The Viking Longship, "Hugin," Brought the Vikings Again to England.
Hugin joins legend of Hengist amd Horsa in Kent.Click thumbnail to view full-size
And the 60th. anniversary of the Vikings arrival!
1560-Year Anniversary of the arrival of Hengist and Horsa
And the 60th. Anniversary of the latest arrival of Vikings on Britain’s coast!
Not the original warriors, of course, they arrived to sack, pillage and rape soon after the Romans ceased to defend our shores.
Hengist and Horsa are recorded as coming here in 449, if they even existed at all outside of legend. Hengist means “stallion,” and Horst, “horse,” both in German: there is still much controversy and disagreement among historians about the infamous pair of “brothers” who have been recorded as founding Kent.
But there is no doubt that in 1949, 53 Danish, modern-day Viking seafarers, came again to our coasts in the “Hugin,” a replica of a Viking long-ship, built in Denmark, to commemorate the 1500th. Anniversary of Hengist and Horsa‘s arrival in Kent all those centuries ago. The Hugin came across the old way, too, rowed and sailed by its small crew, who took turns at the long oars, or slept roughly, lying on the deck beneath the gunwales.
Hugin’s first - and last - port of call was my birthplace, Broadstairs in Thanet, Kent, a place that has had its share of foreign invaders over the centuries: the Romans, Vikings and Normans. (not to mention the Yankees!). The reason I don’t doubt this momentous day, was that I had the honour of accompanying my grandfather, Dr. Alex Mercer, then the leading functionary of the local angling club, to pilot Hugin in the last several hundred yards to her mooring some yards off shore in what was then the “Main Bay,” (Later renamed “Viking Bay” in honour of the Hugin and her hardy crew).
The day was a daze to the then 10-year-old schoolboy, who was told to “Keep owt o’ ruddy way” by the dour Lancashire doctor. I remember huge, surrealistic giants leaning down from the high poop deck, if that’s the word, (well, they'd have to do it somewhere, wouldn't they?),waving short swords and wearing strange helmets. I noticed 5'7" grandfather was rather more reserved in how he addressed them.
The beach was packed with celebrants like sardines. A special platform had been erected for the council poobahs, I remember Victor Hornby was one, maybe the mayor - it is a long time ago. The “invaders” had brought samples of Danish bacon and butter, etc., as their was a drive on at that time to introduce Scandinavian products to the UK. I don’t know how they were kept fresh on the trip, perhaps in a large ice chest, unless they were just mock-ups of the real products.
Broadstairs was Hugin’s last port of call, but she doesn’t rest there. She can be seen just south down the coast past Ramsgate by Pegwell Bay where she lies on wooden piles and gazes across the deeps that she circumnavigated 60 years ago. She has also been moved at least once for refurbishment in order to preserve her for posterity and perhaps another invasion of grinning giants in our future.
Note: the Vikings left their genetic imprint in Thanet and elsewhere in the red hair and robust physiques of many of today’s residents. There may even be a couple of local maidens who can trace their kid’s DNA back just 60 years on dad's side.