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Prime Minister Visits Markland, Nova Scotia

July 2007

Sunday July 29th, 2007, was a very special day at Markland, Nova Scotia.
The Prime Minister of Iceland, His Excellency Geir H. Haarde and his wife, Mrs. Inga J. Þordardóttir,
paid a special visit to the site where 30 Icelandic families (200 persons) lived from 1875-1882.

Joining the Prime Minister were the following persons:
    Mr. Bolli Th. Bollason, Permanent Secretary of State
    Mrs. Halla Lárusdóttir, Spouse
    Mrs. Gréta Ingþórsdóttir, Political Adviser
    Mr. Gísli Hjartarson, Spouse
    Mr. Markús Örn Antonsson, Ambassador of Iceland to Canada
    Mrs. Steinunn Ármannsdóttir, Spouse
    Ambassador Sturla Sigurjónsson, Foreign Policy Adviser
    Mr. Halldor Árnason, Deputy-Permanent Secretary of State
    Mr. Robert Mellish, Honorary Consul, and his wife, Janice

On Saturday, July 28th, the Chronicle Herald interviewed Mrs. Eleanor (Dolly) Belmore, Chair of the Icelandic Memorial Society of Nova Scotia, about the visit. In 2000 the Society erected a memorial cairn at Markland to remember the Icelandic families that once lived in the area. The 3000 acres of land (30 lots of 100 acres) was named "Markland" by the pioneer settlers.

The guests were greeted at the site by the Hon. Brooke Taylor, Nova Scotia Minister of Agriculture, and MLA for the area. The Executive of the Society were then introduced: Dolly Belmore (Chair), Bev Redden (Treasurer), and J. Marshall Burgess (Secretary).

Mrs. Belmore explained to the guests that the cairn was constructed by the Society members. The base consists of stones from the 30 homesteads. The stone on the top came from Iceland. The Government of Iceland contributed $6000 towards the $20,000 project. Eimskip, the Icelandic shipping line, shipped the stone to Shelburne as their contribution to the project.

Next to the cairn is a large map showing the location of the homesteads in the settlement. The houses are long gone and only the holes in the ground remain where the buildings were located. The stonewalls remain from the land clearing efforts. Donald and Harley Redden gave a narrative to the guests about life in the community. Harley and Bev Redden own Lot 23 originally granted to Ólafur Pórsteinsson and have a camp there.

Mrs. Belmore and Diane Englund, her daughter, presented to each guest a copy of Gudbrandur Erlendsson's book, "Markland - Remembrance of the Years 1875-1881", published in 1916. They also presented the guests with a copy of the CD telling the story of Markland. This was produced by Ken Burrows and music by Bill Stevenson. Marshall Burgess presented a copy of his 1987 paper "The Markland Icelanders - An Immigration Experiment".


T
his year, Bonnie Price, daughter of Mrs. Belmore, designed a new logo pin for the Society. These pins were distributed. The new flag poles erected by Harley Redden and Wayne Scott on this site this spring had the Canadian, Icelandic and Nova Scotia flags blowing in the wind. The guests were shown a copy of the new historical plaques which the Society is now making up for the various lots.

Members of the Society and other guests in attendance were introduced to the Prime Minister. The visit lasted one-half hour and the guests left to return to Halifax. The guest book was signed by the group and this will be a priceless souvenir for the Society.

Lunch in Halifax was hosted by Ambassador Antonsson and his wife, Steinnun Armannsdottir, at Saege Bistro, a Norwegian Restaurant. Peter Morgan, Chair of the Scandinavian Society, and his wife Wendy, greeted the guests. The Executive of the Scandinavian Society were introduced: Irma Pitkanen, Susan Morris, Carola Holmgren, Birgit Ballantyne, Marshall Burgess and Lissi Jeppesen. Canada's Ambassador to Iceland, Anna Blauveldt, attended the luncheon.

Geir Simensen, Chef and Proprietor of Saege and his mother, Unni Simensen (a Scandinavian Society member) who runs Scanway Café Limited, welcomed their guests and provided a delicious lunch. Dr. Brigitta Wallace, a Scandinavian Society member, presented the Prime Minister with a copy of her new book "Westward Vikings - the Saga of L'Anse Aux Meadows".


The delegation then went on a tour of Canada's Immigration Museum at Pier 21 (greeted by John Oliver, Dot Duhan). Next they went to Province House and were greeted by the Honourable Len Goucher, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage. Next they visited the Halifax Port Authority (Karen Oldfield, CEO) who took them on a tour of Halifax Harbour aboard their vessel the J. R. Mitchell.

The delegation then visited the offices of Eimskip (Reynir Gislason, CEO and Russell Herder) and Landsbanki (Olafur Thorsteinsson). These two companies hosted a dinner that evening at Seven Wine Bar and Restaurant.

The Prime Minister visited the Chronicle Herald on Monday, July 30th. The delegation toured the offices of Atlas Cold Storage (Eimskip) at Burnside Industrial Park on their way to the airport. They flew to St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, for the next segment of their visit.

With the TV interviews and the press coverage given to this visit to Nova Scotia, it was a great start for our Icelandic guests. After Newfoundland, they will continue on to Winnipeg and North Dakota.

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updated May-29-12

 

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