Official visit to Orkney: luncheon in Kirkwall
Convenor of Orkney Islands Council,
Ladies and gentlemen,
My wife and I are very happy to be here. We are struck by the rough beauty of your islands. The history, the cultural heritage, the landscape and the sagas of The Orkney Islands make deep impression on us, and make us feel at home. There is like an invisible silver string is somehow spun between Orkney and Norway.
For my wife, this is the first visit to your beautiful islands. I – and members of my family – have had the pleasure of visiting Orkney on previous occasions. My last visit was at the opening of St. Magnus Centre back in 2001.
Commemorating Earl Magnus Erlendsson 900 years after his death brings us to the heart of our shared history. He must have been quite a special man.
According to the Orkneyinga Saga, Magnus had a reputation for piety and gentleness. He refused to fight in a Viking raid in Wales because of his religious convictions, and instead stayed on board the ship singing psalms.
I guess it's safe to say, he was not your typical viking earl...
Celebrating the life of St Magnus gives us an opportunity to value the character of this man – and maybe try to learn something from him. Unfortunately – in Magnus’ case – there was no earthly pay back for his gentleness, as he ended up being murdered on his cousin and rival Haakon’s command – who was the other earl of Orkney. Still – the saga of St Magnus is an inspiration to acknowledge that we always have a choice:
To use violence or to seek peaceful solutions.
To put people or power first.
To try to do the right thing even if it has a cost.
The bonds between The Orkney Islands and Norway are very old, and very strong.
In the late 8th and 9th centuries, a large number of Norwegians settled in Orkney and Shetland as a base for raids elsewhere.
Today, Norwegians fortunately come to Orkney with peaceful intentions. A main attraction for both our people when we cross the Nordic Sea to visit each other, is nature. We both are nature loving and we have learned through generations and centuries how to live with its beauty and its danger.
For us Norwegians, it is moving that every 17th of May, Orcadians celebrate Norway’s national day. And each December, two Norwegian Christmas trees light up Kirkwall.
But the strongest physical symbol of our spiritual and historic ties must be our two cathedrals – St. Magnus here in Kirkwall, and the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim – which obviously have a lot in common.
This year’s St Magnus festival underline the strong cultural ties between us – as Norwegian performers represent a substantial part of the musical program. We look very much forward to the Gala Opening Concert tonight, which is a result of the collaboration between the BBC singers and the Trondheim Soloists.
900 years after Magnus Erlendsson’s death I hope we can be gathered in his spirit of gentleness. May that inspire us all – in our personal life, in our daily duties and in relations across borders.
We are very happy to be here – and we look forward to the rest of our stay.