in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. XLII, pp. 493510. London.
1947. Manker, Ernst. De Svenska Fjällapparna, Stockholm.
1947. Nicolson, John.Shetland Folk Tales’ in Reid Tait, E.S. [Ed.] : Shetland Folk Book, vol. 1, pp. 116. Lerwick.
1912. Reid, R. W.Description of Kayak Preserved in the Anthropological Museum of the University of Aberdeen’, in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. XLII, pp. 5114. London.
1951. Reid Tait, E. S.Finn and Trowie Stories from Fetlar’, in Reid Tait, E. S. [Ed.]: Shetland Folk Book, vol. II, pp. 58. Lerwick.
1951. Scott, Lindsay.Drift Timber in the West’, in ANTIQUITY No. 99, pp. 1513. Newbury.
1935. Souter, Willam Clark. The Story of Our Kayak and Some Others (Presidential Address to the Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society, 1933). Aberdeen.
1883. Tudor, John R. The Orkneys and Shetland. London.
1883. Wallace, Rev. James. A description of the Isles of Orkney. Edinburgh.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *

Related content

Powered by UNSILO


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed