"Vigr was the homeland
of that famous Orkneyman Kolbein Hrúga. In the traditions
of the natives, Kolbein became a fabulous personage, a giant
who cast stones at rocks at churches."
P A Munch 1845
Hrúga was a Norse chieftain who settled in Orkney some time
around 1142. Described by the Orkneyinga
Saga as "most outstanding of all men", Kolbein was
born in Sunnfjord, Norway.
Around 1145, shortly after arriving in Orkney, Kolbein was
responsible for the construction of
a stronghold on the island of Wyre.
"At the time there was a very able man
called Kolbein Heap farming on Wyre in Orkney. He had a fine stone
built fort, a really solid stronghold."
The Orkneyinga Saga - Chapter 84
Kolbein's fort, the remains of which are now commonly known
as Cubbie Roo's Castle, is one of
the earliest stone built castles in Scotland and is certainly regarded
as the best preserved. It obviously saw some action in its time
as it gets a mention in the pages of Haakon's Saga. It recounts
that Kolbein's stronghold was a difficult place to attack.
Kolbein was undoubtedly a large, powerful man,
attested by the fact that "Hrúga" means "Heap"
in Old Norse.
From the few mentions he gets in the Orkneyinga
Saga, we can see that he was a man of some influence. Indeed, it
was with Kolbein's help that King Eystein gained his kingship.
One of Kolbein's sons, Bjarni, became Bishop of
Orkney and may have inaugurated the Kirkwall Grammar School.
Bjarni was responsible for the relocation of the remains
of the murdered Earl Rognvald from Caithness to their final resting
place in the St Magnus Cathedral.