Icelandic Journals

Faroe Islands

Tuesday, July 11th, On Board-ship "Diana," the Faroes astern of us

Thorshaven Images

‘the pleasant-looking little town of Thorshaven’

‘ . . . at last at the bight’s end we saw the pleasant-looking little town of Thorshaven, with its green-roofed little houses clustering around a little bay and up a green hillside: thereby we presently cast anchor, the only other craft in the harbour being three fishing-smacks, cutters, who in answer to the hoisting of our flag ran up English colours, and were, we afterwards found out, from Grimsby for Iceland’ (IJ p 12).

‘Thence we went out into the town, which pleased me very much: certainly there was a smell of fish, and these creatures, or parts of them, from guts to gutted bodies, hung and lay about in many places; but there was no other dirt apparent; the houses were all of wood, high-roofed, with little white casements, the rest of the walls being mostly done over with Stockholm tar . . . (IJ p 13).

‘ . . . every roof was of turf, and fine crops of flowery grass grew on some of them . . .’ (IJ p 13)



‘We were to go a walk under the guidance of a Faroe parson to a farm on the other side of the island (Straumey), and so presently having gone through the town we met on a road that ran through little fields of very sweet flowery grass nearly ready for the scythe: it affected me strangely to see all the familiar flowers growing in a place so different to anything one had ever imagined, and withal (it had grown a very bright fresh day by now) there was real beauty about the place of a kind I can’t describe’ (IJ p 13).

Kirkiuboe Images

‘the ruin of a stone medieval church’

‘We turned another spur of the hills soon, and then the land on our side fell back, the long island aforesaid ended suddenly and precipitously, and there was a wide bay before us bounded on the other side now by the steep grey cliffs of another island: the hillsides we were on flattened speedily now, under steep walls of basalt, and at the further end of them close by the sea lay the many gables (black wood with green turf roofs) of the farm of Kirkiuboe (Kirkby), a littlewhitewashed church being the nearest to the sea, while close under the basalt cliff was the ruin of a stone medieval church: a most beautiful and poetical place it looked to me, but more remote and melancholy than I can say, in spite of the flowers and grass and bright sun: it looked as if you might live for a hundred years before you would ever see ship sailing into the bay there; as if the old life of the saga-time had gone, and the modern life [had] never reached the place’ (IJ pp 14-15).

‘We hastened down, along the high mowing-grass of the homefield, full of buttercups andmarsh marigolds, and so among the buildings: the long-nosed cadaverous parson who guided us took us first to the ruin, which he said had never been finished, as the Reformation had stopped the building of it: in spite of which story it is visibly not later than 1340 in date, which fact I with qualms stoutly asserted to the parson’s disgust, though ‘tis quite a new fault to me to find local antiquaries post-date their antiquities: anyhow it was or had been a rich and beautiful “decorated” chapel without aisles, and for all I know had never been finished . . .” (IJ p 15)

‘The medieval church ruin is covered in a metal structure to prevent further deterioration while extensive conservation work is undertaken’ (Martin Stott)

‘a little whitewashed church’

a little whitewashed church‘ . . . thence we went into the more modern church (such a flower-bed as its roof was!) which was nevertheless interesting from its having a complete set of bench-ends richly carved (in deal) of the 15th century, but quite northern in character, the interlacing work mingling with regular 15th century heraldic work and very well carved figures that yet retained in costume and style a strong tinge of the 13th century: the ornament of the bishop’s throne, a chair with a trefoiled canopy, though I am pretty sure of the same date as thebench-ends, was entirely of the northern interlacing work’ (IJ pp 15-16).


‘the bonder’s house’ and ‘a little whitewashed church’

Faroe Islands‘From the church we went into the bonder’s house which was very clean, and all of unpainted deal, walls, floor, and ceiling, with queer painted old presses and chests about it: he turned up with his two children presently, and welcomed us in that queer northern manner I got used to after a little, as if he were thinking of anything else than us, nay rather, as if he were not quite sure if we were there or not: he was a handsome well-dressed man, very black of hair and skin, and with the melancholy very strong in his face and manner’ (IJ p 16).

‘Descendents of the same familiy live in it as when Morris visited!’ (Martin Stott)

Faroe Islands‘There we drank unlimited milk, and then turned back up the slopes, but lay down a little way off the house, and ate and drank, thoroughly comfortable, and enjoying the rolling about in the fresh grass prodigiously’ (IJ p 16).


North Coast Images

‘ . . . the coasts were most wonderful on either side; pierced rocks running out from the cliffs under which a brig might have sailed: caves that the water ran up into, how far we could not tell, smooth walls of rock with streams running over them right into the sea . . .’ (IJ p 17)


‘ . . . these would sink down into green slopes with farms on them, or be cleft into deep valleys over which would show crater-like or pyramidal mountains . . .’ (IJ p 17)



‘ . . . and all this always without one inch of beach to be seen; and always when the cliffs sank you could see little white clouds lying about on the hillsides’ (IJ p 17).



‘ . . . I could see nothing at all of the gates we had come out by, no slopes of grass, or valleys opening out from the shore; nothing but a terrible wall of rent and furrowed rocks, the little clouds still entangled here and there about the tops of them: here the wall would be rent from top to bottom and its two sides would yawn as if they would have fallen asunder, here it was buttressed with great masses of stone that had slipped from its top; there it ran up into all manner of causeless-looking spikes: there was no beach below the wall, no foam breaking at its feet’ (IJ pp 17-18).

‘ . . . the islands themselves from the ferry as we ran north through the islands like Morris did on the way to Iceland with the last four basically being views of the north coast, as dramatic I suspect as when Morris passed that way’ (Martin Stott).