The Norwegian Scottish Association

The Norwegian Scottish Association, although some 40 years in existence, owes its origins to a much older friendly society, one rooted in the shared experience of Norwegians and Scots during the Second World War. Founded in Dumfries in 1941, the Scottish Norwegian Society brought Scots and Norwegians together in difficult times. Having escaped the German occupation of their homeland in 1940, around a thousand Norwegians had come to be stationed at various times in Dumfries, and it was not long before the idea of a formal society was begun. From this original ‘Dumfries branch’, which continued until 1967, came the current Scottish Norwegian Society (Glasgow) and by remarkable thread of human continuity and lasting friendship, the NSA itself.

That thread of continuity and friendship came with NSA Founder Member, and former Aide-de-camp at Dumfries, Mr Anders Tomter. Mr Tomter, a Norwegian peat and land reclamation specialist who was already resident in Dumfriesshire before the War, had fought for his native land as part of the ill-fated British Expeditionary Force landing at Åndalsnes in 1940. Settling after the War to work with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland, and marrying Norrie Boberg, a Scottish-Swedish lady of no little distinction in her own right, he became firmly assimilated into the cultural and commercial life of post-War Scotland. A granite memorial stands testimony to his work at Easter Inch Moss, West Lothian.

But whilst Mr Tomter, who came to reside near Edinburgh, provided a living link with the ‘Dumfries branch’, he was not by any means the only NSA Founder Member to bring with him the special spirit and friendships of those wartime years. The Association’s first Honorary President, Lady Mar and Kellie, was daughter of General Sir Andrew Thorne KCB CB CMG DSO, whose role in securing the liberation of Norway saw him awarded the King Håkon VII Freedom Medal (Norway), and appointed a Grand Cross of the Royal Norwegian Order of St Olav. Others brought wartime experience too. Mr Sverre Bjønness, the Association’s first Chairman, had suffered wounds during his part in the North Atlantic Convoys. Mr William (Bill) McIlwraith, the Association’s first Vice-Chairman, had served in the RAF, as had his fellow Committee Member and Science Master at Leith Academy, Mr William Brotherston Mackenzie. Amongst the remaining NSA Founding Members, not all of whose biographies can be written with any certainty today, Mr Helge L Weibye – on whose initiative the NSA was founded – also saw active service.

It was from these wartime origins and roots the NSA grew and established itself as a fresh presence in the social and intellectual life of the capital city. Warm and well-established Norwegian-Scottish relations were its inheritance, and it carried this inheritance from its founding in the mid-1960s forwards to a new generation – a generation of Norwegians and Scots with new ideas, new talents and new opportunities. Norwegian students were coming to Scotland to study, and some to settle to professional life in ‘Auld Reekie’ itself. Amongst these, were NSA Founder Members: Mrs Jorid McQuillan, Dental Surgeon, originally from Trondheim; Mr Kaare Gunstensen, Medical Graduate of the University of Edinburgh, also from Trondheim; Mr Gunnar Henni, Engineer, graduate of Heriot-Watt College and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland; and NSA Secretary, Mr Carl Christian Gulliksen, also a graduate of Heriot-Watt.

Greystone Rovers Football Club

Greystone Rovers began in 1938 at Huntingdon Park, a now lost playing field between Huntingdon Avenue and Carnegie Street in Dumfries, which at this time was “fitba daft” in the words of James Hutcheon.[1] Founding members of the club included neighbourhood youths Jimmy Scott, Bluff Murray, Bryce Johnstone and his brother Billl, as well as Johnny Wallace whose lifelong involvement saw him become manager, secretary, treasurer and chairman of Greystone Rovers. At first it allowed local boys to play friendly matches at a time when “a ball was worth its weight in gold and if anything happened to the ball during a match, the game being abandoned was not unusual!”[2]

Unsurprisingly for those “hard times in which it started”, Greystone Rovers could not afford a strip, so it was a great help when Bill ‘Winkle’ Scott gifted them one of black and gold in 1939.[3] That year saw the team play their first Dumfries Juvenile League game and win 7-4 against the Nondescripts FC. With wartime travel restrictions and many league players called up, the Second World War saw a return to friendly matches, but Greystone Rovers raised money for the Red Cross too. That period also saw the beginnings of friendship with Norway and eventually a tradition that would continue for decades.[4]

On 1st August 1940 the Rovers played against the Norwegian Army team at Huntingdon Park, fielding Thomson, McRoerts, Fleming, Geddes, Scott, Gordon, McCourty, Milligan, Walace, Dickson and J. Sharp.[5] Thanks to Jim Milligan they secured a 2-2 draw, a result which merits respect – for not only were several of the Norwegian side former Olympic players, but Queen of the South suffered a heavy defeat against the Norwegians that same year![6] Greystone Rovers continued despite some of its own players being called up in 1941, as well as their manager Andrew Young. It was he who organised a reunion of pre-war players at the White Hart Hotel in 1946. That reunion was a sad celebration, since “Mr. Young read out the names of the lads who had died in the War.”[7]

By 1951 the club had firmly re-established itself and won its first trophies, but that summer was historic for the club as the next generation of Greystone Rovers boys embarked on a tour of Norway. This was organised by John Wallace with the help of Major Myreseth, who had commanded the Norwegian brigade in Dumfries. At the other end arrangements were made by Svein Sannem of Sportsklubben Brann in Bergen, who met the 14 boys who sailed from Newcastle when they arrived at Kristiansand.[8] One of those boys recalled that Sannem took them for dinner, but didn’t count on them each having two main courses – as they hadn’t eaten due to a rough voyage making them sea sick![9] Between 14th and 30th July they stayed with Norwegian families in Bergen and played two games against Brann, while in Haugesund the boys were greeted by fellow doonhamer Janet Kennedy and her husband Chris Semb.[10]

Upon returning to Dumfries the team received a telegram from the Secretary of the Scottish Football Association to congratulate them “on a successful tour and for being the first youth side in Scotland to go on a football tour after the War.”[11] Before returning to Scotland though they had to wait in Bergen for their strips to be washed![12] In July 1952 the Brann Juniors team visited Dumfries for the first time, establishing a pattern of biannual exchanges between the two clubs that would continue for years. The Norwegian youths played at Dalbeattie, Dunoon and Palmerston, but also visited Hampden Park, Celtic Park, Ibrox Stadium and Aberdeen.[13]

In its first 50 years Greystone Rovers sent over 400 boys to Norway on 15 different occasions, forging strong links with Norwegian clubs such as SK Brann, SK Haugar, AKRA I.L. and ØUGARD I.L.[14] The commitment of John Wallace and his wife to maintaining the Norwegian connection was so strong that they even attempted to revive the Dumfries branch of the Scottish Norwegian Society in 1971, which had been disbanded four years previously.[15] In 1988 Greystone sent “the youngest team ever to cross the north sea… under the leadership of Graeme Muir”, who in 2017 is now Coach Development Officer for the club.[16] To celebrate 50 years since their first visit, in 2001 many of the original Greystone Rovers team returned to Norway and stayed with different families.[17]

Hutcheon may have regretted intending to “teach they puir foreigners our national gem” and “give them some idea of how the game went” after the humiliating defeat that the Norwegians brought upon Queen of the South in 1940.[18] However Greystone Rovers has ensured that doonhamers and Norwegians have been able to continue enjoying the ‘national gem’ together in the 77 years since. As John Wallace himself said “Greystone Rovers is something special…”[19]

[1] James Hutcheon, ‘When the Norwegians Came to Dumfries’, p.4 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[2] Greystone Rovers, ‘History’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.7

[3] Greystone Rovers, ‘John Wallace’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.3

[4] Greystone Rovers, ‘History’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.7

[5] Greystone Rovers, ‘History’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.10

[6] James Hutcheon, ‘When the Norwegians Came to Dumfries’, p.4 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[7] Greystone Rovers, ‘History’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.8

[8] Greystone Rovers, ‘History’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.8

[9] Interview with Our Norwegian Story researcher

[10] Greystone Rovers, ‘History’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.8

[11] Greystone Rovers, ‘History’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.8

[12] Interview with Our Norwegian Story researcher

[13] Greystone Rovers, ‘History’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.9

[14] Greystone Rovers, ‘History’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.10

[15] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.6

[16] Greystone Rovers, ‘History’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.9

[17] Interview with Our Norwegian Story researcher

[18] James Hutcheon, ‘When the Norwegians Came to Dumfries’, p.4 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[19] Greystone Rovers, ‘History’ in Golden Jubilee programme (1988), p.9

Weddings & Women

An aspect of Norwegian life in Dumfries that was critical to the town’s continued Norwegian story was of course romantic in nature. Depending on circumstances this might have been a celebrated or sensitive topic, but either way a fair number of relationships between Norwegians and Doonhamers resulted in marriage and children, ensuring that a living legacy of that dislocated period exists in both countries. Several sources indicate that over two hundred Norwegian soldiers married women in Scotland, and that many of those weddings were held in Dumfries.[1] There are at least a few photographs of Norwegian weddings at the churches of Troqueer and St Michael’s.

As noted by Giancarlo Rinaldi, “the arrival of such a large number of young ‘Vikings’ in Dumfries did not go unnoticed by local girls” in 1940, with the number of weddings over the years demonstrating that “there was more than friendship on the cards”.[2] He further suggests that the number of Norwegian names listed in the local phone-book offers testament to the strong family bonds that continue! According to James Hutcheon the relationships between Dumfries girls and Norwegian boys was “more than the natural habit of a soldier to put his arm around a pretty girl’s waist”, and that the attraction was “more than just the love of a uniform and the glamour of war.[3] The assessments of Rinaldi and Hutcheon are supported by the fresher memories of Kristian Jahr in 1962:

“And more than friends! I think I am right in saying that over 200 Norwegian soldiers married your bonnie lassies. Most of them are now living in Norway with their families. Some stayed in Dumfries and others came back from Norway with their families. I don’t know how many Norwegian or ex-Norwegian families have settled in Dumfries. Could it be as many as 30? Perhaps more, perhaps less, but it is not important. Most of the Norwegians who settled here have taken British nationality and regard themselves as fellow Scots.”[4]

It was not just regular troops making love connections in Dumfries either; the first wedding between a Norwegian officer and a Doonhamer took place at Troqueer Church in 1941. At a Scottish Norwegian Society ceremony of 1944, Major Myrseth’s contribution to the early Society was marked by the Chairman, Reverend Cockburn, who cheekily remarked upon the Major’s “desire to draw the Scots andd the Norwegians more and more closely together. Not only had the major become a Dumfriesian by virtue of several years residence but he had dispelled all suggestion of being a mere incomer by taking unto himself a Dumfries wife. Now he was truly a native.”[5]

Even while focusing on Dumfries, it is important to remember the hardship endured by families left behind in Norway who had to live under Nazi occupation, often without men to help do work and with a harsh system of rationing imposed upon them. Ingrid Mair’s father Nils Haughovd married a Dumfries girl before returning to Norway, but her uncles Ingvar and Ola returned to their Norwegian families after the war.[6] It’s worth considering the complex web of relationships that developed between wives and mothers left behind, husbands and sons in exile, lovers taken while overseas indefinitely, and children on both sides of the sea. Sometimes there could be no happy ending.

Due to the vast majority of Norwegians living in Dumfries during the 1940s being men, accounts of their stay are invariably told from a male perspective. While the population of Norwegian men in Nithsdale reached peaks of one or two thousand during the war, there were barely more than 100 women throughout.[7] Sadly only rare glimpses into the female experience of exile in Nithsdale exist here and there. We know that Norwegian women worked as nurses at Maxwelton and Newlands, but also that many served in the Norwegian Womens’ Army, which was led by Rundi Albert.[8] A bust of her by James G Jeffs can still be seen in the Norwegian Connection display case at Dumfries Museum.[9] She was also among the signatories of the copy of Alt for Norge! (All for Norway), which belonged to Major Myrseth and is also on display there.[10]

We also know from Rev Cockburn’s Account of 1943 that women of each nationality collaborated to support the Norwegian war effort in diverse ways, such as “an interesting and productive activity instituted at the suggestion of Major Myrseth was a Knitting Circle among the lady members. These ladies, both Scottish and Norwegian, collaborated and set to work on the production of a large number of pairs of woollen gloves for use in the Norwegian Military Forces, whose generous thanks for the articles are conveyed to all who participated.”[11] Of course it would be wonderful to know more about how else Norwegian women contributed, were trained or what experiences they had, but James Hutcheon does share a touching moment in May 1945, near the end of their time in Dumfries:

“My last recollection of the Norwegians is one sunny night on the Plainstanes about two nights after Norway had been liberated. The KOSB [King’s Own Scottish Borderer’s regiment] band, which had played in Norway on that occasion, had for some reason been flown back and they were playing the “Retreat” between our old Steeple and the Fountain. I saw some of the Norwegian women pushing their small children through the crowd, aye, and some of the Norwegian lassies, too, pressing forward to touch the kilts which had been so recently in their beloved homeland to set it free.[12]

With national costume in mind, the Scottish Norwegian Society provides an interesting comment on Norwgian women’s traditional dress, the bunad. In 1987 a group of Norwegian ladies were visiting patients at Ross Hall Hospital in Glasgow, where they joined SNS memebers for a Norwegian Christmas party. One of the women noticed that the Society’s then President, Mrs Margit McKenna, “was wearing the Romsdal ‘bunad’ and on speaking to her, found that they both came from the same place in West Norway, Vestnes, across the fjord from Molde. This shows how distinctive the traditional regional styles of Norwegian National Costume are.”[13]

 

The following list of Norwegian weddings in Dumfries was compiled by Isobel C. Gow[14]:

 

1941

Knudsen and Hogg

Jahr and Chambers

Jacobsen and Edgar

Hansen and Gibson

Tvilberg and Todd

 

1942

Hans Jensen adn Elizabeth Taylor

Finn Tonnesson and Phyllis Connell

 

1944

Kaare Evensen and Margaret Ross

Harald Sommerbakk and Grace Kerr

Aage Berg Nilsen and Betty Symington

Sigurd Fiskerstrand and Winifred Ewan

 

1945

Welfred Larsen and Evelyn Bell

Arne Michelsen and Jeannie Brown

Hany Flatten and Lilian Edgar

Harald Gundersen and Barbara Turner

 

 

[1] Isabelle C. Gow, Nithsdale at War (Catrine: Stenlake, 2011), p.60

[2] Giancarlo Rinaldi, Great Dumfries Stories (Glasgow: Bell & Bain, 2005), p.53

[3] James Hutcheon, ‘Our War-Time Guests’ in J.S. Dinwiddie (ed), The Gallovidian Annual (1949), p.29

[4] Kristian Jahr, ‘Dumfries and Norway’ (1962), p.5 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[5] Giancarlo Rinaldi, Great Dumfries Stories (Glasgow: Bell & Bain, 2005), pp.54-55

[6] Isabelle C. Gow, Nithsdale at War (Catrine: Stenlake, 2011), p.69

[7] James Hutcheon, ‘When the Norwegians Came to Dumfries’, p.3 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[8] Isabelle C. Gow, Nithsdale at War (Catrine: Stenlake, 2011), p.60

[9] Future Museum, ‘Sculpture: Rundi Albert’ page [accessed 21.3.2017]  <http://www.futuremuseum.co.uk/collections/arts-crafts/arts/sculpture/rundi-albert,-leader-of-the-norwegian-womens-army-in-dumfries.aspx>

[10] Future Museum, ‘The Second World War: All for Norway!’ [accessed 21.3.2017] <http://www.futuremuseum.co.uk/collections/people/lives-in-key-periods/war-decline/the-second-world-war/all-for-norway!.aspx>

[11] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), pp.4-5

[12] James Hutcheon, ‘When the Norwegians Came to Dumfries’, p.6 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[13] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.12

[14] Isabelle C. Gow, Nithsdale at War (Catrine: Stenlake, 2011), p.102

Scottish Norwegian Society

Very quickly with the arrival of so many Norwegians in Dumfries during 1940, a mutual effort between their own officers and Doonhamers ensured they would be made to feel welcome in the town. Prominent citizens such as the Reverend Harold Cockburn, Town Clerk James Hutcheon, and businessman Noёl Dinwiddie worked with Major Olaus Myrseth to “bring together the two communities of Scots and Norwegians in a purposive way by forming a Society to promote the already growing friendship between two lots of people who got on so well together.”[1] Among their ambitions were to organise social events, provide cultural education and exchange, while hopefully forging commercial ties that would endure after the war.

Hutcheon recalls how the embryonic Society came to be installed at Norge Hus overlooking the Burns Statue when the Norwegian army under Myrseth “took over the empty building in the High Street which used to be Oughtons. Part was used for workshops and stores but a part was set aside for the activities of the newly formed Scottish-Norwegian Society.”[2] In March of 1942 the Society constitution was revised and finalised, its purpose stated as: “To promote friendship, and to further cultural and commercial relations between the Scottish-Norwegian peoples.” The first General Meeting held on 9th April marked two years since Germany invaded Norway, and was attended by 160 members and prospective members.[3]

Among plans outlined at that inaugural gathering were regular meetings every Thursday in the Norway House canteen for socialising and lectures, as well as the establishment of a library for members.[4] The offering grew to include concerts, films shows and whist drives at Norway House, while open events were held in larger venues around Dumfries. Lectures held included an account of Norwegian prisoners on a Nazi ‘hell ship’ by Lektor Falch, and an introduction to the craft of spinning by local artist James G. Jeffs of The Yellow Door.[5] In his 1943 Annual Report, Chairman Rev Cockburn excitedly detailed the Society’s busy and varied programme:

“The Society was specially proud to sponsor visits to Dumfries by the celebrated Norwegian artistes, Soffi Schønning and Waldemar Johnsen, who delighted large audiences in the Academy Hall and St.George’s Hall with finely varied programmes of songs, folk-songs, and duets. As a result the Society was able to send a donation of £60 to King Haakon’s Fund, and for their services in furthering the objects of the Society both these famous artistes were created Honorary Life Members.”[6]

During winter the SNS would offer language classes for Scottish members wishing to learn Norwegian, with lessons planned by Lieutenant Reinholt who was assisted by Lt. Aasen and Sergeant Børresen. As many as 40 members attended classes, so that “the number of Scots possessing more than a smattering of the Norwegian language is quite considerable.”[7] Indeed, on receipt of his St. Olav Medal from the Norwegian Consul in 1964, lifelong Society member Andrew P. Macpherson was able to deliver his thanks in fluent Norwegian, to the surprise of the Consul! This despite never having visited Norway – “I learned the language in Dumfries”, he said.[8]

The Society’s library likewise proved very properly, with the Hon. Librarian recording over a thousand volumes borrowed during 1942-43.[9] The Society’s love of literature saw them also embrace the tradition of Burns Suppers. Their own popular poet Nordhal Grieg spoke at the Supper of 1943, sharing his love for Burns which his father had introduced him to in Norway.[10] Indeed, Hutcheon related that the Norwegians already had a firm familiarity with the poetry of Burns and that “among my most treasured memories of the stay of the Norwegians are the speeches by some of their countrymen at our annual Burns Suppers.”[11] In particular Grieg expressed appreciation for ‘Scots Wha Hae’ due to its “inspiring theme of patriotism and freedom”, which paralleled Greig’s own poems being broadcast to Norway at that time to inspire the Resistance.[12]

As war came to an end in May of 1945, Norwegians were able to return to their liberated country after five long years in exile. With the vast majority of Norwegians in Dumfries due to depart, the Society organised a ‘Farewell Party’ at the British Restaurant, which saw around 250 Scots and Norwegians turn out to bid their goodbyes.[13] Over the following months the number of Norwegians in Dumfries quickly depleted. The last to leave was Captain Anton Tviberg, who happened to have been among the very first to arrive in 1940.[14]

Despite its diminishing Norwegian membership the Society continued to host regular meetings and activities after 1945, and as noted by Giancarlo Rinaldi, for many local SNS members the farewell turned out not to be so final. Ex-Provost Lockerbie had previously created a savings scheme for the society, which meant that “a good number had gathered sufficient funds to travel over to Norway to visit their friends.”[15] So even before Greystone Rovers began the sporting tradition of visiting Norway, members of the SNS had managed to make the expensive trip to visit their friends!

Eventually the local branch of the SNS was wound up by Walter Duncan of Newlands in 1967, and its resources were passed on to the surviving Glasgow branch, which endures today. An attempt to revive the Dumfries branch in 1972 was actually instigated by Greystone Rovers founder John Wallace and some friends, yet it seems that, without the sizeable population of Norwegians in Dumfries that the war created, an enduring Scottish Norwegian Society can only exist at the national level.[16]

Of course the SNS today still organises events and creates a focal point for Norwegian culture in Scotland, with continuing support from the Norwegian Consulate in Edinburgh and royal patronage. Hutcheon recalled that Norwegians in Dumfries “were never just a colony within a foreign town for they entered into the life of the community bringing a robust, self-reliant vibrance to the stirring time of war.”[17] At a ceremony in 1944 marking his contribution to the early days of the Society, founding member Major Myrseth echoed that sentiment:

“For most of the Norwegians Dumfries had been their temporary capital city. Many in other parts of the country had said to him when going on leave: ‘But we must go to Dumfries because, Major, it is our capital city.’ Yes, and Dumfries would remain their capital in memory for many years, because they could never forget the friends they had found in the Queen of the South in the difficult beginnins of their exile. Everywhere they were met with open arms, and everything was done to give them a home from home.”[18]

 

[1] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.3

[2] James Hutcheon, ‘When the Norwegians Came to Dumfries’, p.4 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[3] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.3

[4] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.4

[5] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.4

[6] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.5

[7] Quoted in James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.5

[8] Future Museum, ‘’Honoured by King Olav’, newspaper article, dated 28 Feb 1964’ [accessed 21.2.2017] <http://www.futuremuseum.co.uk/collections/people/lives-in-key-periods/war-decline/the-norwegian-connection/honoured-by-king-olav,-newspaper-article.aspx>

[9] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.5

[10] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.4

[11] James Hutcheon, ‘Our War-Time Guests’ in J.S. Dinwiddie (ed), The Gallovidian Annual (1949), p.26

[12] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.14

[13] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.5

[14] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.5

[15] Giancarlo Rinaldi, Great Dumfries Stories (Glasgow: Bell & Bain, 2005), p.55

[16] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.6

[17] James Hutcheon, ‘When the Norwegians Came to Dumfries’, p.6 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[18] Giancarlo Rinaldi, Great Dumfries Stories (Glasgow: Bell & Bain, 2005), pp.54-55

The Royal Visit

When Germany invaded and installed a puppet government under Quisling the Norwegian Royal family fled to Britain, where King Haakon headed a government-in-exile from London. Yet with their Norwegian Brigade based at Dumfries from 1940-45, the town has received several royal visits both during the war and in the decades since. As Giancarlo Rinaldi put it, the Norwegian royals recognised very soon “the fundamental role that the town played in keeping a fighting force alive for their nation”, and so “have not been slow to grace the area with their presence.”[1] As well as King Haakon VII and Crown Prince Olav, Norwegian government ministers also visited Dumfries at various times.

The first royal visits occurred not long after the Norwegians had settled in Dumfries, because according to James Hutcheon “as the training of troops progressed it was inevitable that they should be paid a visit by their King.”[2] In 1940 King Haakon arrived at Dumfries Station as so many of his subjects had, and like them he was greeted by local dignitaries and British military personnel. Apparently during visits the royals would stay at Newlands House, although only a 1941 visit by Haakon is recorded on the commemorative plaque there.[3]

They did usually dine at the officers mess in Broomlands House though, and Hutcheon recounts a couple of evenings spent with them there. From Hutcheon’s personal recollection we gain a more human perspective than could be gleaned from reading official accounts or studying photographs of the time. He highlights King Haakon’s “free and easy manners” as well as sense of humour.[4] After dinner he recalls that “it was in the lounge, however, that one saw more often glimpses of the man.” Hutcheon elaborates that:

“He was wearing a high-necked tunic and without loss of dignity he calmly undid it at the neck. He sat on the arm of the sofa I was sitting on and chatted to me and to others sitting round about. He got up and wandered round the room from chair to chair, from group to group, and when it came time for him to leave he was sharing a quite inadequate chair with a junior officer. When he stood up and fixed his colllar and pulled down his tunic it was as if some invisible sergeant-major had bellowed ‘Shun’, for as one man we leapt to our feet and stood at attention. He was a man but when it was required he could be a King.[5]

This being the man who was photographed 30 years earlier alongside eight other sovereigns during the largest gathering of European royalty in history! Hutcheon was similarly impressed by the modesty of Crown Prince Olav, because “when the occasion demanded it he was Royalty, but when it was superfluous he mixed on terms of mutual respect and understanding with all his people.”[6] Outside of the officers mess, Hutcheon recorded the day that King Haakon inspected his troops. First at Holm Field, then watching them march past at the junction between Rosefield Road and Holm Avenue, standing beside the tree that is now in front of Troqueer Community Centre:

“…and there is a spot in one of our housing schemes where he stood to review his little exile army.

There was a proposal that the spot should be marked by a composite small memorial of Norwegian and Scottish granite bearing the inscription “A King stood here” but so far the idea has not been pursued.”[7]

Besides these instances in 1940 King Haakon is known to have come to Dumfries again in 1941, and it is possible that he or Crown Prince Olav visited on other occasions. Especially as Olav was appointed Chief of Defence on 30 June 1944 and assumed leadership of all Norwegian armed forces, it’s probable that he did revisit Dumfries in that capacity, as it continued to be the headquarters for his army.[8] He is also recorded as visiting the secret Imperial Chemical Industries factory on the outskirts of Dumfries, so perhaps this and other militarily sensitive trips were not publicised.[9]

Germany surrendered Norway on 8 May 1945, with Doonhamers among the detachment of King’s Own Scottish Borderers airlifted to impose the terms of surrender.[10] By the 13th of that month Crown Prince Olav and five government ministers returned.[11] On 7 June King Haakon VII joined them, five years to the day since he had been forced to flee.[12] Royal visits to Scotland and even Dumfries did not end with the war, however. Since its founding the Scottish Norwegian Society has invited the Norwegian monarch to be their patron, while each new Norwegian Consul in Scotland has continued to be honorary vice-president.

On 19th October 1962 the now King Olav V returned to Dumfries, having succeeded his father in 1957.[13] During his day in Nithsdale the former Crown Prince stopped by Newlands House, the Lyceum theatre and Palmerston park, greeted by large crowds along the way. At the Lyceum around two thousand people saw him granted the freedom of the burgh by provost Watt.[14] The provost recalled “the respect, affection and unbounded admiration which your late father, His Majesty King Haakon, was regarded by the people of this country.”[15] King Olav reflected on the respect, affection and admiration that many Norwegians likewise felt towards Doonhamers in his speech:

“It was in Dumfriesshire where the first Norwegian Army came and it was here that most of them who left Norway in 1940 settled down. The friendliness and warm welcome with which they were met was a most important factor towards building up the morale and strength which made it possible for them to live through the war years separated from their families and homes in occupied Norway. Therefore, in Norway, Dumfries is a well-known name and it stands for kindness, friendliness and hospitality.”[16]

Since its inception Norwegian monarchs have been patron of the Scottish Norwegian Society, and after 40 years the death of King Olav V on 17th January 1991 “brought a great sense of sadness and loss to all members”, but prompted “a large congregation of Norwegians and friends of Norway” to gather for a memorial service in Glasgow.[17] In May that year the SNS membership resolved that “at an appropriate time, His Majesty King Harald V of Norway be asked to honour the Scottish Norwegian Society by consenting to be its Patron.”[18]

Having bestowed that honour, over a decade later King Harald maintained another tradition by becoming the third King of Norway to visit Dumfries. As a keen ornithologist he was pleased to be invited to open the new viewing area at Caerlaverock Wetlands centre on 16th January 2002. During that visit the king also met wartime Dumfries residents Torleif Nilson and his wife Isabella, with whom he chatted for a good twenty minutes.[19] Whether he inherited the relaxed manners of his father and grandfather along with the crown was not been recorded – you’d have to ask Mr and Mrs Nilson!

[1] Giancarlo Rinaldi, Great Dumfries Stories (Glasgow: Bell & Bain, 2005), p.55

[2] James, Hutcheon, ‘When the Norwegians Came to Dumfries’, p.5 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[3] Isabelle C. Gow, Nithsdale at War (Catrine: Stenlake, 2011), p.60

[4] James, Hutcheon, ‘When the Norwegians Came to Dumfries’, p.5 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[5] James, Hutcheon, ‘When the Norwegians Came to Dumfries’, p.5 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[6] James, Hutcheon, ‘When the Norwegians Came to Dumfries’, p.3 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[7] James, Hutcheon, ‘When the Norwegians Came to Dumfries’, p.5 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[8] The Royal House of Norway website, ‘History: World War II’ page [accessed 22.3.2017] <http://www.royalcourt.no/artikkel.html?tid=28689&sek=27316>

[9] Future Museum, ‘Fireman’s Helmet, ICI 1939-40’ [accessed 23.3.2017] <http://www.futuremuseum.co.uk/collections/features/online-exhibitions/hat-trick!/firemans-helmet,-ici-1939-40.aspx>

[10] Herald Scotland, ‘Our friends in the further north’, 23.6.2000 [accessed 19.2.2017]

<http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/12185428.Our_friends_in_the_further_North/>

[11] The Royal House of Norway website, ‘History: World War II’ page [accessed 22.3.2017] <http://www.royalcourt.no/artikkel.html?tid=28689&sek=27316>

[12] Dumfries Museum, ‘Norway and Dumfries: a special friendship’ (1990) p.10

[13] Future Museum, ‘The visit of His Majesty the King of Norway, Freedom Ceremony’ page [accessed 22.3.2017] <http://www.futuremuseum.co.uk/collections/people/lives-in-key-periods/war-decline/the-norwegian-connection/royal-burgh-of-dumfries,-the-visit-of-his-majesty-the-king-of-norway,-freedom-ceremony.aspx>

[14] Dumfries Museum, ‘Norway and Dumfries: a special friendship’ (1990) p.11

[15] Giancarlo Rinaldi, Great Dumfries Stories (Glasgow: Bell & Bain, 2005), p.56

[16] Giancarlo Rinaldi, Great Dumfries Stories (Glasgow: Bell & Bain, 2005), p.56

[17] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.13

[18] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.14

[19] Giancarlo Rinaldi, Great Dumfries Stories (Glasgow: Bell & Bain, 2005), p.56

The Story about Newlands House

Newlands was built in 1911 to replace a previous house, possibly on the site of “a castle, or fortlet, of great strength” according to one 1820s account, although the wartime owner Walter Duncan was unable to find evidence of that.[1] He was convinced by a relative and a Norwegian whaling captain to let the house be used as a hospital for Norwegian personnel. He did so only on the condition that “it be returned in the same condition”, but according to one relative of Mr Duncan this was no problem since the Norwegian staff and patients were “very tidy and respectful”.[2] According to records at Dumfries Museum, as well as a hospital Newlands served as accommodation for Norwegian officers – whether that eventually included the captain who persuaded Walter to let them stay, we cannot say![3]

The cloak room became an operating theatre, while x-ray equipment was set up in the servants hall. One young resident of the estate arrived at Newlands from South Africa, having sailed with Norwegian whalers who were returning from their Antarctic hunt. She remembered how the Shetland Bus, a covert operation which transported commandos to Norway and back, mostly operated during darkness in winter. Hence passengers were prone to frostbite during the voyage and some were transported straight to Newlands.[4] The same girl remembered that all the staff of the hospital were Norwegian, but that as a child one matron in particular stuck in her memory for being “fierce”.[5]

She also recalled that the Norwegians’ culinary habits, which included catching salmon to smoke and rearing pigs that they butchered themselves – apparently the colonel who tended the pigs was very stout himself. Perhaps these were served with the vegetables that her mother grew in the walled garden of Newlands. There was also a particular Norwegian kind of traditional Scandinavian søtsuppe, or ‘sweet soup’ made with fruit, mainly raisins, but perhaps also dried apples and apricots, prunes, lemon and cinnamon.[6] Another cheerful recollection is provided by local man Robert Borthwick of Galaberry, who remembers that recuperating Norwegians once held a sports day on the playing fields at Duncow. It was memorable for its unusual games, one of which was “to try and kick a rugby ball through a suspended tyre!”[7]

Walter and his brothers were called up themselves and served in India, but his chauffeur Mr Hume stayed on and looked after the Norwegians’ vehicles.[8] As thanks for his hospitality, King Olav V awarded The Medal of St. Olav to Walter Duncan. Established by Haakon VII in 1939, this medal is conferred “for services in advancing knowledge of Norway abroad and for strengthening the bonds between expatriate Norwegians and their descendants and their country of residence”.[9] Since his service to Norway occurred during wartime, Walter’s medal probably included an oak leaf cluster.

The connection between Norwegians and Newlands House did not end with the war. Due to its importance for many who were hospitalised there the house has been revisited over the years by royalty as well as veterans and members of the Scottish Norwegian Society. Two plaques on an outside wall of the house now commemorate a visit from King Haakon in 1941, and another by his successor King Olav during the 1962 royal tour of Scotland.[10] A third plaque between these two bears the motto in Norwegian, ‘Then we two brothers stood together and thus we shall henceforth stand.’ Its full inscription reads:

SCOTLAND  NORGE

IN HAPPY MEMORY OF NORWEGIANS AT NEWLANDS 1940 – 1945

DA STO VI TO BRØDRE SAMMEN OG SKAL SÅDAN STÅ[11]

On Sunday 5th June 1966, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the SNS , Walter Duncan invited members from across Scotland to visit Dumfries, where he and his wife who hosted a dinner for members at the County Hotel and then welcomed them to Newlands.[12] As a lifelong member of the Scottish Norwegian Society, it was Walter Duncan who wound up the Dumfries branch in 1967 and passed on its remaining funds to the Glasgow branch of the SNS.[13]

For their 50th anniversary celebrations on Sunday 22nd September 1991, many members of the SNS travelled to Newlands where Walter’s widow still lived with the new owner, his nephew.

One member recalls how they “were invited to sign the Visitors’ Book which contained the names of many distinguished visitors to Newlands over the years” and that “some members were able to look back at their signatures from the visit in 1966.”[14] Newlands House remains a private residence of the Duncan family.

[1] Canmore, ‘Newlands’ page [accessed 23.3.2017] <https://canmore.org.uk/site/65776/newlands>

[2] Interview with Our Norwegian Story researcher

[3] Dumfries Museum, ‘Norway and Dumfries: a special friendship’ (1990) p.12

[4] Interview with Our Norwegian Story researcher

[5] Interview with Our Norwegian Story researcher

[6] Food.com, ‘Recipes: Søtsuppe – Scandinavian Sweet Soup’ [accessed 16.3.2017] <http://www.food.com/recipe/s-tsuppe-scandinavian-sweet-soup-504610>

[7] Isabelle C. Gow, Nithsdale at War (Catrine: Stenlake, 2011), p.90

[8] Interview with Our Norwegian Story researcher

[9] The Royal House of Norway website, ‘Decorations: The Medal of St. Olav’ page [accessed 22.3.2017] <http://www.royalcourt.no/artikkel.html?tid=28662&sek=28559>

[10] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.19

[11] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.19

[12] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.9

[13] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.6

[14] James McKenna, ‘History of the Scottish Norwegian Society’ (2002), p.19