Vagar during the occupation
Mikkjal á Ryggi, the mighty man of culture
Mikkjal á Ryggi ( 1879 – 1956 ) was the most renowned psalm and song writer in the land. He also wrote ballads including the popular ‘Brestiskvæðið’. Books he has written on subjects including geography, biology, animals and birds, were until recently still used in schools here in the Faroe Islands.
Beitishúsini ( Pasture-house )
Mikkjal Dánjalsson á Ryggi was born in ‘Beitishúsinum’. He was a teacher in the villages of Bø and Gásadal. Mikkjal married Bina Joensen from Gásadal and had no children. The last eleven years of his life Mikkjal was sick with tuberculosis and spent most of his time in a sanatorium in Hoydal, where he later died. He is now buried in Sørvág.
In the stone by ‘Pasture-house’
When Mikkjals grandfather
built the Pasture House, he
found that a stone outside
the barn door was blocking
the path, so he decided to
use gunpowder to blow up
the stone. One of the black-
smiths told him not to do so
because it was a magical stone, and it had a house-elf living in it. The blacksmith claimed to have heard the elf tinkering inside. Mikkjals grandfather however refused to accept these superstitions. Not until Sára, the neighbours wife came out and begged him to leave the stone did he change his mind. She said that it would be a disastrous bad omen for the house if he blew up the stone. Mikkjals grandfather replied, “Not that I believe in such nonsense, but for Your sake I will leave the stone alone”. Till this day the stone is still found outside the Pasture-House.
In Hýsisá ( Haddock-brook )
While cutting hay in the
autumn of 1909, Mikkjal cut
two verses in to the bedrock
of a brook. Mikkjal was
saddened because the
family had been hit hard by
tuberculosis. His mother,
Marin Margretha died aged 40, and his brother Peter aged 20. His sister Elisabeth died aged 15. One sister lost her leg, and another got tuberculosis in the back. One more brother and sister caught tuberculosis, but managed to recover.
“Water wins on hard bedrock,
flattens down mountains.
The scythe passes,
grass falls, so shall we all.
Blood stiffens, stops the heart,
still man becomes a corps.
The soul lives on free and fruitful
in Gods bright heaven.”
The largest troop movement to the Faroe Islands during the second world war was for the building of the airport in the summer of 1942. The initial occupation in 1940 was nothing in comparison to the impact the increase of soldiers had on the local population of Vagar in 1942. At its peak, there were around 8.000 soldiers on the island and just over 2.000 villagers.
The officers lived in Miðvág. Col Adamson who was the commanding officer, lived in the rectory. Everyone was issued a pass and a gas mask. The pass was used on a daily basis, the mask was fortunately never used.
Some remains from the war
On ‘Níputrøð’ are the bases for 8 telegraph antennas. They were around 90 feet high and were surrounded by barbed-wire. There was always an armed guard and no one was
These antennas were
connected to the air-
traffic control tower
and other antennas
around the islands.
When the transport
ship carrying coal had
not made it to the
alternatives to coal had to be found. The villagers had sheds for storing turf, which were requestioned. When a normal household used around 200-300 loads of turf in a year, and there were around 300 households on the Island, it had a resounding impact on the winter supply of fuel.
When the coal ship
finally did arrive, the
people were given
one sack of coal for
every three sacks of
One day when some
people were out gathering turf, a German plane came so close to them that they could clearly see the pilots. They threw them selves behind a stone-wall because they did not know if the plane would open fire or not. Luckily it did not shoot but flew on. When they came home they heard that the ship ‘Vesturvarið’ had been bombed in Sørvág. It had also shot a salvo off in to the village. No one had been killed, but one man had the tip of his cap shot off, whilst he was wearing it.
Ground braking radar station at Trælanípan
A radar station had been constructed at ‘Trælanípan’ and experiments were undertaken to test the technology. The station was concealed inside a tent. Because of the unique weather conditions here in the Faroe Islands the radar had some difficulty being accurate when the wind, rain, snow or other was more then the equipment could handle. One day, some smart fellow
building a house
in the lower end
of the radar, and
canvas cover for
the top would
maybe solve the
Vagar during the occupationof this system was done at Trælanípu and was a precursor to the modern dome that now covers large radar antennas and satellite dishes. Supposedly the radar at Trælanípan was one of only two that the allied possessed during the war. The other one was in England. From the Radar Station in the Faroe Islands, it was now possible to see clearly all the way over to Norway. It was such a closely guarded secret that there was a double guard all day every day and the whole area was surrounded by land mines and explosives, so that if there was any chance that it might be compromised they could blow the whole thing up.
At the lake shore there is a ‘concrete wharf’. It was to accommodate the supplies and troops for the area. In the beginning of the occupation the army did not have all the equipment they needed and all the weapons, so they improvised wood cannons, anti aircraft guns, foxholes, pillboxes and such, all over the Faroe Islands. Miðvágur was no exeption, out by ‘Bøsdalafoss’ there was a wood cannon.
‘Trælanípan’ ( Slave-cliff ) is a promontory, more then 130 meters straight down in to the Atlantic ocean. The name supposedly derives from pagan times when it was used to dispose of old or useless slaves. Legend goes that they blindfolded them and forced them over the side. This has never been substantiated.
In order to defend the airport and the seaplane-port the allies set up defensive positions at ‘Gróthústanga’. It was named
It had four 8”
aircraft guns and
There was also a
20 barracks and a mess-hall. It was the responsibility of the Royal Artillery to defend the base. Between 400 and 500 soldiers were stationed there.
The allied memorial cemetery
At the allied memorial cemetery there stand 14 headstones guarding the last resting place of soldiers who lost their lives during the war. Most of them died in work related accidents, and one airplane crashed in Trongisvág where five men lost their lives. They to are buried there.
Stories from Midvagur
Midvagur is full of history and is proud of its heritage. Here are some of the stories that might peak your interest.
Beinta and Arabo
No other residents of Miðvágur are better known than Beinta and Arabo.
Arabo was the priest on the island of Vagar ( 1706 - 1724 ), and Beinta was his wife. Many legends and stories have been told of Arabo and Beinta. In these stories, Beinta is often portrayed in a none to favourable light, but it is doubtful that she deserves such a harsh reputation.
Arabo chases away pirates in Sandavág
Arabo liked sitting on this one rock. Here he was free to ponder life’s enigmas in peace. He was sitting on this rock when the sheriff from Sandavág sent for help. A ship, supposedly French, had laid anchor off Sandavág. The Captain demanded the daughter of the sheriff in marriage or he was going to burn down the village. Arabo walked down to the beach and wrote some magic letters in the sand with a stick, and then threw a hand full of sand in to the sea.
Almost instantly a mighty wind arose and forced the captain to cut the mooring and sail away, never to be heard from again.
Arabo drives away “the haunting of Satan” in Skálabotn
On the 5th October 1720, the bailiff send a letter to Arabo, asking for his assistance in bringing in a grind. The bailiff writes ‘There be some haunting of Satan here on the landing, hindering the inlet of the whales’. Arabo goes to assist and the whales make landfall. They had promised him the biggest whale in return. But when the harvest was over, they gave him a lesser whale. Arabo cursed the beach and vowed that never again should there be a successful whale harvesting on this place. His words were; ‘Now they will try to harvest the whale in Skálabotn, but they shall only harvest the smallest one’. Legend has it that no whale harvesting has taken place in Skálabotn since.
Arabo intending to kill the landlord
In 1714 as the spring counsel was being held, a criminal-case was brought to trial. The trial was held in the landlords house. The landlord, Jógvan Rasmussen was the plaintiff and he accused Arabo of threatening him with an axe. The story goes, Arabo, in a drunken rage, goes from the rectory down and across the beach straight to the landlords house, convinced that the landlord and his family had ruined his life. Beinta stormed after him to find out what was going on, and where he was going. Three times she called out to him before he answered back. ‘I am going over to the landlords house to kill the landlord, that thief and Heine ( Jógvans father-in-law ) that older thief’. He then stormed on, waving the axe around. Jógvan, his wife and a servant girl, fled up on to the roof of the house to hide from him. Several farmworkers were outside the house, but no one interfered. Arabo smashed the axe in to the landlords storage-room then threw it at the landlord, but missed, chipping a boulder. The mark where the axe hit can be seen till this day. After much yelling and many accusations, Arabo walked back to the rectory. Nine depositions were given about the events.
Beinta came to Arabos defence. However, Arabo received a harsh sentence for the outburst.
Based on this, and other similar events, Arabo lost his priesthood, but it has since been disputed if it was a fair trail or not. In 1725 Arabo and Beinta moved to Sandavág.
Seat of Court “Heima í Stovu”
Dating back in 16’th century Miðvágur was a seat of local court for the island. Every spring trials were held, and there they settled matters of legal dispute. Between the 12th and 16th Century the court was held outside the villages, in Vagar it was at ‘Dómstólarnir á Tjørndalsegg’. In later days the court was moved in to the village and a place called ‘á Ryggi’ ( On the ridge ). Later in 1671 it moved in to the ‘Heima í Stovu’ ( Home in the lodge ). The court was held here until they were disestablish in 1896.
From mid 1500 Miðvágur had a rectory. At the time the Faroe Islands only had seven priests and one dean. The rectory in Miðvág was named ‘Jansagerð’, and the land belonging to the seat was named ‘á Dalinum’ ( On the valley ).
The sheep-pen belonging to the rectory is still found to this day, and the side of Miðvág where ‘Jansagerð’ was situated, is still called ‘Prestland’ ( Land of the Priest ). In 1839, when Jens Englested was the priest, the rectory burnt down suffering the loss of many valuable relics and church records. Now-a-days the rectory is ‘Inni í Húsi’ ( Inn the settlement ).
Stórihjallur ( Large Storeroom )
Stórihjallur was originally built as alms for the less fortunate villagers. Here the priest would hang up fish, dried meat and whale blubber, so that the poor could provide some food for their families. It was agreed that at every Grind, the largest whale would go to the priest, and he would divide it amongst the poor.
Churches have been an intricate part of Miðvágur since the early 16th century. How many churches there have been is impossible to say, but at least 7 or 8. The first documented Church was located close to where the memorial now stands.
The current church
Heini Joensen ( Bónd-Heini ) was in-charge of the construction. He did the drawings and handled the workforce both inside and out. Previously, he had built several churches in Norway.
If the plan, to build the church in 1930, had been a reality it would have cost 40.000 crowns. But when it was finished in 1952 the price rose to 180.000 crowns. The Church has a capacity of 400.
The relics in the church
The challis and the plate are more then 200 years old. The fountain dates from even earlier then Arabos priesthood. A man called Mouritz Joensen repaired the fountain when there was a hole in it. The church-bell cracked and was re-cast, they used the bronze from the old bell and added a bit to make it bigger.
On the alter in the church You will
notice two candlesticks. One of
them is missing a small piece.
The story goes that Beinta, wife of
the priest Arabo had an argument
with her husband which resulted
in the missing piece.
In 1836 a ship had hit some stormy weather west of Kvivikskor. The crew called for help and men from Bø and Sørvág came to their assistance. The owner of the ship and its cargo was a man from Iceland called Benadiktsson, and was on board the ship. He stayed in Miðvág to recover from the ordeal, where he lived in the old rectory in Jansagerð. Benadiktsson donated the chandelier to the old church being constructed at the time.
The commanding officer for the area during the second world war, Col. Adamson, has also donated several items to the church. And two smaller candlesticks were carved out by an Italian prisoner of war.
From pagan times there was a henge ( Klingra ). According to stories it was used in sacrifice or more likely, people gathered there in pagan times in February to worship the spring sun
( Torrasól ). When the first Christians came to Miðvág they did not have a church so they used the henge for worship. The henge was adjacent to the sea. It was encircled by a turf barrier 35 meter in circumference. Unfortunately the henge no longer exists, since the creation of a road.
The ‘boulder by the sheep-pen’
Legend goes that the first christian-missionary who came to Miðvág came ashore by the boulder next to the sheep-pen. It is understood they would go where pagan shrines had been in olden times.
In the days before there was a church, or a designated house for worship, people would gather on a certain hill or mound and use it as a temple. In Miðvág it is called ‘Kyrjarheyggur’. Here they would gather to sing and give thanks to God. Nowadays it is just a field and the mound is all but vanished from plowing.
Kálvalíð, the alms-house
Upon the passing of a Priest, his widow would be given a house to live in, free of charge. That way they could provide for
The house was
turned in to a
in the 1650’s.
inhabitant moved out in the 1950’s
The shepherd from Sondum
Two troll Sisters lived by ‘Fjallavatn’ ( Mountain lake ). One by ‘Tormansgjógv’ ( Thormans gully ) and the other by ‘Húsagjógv’ ( House gully ). The troll-woman in Húsagjógv upon washing her finest red dress, put it on a large stone called ‘The Table’ to dry. At this time the shepherd from Sandavág came riding close by.
The shepherd stole the red dress and rode like the wind for home. The Troll-woman saw this and calls her sister, but she was lazy, and pretended to be injured. So the first sister had to try and catch the shepherd by her self.
When the shepherd reached ‘Vatnsbrekku’ ( Lake-
hill ) he and his horse were tiring. So, on the hill there ran a small stream, and they both drank from it. The shepherd said, “This repaired my soul”. And since that day the stream has been called ‘Sálarbótará’
( Soul repair stream ).
The troll-woman was still chasing him and was gaining on him. The horse was now rested a bit, and ran up the hillside with ease. However, when the shepherd arrived at ‘Føstuvarða’ ( Passover-cairn )
The troll-woman had gained so much on him that she could reach the red dress, and pulled on it. The dress gave way, and tore in to two pieces. The shepherd made off with one of the sleeves. The troll-woman could not continue the chase because she could now see the church in Miðvág.
The sleeve was so large that even when cut in to four, there was enough material to cover all alters in the four churches on the Island.
( Hammershaimb )
Pirates ravage Vagar
Many pirates, especially French, Irish and north african, have all sacked villages in the Faroe Islands. In order to defend themselves the villagers built guardhouses to keep a watchful eye, if any ships were on their way. They would also find caves to hide in and construct hidden houses deep in the mountains. The pirates would often outnumber the villagers 10 to 1 and they had weapons, and the villagers had no chance in a direct confrontation. A man in Suðuroy called Jóannes once killed an Irish pirate. The Irish pirates wanted retribution and scoured the islands for him. He had fled to Miðvág and was only known as the Irishman.
The French cavern at Kumlar
In the days when the pirates plundered, there was a hole or cavern behind some large boulders by the old settlement. There, the elderly who could not walk so far or run fast could remain hidden.
The Reynsatind house
The foundation of a house that the people would use to hide from pirates in. It even had a special chute to cool down the smoke from the fire as not to give away their position.
The Reynsatind cave
On the cliff-side of Reynsatind there is a cave. Well hidden from plain
hide from the
They would also
have a storage of
provisions hidden within the cave.