After the whaling season of 1939-40, the whalers did not go back to Norway as their ships were forbidden to return because of the German occupation. Most of them found refuge in Dumfries, in Scotland, and were there for the rest of the war. That has resulted in a close friendship and many family ties between Scots and Norwegians in the area and is celebrated by ‘Norwegian Commemoration Day’. Next year (2015), the celebration will be called ’75 years of Friendship’ and will take place on 16-18 October. It will then be 75 years since the whalers and other Norwegians came to live in Dumfries for five long years.

Over tPicture1he weekend 14-16 November 2014, eight persons from Vestfold took part in the celebration of friendship between Dumfries in Scotland and Norway, most especially Vestfold. The reason for the special place that Vestfold holds in the celebration is that the largest proportion of The Norwegian Brigade in Dumfries in the 2nd World War had, of course, been whalers.

The whalers came back from the Antarctic and the year’s whaling season but were not allowed to sail home to Norway because of the German occupation. From June 1940, they were sent to Dumfries to train with the Norwegian military, planning for a later landing and a fight against the Germans on home soil. The opportunity for such action for these men never arose so they remained in Dumfries for the entire five years of the war.

The presence of the Norwegians in Dumfries during the five war years left its mark on the town. From 1941 there were over 1,000 Norwegians in and around the town. The close bond of friendship between the Scots and the

 

Norwegians had been established right from the start. The Scots regarded the Norwegians as their close allies and friends and wanted to do what they could to make them feel at home and the Norwegians were quickly received into family homes. The Scots appreciated the Norwegians. For some of them, even stronger bonds were forged for they were virile young men coming to a place where there was a surplus of young women. Because many of the local young men had been called up for the war effort it was easy for many Norwegians to find a sweetheart. That is one of the reasons for the special relationship between Dumfries and Norway. There are many people of Norwegian descent in and around Dumfries and there are many with Scottish blood in Norway and in Vestfold.

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The weekend in November 2014 was a celebration of the special relationship between Scotland and Norway. The Scottish Norwegian Society came

into being almost from the start of the war. It still exists today and was present at the celebration. From 2006, Norwegian Commemoration Day has been celebrated every two years in Dumfries. The focal point is St Michaels & South Church to which the Norwegian whalers felt a sense of belonging during the war. Up to 2014, Norwegians resident in Scotland and Scots with or without Norwegian blood in their veins, have taken part in the celebrations. It has long been the wish of the organisers that Norwegians from ‘mainland’ Norway should also participate and this year that was the case, when the eight participants from Vestfold were very well received.

Picture3The Norwegian flag was raised on the Friday. The Dumfries Provost had arranged a meeting in the Midsteeple (the tall house in the Town Centre) and afterwards we were invited to visit the Provost’s office in the Municipal

Buildings where we saw the present gifted by Norwegians to the town after the war-a metre long copy of a Viking ship.

On this occasion, special arrangements were also made on the Friday and the Saturday for Norwegians and Scots with Norwegian roots. On the Saturday everyone gathered in one of the local hotels for a ‘get to know you’ session and to exchange questions and ideas relevant to future generations.

The ‘Main Day’ marking the occasion was the Sunday, beginning with a Service at St Michaels & South Church. Speeches were made by the Provost, the Norwegian Honorary Consul General in Scotland, a Professor who relayed factual information about World War 2 and a representative from the

Norwegian Seamen’s Mission. The Church Service was conducted in both English and Norwegian and a Norwegian song was sung. After the Service, refreshments were served. The highlight of the day took place on the Sunday afternoon in the cemetery at Troqueer Church. To the sound of the bagpipes and decorated by British and Norwegian national flags, wreaths were placed on the war graves of Norwegians who had died in Dumfries. The ceremony was jointly led by the Minister of Troqueer Church and the Norwegian Seamen’s representative.

Next year (2015), there will again be a ceremony in Dumfries- on the 18th October and during the preceding week. With the title ’75 years of friendship’, it will celebrate 75 years since the whalers and other Norwegians arrived in Dumfries.

A group has been set up on Facebook called ‘The Scottish Norwegian Connection’. They will be posting many pictures and further information from the 2014 celebration and also more information and detailed arrangements of future activities. If you are not online, and you have questions you wish to ask, information can be had by getting in touch with Aslak Wahl in Sandefjord, who is the Norwegian contact for the arrangements.

*Contributed by Aslak Wahl following the visit to Dumfries in November 2014.*