Friday, May 29, 2015

Basque - Icelandic Feud Finally Over Four Hundred Years Later

A memorial dedicated to the 32 Basque whalers who were killed in the West Fjords in 1615 in what’s known as Iceland’s only mass murder was unveiled in Hólmavík, the West Fjords, on April 22, the last day of winter. At the occasion, West Fjords district commissioner Jónas Guðmundsson revoked the order that Basques could be killed on sight in the region. . . .

President of Gipuzkoa Martin Garitano spoke at the ceremony, as did Icelandic Minister of Education and Culture Illugi Gunnarsson, reports. The speeches were followed by musical performances and a moment of prayer.

The program included Xabier Irujo, descendant of one of the murdered Basque whale hunters, and Magnús Rafnsson, descendant of one of the murderers, taking part in a symbolic reconciliation, as it says on . . .

The massacre, known as the Spanish Killings or Slaying of the Spaniards, took place in October 1615 at the order of the then West Fjords district commissioner Ari Magnússon of Ögur in Ísafjarðardjúp.

Basque whalers had set up a whaling station in Iceland in the early 17th century. The year 1615 was a difficult with ice up to shores until late summer and considerable loss of livestock, as written on Wikipedia.

In mid-summer 1615, three Basque whaling vessels entered Reykjarfjörður. Icelanders and the Basques had a mutual agreement at the beginning as they had both benefited from the enterprise.

When the ships were ready for departure in late September a gale drove them onto rocks and crushed them. Most of the crew members (around 80) survived and were able to leave for Spain.

The following month, following a conflict with the locals, the remaining whalers were killed at Ari’s order at Æðey island in Ísafjarðardjúp and on Fjallaskagi. Only one person managed to escape.
From here via Marginal Revolution.

The fact that both communities have genealogies up to the task of tracking descendants of both sides of this historical event, four hundred years later, and that this event was accurately documented historically that long ago, on the very fringe of Europe, at the time, is remarkable.

No comments: