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Facts about the Icelanders 1

Those readers who [closely] follow our Iceland Weather Report Facebook page will undoubtedly have noticed that recently I have been posting little tidbits of information about the Icelanders under the heading “trivia”.

Happily, people really seem to like those little bits of info, and a number of people have urged me to keep posting them – which I am happy to do.

On reflection, however, I have decided that it is better served up on this blog than on Facebook. So, I’m going to experiment with posting factoids about the Icelanders here on a regular basis. I’ll keep it simple – for instance I’m not going to spend hours looking for the right image to include, which is one of the main things that has discouraged me from posting on this site in the past, simply because it is too time consuming.

So without further ado I give you:

FACTS ABOUT THE ICELANDERS: 1

On the whole, the Icelandic populace appears to have been reasonably welcoming to foreign visitors throughout the centuries. After all, they were a hospitable people and dreaded being labelled uncongenial. But alas, such was not always the case. Just ask the poor Basque sailors who wound up on the West Fjords after their ship was wrecked in a storm. Obviously they were not able to return home by the same means as they came, and so found themselves trapped in a hostile landscape with no way to fend for themselves. They went and knocked on doors and in some cases people took pity on them and put them up for a couple of nights. But that, obviously, was not a long-term solution, and eventually they came to find closed doors everywhere. With no way to fend for themselves they resorted to desperate measures: breaking into places and stealing food and other necessities, as well as a large ship on which they tried [unsuccessfully] to escape. When the district magistrate, the infamous Ari í Ögri, was informed of this, he sent out a posse of his best men to search for them, ordering that they should all be executed. Which almost half of them duly were. This dark event in Iceland’s history has since been dubbed the Spánverjavígin, or “Spanish killings”.

Not the Icelanders’ finest hour, to be sure.

BUT!

Two days ago, on 22 April 2015, a plaque was unveiled next to the Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft in Hólmavík to commemorate the fact that 400 years have passed since the Spanish killings took place.

I also read [on Facebook] that, on the same day, the district magistrate of the West Fjords officially withdrew the order that all Basques should be killed on sight. [NB I have not been able to officially confirm this.]

And so, people of Basque heritage who want to visit the West Fjords can now do so in relative safety, or at least without the fear of being executed on sight. Which I am sure will be a huge relief to many people.

The blurb about the Spanish killings above is adapted from The Little Book of the Icelanders in the Old Days.

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