This is one of the display boards at the excellent national museum in Torshavn, capital of the Faroe Islands. What it appears to suggest is quite remarkable - that the men who initially settled the islands were Norse, but the women were overwhelmingly Celtic.
This is how the Wikipedia entry on the Faroe islanders puts it: 'Recent DNA analyses have revealed that Y chromosomes, tracing male descent, are 87% Scandinavian. The studies show that mitochondrial DNA, tracing female descent, is 84% Celtic.'
The same is broadly true, though less emphatically so, for the early settlers of Iceland.
So, to put it bluntly, the Vikings who initially settled the Faroes picked up their wives on the way - perhaps they stopped over at Viking settlements on the Scottish and Irish coasts and met women there; perhaps these wives were slaves - some research suggests that up to a quarter of the population of Scandinavia during the late Viking period were in servitude; perhaps they were abducted.
What is inherently likely is that many of the first generation of women settlers on the Faroes (and in Iceland) were there against their will, in a marriage which was based in part on coercion.
During my recent trip to the Faroes, I saw more recent evidence of marriages which crossed borders - not in any way based on coercion, but which caught my attention.
In the western island of Vagar, there's a small but informative war museum - and close to it a plot of Commonwealth War Graves. While Denmark was occupied by the Germans during the Second World War, British troops managed to take over the Faroes. Several hundred were stationed on the islands. They suffered only light casualties - though Faroese seafarers endured a much higher number of fatalities. Indeed, the museum says that the Faroes suffered the loss of a higher proportion of their adult men than any other country except Russia.)
Among the many photos of the British troops displayed in the museum, a striking number display weddings: British servicemen with Faroese brides. The photo above is one of these - taken from the museum's website. The museum also has a display recreating such a wedding, along with the garments worn.
Skip forward to the current day: the Faroes have been one of the most ethnically homogeneous communities in the world. That's starting to change: a result in part of adoption (the country has a higher than normal adoption rate), but also of wives coming from abroad.
The BBC posted a story last year about the women coming to the Faroes because of gender imbalance. More Faroese women than men move away from the islands. The prime minister said the islands had a 'gender deficit' of about 2,000 women - and that in a population totalling just 50,000. The article said more than 300 foreign brides - many from Thailand and the Philippines - had married Faroese men and made their homes on these prosperous but remote and windblown islands in the North Atlantic
Travelling round the islands, there was a conspicuous number of non-white residents, not all women but largely so. In the hotel we stayed at in Torshavn, most of the serving staff in the restaurant were non-European. We spoke to one: she was Latin American, her husband was Faroese, and she had recently started working at the hotel - and earning good money - so the family would be able to make a visit to her home country, which she hadn't seen for two years.
What do I take from all this? Nothing - beyond three snapshots of how those in the Faroes have found their life partners.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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