Leirvik 2

Iomramh 2011.

12th June 2011.

Leirvik, Eysturoy, Faroe Islands.

Video - Gotu, traditional dance

Video - Spinning with spindle & worksong.

Video - Steffen on Toftanes part 1

Video - Steffen on Toftanes, part 2

Video - Steffen on Toftanes part 3

Video - Steffen on Bunhustoftin

Video - Eirikur & Breanndán play box!

Photos - Eirikur's barbeque

Photos - Visit to Gotu

Photos - Steffen's barbeque

Photos - Toftanes

Photos - Bonhustoftin

Photos - Visit to FMP.



Everybody was up about 9.30, some in better condition than others!

We were told that the shop would be closed all day for religious observation, but this didn’t prove true and we were able to get some supplies at the (only?) supermarket.

I walked around the village and did odd jobs on the boat until we thought of an excuse to visit Eirikur’s house, where a few were sitting around drinking beer and we helped them! We needed to go into the house, but Eirikur barred the way?  He got a bottle of single malt and standing in the doorway, filled a glass and gave it to Danny, who didn’t want it (so early in the day!) but eventually, under pressure took a sip. Eirikur was disgusted and refused to let him in, but went and got another glass and filled this and handed it to me, I drank it a single swig, Eirikur roared with delight, ushered me in to sit at the best chair  in the house etc.

At 4.00pm we were scheduled to visit Toftanes, a Viking site which had been excavated first in 1982-7, by Steffen . It was, he said, evidence of Viking settlement about the 9/10th century AD. Steffen gave me a small video camera to make a recording of his talk, which I assumed was for him, so I tried to make a video with my own camera and his, at the same time and I suppose, made a mess of both. It turned out that he was only making the video for us anyway!

The Toftanes (pronounced Toft - a- ness) excavation yeilded many atrefacts such as bowls , spoons, barrell staves etc. But particuarly interesting were two wooden crosses which "challenge the traditional view of the date and nature of early Christianity in the Faroe Islands". These were found in the earlier layers of the site and "It remains to explain how wooden crosses appear on a Viking farmstead at Toftanes at a period when, according to saga tradition, the inhabitants of the Faroe Islands were Pagan" These quotes are from Steffen's article 'Toftanes and the Early Christianity of the Faroe Islands' in 'The Viking Age. Proc. of 15th Viking Congress', where he goes on to say "The implication of the above-mentioned evidence is that the Faroe Islands, from the beginning of their history, were subject to a strong Irish or Hiberno-Scandinavian, and thereby Christian influence - or to go one step further, that a major part of the people who settled in the Faroe Islands in the Viking Age originated from an Irish and Christian world"

From there we went to Bonhustoftin, a site that appears to be early Christian but has never been excavated, Again Steffen gave a very interesting talk about the site and Jonathon concurred with his assessment and emphasised the importance of the site from the point of view of proving (probably!) the existence of Irish monks here in the early Christian period. Everyone agreed on the need for archaeological excavation,  Padraig especially, with such enthusiasm that he wanted to start immediately!.

Steffen, with John Sheehan, has published a full account (short of excavation) of this site in Archaeologia Islandica 5 (2006) where the site is described as follows:
The village of Leirvik is situated on the north-eastern shore of the Gotunes peninsula, on the island of Eysturoy. It is located in a fairly level area, open to the sea at the north, and is defined by two high mountains - Ritufjall and Sigatindur - at the south. The site consists of a sub-circular enclosure containing the sod-covered remains of a centrally located building. The field in which it is located slopes down northwards and features a number of small drainage ditches, locally referred to as veitir (Figs. 2-3).
The enclosure measures 19.5 m north-south by 19.2 m east-west, internally. Its enclosing element consists of an earthen bank with an entrance gap, measuring 0.5 m in width, at west. The bank is very well preserved from the entrance towards the south. Along this stretch it survives as a flat-topped bank averaging 0.45 m in external height, 0.2 m in internal height and 0.75 m in basal width. At south its external side has been scarped back to form an almost vertical face. At east-southeast an external veitir abuts the bank and continues down towards north for a distance of about 12 m, and this has resulted in a narrowing of the width of the bank here. A short stretch of well-preserved bank is extant at northeast, but it has been completely removed at north. This was caused when an area, measuring c.10 m north-south by c.9 m east-west and up to 0.8 m in depth, which incorporated part of the enclosure at north, was dug away. This resulted in a low vertical edge to the site, averaging 0.6 m in height, at this point. No visible trace of the site's enclosing element is apparent at northwest, though here the line of a curving veitir preserves its probable course.
The building is centrally located, approximately, within the enclosure. It is a rectangular structure, with its long axis aligned east-west and with an entrance passageway at west. Internally, it measures 3.6 m east-west by 2.7 m north-south, while externally it has dimensions of 11.4 m east-west by 7.6 m north-south. Its walls, earthen banks furnished with coursed stone-facing internally, stand up to 0.65 m in internal height. Externally, at west, the long sides of the building extend for a further 4.6 m to form its entrance passageway. This averages 1 m in width and there are some indications of stone facing evident on its northern side.
There is a large boulder/outcrop of basalt located about 1 m southeast of the building's corner. It measures 1.6 m by 1 m and features two bored holes. These latter are of recent origin.

This article goes on to discuss the site in the context of other Faroese and early  Irish monastic sites.

After the second site visit, Breanndán and I went back to Eirikur’s house, which was nearby, on our way to the barbeque which was due to start about 5.30pm in Steffen’s house. Steffen and Jonathon joined us later.

Eirikur is very much his own man, does things the way he wants. He brought us into the kitchen for a meal of ‘sushima’ This is a red meat from the tail of the sperm whale and from the entire whale, which is about 30mtrs long there is, he says, only a couple of kilos of this, it sells for about £150. The meat was served raw, marinated with spices and was really delicious.

We were then all ushered into Eirikur’s BMW to visit his fish processing factory, FMP and it was fairly obvious we could not be back in time for the barbecue?

At the factory it was obvious that the Faroese Health and Safety people were as stringent as the Irish, warning notices everywhere, special clothing, no alcohol, etc

First thing up to Eirikur ‘s office where he opened one of the hi-fi speakers and took out a bottle of single malt!

My general impression is that it is an extremely lucrative process, producing dried cod of which we got plenty of samples and also massive quantities of dried cod heads, for export to Nigeria, where the dried heads are considered a delicacy. The fish spines were also dried but the purpose was not clear – spice was mentioned?

We got to the barbeque about 6.30pm, an hour late! but our delay had been anticipated, fortunately.  More delicious food, laid on by Natasha, this time with a distinctively Russian flavour, and plenty of beer.

A nephew of Eirikur's, a musician, told me about the songs he has written, but didn’t wish to sing any. The songs, he said were written to help the Faroese people, many of whom suffered from severe depression, caused, he said, by the long winter darkness, the Calvinist clergy, who instilled a deep sense of inadequacy in the people and, he implied, a lot of inbreeding. One group I was talking to, partly explained their inter-relationship but it got very complicated, The children were, mostly, not born into marriages and marriages never lasted very long.

Eirikur’s company, FMP had sponsored a book on the Faroes, of which we got a copy each – a very lavish production.

In the morning, we needed diesel before setting sail for Iceland, but there was no sign of the harbour master. Eventually Eirikur arrived and inserted a credit card in the pump and we filled about €200  worth – he refused to take any money, saying, it was being paid for by the poor people of Nigeria! (the rich people of Nigeria are the customers for dried fish). We gave the diesel money towards the expenses of our stay.

We expect to be at sea for the next 36 hours. Three watches of three hours, I’m on duty with Ken.

The weather is cloudy and quite cold, more especially, because movement is very restricted. The wind is “ideal” for sailing about 15/20 knots – force 3.

Doubt if there will be anything to write about until we reach Iceland.