June 13, 2024 4:38 pm

Why Norway remembers its wartime debt to Dumfries

When Norway was overwhelmed by Germany early in World War Two, many of its soldiers and others fled to Scotland.

A large number of them ended up in Dumfries – where their army command came to be based.

They even had their own meeting place – named Norway House (Norges Hus) – in the town centre.

That special relationship has been marked with the unveiling of a one-and-a-half tonne “stone of friendship” which has come from Norway to Dumfries.

King Harald
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King Harald during a visit to Dumfries
King Harald
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The Norwegian royal family have been regular visitors to the area over the years to celebrate the wartime links

The Scottish Norwegian Connection (SNC) group gifted the memorial to the town as a “permanent reminder of the gratitude felt by Norwegians”.

Beverley Thom, who has organised the celebrations, said it was important to “keep the friendship going” and remember how Dumfries welcomed its arrivals from overseas

“I think it’s quite poignant I suppose really, with the way things are going with Ukraine and you feel for everybody – not just Ukraine – there’s all the Syrians and everybody else that are trying to come,” she said.

“Dumfries is known throughout Norway, you know, because this is where the Norwegian brigade was established.

“For them, it’s important and actually I feel it’s quite important as well, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing this.”

Stone unveiling
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The stone of friendship was unveiled in a ceremony on the Whitesands in Dumfries
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A wreath-laying ceremony was part of the events to mark the link between the two countries

A deputation of Norwegians attended the stone-unveiling ceremony and a wide range of other events to mark the links.

It had been hoped they would celebrate 80 years of friendship in 2020 but due to Covid this has now taken place after a three-year delay.

“This is a very important and emotive occasion for our community,” Ms Thom added.

“Who could have thought that the simple, basic, acts of friendship and kindness, shown by our predecessors, could have led to such long-lasting relationships through the generations?

“To have the town and its people recognised, and honoured, for doing what comes naturally, is praise indeed.

“My hope is that these links continue and grow as we move forward.”

Erik Jensen
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Erik Jensen believes it is important to keep the links alive

It meant more than most to one of the attendees – Erik Jensen – who is a product of that Scottish-Norwegian link.

His father Hans was a whaler who fled his home country and sought refuge in Scotland, ending up in Dumfries where he met his mother, Elizabeth Taylor.

“My mum used to play the piano and she played in a band and they used to play at Norway House on occasions,” he said.

“She played there and she met my dad and we were the result of that.”

Norway flag
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The Norwegian flag has been flying over the town

Mr Jensen – who now lives outside Dumfries between Dalton and Annan – said he felt it was important to remember that link.

“It is important that the whole thing is kept alive,” he said. “I just feel that it is something that should be kept going.

“We don’t have any family so we won’t be able to carry the story on.”

He said there were also a lot of people in Norway who had Scottish blood due to the wartime link.

Beverley Thom
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Beverley Thom of the SNC has organised the events in Scotland

“My story is not uncommon – this happened a lot,” he said.

“A lot of sailors came and married Scottish lasses and went back.

“The people that are coming from Norway this weekend are their relatives – they would want to see where their Scottish roots are, I imagine.”

As well as the stone unveiling there was a range of other events, including a flag-raising at the town’s Midsteeple, a commemorative service at St Michael’s Church and a wreath-laying at Troqueer Cemetery.

All of which served as a reminder of how Dumfries was host to so many people who had to flee Norway so many years ago.

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