Battle of Epiphany

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Battle of Epiphany
Date 5–6 or 12 January 1156
Location south of Islay, Scotland
Result Partition of Kingdom of Mann and the Isles
Somhairle MacGillebride Gofraidh mac Amhlaibh
80 Galleys unknown
Casualties and losses
unknown unknown

The Battle of Epiphany was a naval battle fought on 5–6 January or 12 January 1156, between the Norse Gofraidh mac Amhlaibh (Godred II), King of Mann and the Isles and Celtic Somhairle MacGillebride (Somerled), King of Cinn Tìre (Kintyre), Argyll and Lorne, off the coast of Islay, Scotland.[1][2]


Olaf I Godredsson (Olaf the Red), King of Mann and the Isles, was murdered on 29 June 1153, by his nephews and his son Godred II became King of Mann and the Isles.[2] After becoming king, Godred II ruled with a heavy hand, which upset some of the chiefs and kings of the Isles.[1] Somerled who had married Raghnailt, the daughter of Olaf the Red, was approached by a number of men headed by Thornfinn Ottarsson to overthrow Godred II and replaced with Dugall Ottarsson, to which he agreed.[1][2] He began preparations and began construction of 80 ships modelled on the Norse longship, known as birlinns and nyvaigs (the latter being the first ship to have a stern rudder directly in the rear of the vessel). Somerled having recognised the importance of dominating the sea, with which the Norse had successfully suppressed the Isles.[3]


Godred II became aware of Thornfinn and Dugall Ottarsson's treachery sailing around the Isles seeking fealty as the next king, that he sailed his fleet to attack.[4]

The fleets of Godred II and Somerled met off Islay, to the north at Rubh' a' Mhaoil, on the night of the Epiphany on 5–6 January or 12 January 1156, and a fierce battle continued through into the next day. A stalemate occurred between the two fleets with Godred II and Somerled initiating talks.[3]


After discussions and agreement, Godred II ceded the isles to the south of Ardnamurchan (Mull, Jura and Islay) to Somerled, while keeping the Outer Hebrides, Skye and the Isle of Man.[3]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Paterson 2008, p6
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Adam 1970, p232
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Paterson 2008, p7
  4. Adam 1970, p233


  • Patterson, Raymond Campbell (2008). The Lords of the Isles, A history of Clan Donald. Edinburgh: Birlinn Limited. ISBN 1-84158-718-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Adam, Frank (1970). The Clans, Septs, and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands. Edinburgh and London: Johnston and Bacon. ISBN 0-7179-4500-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>