The word “stril” (streel) used in Connemara and in Bergen, Norway

The “stril” on the west coast of Ireland was not a people of their own. They were considered to be among the poorest of the local Celts.

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The defendants of the “stril” might to be found among the elderly people who speak Old irish, or the gaelic language. This is a threatened language, and is only spoken by some few tens of thousand people.

The “stril” in Ireland was, like the stril around the city of Bergen in Norway, illiterate. And they never wrote the history about themselves.

The elders in Connemara I met, had never heard about the stril of the west coast of Bergen, on the extreme edge of the North Atlantic. As in Bergen, the “stril” in Connemara were the subject of the noble men inside the city. “Stril” (streel) is still a negative word. In the city of Galway, the noble men of traders, the 12 tribes, came from Normandie in France. The tribes took over the control of Galway in 1230 A.D. This was 130 years before the Hanseatic league opened their office in Bergen.

Irish dictionary

In the English language, “streel” is borrowed from Old irish, “Straoile”. Could the Norwegian word also be borrowed from Irish? The meaning of the word is similar in Ireland and Norway. An untidy woman, or loafer. The irish word seems to have its origin in the latin word “flagellum”, to be flogged. It is therefore likely that the people called “stril” originally were slaves. And therefor easy to catch to be enslaved by the Vikings. The Normen took many slaves in Ireland. Dublin was established ca. 830 A.D by the Danes.  The city was during the viking ages the largest slave market in Western Europe.

What happened to all the enslaved irishmen? Were some of them captured, and taken to the West Coast of Norway?

The “stril” around Bergen amounted to about 40.000 souls in the 1970’s, and were the subject of the noblemen in the city of Bergen up to our modern days. The “stril” in Connemara did probably not make it through the pledge of the 1840’s. Those who survived in Southern Connemara, escaped by migration to America. The area was hardly populated till the road was built around 1890’s, which connected the island of Lettermullan and Gorumna to the mainland.

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Not before the Easter uprising in 1916, the local coastal fishermen won the right to own their own land. They lived by their fishery, a handful of sheep and the production of potatoes on their small atlantic coastal farms. Just like the stril around Bergen lived. There are lots of similarities between these distant costal communities. Fishermen in both, could row or sail to the nearest city, Bergen and Galway, and back home in a single day.  Today, the life and legacy of the “stril” in Galway, only live in the local folklore. It took me three years of research to find the local poem by Felim Mac Dhubhghaill. “an tiolrach moor”  from 1842 A.D, The big Eagle. In this poem, a local woman is called “stril”.  To find this poem, which is still sung by the local folksingers, was like searching for the needle in a haystack. The folksong was uploaded on You Tube. Mor

How did I discover this song? 

My hypothesis was:

“Are there stril’s in other places than around Bergen on the west coast of Norway?

If so: Will there be similarities?

Out west in Connemara, on the island of Gorumna, you can still see the ruins of the house of Felim Mac Dhubhghaill. On the neighbouring  island of Lettermullan, you will find John at the local Coastal Museum. When you arrive at this place in Southern Connemara, you find a people who live in a society which have stricking similarities with the “island of the strils” near Bergen. Like on the island of Sotra, and the island communities of Austevoll.

DNA-matches with Clan Mac Donald

In 2016, 20 males of Stril’ around Bergen joined a DNA-project. 70 per cent of them had matches on Clan Mac Donald on the Hebrides.  This is the original clan Somlair (Somerled). DNA-tests display that this clan is of Norse-Gales origin.  Half Irish and half Scandinavian.

These matches are 12 out of 12 STR-markers in the y-cromoson, that follows the father to son line back in history. According to Family Tree DNA, (FTDNA) Houston, Texas, it is 95 per sent likely that these 14 strils have a common ancestor with Clan Mac Donald, 29 generations back. There are 25 years per generation (FTDNA-calculation). This gives us the year 1293 A.D.

To get these numbers confirmed, contact:

The National Archives of Norway, departement in Bergen.

Director Mr. Yngve Nedrebø:


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Published by Ivar Fjeld

Norwegan-Celtic Association, ivarfjeld@yahoo,com.