Some historical notes

On the 8th of June, 1783 a 25 kilometre long fissure opened up on the slopes of the volcanoes Grímsvötn and Laki in southern Iceland. The 8 month long eruption of lava and toxic gases produced one of the most destructive climatic and socially repercussive events of the last millennium. In Iceland it is estimated that about one quarter of the inhabitants died of poisoning or famine and between one half and three quarters of their livestock were killed. The pollution spread across much of Europe and the whole world suffered a sharp climatic cooling leading to widespread crop failures and famine, and in France, some say, to the French Revolution. The eruption was known as Skaftáreldar or Síðueldur, which translates as ‘firefox’.

The parish priest and dean of Vestur-Skaftafellssýsla, Jón Steingrímsson (1728–1791), wrote:

This past week, and the two prior to it, more poison fell from the sky than words can describe: ash, volcanic hairs, rain full of sulfur and saltpeter, all of it mixed with sand. The snouts, nostrils, and feet of livestock grazing or walking on the grass turned bright yellow and raw. All water went tepid and light blue in colour and gravel slides turned grey. All the earth's plants burned, withered and turned grey, one after another, as the fire increased and neared the settlements.


The Battle of Solway Moss took place between English and Scottish forces on 24th November, 1542 on a peat bog near the River Esk on the English side of the Anglo-Scottish border. Solway Moss lay in The Debatable Lands, home of the Border Reivers.

An army of 15-18,000 Scots advanced into England and was met by Sir Thomas Wharton and his 3,000 men from Carlisle. Wharton described the battle as the ‘overthrow of the poorly led and badly organised Scots between the rivers Esk and Lyne’. The Scots found themselves trapped south of the Esk, on English territory between the river and the Moss, and after intense fighting surrendered themselves and their 10 field guns to the English cavalry. Several hundred of the Scots may have drowned in the marshes and swollen river. It was described as a rout.

The news of the defeat and, a few weeks later, that his wife had given birth to a baby girl, is believed to have hastened the early death of James V. The child would become Mary, Queen of Scots.


Lady Jane Grey ruled as Queen Jane for only nine days between the 10th and 19th of July, 1553. The granddaughter of Henry the VIII, manipulated and exploited by her family ,Jane awaited coronation in the Tower of London. However, widespread popular support for Mary Tudor led the Privy Counsel to abandon Jane. By September parliament had declared Mary the rightful successor and denounced and revoked Jane's proclamation as that of a usurper.

The Tower became Jane’s gaol until, fearful of a protestant rebellion, catholic Queen Mary had Jane beheaded, aged 16 or 17, at Tower Green on the 12th of February 1554. All images of her were destroyed, and uniquely among English monarchs, no reliable likeness of her exists today.