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Island of Sodor

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"The Island of Sodor is a world of wonder. There are faces and places that are old and new. There are bridges and tunnels that engines puff through. There are hilltops and clifftops to climb and explore. There are rivers, and railways, and much, much more. All on The Island of Sodor."
— Narrator, Misty Island Rescue
Sodor1992

The Island of Sodor is a fictional island where the Railway Series and the television series is set. It is located in the Irish Sea, between England and the Isle of Man.

Economy

About half of the island is agricultural. Oats, barley, and turnips are major crops. Fishing is important too - the Tidmouth kipper is a prized dish at breakfasts both far and wide. Lead, zinc and silver is mined, and the island stone has excellent weather-resistant properties. Although the native language, Sudric, is dying out, the rugged and beautiful scenery, and the fishing, particularly in the mountain lakes, attract holidaymakers from all parts. Bauxite is mined at Peel Godred by the British Aluminium Company. As this process requires a huge amount of electricity, a hydroelectric power station was opened nearby in 1923. Tidmouth now contributes to the country's revenues by being an excellent port, owned by the North Western Railway. Many traveling to Douglas or Belfast embark there rather than Liverpool or Fleetwood.

History

The standard history of Sodor is Canon Nicholas Dreswick's "History of Sodor", written in four volumes (Chatter and Windows, Suddery, 1899-1912). Its size makes it appear difficult, but the combination of subtle humour and lightness of touch makes up for this. It was written at Cronk Abbey.

The Romans did not bother with Sodor. They saw it from their camp at Lancaster and made a landing at what is now Ballahoo, but were driven off. The inhabitants gave no trouble after that and were left alone.

An Irish missionary named Luoc proved to be more successful. He and some companions set out for Man in coracles, but Luoc fell asleep, was blown off course and ended up on the shore in Suddery bay. The locals treated him well and he built a "keeill". He preached to the locals, and a church, nowadays known as Suddery Cathedral, was built on the site. He is remembered in the city’s motto and coat of arms, the latter of which shows him as a bishop, standing in a coracle holding a crosier. Suddery later became the ancient capital of Sodor.

The island was Christianised by men of the "Iona School", who arrived on Sodor at different times during the sixth century and settled in the south. One of them, St. Machan, settled in a cave near Culdee Fell, in the north. People came from far around to be baptised in the nearby lake, named Loey Machan, or "Machan's Lake" in his honour. St. Machan has since been named the patron saint of Sodor.

Godred MacHarold (known in legend as King Orry or Starstrider), the younger son of Harold, the Danish king of Limerick, was King of Sodor and Man from 979 to 989. Seizing his chance after the defeat of the Norse at the hands of the Irish, he harried Wales, then landed on Man. There, he pointed to the stars reflected in the water and said to the locals "There is the path running from my county to this place. That is my road to fame and fortune." Godred gave Sodor and Man ten years of peace, and his reign is remembered as a golden age. In Sodor, he is remembered affectionately as King Orry.

Godred often fought off attempts by Earl Sigurd of Orkney to reclaim Man in 982 and Sodor in 984 at a ford near what is now Peel Godred (named after him), which has now been replaced by a bridge known as King Orry's Bridge. Sigurd was not captured during either of the battles and returned five years later. Godred and his two elder sons were killed in battle in Man, but his wife, daughter Gudrun and youngest son Harold escaped to Islay.

Sigurd fell at the battle of Clontarf in Ireland in 1014. His heir, Thorfinn, was an infant the time, and so Harold took his chance and claimed Sodor and Man, ruling for twenty years before Thorfinn drove him out. Harold's son was killed in battle, but Harold escaped to Iceland, where he married again in 1044. A son, Godred Crovan, was born in 1045. Harold died in an affray in 1047.

Ogmund, born in Iceland in 1045, was the son of Sigurd of Cronk and his wife Helga. They returned from Iceland with young Godred Crovan and his mother Gerda. The two boys were bought up together, and later as stepbrothers - after Helga's death, Sigurd married Gerda. Sigurd was the leading man in Sodor by the time of his death in 1063, and Ogmund succeeded him.

By the time Thorfinn's grip on power was loosening, Godred had set about regaining his father’s former kingdom, leaving Ogmund in Sodor. Ogmund meanwhile welcomed Thorkell of Norwich to Sodor and settled his men around the island, squeezing the last of Fingall's soldiers from the island. With Sodor secure, Godred completed his goal of conquering the Isles, Dublin and finally Man at the battle of Sky Hill in 1079. Ogmund sadly fell in the battle.

After two - unprovoked - invasions, the Sudrians began to regard the Normans as archenemies. After Godred Crovan's death, the regency of Dublin decided to send Olaf, Godred's heir, to be brought up in the court of King Henry I. Sudrians took a poor view of this, however, and decided to break away. The move was approved by Magnus Barford, King of Norway, whose fleet, deployed in the area, was enough to prevent any reprisals from Dublin.

Sigmund was elected first king of an independent Sodor. He was crowned at Peel Godred, but chose to make Cronk his capital. He reigned until 1116, and was succeeded by his son Gunnar. Sigmund's descendants reigned for around 160 years until King Andreas and Prince Peter were killed in battle in 1263. Peter left no heir, so the Scots claimed Sodor and invaded. The Sudrians fought them off, but the Scots were one of Sodor's predatory neighbours who had designs on the island. The next 140 years are known as the Regency or Resistance. With the possibility of Scottish attack, a successor with ability rather than royal descent was needed. This came in the form of Sir Harold Marown. His claim to the throne was weak, though, and was only worth a regency.

Later in 1263, Alexander III claimed Sodor and in 1267 bought Man from its last king. With the power struggle between England and Scotland that started in 1290, the land changed hands many times, depending on who had the upper hand at the time. Eventually, Edward III annexed them in 1333 and gave them to the Monatacutes, who, fifty years later, sold them to William le Scrope. Henry IV had Scrope beheaded in 1399 and gave the islands to the Percy family. Sodor's annexation did not imply possession of occupation, but that many a time the new owners had a large rebellion on their hands, with locals retreating to the hills and often attacking the area between Brendam, Cronk and Rolf's Castle, which was usually occupied.

After a rebellion in 1404, Henry IV gave Man to the Stanley family. Sudrians had never acknowledged the Percys, and took great delight in sacking them under the leadership of their regent, Sir Arnold de Normanby. Sir Peter de Rigby was Henry IV's commander, and during the campaign he and de Normanby developed a considerable liking and respect for one other.

Upon de Normanby's surrender of Sodor and his regency, Henry showed wisdom and returned its government to de Normanby and the Abbot of Cronk. Some Sudrians were a little reluctant to accept the new order, but Henry created de Normanby Earl of Sodor, showing Sudrians he respected their former regent whilst bringing the resistance to an end and attaching Sodor to the English Crown.

Michael Colden, Abbot of Cronk, and Sir Geoffrey Regaby had thought about the possibility of the reformation and both thought it wrong for people to be harassed or persecuted. They were also aware of King Henry's wishes and of Cromwell's thievish plans, and were determined to ensure that the Abbey revenues were kept for the Church and Sodor, not wasted. To this period - 1540 onwards - many churches and schools were built on the island where they were most needed, and in many of these the former brethren of the Abbey found employment. Their policy of "no pressure" ensured that during the reign of Edward VI relations between Roman Catholics and the Church of England were good, and the Roman Catholic reaction, which swept swiftly through England during Queen Mary's reign, hardly touched Sodor. Colden died in 1565, but his policy was continued by Timothy Smeale, allowing Roman Catholics to worship at their churches. It was in 1570 - when Pope Pius Bull excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I - that some reluctantly felt that they must be recusants, and worship separately. They made it understood that, while on the subject of religion they could not accept Queen Elizabeth as Head of the Church, this did not waver their loyalty to her. By 1600, most of the people of this generation had died and as children leant towards the Church of England there remained no ill feeling.

The Earldom was destroyed by Attainder in 1715; but in 1873, Queen Victoria responded to popular petition and restored John Arnold Norramby to the Earldom of Sodor and estates of Ulfstead Castle. The earls of Sodor are active on the Council of the Duchy of Lancaster, but as there is no Duke of Lancaster the Earl is referred to as a Duke by Sudrians.

The next major chapter in Sodor's history was the coming of the railways, which began with a railway from Ward Fell to Balladwail, opened in 1806. The further rail investment in the island, such as the building of the North Western Railway during 1914 and 1915, later led to the island's growth and prosperity as a tourist area and for the local industries.

A government-funded joining of the Island's standard gauge railways occurred in 1914. The railways concerned were the Sodor and Mainland, the Tidmouth, Knapford and Elsbridge, the Wellsworth and Suddery. In 1948, it became the North Western Region of British Railways, but this term was never used as the railway kept its operating independence. With Privatisation in the early 1990s, it officially became the North Western Railway.

Trivia

  • In the books, the name "Sodor" came from the name of Sudria, a hero of the Dark Ages who drove out the Normans; in real life, the name came from the Bishop of Sodor and Mann.
  • Sodor is approximately sixty-two miles east to west and fifty-one miles north to south.
  • The name of the Reverend Wilbert Awdry's house was Sodor.

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