Convener of Orkney Islands Council, Harvey Johnston, was at the annual tree-cutting ceremony for the Christmas tree gift to St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall to mark the friendship between Orkney and Norway.
By Baard Larsen
It was the first time Mr. Johnston visited the Bringsværd forest in Fjære outside Grimstad. Each year, going back 33 years, the cathedral Christmas tree is gifted to Orkney by Fjære historielag (the Fjære Historical Society), in the District of Grimstad, in south-east Norway. Grimstad is just Northeast of Kristiansand.
This to mark the friendship between the two areas. But not only was it the first time Orkney’s convener came to the area where Ragnvald Kale Kollson were born and raised. For the first time in Grimstad’s history, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor are female. Beate Skretting and Lene Langemyr joined the ceremony together with former Mayor, Svein Harberg. He is now a Member of Parliament.
At the ceremony Convener Harvey Johnston told the large group of at least 45 people who attended the ceremony:
“It is an honour and very special to be here in Grimstad and Fjære. In Orkney there are no trees, and here we are surrounded by trees. And it is very special to be here in Bringsværd and to be here where Kale Kollson walked. He was the man who had the cathedral built in Orkney.”
Three, maybe even four generations, were gathered at the site. The interest in Orkney and the link between Fjære and Kirkwall is larger than ever in the Norse city. Much of it thanks to Fjære historielag and Grimstads former Director of Parks, ONFA (Orkney Norway Friendship Association) Honorary Vice President Ove Bach.
Harvey Johnston continued:
“A very special part of our heritage is St. Magnus cathedral, our Norse cathedral. Orkney is the most Norse thinking place outside Norway, and we were under Norway longer than we have been under Scotland. So, to be here, and cut down the tree to the cathedral, is a huge honour.
“Our link is special. And history is not something that is just over there in Orkney. We are here and linked together with a chain back in time. We must take care of the history between Orkney and Grimstad. The timeline of 900 years is not very long. And we must pay attention to the stories from that time. Stories that comes down 200 years could be passed down between to persons.
“I would like to thank you all very much for inviting us to Grimstad, and to give us the honour of cutting down the Christmas tree you are sending to Orkney and St. Magnus Cathedral.”
Mayor Beate Skretting responded.
“It is very good to see so many people, from toddlers to elders, coming there to take part in the ceremony and show interest in the historical link between Grimstad and Orkney. As newly elected Mayor, I haven’t got the chance to come to Kirkwall for the tree lightning in St. Magnus Cathedral on the 30th November. But Ove Bach and members of Fjære historielag are travelling. And I hope to be able to visit Orkney sometime soon”
Following an inspection by Forestry Commission officials on Monday, the tree will then be shipped from Grimstad to Stavanger and then be heading to Aberdeen and on to Orkney. The second tree gifted from Norway, which is placed on the Kirk Green outside the cathedral, is a gift from Hordaland Fylkeskommune and is also shipped over from Norway.
This journalist was in Orkney in 2012 together with Ove Bach and his wife Mary-Ann Råkleiv for the celebration of 17th May. There is no doubt that both Grimstad and Orkney have individuals and societies that putted down a great amount of work during these 33 years to maintain and strengthen the connection between the two areas.