Shetland Museum and Archives (speech)
Your Royal Highnesses,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for your kind invitation. I am delighted to be here today at the opening of the new Shetland Museum and Archives.
Having enjoyed the tour through 5000 years of your history, I must admit that I am impressed. Impressed with the rich history of the islands, and impressed with the way it is presented throughout this magnificent museum.
Considering how far your history reaches back in time, it strikes me that the Viking settlements after all were a relatively «recent» phenomenon. For centuries the Vikings seemed to have been little more than blue-eyed barbarians in horned helmets – but is this really true? Archaeological investigations of Viking sites have revealed a more human – if not altogether humane – side to the Viking character giving a view of them as explorers, entrepreneurs and traders.
It is easy to see that relations with Norway over the past thousand years or so have made their mark on Shetland and its history. I have been told that until the 1770ies Shetlanders spoke their own language, a Scandinavian tongue called “Norn”. And still do place names in Shetland bear living memories of our common ancestors. Lerwick, Breiwick, Sandwick, Sandness, Fetlar and Baltasound are names we also find along the coast of Norway. The geographical distance between our two countries is also very short – and as you all very well know, your nearest railway station is in Bergen, Norway.
The close ties between Shetland and Norway are based on the fact that we share a common sea. The sea has been the highway between us at all times – a highway for travel, trade and migration. Fishermen have shared the riches of the sea from ancient times. Today we are cooperating as closely as ever, the focus now being on offshore petroleum activities.
Sadly, the sea also takes its toll as we were again reminded of last month with the tragic capsizing of the Bourbon Dolphin and the loss of eight lives. I would like to thank you for the way the people of Shetland and your authorities conducted the rescue operation which saved the seven crew members.
While Norway may have set its mark on Shetland in the past, in more recent times, Shetland has been of immense importance to Norway. The hazardous boat trips that the Shetland Bus made during the Second World War saved the lives of many Norwegians. These activities also allowed the resistance to carry out a number of missions in occupied Norway. The way you Shetlanders actively supported us, and fought alongside us during our darkest hour, will never be forgotten.
It has been said that those who do not learn the lessons of history are bound to repeat their mistakes. I have the clear impression that we do not have to worry about Shetland in this respect. The new Shetland Museum and Archives demonstrates that you give priority to taking care of your historical and cultural heritage, to the benefit of the islands and the whole of your immediate neighbourhood. Thank you for being such a good neighbour. We are looking forward to sharing the next thousand years with you up here in the north east corner of the Atlantic.