[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] O [/dropcap]n 4th March 2010 I broke my arm while climbing a tree. A silly thing to do and I paid for it by not being able to enjoy the outdoor pursuits which are important to me, for a very long time. Because of the severity of the fracture, I was enrolled for a period of full time physiotherapy rehabilitation at Salisbury Hospital.
When the time came for me to be discharged my physiotherapist said, “You will never get the full use of your hand back, you have mild Depuytrens.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Nothing really to worry about, roughly 20% of men over sixty get it. Small growths appear on the connective tissue in the palm. At its worse it can cause your fingers to be permanently bent. Tradition has it that it was brought to England by the Vikings who spread it throughout northern Europe. In fact it is known as the “Viking Disease”. So you must have Viking ancestry!”
Now, my family has lived and bred on the Isle of Wight for hundreds of years, in fact in a long and time consuming burst of enthusiasm I once traced my family tree right back to the 16th century and with few exceptions all of my forefathers lived on the Island. Is it possible that we have Island links as far back as the tenth century, and is that when I got my Viking blood? An interesting thought but impossible to prove. What were the Viking connections with the Isle of Wight I wondered?
[box]By coincidence, my interest in finding out about the Viking raids on the south coast was further stimulated by an article on the BBC website on 12th March 2010 entitled, “Weymouth Ridgeway Skeletons Scandinavian Vikings”.
I love mysteries, but being of a very tidy disposition I like to have them solved. I knew the area in which these skeletons were found very well and it was obvious to me that the victims could have been on their way to, or returning from Dorchester. They must have been ambushed by superior forces. But how? And how was it that at least one of their number came from north of the Arctic Circle?
The mystery had to be solved and this, together with my fascination about the Viking presence on the Isle of Wight, started me off on a journey of research and discovery which led me to the Arctic and on board my boat, through storms and calms to retrace the voyages of the Viking ships.
It was a story I had to tell, I hope that you enjoy it.