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My Dumfries Story

From Jimmy Russell

Jimmy Russell has been working as part of the Our Norwegian Story (ONS) project since the beginning of this year, researching and compiling stories and histories of Dumfries’ Norwegian Connection. Following a recent call out, Jimmy is also closing the ONS Trail Launch this weekend, with his performance, My Dumfries Story at 6pm this Saturday, 15th April.

‘The research I have been doing for Our Norwegian Story has been surprisingly broad, bringing together stories of Norwegian soldiers’ military, sporting or romantic exploits and the legacy of each. Between scanning photographs from Dumfries Museum’s collection and scouring the Ewart Library archives, I have interviewed Doonhamers with memories or memorabilia from the 1940s. These folk have lent some personality to what could otherwise have been an interesting yet passionless exercise.

King Haakon reviews forces, troqueer Holm Field march past 1940

One of my favourite discoveries was tracing, through use of old photos and digital maps, the route that Norwegian arm recruits marched from their training ground at Troqueer Holm field to their base at the old mills in 1940 during King Haakon’s visit. At the intersection of Rosefield Road and Pleasance Avenue the king was photographed standing by a tree as his troops went by, and that spot hasn’t changed much in the past 77 years! Another special moment for me was finding images of a football match between Norwegian and Polish soldiers, probably during 1941-42 Inter-Allied tournament, which took place on the playing field of St Joseph’s College – my old secondary school!

While writing the website content for ONS I have been inspired by personal stories I have heard as much as learning about the broader situation of Norwegians fleeing to Britain. With My Dumfries Story I want to create an accessible and emotive link between those fading individual memories and the official history. By sharing the journal entries of an imaginary Norwegian living in wartime Dumfries I want to draw a composite sketch of the exile experience. Part of this process has been retracing the steps of Norwegians between various points on the trail and wider map, trying to walk in the boots of those welcome foreigners and capture what might have been felt in writing and drawing.

My background includes a degree in Scottish history and philosophy, museum and art gallery work, as well as creative writing and performance. I am also well travelled and interested in issues of migration. Hence the experience of working on Our Norwegian Story and My Dumfries Story in parallel has been both professionally and personally rewarding. I hope the results generate a greater interest in the rich, surprising history of Dumfries, but also in oor toon’s place within international contexts.’

Find our more about the Our Norwegian Story project here, and for details of the Trail Launch this weekend please find out more here, or join our Facebook Event. All events are free to attend, and no booking is required!

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