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nr 156 500
siden 07.02.2011



 

From MOTHER’S TIME ON SKAALVÆR

 

The mother is Laura Vestvik, born 1873 in Trondheim, died 1959 in Bergen.

Married to Alfred Johannessen, born 1868, died 1913 in Bergen.

They had two children, Bjarne (1897-1967) and Svanhild (1899 – 1997). Neither of these had descendants.

The mother's memories are recorded by her son.

- - - -

 

Laura Vestvik

I was 10 years old when I went north. I went from Trondheim in February. Father had gone bankrupt and our uncle and aunt on Skaalvær had lost their daughter, Anne Sofie (named after Aunt Anna Holmboe), who was my age. Mom accompanied me on board the "Orion" one evening, undressed me and sat with me until I fell asleep. She was probably heavy at heart, and when I woke up in the morning there was no "mams ". On board they were all kind to me, including the Captain and the pilot. When we came to Tjøtta, I was taken from the ship’s side into a smaller boat, a seksæring (a ca. 20 foot boat with oars and sails) with the captain and six oarsmen for the trip to Skaalvær. My cousin, Marianna, was also with us. I was placed in the back of the boat and covered with blankets. There were heavy seas and I got seasick. The crew said I should look up in the air - it would help.

 

When we had sailed for a couple of hours, we arrived at Skaalvær in the evening. We landed at the quay, and Aunt Charlotte came to greet me.  I can still remember how she looked in a grey dress, tall and slim and with a cane. She had a pointed kerchief on her head and down her shoulders, tied behind her back.

 

The first person I shook hands with was my grandmother (my mother’s mother), Dorothea Kristine Schjelderup, (born Thesen) and then my uncle. My grandmother and I shared a bedroom together as long as she lived. Before I became accustomed to it, I would lie and listen to her breathing heavily - how afraid I was - and suddenly she would take a glass of vinegar and douse herself with it because she thought the air was so dry, and then she would put a piece of sugar candy in her mouth and lie down to rest again. She repeated this almost every night.

 

There was a governess in the house. I started school and was given duties immediately. I had to look after the pigeons and give them food and water. When I was a little older, I was also required to set the dinner table for 12 people when I came down from the school that was held upstairs. I had this responsibility despite the fact that there were two maids in the house, seven other maids and seven atten­dants.

 

When the light time of the year was approach­ing, we began to think of the eider birds, and built nests and made shelters for them. There was an old woman, Inger from Husvær, who came every year and tended them. She raked and dried seaweed. Old boats were turned over and served as a coop. In some coops there could be up to 6 or 8 eiders.

 

In the month of May all the cats were tied up in the haystore and all the dogs were sent to the mainland, where no eiders were nesting.

 

The breeding season began at this time and the birds came ashore, the female followed by the male, who with majestic steps followed his mate to the nest. The eider would come back every year to the same place. Once the female had laid an egg she would go down to the sea again to meet her mate, and the next or follow­ing evening he would follow her up. When the female had laid her third egg she would lie on the nest and might add another 2 or 3 eggs. Then she would begin to rid herself of down.

 

It was a beautiful sight to see 6 to 8 eiders remaining like this in a coop. The women would take some eggs and down from them. They would talk to the eider ducks who would tap their hands while they gently took 2 or 3 eggs. Eider can not manage to take care of more than three chicks and when they get to the sea they will often become the prey of other birds.

 

While the female was on the nest, the male would go back to sea and she got no help from him anymore. The ermine could also be bad and often an eider would be found lying dead with her throat bitten through. As long as eider ducks were on the nest they ate nothing, just drank water, and when there was a drought, we had to provide water for them.

 

Uncle lived only a couple of years after I came to the island. He died suddenly during their foster-son, Johan Agersborg's wedding.

The bride and groom and the guests had just come home from Tjøtta church. We had eaten and got up from the table and Uncle had gone out to see if all the lights in the windows facing the courtyard were lit. He was entering the front door when the groom came to meet him. "Johan, I want to talk with you" he said, and at that moment he fell down. The festivity was stopped immediately. We kids had begun to dance in the Bårstua (the servants’ house) and Aunt Charlotte was sitting in the kitchen to make sure that the silver cutlery was put away. Maren and I were in the servants’ house and were told to come up because Uncle was ill. Someone was immediately sent to Søvik for a doctor, but as there was a strong northerly storm they were only able to sail a short way up the strait.

 

After that Aunt Charlotte managed the farm and the trading on her own until the eldest son, Frithjof, took over. Grandma Schjelderup lived one more year after Uncle died.

 

Every morning the maids, the farm maid and the chambermaid had to meet Aunt in her bed­room. There they got the orders about the work of the day, and they talked about how they should organize the work. The housekeeper also had to enter, and it was decided what food was to be prepared. All keys to all the out­buildings, cellar, storehouse and smoke house were collected in the evening and placed in a basket which Aunt took with her when she went to bed.

 

Days began early. At 5 o’clock in summer and 6 o’clock in winter the storehouse bell was rung. There was a kitchen and dining room for the servants where they were served a cup of coffee with a sugar cube and 2 slices of bread. During the season there could be up to 50 people being catered for.  At 8 o’clock break­fast was served. Once again the bell would summon them and they were served food. It was the housekeeper’s first job in the morning to prepare the food for the servants. For drink they had milk and tea with syrup. On the bread there was only butter, but matured cheese and syrup stood on the table. At 11 o’clock they were called for dinner which was ordinary salt herring with potatoes and soup every day. Dinner was held between 11 and 12 o’clock. Then they would be called out again, but be­fore they went they got a cup of coffee and two sugar cubes. At half past three there was a light meal when they might get meat two or three days a week or otherwise sandwiches and coffee. At 8 o’clock in the evening there was supper, usually barley porridge with milk. But in the spring when we could fish in the light evenings, both servants and masters often had fresh fish served with fish liver and soup.

 

During haying Aunt went every day into the fields with a small drink for the working men.

Home-brewed ale was often served at meals. Everything that was to be served early in the morning was prepared the previous evening. The people got their food brought to their din­ing room. The trade officers, the housekeeper and governess, and the young people of the house met in the main dining room each morning. There they were served with coffee and sugar scones. Aunt got her food brought up to her bedroom where the girls got their orders for the day. When my aunt gave her orders, she would often stand and hold our hands until she was sure that her orders were understood. She led the big house with a firm but loving hand and gave us an understanding of the value of a sense of duty in life. She was like a mother to the common people around her and was known as “Mother Røring” just as she and Uncle had previously been called “Father and Mother Røring” before his death.

.

During times of illness and poverty people could always go to Mother Røring for advice and consolation. It was not only material assistance she could provide. She helped many times both as doctor and veterinarian.

 

After Christmas, there was a quiet time, when everyone could do their duties both in and out of the house.  The farm had 14 cows, a lot of sheep, many of which could be out all the year, two pigs and a horse. All that was produced on the farm was used in the house. 

 

In mid-February, we would begin to prepare the ships, the sloop "Aurora "and the schooner "Charlotte ", for their work in the Lofoten fishing grounds.

 

In Henningsvær my uncle had a facility for receiving and processing (salting and drying) fish and he had a manager who lived in the north as long as the work for the fish was on. 

The rest of the year he lived in Skaalvær where he worked in the business.

 

When preparation of the equipment for Lofoten began, the chests were pulled out down at the "Spisebua". The chests were filled with a specified quantity of flat bread, rusk, lefse, butter, meat and bacon for each man. Officers’ chests were filled more generously than those of the other men.

 

When the Lofoten people had left there were almost only women left, besides Uncle, the farmhand and trade officers. Then it was once again a quiet time and we began to think of the domestic activities. Looms were set up.

The farm girl sat in their living room (Bårdstua),

while the daughters of the house were in the main house.

 

All the linen in the house was inspected and repaired. This was done only once a year. Then the girls were given 14 days to look after their own clothes when they were finished with their duties of the house.

 

When this was done, we started baking flat­bread and lefse. At that time flatbread and lefse was baked for the entire year. One girl kneaded dough, six rolled and one took care of the frying. 

 

We made gentry-lefse, gentry flatbread, server-lefse and server flatbread (for the servants) and mate-lefse, and mate-flatbread (for the sailors). All flatbread that was pre­pared for supplying voyages to Lofoten and other places was prepared in a special way so that it had a square shape and packed better in the chests. Baking took three weeks.

 

When the baking was done, the time came to clean the house. In April it was so bright that we did not need all the lamps and lanterns. These were inspected and repaired ready for the next period of use. This was followed by one of the year's two big laundry activities. All the items were sorted and placed in a large basin and six girls and women stood around it washing it in cold water. Next day it was washed in small tubs with hot water. In the kitchen there were two large copper boilers in which all the clothes were boiled and after­wards taken down to the sea and rinsed in salt water. Then it was spread for bleaching on the snowy ground, where there was a large well in which it was rinsed, and afterward hung to dry. When the clothes were dry, all the women in the house helped to fold clothes and roll them on the big pull roller filled with stone. All clothes were rolled.  Even the handkerchiefs and the tablecloths were rolled three times. The work with clothes took many days. The next clothes wash took place after the summer. All material that was damaged was laid aside for repair during the quiet time after Christmas as described above.

 

Now we come to that time in the year when the ships from Lofoten returned fully laden with salted fish, which were washed and placed on the rocks on one of the islands for drying. The stockfish was still hanging on Henningsvær and would be fetched later. A man came every year from Haugesund to supervise and man­age the work of drying the salted fish.

All who worked with the fish were summoned from neighbouring islands by hoisting a white flag when it was good weather to spread the fish out. The people would come by row boat, bringing their own food. When fog or rain came, they would be in a hurry to get the fish stacked.

 

When the fish was dry after midsummer it was sent with the sloop to Bergen to the first mar­ket. The stockfish in Lofoten was collected in June and sent to Bergen for the second mar­ket.

 

When people came back from these gatherings, they always brought presents of various kinds, so-called Bernblom (Bergen Flowers), and then it would be a party all over the island.

 

Between the markets the ships transported wood and wood materials from Namsos and Bindalen.

---------


We received this story from Anna Utne, who had been a friend of Svanhild Johannesen . Neither Svanhild nor brother Bjarne had children, and when Svanhild died Anna took over some of her belongings.
Among a number of papers she found the story that Svanhilds mother had told her son.
Anna Utne contacted Svein-Harald Carlsen, chief of cul­tural activities in Alstahaug told him about the document, and we got a copy.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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