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.