Tvoroyri and Hovi


Video -Finnbjorn on Hogrimmrs Grave

Video - Hogrimmr's stones

Video - Steffan on Irish/Faroese historical connections

Video - Finnbjorn on Dimun's stone

Video - Finnbjorn on The Irish Place

Photos - Hovi

8th May 2011.

A lady in the pub, who had been acting as our interpreter, when needed, invited us for breakfast, in the pub at 10.30am but before this Padraig had gone to get a mechanic to attend  to the alternator problem and also the heater.

The breakfast was coffee and cheese roll and was grand, so we waited on there until Steffan Stumman Hansen arrived on the ferry from Thorshavn. Steffan was our main guide on the Faroe Islands and he ensured that we received royal treatment wherever we went. We had been in contact in advance of our departure and he had very kindly sent me a number of papers on Faroese archaeology. He was once the director of the Faroese museum, but his contract  was not renewed, possibly because he was Danish, not Faroese.

Padraig arrived after a delay, having left the mechanics to complete the work on their own.

We were joined by Finnbjorn (the name means White Bear) from Hovi a village close by who was our driver and, as it turned out, our guide for the day. Because Finnbjorn’s car was too small another driver was summoned - Hans Remun, a Jehovah Witness who was also very interested in the story of the Irish Monks.

The Road to Hovi passes through a tunnel under the mountain, 4 km. long and it is very hard to see any economic justification for it, as it serves just 2 small villages..

Hovi means something like “site of ancient monument”.  As a village it was very small, maybe a hundred houses, including the hinterland, no shops, one church.

Finnbjorn, with some others has restored the old trading station, once occupied by his grandfather. It was a shop and the centre for curing/drying fish. The people caught the fish and brought them to this “palace” where they were laid out on a stone yard for drying. The merchant gave the people credit when he sold the fish and they drew against this credit for their day to day purchases from the merchant – much like the Irish Dairy Co-op system.

All the account books for previous years were retained as well as many other museum pieces.

Curiously, the word “palace” as a place for fish curing occurs in Bantry and Berehaven peninsula.

Almost every house had a small flock of geese and these were housed in a small hut of stones and sods, or the modern alternative of a wooden hut. No foxes! A few house had small potato gardens – drills made in the same way as lazy beds.  No sign of any stalks in any of them yet. They are only planted in June!

We were given a nice lunch in this museum in company of some local people, and afterwards Padraig gave a talk on the nature of our mission and Stefan spoke well on the subject also.

We then drove around the area:

First stop a stream beside the site of an ancient ‘temple’ The stream was not much more than a drain and the temple a barely recognisable ruin, the stone having been robbed out for road and house building. According to legend the people having prayed in the temple, then cleansed themselves in the stream, Directly across the road was the site of another church but nothing visible now.

About fifty yards further on was the graveyard, which Finnbjorn believed used also have a church ruin once, but no trace of it now. A few yards further and down at sea level was a rock called Dimun’s rock, in a bay called Dimun’s bay. This area would very likely have suffered from substantial erosion by the sea. It seems quite possible that the (missing!) church from the graveyard could have been associated with the Irish Saint - Dimun? I mentioned this to Steffan and the possible connection to an Irish saint Dimma/Dimán/ Dioma but he  just referred to the ‘standard ‘ explanation Dá muin = 2 ridges. But this does not account for the Hovi association?

A few hundred yards further, at the end of the road Finnbjorn pointed out to the head of the peninsula as the ‘place of the Irish’. People lived here until about the 1850s.

Back then to the other end of the village, to the local church, which was under repair, The sally bushes growing outside the church are said to have been brought from Irelandand then to the Grave of Hovgrimmrs, the Norse warrior. According to legend, a large rock nearby commemorates Hovgrimmrs and his son is commemorated by a lesser rock nearby. On the path to these rocks we were shown a ‘bullaun‘ stone which looks like  the Irish type of bullaun but was apparently used for making herbal dyes. This stone, according to Finnbjorn, is called a Bark Hetla, in Faroese.

Sverri Dahl wrote about Hovgrimmr's grave in 'The Norse Settlement of the Faroe Islands':
Grave-mounds are described in Fareyinga Saga, which relates that a number of chieftains were buried according to old custom and occasionally states specifically that they were heygdir, i.e. buried in a mound.
So far only two mounds that are almost certainly burial-mounds have come to light. One of these is in the parish of Hov. Of one of the main figures in the saga, Havgrimr at Hofi, it is said that he was blotmadr mikill (a great idolater). A mound bearing his name, Havgrimsgrov, on the highest point of the cultivated area around his farmstead was dug into in 1835 by the local farmer. According to the farmer's description, the mound was 7-5 m. by 2-5 m. Outside the grave was a rough circle of beach stones. In the excavation some small pieces of iron, and a fragment of a cranium were found. A closer determination is now of course impossible, but the circumstances of the find and the fact that a part of the mound is preserved point towards the fact that this was a Viking grave, and furthermore a grave of a named chieftain.

We were also shown a ‘Viking defence wall’ but its significance was not clear. Again the stones had been robbed out and it was damaged by straightening a stream bed. 

Two ‘tanks’ in the corner of a field were intended for making silage for the sheep but had apparently fallen into disuse.

We were brought to  another site which was meant to give us a better view of Baghalholmur but it was not any better than our view from the sea. The name is derived from the Gaelic - Bachall, a crozier.

We drove on to the village of Vagar firstly a view of some impressive cliffs and then a visit to the Ketch – Johanna, which was about to depart for Scalloway with 5 crew and 16 passengers. Not clear if this was a commercial venture?

Returned to Tvoryori and Steffan got the return ferry to Leirvik. Finnbjorn and Hans came back to the boat for tea. Danny presented them with a ‘stone’ and read the Song of Amergin, as he had done previously in Liam Miller’s house and in Burra, Easthouse. Danny also presented an autographed copy of O’Fiannachta’s Biobla Naofa for their museum.

Finnbjorn whose surname is 'Hovsgard was a wonderful credit to any local history group, with his knowledge and desire to protect the local history.  His name is most appropriate - 'The White Bear, Guardian of Hovi'.

When the visitors left, we got the engine covering back together, had dinner and went to the pub – a very quiet night, no music. Pub closed at 11.00

A night-cap back on the boat!

Hans Remmer very kindly emailed a summary of the sites visited during the Hovi visit, as follows:

On 10 June 2011 09:49, Remmer  wrote:

Good morning to you Paddy and the entire crew,
A brief summing up of what you saw in and around Hov:
1) FISKISTOVA (Fish cabin). Until 1856 all trade was a monopoly of the king (Danish government). The result  from that year was a number of privat enterprises, which traded in fish and consumer goods. The clients would man the company´s fishing vessels and exchange credit for consumer goods. The Fiskistova started as a succursal for a larger merchant and shipowner in either Tvøroyri or Vágur and ended its active life on private, local hands (Finnbjørn's family) in the late 1970' es.
2) Washing and drying fish was a task carried out by (mostly) the women of Hov. A red and white flag flown at the shop
meant instant turning up for washing; a white flag signaled laying out of fish (mostly split cod) for drying.
3) Going East in the village you saw a number of apparantly laid out stones, which are traditionally identified as the base og pagan cult site, which was presided by the last pagan chieftan Hovgrímur.
4) By the old gravesite at the eastern end of Hov the location of the first christian cult house is considered to have been.
Near the coast just a little furher to the East is a rocky shoal, on which the sea breaks, bearing the name of the church shoal since unknown generations.
5) A little bit further East near the shore in a small bay  a boulder rises out of the water bearing the name of "Dímunar steinur" (Dímon's stone)
6) Above the village, the land sloping rather gently from the high and much steaper rocks and on the very edge to a much steeper slope stands a large stone, which has always been known as "Hovgríms steinur". Standing presumably to pay hommage to Hovgrím, who excelled in Viking morality by dying in battle. Nothing has been found in excavatring the land around
the stone to confirm a connection to Hovgrímur Another stone nearby, which lies down is supposed to scorn another leading figure, who died in his bed.
7) Not far from these stones you saw a stone with a smoothly rounded cavity. Stefan Stumman identified it with some certainty as a mortar used for grinding tormentill roots used for the dying of cloth
8) In Vágur you saw the site used for floating the rowing fishing vessels directly into the western ocean in calm weather, thus saving the men from rowing the long way around the souhern cap of the island to the fishing grounds on the West side.
9) In the harbour of Vàgur there was the old Grimsby beauty now named "Johanne". The ship has occationally served as a replacement for the ferry