Rathlin’s links to the Vikings

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A skills-building programme on Rathlin Island has uncovered a lasting link to Ireland’s first Viking invasion which took place there over 1000 years ago.

Exploration of genetic ancestry through DNA testing was part of the ‘Our history - for keeps’ initiative delivered by Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council Museum Services and funded by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme.

13 island residents provided DNA samples which showed that almost everyone on the island had strong ancestral connections to Ireland and Scotland. Rathlin was attacked by Vikings in AD 795, and the raiders later settled on the island.

Although most participants hoped to see evidence of Vikings in the family, only a single test came back with evidence of Scandinavian ancestry. While further testing would no doubt reveal more islanders with similar links, for now Noel McCurdy has the dubious honour of being the last Viking on Rathlin!

The skills-building programme was developed by Rathlin Development and Community Association (RDCA). Open to all Rathlin residents, it aimed to leave a legacy of heritage skills and focused on the creation and preservation of island-based archives, ensuring that knowledge would be available for future generations. RDCA and Museum Services ran 50 hours of training workshops including an OCN accredited tour guiding programme.