The schooner, 106 lasts, was built in Lemland in 1838, and clinker construction was applied in 1843. At that time, the vessel was owned by Per Andersson from the Andersas farm in Flaka. In 1851, Erik Petter Eriksson married Per Andersson’s daughter. Erik Petter became the owner of Trefanten, but it is unknown whether this happened before or after the marriage. Trefanten was shipwrecked in a dramatic snowstorm on 4 December 1871 at cable length (approximately 200 metres) from the coast of Öland. The vessel was thrown aground and so severely damaged in the storm that it immediately filled with water. The ship’s crew of eight made it ashore to Öland by their own efforts. Johan Jansson (Johansson Friman) was the captain of Trefanten when the accident happened. The wreck was soon sold to an Ålandian at an auction. The same stormy night, two other vessels were shipwrecked in the same area; Swedish Sädesärlan’s crew survived, and the Finnish vessel Oskar’s whole crew died. Per Anton Lignell from Åland was the captain of Oskar.
Fredrika, schooner, 114 lasts
The vessel was built in Bergören, Granboda in 1859. It was clinker-built and the first schooner in Lemland. Erik Petter Eriksson was its master builder and head shipowner. In 1875, E.G. Söderlund became the head shipowner. The vessel ran aground and became a wreck near Starholmen on 15 December 1879. Jansson was the captain.
Alexandra, galleass, 67 lasts
The construction site and year are unknown. E.P.E bought the vessel and brought it to Lemland. The vessel was shipwrecked in 1868 while transporting a load of wood over the Sea of Åland to Stockholm.
Eugenia, barque, 190 lasts
The vessel was built in Sastmola in 1865 for Lemland’s shipping company, whose head shipowner was E.P.E. Eugenia was shipwrecked off Gotland on 29 December 1872 when it was ballasted on its way home from Grimsby. The captain was Anders Nylund.
Alina, barque, 367 nrt
The vessel was built in Skaftung, Ostrobothnia in 1866. E. Silverberg was the master builder. The vessel was built for Lemland’s shipping company, whose head shipowner was E.P.E., and was sold to Norway in 1872.
Elina, barque, 357 nrt
The vessel was built in Sideby in 1866 (Josef Jansson is thought to have been the master builder) for Lemland’s shipping company, whose main shipowner was Erik Petter Eriksson. E.G. Eriksson from Flaka became the head shipowner in 1870, followed by Anders Nylund from Knutsboda in 1878. The vessel ran aground and was wrecked on Jutland’s north-western coast in February 1882, with Mats Sjölund as the captain.
Leo, schooner, 289 nrt
The vessel was built at the Kilens shipyard in Sideby in 1870. Josef Jansson was the master builder. It took only six months to build the vessel, and it was ready to sail on 20 July. The shipping company’s construction supervisor was shareholder Carl Carlsson from Kallas, Granboda. In addition, he was the vessel’s captain for the first two years. Leo was considered to be a vessel that brought good luck, which is why it was commonly called Penningdraken (Money Dragon). Erik Petter Eriksson and Carl Carlsson acted as the head shipowners by turns, and from 1885, Erik August Eriksson was the head shipowner. Leo was taken out of service in 1898, and its wreck is located in the strait of Lumparsund.
Linnéa, schooner, 300 nrt
The vessel was built at the Kilens shipyard in Sideby in 1872. It was made for Lemland’s shipping company, whose head shipowner was Erik Petter Eriksson. Josef Jansson was the master builder. Anders Johan Eriksson from Söderby was the shipping company’s supervisor of construction. He bought the vessel in 1895 Linnéa was taken out of service in 1897.
Ceres, schooner, 273 nrt
The vessel was built at the Kilens shipyard in Sideby in 1873. It was made for Lemland’s shipping company, whose head shipowner was Erik Petter Eriksson. Josef Jansson was the master builder. Johan Johansson Friman (who used the name Jansson for a short period of time) supervised the construction in Sideby. He was the vessel’s first shareholder (5/32) and its captain for the first 21 years. The vessel was commonly considered “a ship that brings wealth”. Ceres was taken out of service in 1897.
Åland, schooner, 311 nrt
The vessel was built in Sideby in 1873. The construction site and master builder are unknown; Erik Petter Eriksson was the head shipowner. The supervisor was A.J. Eriksson, who later became the vessel’s first captain. Åland ran aground and was shipwrecked on 13 July 1882, near Ulkokrunni pilot station in the Uleåborg archipelago.
Cedia, schooner, 228 nrt
The vessel was built at the Kilens shipyard in Sideby in 1874. Josef Jansson was the master builder. Carl Gustaf Nylund from Granboda supervised the construction, and he became the vessel’s first captain. Shipbuilder Josef Jansson (1/4) and some other people from Sideby were Cedia’s shareholders. Businessman Berndt Sundahl was one of the major shareholders. The vessel was shipwrecked on the North Sea on 10 March 1879 and repaired, then taken out of service in 1897.
Eli, schooner, 190 nrt
The vessel was built at the Flada shipyard in Sideby in 1874. Karl-Johan Jossfolk was the master builder. Erik Petter Eriksson was Eli’s head shipowner and E. Sjölund its first captain. The vessel survived without extensive damages and was taken out of service in 1897.
Augusta, barque, 374 nrt
The vessel was built at the Werkflada shipyard in Närpes in 1874. Mats Ivars was the master builder. The vessel had 18 shareholders, all but one of whom were from Lemland. Shipmaster Erik August Eriksson from Granboda was the vessel’s head shipowner from 1874 to 1879. He was the biggest shareholder, with 24/288 shares. Erik Petter Eriksson became the head shipowner in 1880, and he also was one of the biggest shareholders. Augusta was sold to France in 1900 for 3200 francs.
Primus, schooner, 237 nrt
The vessel was built at the Långvik shipyard in Närpes in 1874. Rural tradesman Berndt Sundal and Erik Petter Eriksson from Granboda were the owners. E.P.E was the first head shipowner. Later, Berndt Sundal became the head shipowner, and after him, K.G. Lundberg. The vessel was sold after running aground on 16 December 1888 by Barhöft near Stralsund.
Wendla, schooner, 197 lasts
The vessel was built in Lillholmen, Vessingboda in 1875 by a shipyard whose head shipowner was Erik Gustav Mattson from Mellangård. The schooner was sold to Erik Petter Eriksson, then sold and taken out of service in 1896.
Freja, schooner, 263 nrt
The vessel was built in Söderby sjö, Lemland in 1882–1883. Isak Nordström from Ostrobothnia was the master builder. Söderby’s farmers/sea captains, Emil Nylund from Seffer and Matts Sjölund from Skallfogdas/Mattas, set the building project in motion as they signed a timber supply contract with farmer Anders Nylund from the Nybonds farm in Söderby. According to the contract, Nylund would supply half of all timber, approximately 140–150 standards, for the construction of a ship, and the price was “3,000 Finnish gold marks”. The shipyard had about ten owners, most from Granboda. Erik Petter Eriksson and Erik August Eriksson were the head shipowners. Emil Nylund became the captain for the first 15 years. Nylund was from Seffers, Söderby, and he owned approximately 1/4 of the vessel. On 3 February 1906, Freja was sold to shipmaster Karl Johan Johansson from Hellestorp (12/96 shares) and others at the price of 8,030 Finnish marks. In 1908, inn owner Erik August Eriksson became the head shipowner. Freja and its crew of eight were shipwrecked in a violent snowstorm on 9 October 1909 by Jurmo near Utö. Karl Oskar Johansson from Hellerstorp was the vessel’s captain and major owner.
Tähti, barque, 489 nrt
The vessel was built in Vasa in 1857. Erik Petter Eriksson and others bought the vessel and brought it to Lemland in 1890. The price was 15,000 Finnish marks. The vessel was shipwrecked by Windau in 1897, and the SS Titano rescued the crew. Tähti was Erik Petter’s largest vessel.
Pellas is as much a literature museum as it is a seafaring museum. The museum was inspired by two novels that describe Pellas and the surrounding area’s life from the second half of the 19th century to the 1950s. Ulla-Lena Lundberg, whose paternal great-grandmother Erika (“Kristina” in the novel) was born at Pellas, wrote the novel Leo in 1989. In the book, she portrays “Erik Petter’s” life at the “Simons” farm in Granboda and his offspring’s destinies in the great world. The sequel Stora världen follows the same family’s life. The “Simons” farm is Pellas in reality, and “Erik Petter” is the man who built the grand house on Pellas’ hill – the house that today is a museum. The photograph shows Erik Petter’s grandchildren – Erika’s children – who are “Mauritz”, “Isidor”, “Leonard”, “Artur”, and “Richard” in the novel. In the real world, they are August, Carl, Algot (Ulla-Lena’s paternal grandfather), Erik, and Gustaf. The novel Leo aroused interest in peasant seafaring, Pellas, and its people. As a result, the Pellas museum was established.
An invaluable resource of information about bygone days at Pellas is Pamela Eriksson’s book about the last voyage of the Duchess (the original book: The Duchess: The Life and Death of the Herzogin Cecilie, 1958; Swedish translation Hertiginnans sista resa, 1960; not available in Finnish). The book portrays a writer’s life at Pellas and on the Herzogin Cecilie. Pamela was married to Sven, who was the second-youngest son of the Pellas farm and the captain of Gustaf Erikson’s four-masted barque Herzogin Cecilie. Pamela describes life at Pellas until the end of the 1930s. It is likely that between the years 1884 and 1930, only small changes were made at the farm, as Pamela writes that it seemed as though time had been frozen for 50 years when she arrived. In the book, we follow her life on the vessel, the shipwreck of 1936, its rescue work, and life at Pellas after the couple left the vessel and travelled home to Granboda.
The books have been a great source of inspiration in the museum planning. During the first years of the museum in the mid-1990s, when Lundberg’s books were still fresh in people’s minds, visitors were eager to see the books’ scenes. People were also interested in the books’ characters and how the “Simons” looked in reality. Many visitors wanted to know if reality matched the novel. Even today, the books attract visitors to Pellas. Pamela Eriksson’s book has reached a larger audience, along with its new edition. Per-Ove Högnäs’ film The Last Voyage of the Duchess (2013) and Ulla-Lena Lundberg’s book Hertiginnan och kaptenskan (The Duchess and the Captain’s Wife) (2017), both of which are about Herzogin Cecilie and its captain’s wife Pamela Eriksson, attract new visitors to Pellas and maintain interest in the farm and its life.
Sven Eriksson, born at Pellas in 1903, became known as the young captain of Herzogin Cecilie. It was the flagship of Ålandian major shipowner Gustaf Erikson’s grand sailing fleet. Sven started his seaman career on the barque Prompt. After that, he sailed as a mate on Killoran, Baltic, and Jenolin before becoming the youngest captain of Gustaf Erikson’s sailing ship in 1929.
Sven was Herzogin Cecilie’s captain when the vessel ran aground on the coast of Devon, England in 1936. Sven’s wife Pamela Eriksson was on board on the vessel’s last journey. The couple had met on the boat on an earlier voyage, when Pamela was aboard as a passenger. After the shipwreck of Herzogin Cecilie, Sven and Pamela Eriksson came home to Pellas before moving to South Africa with their two children after the Second World War.
To Sven and the family, the shipwreck was a sad event that cast a shadow on their lives. At that time, a shipwreck was big news, and the spot attracted legions of people who wanted to see the vessel and watch the rescue work that lasted for months. After Herzogin Cecilie, Sven did not act as a captain again but became a farmer, first at Pellas and later on his own farm in South Africa. He died in South Africa in 1954 and is buried in the family grave in the Lemland cemetery. His wife, Pamela, lived the last years of her life in Åland and died in 1984. The excerpt from Lundberg’s book below describes how Sven introduced his wife, whom Lemland’s farmers considered exotic and different.
Ni ska tro att det blir uppståndelse när Stella kommer till Granboda. Som skökan i Babylon i hatt och eldröd sidenklänning står hon i Lemlands kyrka medan prästen läser upp lysningen för henne och Josef. Och Josef njuter, han har slagit hela bygden med häpnad och fått alla halsar att vändas. […] ”Ja, nog er det en vacker körka, fan ta mig”, konverserar hon […] Och mera i samma stil som ger oss anledning att betvivla att hon är döpt och konfirmerad. Hon använder vad hon har lärt sig av jungmän och matroser, för med Josef och styrmännen talade hon engelska. […] Nu står hon i Simons sal och säger: ”Her har jag bodd i ett tidigare liv. Ner jag kom in tenkte jag att no er jag hemma.
Ulla-Lena Lundberg in her book Stora världen.
Writer Ulla-Lena Lundberg’s books Leo and Stora världen are based on and inspired by life at Pellas and in Granboda. Ulla-Lena Lundberg’s paternal great-grandmother, Erika Lundberg (“Kristina” in the novels), was born at Pellas in 1851. The tie between the Eriksson and Lundberg families was created when Erika from Pellas married Carl Gustaf Lundberg (born in 1839) from the Hansas farm in the same village. Carl Gustaf was a shipmaster and farmer – a great match for young Erika. Carl Gustaf owned shares of many vessels and was the captain of schooner Leo for a couple of years.
It is said that the marriage was happy. However, they both died at young ages, leaving behind five sons. The two youngest were only one year old when their mother died in 1885 and five years old when their father died in 1889. Their mother’s father, Erik Petter from Pellas, became their guardian. The second-oldest son, Erik, became a farmer at Hansas. He was only fourteen years old when he got possession of the farm after his father, Carl Gustaf, died. Erik was of the same age as his mother’s father, Erik Petter, had been when he got possession of Pellas.
Erika and Carl Gustaf’s oldest son, Carl, became a priest, Erik a farmer, the middle child Algot a teacher, and the two youngest, Gustaf and August, who were twins, became sea captains. These orphan boys succeeded in life, and four of them lived long lives. Sea captain August died at the age of 40 in Cádiz after becoming ill on one of his trips there. In the following excerpt from Leo, “Kristina” talks about wanting to marry “Carl Gustaf”.
Får man fråga vem lilla hjärtat går och tänker på? […] “Eskils Carl Gustaf!” Erik Petter har på tungan att ropa: “Det måste jag förbjuda!” för så ropar fäder när deras döttrar hittar någon som de vill ha. All erfarenhet säger att unga flickor inte kan välja med förstånd. Nu får han bita ihop käften om orden i sista ögonblicket. Eskils Carl Gustaf är sjökapten och arvtagare till en gård som är större än Simons.
Ulla-Lena Lundberg in her book Leo.
August (born in 1856) got possession of Pellas after his father, Erik Petter. He also became the shipowner of Freja after his father. August started his seaman career at the age of 13 as a ship’s boy. After passing a merchant marine examination, he became captain of schooner Cedia, barques Augusta and Tähti, and schooner Freja before becoming a full-time farmer at Pellas in 1902. August was known as a very careful shipmaster who did not take unnecessary risks.
August was a member of the municipal council and parish board, and he was interested in politics. August’s wife, Irene, was a member of Åland’s maritime nobility and was Mathias Lundqvist senior’s daughter from the Hinders farm, Flaka. Mathias was one of the most important shipowners in Lemland; rumour has it that it was a marriage of convenience between two important families. August died in 1931 and Irene in 1954.
The couple had nine children: Filip, Nils, Sally, Adele, Mery, Ebba, Jens, Sven, and Peder. Filip died at a young age after getting ill on his way to New York, where he was also buried. Filip, Nils, and Sven followed in the footsteps of their father and grandfather and became sea captains. After disembarking, Nils became a farmer in Norrby. Sven also disembarked and was a farmer at Pellas for a while before moving to South Africa. Jens and Mery settled on their own farms near Pellas. Sally and Adele moved to their spouses’ farms in Lemland’s Norrby and Flaka. Ebba never married, remaining at Pellas. The youngest son, Peder, moved to the USA.
Erik Petter Eriksson was born in 1823 as the oldest sibling of five. Erik Petter was very young when he got the possession of his fathers’ farm, Pellas. The father died in 1837 and left behind a house burdened with debt. According to the story, the intention was to sell the farm and its movables at auction, but enterprising 15-year-old Erik Petter managed to talk all creditors into waiting with their payment demands. Erik Petter’s plan was to build a cargo vessel and save money to pay his father’s debts.
Erik Petter married Brita Stina Persdotter (born in Rörstorp in 1830 and died in 1913). The couple had two children, August and Erika, who lived to adulthood. August started taking care of the farm, and Erika moved to the Hansas farm in Granboda after getting married.
For Erik Petter Eriksson, Trefanten was the first vessel of which he was head shipowner. Erik Petter Eriksson’s vessel Fredrika used to be Lemland’s biggest vessel and the first schooner in the district. In 1869 and for two years after that, Erik Petter Eriksson was the head shipowner of the brand-new schooner, Leo. He and the other shareholders had the vessel built in Sideby. From 1874 to 1875, Erik Petter Eriksson was the head shipowner of ten vessels, seven of which were built in Sideby. Erik Petter Eriksson’s last vessel, Freja, was built in Söderby, Lemland.
Erik Petter had a good reputation as an honest man, and he made good profits with his vessels. He was called the “bank of Lemland” because he ran his own private loan business for other peasant shipowners who wanted to build vessels. He could write, which was not common in the region that time. He was self-educated and held auctions, drew up estate inventories, and performed distributions on estates in Lemland and Lumparland. When the profitability of small wooden peasant vessels decreased, Erik Petter thought that it was time to invest his money in a new house instead of building new vessels. Erik Petter died in 1908.
The following excerpt from Leo describes Erik Petter’s thoughts on building the Pellas house:
Erik Petter har fortfarande kvar en del av skulden därför att det är mera lönsamt att satsa på nya skepp än att använda hela överskottet till skuldens betalning. Han känner inte längre ett lika skriande behov av att göra sig fri från den. Stora penningsummor har upphört att förskräcka honom, och sedan länge är seglationen ett större intresse än skulden. Men föresatsen står fast: innan skulden är betald byggs här inget hus.
The Eriksson family has roots far back in the history of Pellas. The family’s ancestor Erik Petter Eriksson built the house that is now a museum. Many generations have lived on the farm before and after Erik Petter. The family’s last farm owner, Peder Eriksson (Erik Petter’s grandchild) donated his childhood home, which made it possible to turn it into a farm and family museum. Erik Petter’s offspring have kept running the museum, so the Eriksson family saga continues on the farm.
The Shipmaster’s Homestead Pellas is taken care by the members of the large Eriksson family and a group of volunteers interested in the history of Pellas. Some of the people who participated in the museum’s foundation are still active in the association. Freya Darby, Erik Petter Eriksson’s great-grandchild, has been the farm hostess since the beginning. The association’s chair is Folke Engblom, Erik Petter’s great-great-grandchild. Leif Lindvall has also been involved since the beginning, taking care of various tasks on the farm. Leif is Erik Petter’s great-grandchild. Rita Nordberg, Erik Petter’s great-grandchild, has also been helping on the farm.
Journalist, writer, and Granboda summer resident Kiki Alberius-Forsman has written profiles of four members of the Eriksson family who recounted bygone days at the Pellas farm, where the family spent many lively years. The profiles are fully available to read in the museum guide. Freya, Folke, Leif, and Rita can be seen in the short films about life at Pellas.
Finland-Swedish Ulla-Lena Lundberg’s Leo was published in 1989. The book is about the Ålandian schooner Leo, built in Sideby in 1870, and people related to the vessel. The book is mainly set on the “Simons” and “Eskils” farms in Granboda – which in reality are Pellas and Hansas – and tells about the people on these farms. This is the beginning of Ålandian museum history. In the book, the “Simons” farm – Pellas in reality – is an unoccupied house waiting to be awoken from sleep. Leo aroused interest in Ålandian sailing and set in motion the idea of establishing a museum.
The Shipmaster’s Homestead Pellas is a memorial to the Ålandian seafaring period. This form of seafaring is called peasant seafaring. The period extended from around the 1850s to the end of the First World War. During this period, farmers invested in cargo ship sailing and put money, with varying success, into increasingly larger sailing ships. As an indication of success, new grand main buildings were built on farms. These buildings were commonly called shipmaster’s homesteads and were especially popular in Lemland and Värdö, the biggest seafaring municipalities in Åland at the time. The farmers of Pellas also had a new, spacious house built on the Pellas farm – a house that probably became the biggest shipmaster’s homestead in Åland.
On 25 May 1992, Peder Eriksson donated Pellas to the Åland Maritime Museum. Peder was the last of the Eriksson siblings to grow up on the Pellas farm at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century. The deed of gift was signed in Herzogin Cecilie’s beautiful captain’s saloon in the Åland Maritime Museum. Peder’s brother Sven Eriksson had been the vessel’s captain. The Åland Maritime Museum’s condition for the gift was that an organisation should be founded for maintaining the farm. Later that year, an association called Skeppargården Pellas r.f. was founded. After that, the Åland Maritime Museum transferred the farm and its possessions to the new association, and in 1995, the museum opened its doors.
The Pellas main building is impressive. The house is 21.5 metres in length and 11 metres in width. The downstairs living area is 250 square metres. In some of the downstairs rooms, the ceiling height is over three metres. The building also has a large, open attic. The current main building was built by shipowner Erik Petter Eriksson in 1884. The Pellas farm was owned by the Eriksson seafaring and farmer family from the 1670s to the 1990s, when the farm was turned into a museum.
The Pellas main building is one of the biggest shipmaster’s homesteads in Åland. Pellas was built relatively late for a shipmaster’s homestead; most shipmaster’s homesteads in Åland were built between 1850 and 1880. When Pellas was completed in 1884, the golden age of peasant seafaring was already over. When Pellas was under construction, the grand Andersas farm in the neighbourhood had been completed for over 20 years.
These two seafaring families have always competed with each other. It is said that Pellas was built one tier of logs higher and a couple of metres longer than Andersas, which, in turn, is wider than Pellas. It was important to Erik Petter for his house to be bigger. The new main building of Pellas was the last shipmaster’s homestead in the village, and it took several years to build. Erik Petter was already 62 years old when the new and impressive house was completed. This is how Pamela Eriksson describes the competition between the two neighbouring farms:
Pellas närmaste granne var Andersas, som också var en ark fast i något mindre skala. Andersas var i varje fall nästan lika imponerande. Faktiskt var det just för att granngården var så pampig som Pellas hade blivit ännu pampigare.
Pamela Eriksson in her book The Duchess: The Life and Death of the Herzogin Cecilie.
While operating as a shipowner, Erik Petter Eriksson was the head shipowner of the following vessels: Trefanten, Fredrika, Augusta, Leo, Linnea, Elina, Ceres, Åland, Eli, Cedia, Primus, Elida, Wendla, and Freja. In addition, he was a shareholder of many vessels. Of Erik Petter Eriksson’s vessels, Leo was the most infamous; it was called “Människoätaren” (maneater) because it had a reputation for claiming lives on each trip. Despite its bad reputation, Leo was a successful vessel, also called Money Dragon because it was Erik Petter Eriksson’s most profitable ship.
A couple of Pellas’ vessels were built in Lemland. These included Erik Petter Eriksson’s first sailing ship, schooner Trefanten, and Fredrika, the first schooner in the district. Seven sailing ships were ordered from Sideby, Ostrobothnia. Several sailing ships for Ålandian shipping companies were built in Sideby. After 1874, Pellas’ shipping company operations were reduced, and when the new Pellas main building was built, Erik Petter Eriksson directed two ships.
The last vessel in Pellas’ ownership was Freja. Erik Petter Eriksson’s son August became the shipowner after his father. When the profitability of small, farmer-owned wooden vessels decreased at the end of the 19th century, August Eriksson left the sea and became a full-time farmer at Pellas. Many of August Eriksson’s sons became sea captains, and the shipmaster tradition continued through them.
Peasant seafaring was a form of seafaring that Ålandian farmers practised in the second half of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century. During the golden age of peasant seafaring, a successful vessel could earn its acquisition costs in two or three seasons. The cargo ship traffic mainly focused on the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, but some voyages were made farther. Lemland and Vårdö were Åland’s biggest seafaring municipalities during the peasant seafaring period.
All population segments participated in peasant seafaring in one way or another. Men were shipowners or seamen, and women helped in equipping ships. Being a shipowner did not mean you were the only owner of a vessel; rather, you owned shares of it. The head shipowner was the primary owner, he was mainly responsible for the vessel, and he also received the biggest profits. It was possible to own shares of several vessels: a sixth, an eighth, a sixteenth, a thirty-second, and so on. The shareholding system made it possible for all classes to own shares.
Peasant vessels usually transported timber or firewood that was loaded to the ship on the coasts of Norrland, Västerbotten, or Ostrobothnia, and resold in Denmark, England, Germany, or other countries on the North Sea coastline. Peasant vessels mainly sailed on the Baltic Sea and North Sea.
Överallt på Åland tycktes pojkar vara sjöman och snickare av naturen, men på Lemland låg gräddan av sjöfarare som ett tjockt lager över befolkningen. Var och varannan karl var sjökapten eller redare.
During the second half of the 19th century, seafaring influenced the Ålandian cultural landscape to a considerable extent. Due to the increased income along with seafaring, farmers could build bigger houses. Bigger houses were status symbols and permanent proof of a shipowner’s wealth and success. Shipmasters and shipowners also reformed the Ålandian agricultural society; they modernised ways of living in a society that otherwise were traditional and conservative.
Beginning in the mid-1800s when the farmers’ seafaring changed from domestic use to more organised cargo traffic, farmers could afford to enlarge and improve their old and old-fashioned houses. In addition to Pellas, the village of Granboda contains four other shipmasters’ homesteads: Andersas (Pellas’ closest neighbour), Nedergårds, Hansas, and Kallas. Pellas is one of the biggest and most magnificent farms remaining in Åland.
On Christmas Eve in 2005, a fire destroyed the Pellas main building. The fire started from a switchboard, and the house was already well ablaze when the neighbours called the fire brigade. The fire spread through the drawing room and up to the open attic. Both the drawing room and the attic were completely destroyed. The eastern part of the house survived better, and some of the objects from there were saved. Thanks to a full value insurance, the house was restored after the fire, and the construction work began right after the clearance work was finished. The timber frame survived the fire surprisingly well. The damaged timbers in the attic were replaced with old, recycled timbers and new timbers from Pellas’ forest.
The fire revealed many interesting details in terms of what survived. Hand-painted wallpapers were found under the peeling, sooty, water-damaged wallpapers. In connection with the renovation, new decorative paintings were made based on the original paintings. The neighbouring Andersas farm has similar wallpaper patterns, and they have been also found in the Söderby shipmaster’s homestead, Lemland, and in a shipmaster’s homestead in Vardö. Painter Gabriel from Jomala made the paintings. The new wallpaper in the drawing room was hand-printed based on the original wallpaper. The renovated house was inaugurated in 2008.
Pellas descendants - Interviews
Folke Engblom was born in 1948 at the Norrgårds farm in Lemland Norrby. He is a forestry engineer and has been involved in forestry on the Åland Islands since his childhood. Now he lives in Lemland Norrby. Folke is Sally and Verner Engblom’s grandson. Sally was born at Pellas as one of the nine children in the Eriksson family. Sally’s brother Nils married Verner’s sister Aina, and they also settled in Norrby. Folke is Ingmar and Aili Engblom’s (née Virtanen) son. He has been chairing the Skeppargården Pellas association since 1997.
Grandmother Irene’s funeral
Irene was actually my father’s grandmother, but I also called her “Grandmother Irene”.
Her corpse had been placed in an open coffin in the drawing room, and many people had gathered to “sjunga upp liket”, which means singing a psalm at the home before the funeral procession to the church.
Uncle Leif, who was my father’s cousin, had bought a camera with a modern flash bulb. I remember that he climbed up on a chair to take a photo of Grandmother and the mourners. Then there was a flash of lightning! I was deeply impressed. I hope the photo is still in existence.
Then all of us drove in procession to the funeral at the Lemland church. We had taken a car to the funeral; father and his brother bought a car in 1949. Before that, they had an EPA tractor.
The laughing disease
My first memory from Pellas is a laughing fit, “skrattsjukan”, as we used to call it. I was quite young, perhaps three or four years old. I had a hysterical fit of laughter and could not stop.
I was visiting Pellas with my parents and Grandmother. We sat in the kitchen. The grown-ups became angry with me and told me to sit under the table.
Grandmother Irene was almost blind towards the end of her life. I remember how she came to the kitchen from her bedchamber.
The Pellas people are famous for showing signs of temperament, but my father, Ingmar, was of a more placid type. Perhaps he took after his father, Verner, who was known as a lone wolf. He leased out the fields at Norrgårds and dedicated himself to forestry and house building. Forestry was my father’s passion and livelihood, and it is the same for me.
My mother Aili came from the island of Töfsala, or Taivassalo in Finnish, which was her native language. She came to service at the Michels farm in Norrby because she wanted to learn Swedish. She came to Åland in 1943, right in the middle of the Second World War. At that time, a passport was needed to access Åland from mainland Finland.
She stayed a few years in Mariehamn as a housekeeper for the Stafv and Grönberg families. In 1947, she came to Norrby.
In my view, she would have liked to attend school, but it was milking and hard farm work for her just as it was for so many others. The cows had to be milked by six o’clock in the morning and in the evenings after the supper.
She was the one who showed signs of temperament in our family.
It was not easy to be a Finnish speaker on Åland at that time. Her mother tongue did not have a high status, which is why she never spoke Finnish with me at home. I learned some Finnish from my grandmother and grandfather in the summer when I stayed with them in Taivassalo. The weeks there were full: We made hay, fished Baltic herring, and picked strawberries.
Love of forests
I went to the primary school at Söderby for four years. There was no school transport whatsoever, so I walked 2.9 kilometres to school. If the distance to school had been 3 km, the municipality would have arranged school transport for me.
Later I went to the Rörstorp School. The school was 4.9 km from my home; if it had been 100 metres further away, I would have enjoyed school transport. Therefore, I had to foot it, ride a bike, or ski.
The first time I had school transport was when I went to senior primary school in Strandnäs for three months.
I became interested in forests at an early age. I was only four years old when I received my first axe, and I was happy to go and lop off logged trees all by myself.
When I was nine, I accidentally hit my foot with an axe and had to stay at home for a month to let the foot heal. Since then, I have not had any accidents in the forest.
I trained as a forestry engineer in Ekenäs and dreamed about moving to Canada, but a forest-industry company wanted to recruit a person from Åland who knew some Finnish. Therefore, I took the job. After some time, I started as the managing director for a forest management association and I ran a private forestry and building business for a few years before I retired.
The partitioning of Pellas
When I was a child, I thought the Pellas family got along fine. Therefore, it was a bit of a shock for a ten-year-old to watch the partitioning of Pellas. Telephone conversations suddenly became quite brief and heated.
The farm would now be broken down into seven parts. Two of the nine heirs had passed away without any children.
Bertel Fagerlund, a surveying engineer, was assigned to partition the estate into seven equally valuable sections. Then the sections were divided by lot. In my view, Bertel did a good job: Each of the seven inheritors was equally unhappy with their section.
Movables were sold by auction. My great-uncle Peder, Grandmother Sally’s brother, who was the youngest of the family and my godfather, bought the main building together with his nephew, Ray.
Peder and his wife Mery, who lived in New York, kept the western end of the main building. They used to stay there on their annual visits to Åland in the 1970s and 1980s. On their last visit, they thought the house was in such a poor condition that they preferred to stay in Mariehamn.
Ray moved to the eastern end of the house. He also decorated two rental flats in the attic. Ray passed away in 1977, and the rest of the family decided to move on.
On his last visit to Åland, Peder was extremely worried about Pellas’ future. I think Tove Wikström – who was a summer resident at the farm next to Pellas – came up with idea to donate the house to the Åland Maritime Museum.
In 1992, estate agent Harald Karlsson was engaged to write a donation letter. The letter was sent to the Åland Maritime Museum Foundation, which declined the donation because it concerned only part of the house.
After a great deal of musing, Peder decided to contact Ray’s family and offer a piece of land in exchange for the eastern end of the house, including the outhouse and part of the land around the house. They reached an agreement, and Peder was now the sole owner of Pellas.
One or three hectares?
Another version of the donation letter was sent to the Åland Maritime Museum Foundation. The board accepted the donation on the condition that a support organisation was established to take charge of the buildings’ maintenance.
An interesting turn of events took place when the transfer was about to be made: The maritime museum’s lawyer expressed his opposition to the process. The original proposition mentioned a hectare of land, but now the donation was to include three hectares. The lawyer deemed himself authorised to receive only the hectare that was mentioned in the original proposition. The question of the amount of land was finally resolved, and the museum became the owner of all three hectares of Pellas land.
In 1992, the support association Skeppargården Pellas was registered, and a new donation was at hand, now from the Åland Maritime Museum to the association. The documents were signed round the captain’s table in the maritime museum in 1994 – the same table at which Sven, one of the Pellas sons, had sat during the voyage from Europe and Australia. The association was represented by Leif Lindvall and me. Göte Sundberg and Christer Jansson represented the maritime museum.
At the time of the transfer, the buildings had been allowed to run down, and the main building had stood empty for some years. There was no water or plumbing; the last occupants, who moved out in 1990, had lived in a flat in the eastern attic.
We (i.e., the association) soon realised that a renovation would be costly; at the same time, the country was in the depths of a recession, and we had the good fortune to receive an employment subsidy so that we could launch the renovation.
The first chair of the Skeppargården Pellas association was Gun Holmström. After her, in 1997, I was selected chair and have now served for more than 20 years. Chairing the association has been hard work, but the family – mainly my cousins, who are the nine original Pellas heirs’ children – have taken charge and completed much of the required work.
Fire on Christmas Eve
It was Christmas 2005. From All of Us to All of You had just ended on TV, and we were about to sit round the dinner table. Suddenly, my son, who was a firefighter in the Lemland volunteer fire brigade, was called to Pellas to suppress a fire. On the way to Pellas, I hoped for a false alarm, but as we approached, we saw huge flames leap out of the western windows.
The wind was blowing from the east, and we hoped to save the eastern end of the house. However, at night, the wind turned to the west. Combustion fumes exploded in the eastern side of the attic, and the whole roof collapsed.
The fire brigades fought the fire for a long time, and the fire mop-up lasted until 8.00 p.m. on Boxing Day. After that, the board was made responsible for extinguishing any remaining fire pockets.
Much was destroyed, but not everything. The western part of the ground floor completely went up in smoke. During the night, the fire fighters carried out as many furnishings as they could. I was back home at three on Christmas morning.
After the fire, both Freya Darby and I agreed that Pellas should be rebuilt. We could not even entertain any other options. A number of association members and other people volunteered to clear the ruins after the fire.
First, we thought all the timbers had been destroyed, but when very thick timber is charred, it expands, so only a few centimetres on the surface had burned.
All of the timber on the ground floor survived to a degree, and only a few repairs were needed. However, the upper floor required new timber, really long and wide. Johan Mörn, who was pulling down an old farmhouse in Saltvik Långbergsöda, donated timber.
Lars Eriksson from Eckerö Överby even donated some floorboards to us.
All outer panelling had to be changed. We needed extremely long timbers, at least eleven and a half metres long. Most of it came from my father Ingmar’s forests.
It was wedge-cut at the Pålsböle sawmill. Göte Gundesson from Eckerö adjusted his machines a little and then planed the boards. At that point, I felt I was the right man in the right place. You see, I had contacts in the industry.
The preliminary renovation and reconstruction were assigned to the Bygg Ab building company. The association board decided not to restore the flats in the attic. The insurance policy paid us for it.
The association contributed 70,000 euros and thousands of hours of volunteer work to the reconstruction. The insurance company had to pay 1.1 million euros. The association is thankful to the Ålands Ömsesidiga försäkringsbolag insurance company and its managing director, Göran Lindholm, for fruitful cooperation.
The company had estimated that the reconstruction would cost 650,000 euros. My estimate for the tax authorities was approximately 1.05 million.
The roof was built up quickly to protect what was left of the house.
The reconstruction continued until spring 2008.
The current Pellas is not a copy. The soul of the house is there, and now the house is much more similar to the house our ancestor, Erik Petter, had built in 1884.
The memory of the fire is still alive and perceptible: If you open the big cupboard in the kitchen, you can still smell the smoke – almost 15 years after the fire.
In August 2008, the house reopened with huge festivities.
When the association was established, the membership quickly grew to 150. Now it is slowly declining. Today, the membership is 130.
Unfortunately, only some 20 members are active. The younger and middle-aged members do not have time or enthusiasm to work for Pellas, which is the situation for many other associations today. Perhaps it is a passing trend; we skip a generation, and then we will perhaps see a new volunteer generation. Another option is that we need to employ a workforce, but finances may force us to forget the ideas the donor had for the donation.
The barn has become a popular function room, and the rents are a nice source of income for the association.
Unfortunately, the music and noises disturb some of the neighbours, which is a difficult problem.
Perhaps the younger generation has lost interest in local history. Maybe they do not learn enough about it at school. That could explain why so many youngsters lack interest; at the same time, it is important to preserve and document history in local museums such as Pellas.
Visitors who come here by coach from Sweden, Finland and the rest of the world are usually enchanted; they love the house and its incredible atmosphere.
What most interests the visitors are the two tragic accidents related to Pellas history: the Herzogin Cecilie shipwreck and the Christmas Eve fire in 2005.
The association must learn to highlight Pellas’ history and to show what an incredible person Erik Petter was to have built up one of the biggest shipping companies on Åland from next to nothing.
Freya ”Pippy” Darby, née Eriksson
Born 1938. Freya Darby lived at Pellas for the first seven years of her life; then she moved to South Africa and went to school there. After school she moved to London to get a professional education. In 1966, she returned to Åland with her husband Peter Darby. Freya is now a retired physiotherapist and a sheep farmer living in Lemland Bäckäng. She is Sven and Pamela Eriksson’s daughter; her brother Sven Cecilie was born in 1936. She is the body and soul of Pellas.
The Pellas attraction
I do not know why Pellas attracts me and other people so powerfully. It is big, it has a rare dignified atmosphere; the house is clean and harmonious. Work with the volunteers goes well.
Pellas is like a memento, an idea of what life used to be. However, in actuality, life on the farm was extremely hard even though the circumstances at Pellas were a lot better than at many other places.
Pellas is somehow happy with itself. However, I don’t know if we can say that it represents the times of the seafaring peasants 100%. The interior is now a mixture of items from other farms and other times.
I don’t have too many childhood memories from Pellas because I moved away from here when I was seven. Although I remember something; the atmosphere, smells, people, and animals.
I was born on the maternity ward in Mariehamn’s Hospital in Western Harbour 18 months after my brother Sven Cecilie, whom we called “Squirrel” because he had small tufts of hair on his ears.
My parents spoke English with us and with each other. My mother Pami wanted us to learn a second language beside Swedish.
When we lived at Pellas, we slept in the western bedchamber in the attic, but had meals with Grandmother Irene and Aunt Ebba, and kept them company on the ground floor.
We always went to bed at six o’clock, in the winter and in the summer. I remember lying in bed on light-filled summer nights, listening to other children playing outside. Mother Pami had read in a book Truby King wrote that an early and regular bedtime was good for children. We also woke up early, round five or six in the morning, when the grown-ups got up to milk the cows.
Everyone called me Pippy, probably because I cried a lot.
In the summer we went to Sandvik to bathe, dug up clay from the sea bottom, and slid down the cliffs to the water. I was a good swimmer. Once, I swam a long way to a visiting sailing boat that had come to anchor in the bay. The people aboard were quite surprised when they saw a swimming visitor.
At the farm, we used to tease the ram and then quickly run away when he started to come after us.
We rode the first-ever car in Granboda to town to see the Disney film Pinocchio.
I rode a bareback horse to the pasture with my cousin Rita; I don’t understand why I remember this.
When all the other children went to school in Rörstorp, I wanted to start school too, even though I was only six years old and should have waited one more year. However, I followed the other children. First the teacher sent me back home, but after a few times, I was allowed to start school with the others. Three months later, we moved to South Africa.
Pranks and scolding
Rita always tells a story of how I got a white kitten but would have wanted a black one, so I went and dipped it in tar. The kitten probably died.
Once, we found a few glass bottles and had fun breaking them against the house footings facing north-east. That time we got a proper telling-off from both Mother and Father. It was of course a stupid thing to do, the bottles could have been used again. Nothing was wasted at that time.
My cousin Leif was Grandmother Irene’s favourite, but she had time for all of us: Rita, Ray, Squirrel, Harald, Ingmar, Bjarne, and Yngve.
We were a bunch of rascals; for example, we used to throw eggs against a rock just for fun. We were scolded for that too, of course.
Märta and Jens used to make us coffee. We drank it with heaps of sugar and milk, as was proper for children. It was a secret; we were not allowed to tell Pami about it.
Children at Pellas were served meals at regular hours, and immediately afterward we were told to go out and play.
I remember the bakery fire in 1943. We children stood by the kitchen window and looked at it. No one knows for certain how the fire started, but some said that Grandmother’s apron had been hung too close to the stove, and it caught fire. The timbers that survived the fire were used to build a smaller bakery, which we called Lillstugan (little hut or cabin). In 2012, it was moved to give room to the new Old Bakery that Ingmar and Folke Engblom donated.
Lillstugan was renovated and the tour guide employed at Pellas uses it in summer.
In the kitchen
Grandmother Irene was always at Pellas. I remember her sitting in a rocking chair in the kitchen, it was wonderful to sit on her knees, being held in her arms.
Aunt Ebba was always helping in the house. She was of short stature and had a hunch in her back. She was said to have had rickets, but my mother said she had been injured as a baby when the sheet she was lying in crashed down on the floor. The sheet had been hung as a hammock between two bread pole hooks in the kitchen.
Grandmother Irene and Ebba took care of the house and looked after us children. That way, Ebba had a family with children, despite her handicap. Grandmother lived in the Grandmother’s Chamber west of the kitchen, and Ebba in the chamber east of the kitchen.
In the main room, they often sat in the rocking chairs and spoke on the telephone. Grandmother’s siblings and the children who had already moved out used to ring her. The connection between the nine siblings was strong, particularly between the sisters Sally, Adele, Mery, and Ebba.
Grandmother Irene was both friendly and dignified, she was strong-willed and fond of children.
She liked to organise festivities that involved a lot of delicious food. Both she and my mother’s mother loved huge meringues, which were Millstone always served at parties.
In 1954, Grandmother Irene died first, then Aunt Ebba, and then Father Sven in South Africa; all three deaths were within seven months of each other.
Grandfather Erik August, who died in 1931, was not so nice, Jens has told me. Jens called him “a real devil”; he used to get out of control with children who were supposed to help at the farm. Erik August was a horseman and used to compete at trotting races, and Sven inherited his interest.
Mother used to participate in horse races too, even though it was extremely unusual for women to get involved in something like that. One of the horses was called Kaj, and another was called Love.
The Duchess’s last voyage
An event that left its mark on me is the shipwreck of the four-masted barque the Herzogin Cecilie off the coast of Devon in England. The ship was owned by Gustaf Erikson, who – contrary to common belief – is not related to us.
Father Sven was only 26 when he became captain.
Mother Pami and he had married in Nystad at the beginning of October 1935, and their honeymoon turned into a notorious drama that the press around the world wrote about and that was the source of a number of books and films.
The Herzogin Cecilie ran aground by Ham Stone off the coast of Devon in a thick fog on 25 April 1936. After a number of attempts to remove the ship and when some of the cargo had been unloaded, the Duchess was afloat again and was, in June 1936, towed to Starehole Bay, where she was left to lie underwater just outside the Salcombe harbour.
Water skiing was then prohibited at the mouth of Salcombe and was driven to Starehole Bay, but the Herzogin Cecilie’s masts, the only part of the ship above the sea level, obstructed small boat traffic, and the navy came and detached the masts.
On 18 January 1939, after a storm, the ship sank even deeper in the sand.
Father was young and certainly made mistakes that took the ship aground. The Duchess had just won the famous sailing race from Australia in an almost unbeatable time of 86 days. Nevertheless, the final cause of her destruction was the fact that she was not towed to Salcombe harbour, which would have offered more protection against storms. Eventually, a storm hit and destroyed the ship. The local public health inspector thought that the fermenting wheat load would hit tourism hard and decided not to allow her to be towed to the harbour. That decision makes me angry even today. The ship could have been saved.
They tried to save the Duchess for a long time, months on end. My parents were there for five months, and the whole world followed.
Mother Pami was said to have led the whole rescue operation, but that was not true. Her reputation stemmed from her correspondence with the shipowner in Mariehamn and from speaking to the press. She was a journalist, and she tried to raise money for the rescue operation through her contacts in the media.
On 9 July 1936, after a storm had destroyed the ship, all hope for the rescue of the Herzogin Cecilie was gone. Then they started to unload the ship.
The figurehead, wheeler, and captain’s saloon are now on display in the Åland Maritime Museum in Mariehamn.
Father, who was captain, took all the blame. He chose to work at the farm and stayed home with the wife and children. Later the shipowner offered him a job, but for various reasons, those journeys never took place. Nevertheless, the job offers proved that the shipowner did not condemn him completely.
Gustaf Erikson was always very polite to my parents. They came to Pellas in 1936 after all the events with the Herzogin Cecilie. They took over the farming and forest work. Grandmother Irene was happy to have them at home finally, and my mother Pami fell in love with the farm immediately.
In her famous novel, The Duchess’s Last Voyage, she lovingly describes Pellas as a rural idyll to which she always wanted to return. Everyone at Pellas loved her; she was hardworking, energetic, and did not complain.
Father Sven, born in 1903, was quite a ladies’ man. He was already married when he met Pamela, but he divorced as soon as possible.
He was Grandmother Irene’s favourite son, besides Filip, who died in America.
Father was a horseman and participated in trotting races in Åland. We had a number of working horses at the farm in South Africa, but then we bought a tractor, the first in our area. It was a Ferguson Grålle.
In 1945, when the family first arrived in Africa, Father became a foreman at an apple farm, and he was expected to treat the employed Africans with a heavy hand. The whip was a common method of supervision at that time, but Father did not want to treat people in that way.
Later, he bought a substantial farm in the Cape Province from the government and started farming there. We had milking cows and sheep, and we grew vegetables and citrus fruit.
We had no electricity or plumbing at the farm. We carried water in a bucket from a big rainwater tank into the house, and in the evenings, we lighted up the house with oil lamps, which we had to pump up every now and then to make the flame steady and bright.
We had a metal bathtub in which we bathed, all four of us using the same water. We took turns to be the first to bathe. I have an extremely powerful memory of a smoker that Father built so that we could have smoked ham for Christmas. My mouth still waters when I think about it. I think Father missed Åland and should never have moved to South Africa.
In my childhood, my parents never spoke about the events with the Herzogin Cecilie; the first time I became aware of the events was in 1958 when Mother wrote The Duchess’s Last Voyage.
Father died in 1954, when he had just turned 50.
Mother Pamela, “Pami”, née Bourne, was born in 1908 in Pretoria, South Africa, and was an only child.
Her mother had hoped for a son, and Pami was dressed as though she were a boy all through her childhood.
When she was 12, she started a boarding school for girls in London and later went to Oxford University for three years. She worked as a journalist for a newspaper in Cape Town, but after a few years, she travelled to Australia. She had grown tired of dressing up for social life in South Africa and travelled far and wide as a reporter. For example, she rode across southern New Zealand and reported on the adventure in writing and photos. With time, she became skilled in photography, and we have used her photos in books that were published long after her death.
She also visited Fiji and Tonga, where she got the idea to work on a sailing ship. She wrote to shipowner Gustaf Erikson in Mariehamn. She was accepted to take the voyage as a paying hand, a seaman apprentice. She paid 50 pounds for the voyage.
Father Sven was at first quite unhappy about having a woman aboard; he believed women on sailing ships brought bad luck.
The day before she embarked, she had a tooth pulled out, and her cheek was so swollen that she could hardly speak. This did not actually help to connect with the captain when they first met.
Mate Elis Karlsson was intelligent and knew English better than anyone aboard. Pami and Elis became friends immediately and stayed close all their lives.
However, Captain Sven quite quickly won Pami’s heart, and I think Mother loved him deeply all her life.
Mother was an extrovert. She was interested in people and wanted to talk to everyone. She was calm and content but not fond of children in the same way as Grandmother Irene was. She wanted us children to learn English and have a good education. She wrote to my brother and me every week when we stayed at the boarding school and later when I had moved to London to study.
Later in life, Mother developed an interest in yoga. After 1966, when she came from South Africa and visited Åland, she gave the first yoga classes at the Adult Education Centre in Mariehamn. She continued with the yoga classes every time she visited Åland, approximately every other year.
Once she took a rug from Pellas to South Africa so that she could practise yoga on it. She believed in supernatural forces; for example, she thought the rug could move by itself. Alternatively, she explained weird events with the rug, saying she could move it with supernatural power. It was her magic carpet.
In 1962, when she was in Åland, she met a Swedish sea captain from Gothenburg. She lived with him in a small cottage in Dals Långed for three months, and she also wrote his biography; it has not been published, but I found it among her things.
Mother Pami moved back to Åland in 1981. She had cancer and faded slowly away, dying here at Björkebo in Granboda in 1984.
She was good friends with Dean Valdemar Nyman, who came here to pray for her before she died.
My mother’s mother, Lady Bourne, was South African with French, German, and English heritage. She was furious when Pami fell in love with a – as she thought of him – simple sailor from a small, distant island in the north. She changed her mind when she met him, and she loved her son-in-law Sven and called him “the famous sea captain”. She was quite a bit snobbish.
She was first married to a man who turned out to be a bigamist. Suddenly, a former wife appeared from Australia. Bigamy was a serious crime at that time. He was clapped in prison and died there of tuberculosis. To my knowledge, Grandmother was head-over-heels in love with him in spite of everything.
Later, Grandmother married my grandfather, Sir Roland Bourne, who was from an upper-class English family and, after many positions in the British military forces, became Minister of Defence in South Africa.
My grandparents divorced when their daughter Pami was 12.
After the divorce, the English family always supported Grandmother, Mother, my brother, and me.
Grandmother earned her living as an antiques dealer. She had shops in Cape Town and London. She had planned to live until she was 70. Then, she was out of money and had to sell the house she had built in Elgin, South Africa. However, she was lucky, and the Greek millionaire couple who bought the house let her live in it until the end of her life; she lived to the age of 96, and the Greek couple paid for everything through all those years!
They visited South Africa for three months every year and wanted to stay as paying guests with Grandmother. Therefore, in her last years, she lived a more luxurious life than she ever had before.
Grandmother had a great influence on Pami, who looked after her during her last 20 years.
Grandmother died in 1981. She had lunch and then sat down in her favourite armchair. Then she just fell asleep.
The years in London
In 1958, I was accepted to a physiotherapy training programme in London. I would have liked to train in Stockholm, but the study programme there had no vacancies.
When I was to travel back to Åland from England, before I started the training programme in London, Uncle Linus Lindvall had suggested that I should board one of Gustaf Erikson’s ships in Antwerp.
“Say that your father is a seaman,” he said.
However, the ship was over a week late, and I did not want to wait that long. Instead, I hitchhiked all the way to Stockholm and took a night ship to Mariehamn. My cousin Ray fetched me from the harbour. The snow fell heavily, blocking the road to Pellas. We had to wade across the fields – and I was wearing nylon stockings and high heels!
Linus, who took care of the family’s money affairs, thought that I needed a proper coat, so I bought myself a thick sheepskin coat, which I still have!
I ended up with a coat instead of a course. Then I hitchhiked back to London.
In 1960, I had been visiting a few friends on the south coast of England and I was travelling on a Sunday night back to London where I was training as a physiotherapist. I hitchhiked, and a gentleman, who turned out to be a medical doctor and recently divorced, took me in. His name was Peter Darby. I talked the whole way. He said he had a headache. When we were approaching London, he asked where I wanted him to drop me off.
“Anywhere,” I answered.
“Come and have a drink with me,” he suggested.
And I did. Quite unexpectedly, the pub was situated opposite my flat.
The next day, I received a big bunch of roses and a card that said, “See you tonight”. I saw him that night, and from then, we spent every day together.
We got married in 1964. Åsa, our first child, was born in 1965 in London. In 1966, we moved to Åland. Lara was born in 1967.
Now, Lara and her family live in Mariehamn, and Åsa and her three children live here next to us in Bäckäng.
A blessing in disguise
I have been taking care of Pellas since 1993. I take care of everything that has to do with the kitchen, the main building, and the cowshed. I receive bookings, employ guides for the summer season, and take care of everything in general.
On Christmas Eve in 2005, a fire erupted at Pellas. Maria, Marcus, and I had been there and served pancakes to a coach full of tourists from Sweden. We had been burning candles. Therefore, my first thought was that we had left the candles burning and they had started the fire. I kept having nightmares and blaming myself but after three weeks, the experts from the insurance company announced that the fire had been caused by a short circuit.
By 2005, we had been working for 10 years to turn the farmhouse into a museum. However, the fire turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We lost quite a lot but we gained a house that resembles the original house more than the previous one did. It has a better foundation and modern heat insulation.
The fire also made the community of volunteers and other people working at Pellas tighter.
Born in 1932 at Pellas in Granboda, Lemland. Retired engineer officer. Son of Mery (née Eriksson) and Linus Lindvall. Lives summers in Sandvik, on the shore of Lumparn, within a stone’s throw from his childhood home of Tallmo near Pellas. Spends his winters in Mariehamn. Responsible for mowing the lawn and doing other chores at Pellas.
Parents Mery and Linus
I was born on 4 November 1932 in the north-western bedchamber. Later, children were birthed in the north-eastern chamber, and people started calling it the nursery. My cousin Sven, who is four years younger, was born there.
My parents married on 17 December 1931. That day, not only a wedding, but also a funeral was held at Pellas. The wedding had been planned for this particular day for a long time, and one week before the wedding, Uncle Erik August suddenly died. My parents and relatives contemplated how the wedding and funeral should be organised, and finally they came up with the idea that they both could be held on the same day, as a party was already being planned and people would be coming to Pellas. So it was settled. At first, my mother was wearing a dark funeral dress, after which she went to the attic and changed into a wedding dress. The wedding was not very big, just a small coffee party because that was the kind of party they wanted to have. My parents were relatively old when they married. My mother was 36 and my father was 32 years old.
My mother Mery was hard-working and diligent. She helped with all kinds of chores at Pellas, often with the cows.
My father Linus came from Haddnäs, Lemland, and soon became a sea captain, therefore he spent a lot of time at sea. He used to visit home once a year in the autumn when the ships were loaded.
My family lived in Pellas’ eastern attic chamber for a few years. I was the only child, but I had eleven cousins, three of which lived at Pellas, so I didn’t lack playmates.
Life at Pellas
My mother’s mother Irene and mother’s sister Ebba, who was mentally disabled, were busy in the kitchen. When they weren’t cooking, baking, or washing the dishes, they sat on chairs in the north-western corner and talked on the phone with relatives who had moved away. The corner had a nice view of the yard and Granboda village.
Blood bread, potatoes, meat, and salted Baltic herring were served for food. They didn’t fish much at Pellas, and the fish we ate was mainly bought from others. Big hemvete bread-baking events were held, and in the autumn, pigs, sheep, and cows were slaughtered. In the northern part of the farm, on the Bockholm side, there was a salt storage building in which clothes, various fruits and berries, as well as meat and fish were stored.
Gingerbread biscuits were always served with coffee at Pellas. Other biscuits were also offered, but gingerbread biscuits were a must.
We had six to eight cows, heifers, one or two pigs, and flocks of sheep and chickens. I used to collect the chicken eggs. We put them in a glass of water to make them last longer. I also collected water bird eggs, and I even had a collection, one of each kind. Water bird eggs were also used for cooking, and I know people who collected merganser eggs and baked cakes with them.
Of course we had cats, but no dogs. One exception was Uncle Sven’s dog Pajk, who travelled with him on the Herzogin Cecilie. Pajk is buried in Bockholm.
My parents built Tallmo on the eastern side of Pellas, and we moved there in 1936.
Christmas at Pellas
We always went to church on Christmas Day in a sleigh with the bells jingling. Otherwise, we stayed at home on Christmas Day.
Big Christmas parties were held on Boxing Day and the day after that. A large group of people were there, talking and laughing. Meat and potatoes, some sort of vegetables, maybe peas, and berry soup for dessert were served. A little later, coffee with Ålandian pancake and plum kissel were offered, and people chattered.
Adults talked about farming and village happenings, and they gossiped about local people. Children played hide-and-seek, Black Peter, or Happy Families. We didn’t have standard playing cards, as they were considered a sin.
My Grandmother Irene’s birthday on 27 July was also celebrated with great festivities. Everyone arrived home to congratulate her. It’s fun that we cousins have stuck together and we have such a good team spirit in the family.
I went into the first grade in the Rörstorp school in 1940. My first teacher was Vega Johansson. She taught me in the so-called little school, that is, the first and second grade. After the great school’s first through fourth grade, our teacher was Karl Sjöstrand. After six years, students could choose whether they wanted to continue into a so-called follow-up grade that consisted of shorter courses during the winter.
During my first years at school, we had sandwiches and milk as a packed lunch, but then they started to cook at school and pupils were offered warm food.
We had lingonberry foraging and potato harvesting breaks, and we also collected leftover crops from fields. Everything had to be used.
I remember one time when Karl Sjöstrand really got mad. Our gang of boys took it into our heads to hunt for a squirrel that hopped around in the spruces near the school. We got a scolding for doing it, some of the boys had to stand in a corner, and we all got detention.
Many rules had to be obeyed at school. You had to raise your hand if you wanted to answer a question, and when it was your turn to speak, you had to stand up. We had to know parts of The Tales of Ensign Stål, and dates related to kings were important.
School was easy for me, and I especially liked mathematics. There were three of us who competed in mathematics accomplishments: Runar Signell, Millicent Björklund, and me.
Bäckäng brick factory
One pleasant play for us boys was to ride a carriage from the Bäckäng brick factory down towards Kåvik and push the carriage back uphill. The hill was so high that we had to slow down a little. One time the carriage ended up in the sea.
On weekdays, the carriage was loaded with bricks that were transported on galleasses via Ängösund around Åland and elsewhere. Mariehamn’s church and many other buildings are made of Bäckäng bricks.
The bricks were manufactured in stages, and when the factory was busy, I ran around and looked at everything with curiosity. The brick factory was located on the southern side, and several drying sheds, one sawmill, and a steam engine were on the eastern side. Two big chimneys reached into the sky, and the steam whistle echoed across the region three times a day as a sign of the beginning of the working day, lunch time, and the end of the working day.
Bäckäng started operating in the 1920s, and everything was torn apart in the 1950s. To this day, Bäckäng soil has holes in places from where clay was taken for bricks.
At the age of 15, we went to confirmation classes in Birgittagården in the winter and were confirmed in the spring. Minister Erik Franzén was our confirmation priest. After the confirmation, we were told that we were not so wet behind the ears anymore and we were allowed more freedom, but majority was reached not until the age of 21. We changed short trousers and knee-length golf pants into long trousers, and I even bought a brown hat for myself.
My father Linus had been called up for military service, and he returned home from war. He became Lemland’s military police, and I remember how he got to investigate a bicycle theft that had happened in Västeränga. After the war, he received a medal.
At the time, there were many horses at Pellas. One was called Kurre, and it carried soldiers. I remember the smell of burning when Kurre was branded. After the war, Kurre came back to us.
My Uncle Sven liked horses a lot, and he participated in horse races with Kaj in Slemmern, Kåvik and Mellanvik, Söderby.
One Shrove Tuesday during the war, Sven and Pamela were in the Miramari restaurant celebrating a shrove race. Suddenly the power went off in the whole Mariehamn, which caused chaos in Miramari and people were frightened. Sven and Pamela went home. By the Lemström channel, where we had relatives, they stopped and called home to tell them they were all right.
Pellas also received an order to make blackout preparations. People from the Söderby centre called and gave the blackout order. We had a Shrove bonfire in Sandvik, and we were just about to go to Haddnäs to start a bonfire. We changed our minds and headed home when we saw a flash bomb in the east. They were illuminating parachute bombs that slowly floated in the air so that bomber pilots could see where bombs land.
Everyone was afraid during the war. “What if the Russians come?” people often wondered. Both children and adults were nervous.
Just in case, the people of Pellas hid all the silver, both silverware and jewellery. They were put in a sack and hid into a barn in Norrskog, to the north of Bäckäng.
The first radio was placed in Pellas’ phone corner. Sven had brought the radio with him from the Herzogin Cecilie in 1936. During the war, people gathered around the radio to listen to the news. When technical problems occurred in the transmission, we said they were caused by “Russki Olga”. We children also listened to Farbror Sven (Uncle Sven).
I wanted to join the Civil Guard Organisation’s Soldier Boys where you could learn sharpshooting, orienteering, and other skills. Already at the age of 11, I started to talk about joining, but I had to wait for a year. Parish clerk Rolf Jansson was the commander of the Soldier Boys.
Uncle Sven was a civil guard commander in Lemland, and he was allowed to have a gun at home.
Nevertheless, we were all right during the war; we had food. I remember one time when Sven went into the town and traded butter for shoes. That, actually, was an illegal black market trade.
My teacher, Karl Sjöstrand, thought I would become a teacher, but I didn’t have the patience for it. After school, in 1948, my father and I joined Gustaf Erikson’s Kirsta, a boat that became my father’s last and my first workplace.
I studied at the Ålands Folkhögskolan and Borgå folkakademi, I worked as a ship’s boy on various ships in the 1950s, and gradually I found the engine room. In 1958, I became a chief engineer. I have sailed on Kirsta, Hamnö, Styrsö, and Fiskö. I disembarked from Fiskö in 1959 because I fell ill. I worked for eight years at Avatex in Hammarland, and later for ten years at Skandinaviska Jute in Norrböle, Mariehamn. From there, I retired in 1978. I consider that year the worst of my life. I had to retire, and my mother died.
When I was young, I played drums and the accordion in orchestras at the Farmers’ House, and I was involved in Lemland’s youth society that collected money for the Vallborg youth facilities’ roof. I also played in the youth society’s revue theatre, and I was the society’s chair for a while.
I married Solveig (née Karlsson) from Kumlinge in 1959, and we settled in Mariehamn. We have lived on Köpmansgatan, Trobergsgränd, and Åsvägen. In 1969, we built a summer cottage in Sandvik, a stone’s throw from my childhood swimming place. We spend half of the year there, from May to October.
We have three children: Monica, Kjell, and Carina. Monica lives in Stockholm and spends her summers in a cottage near Tallmo, and Carina and her family live on the Tallmo family farm.
Rita Nordberg, née Eriksson
Born in 1936 on the Ljungåkra farm, within a stone’s throw to west from Pellas. Housewife and a farmer. Daughter to Jens and Märta Eriksson, sister to Ray. Lives in Svinö, Lumparland. Used to be a union activist, works as a waitress at various events.
Home at the Ljungåkra farm
The same year I was born, my parents built the Ljungåkra farm on a plot west of Pellas. Ljungåkra got its name because the area is full of heathers (the word ljung means heather in Swedish).
As a child, I spent a lot of time at Pellas, playing with other kids. Pellas was like a second home to me.
We played outdoors all day long throughout the year. We played tag – we chased each other, and the person who was tagged became the one chasing others. We also played hide-and-seek and dodgeball. We made cone cows and horses and used them as our toys. We didn’t really have any other toys, but at some point, I got a fabric doll, which became very dear to me.
In the summertime, we spent our days at the Sandvik harbour alone, without adults looking after us. We took care of ourselves. We learned to swim by ourselves; I was maybe five or six years old when I learned to swim. The bottom sand was smooth, and the water was very shallow.
Pippy and Squirrel had to go to bed at six every night. I remember how their mother Pami stood calling out for them from the Bockholm forest.
“We’re coming, we’re coming”, we replied and headed for home.
They also took a bath every night. The rest of us didn’t have that strict discipline.
I was called “Dotty” – I don’t remember how it started, but I got used to the nickname, and I didn’t think of it as mischievous.
We climbed trees, stole crow eggs, and broke them. That was how we controlled the crow population.
In the wintertime, we went cross-country skiing and kicksledding. We put several kicksleds behind one another as a long train and slid down the Mönbacka hill, which was much steeper at the time. Seven or eight kicksleds were often parked in a row in front of the Rörstorp school.
We walked past Mönbacka on the way to school and back. The school was 2.5 kilometres away, and we went there by foot, kicksled, or ski, no matter what the weather was. If the weather was really bad, some adult might give us a ride. When we were a little older, we rode our bikes to school.
In a firewood box
I often sat in a rocking chair with Grandmother Irene in Pellas’ kitchen.
When the air-raid warning sounded during the war, we children were put in a firewood box. The firewood box was near the wood-burning cooker in the kitchen, in a place where the electric cooker is today. Several children were in the firewood box, waiting for the air-raid warning to end. I remember how Grandmother Irene crawled under the table.
Christmas parties were unmemorable. On Boxing Day, we visited family and friends.
Pellas served roast or fish, and they always had plum soup for dessert. Some sort of casserole was also often cooked in the oven. There was meat and rice in it, and we called it pie.
Thick gingerbread biscuits were always served with coffee. My mother Märta made thin gingerbread biscuits, but Irene didn’t accept them; in her opinion, gingerbread biscuits were supposed to be thicker.
Cake loafs and buns were also popular. Cinnamon rolls were also baked every now and then.
We girls did some handicrafts, and I liked knitting.
My father Jens was the third youngest in the big Pellas family. He dedicated his life to farming and forestry. In his younger years, he travelled several times to America to work. Apparently, he worked in a bridge construction site in New York.
I was called a “daddy’s girl”.
My father Jens’ first wife was Evy. She died in childbirth, as did their child.
After a few years, Jens married my mother Märta Jansson, and they had two children. Ray was born in 1935, and I one year after that.
My mother was gentle and kind. She was a housewife who liked crafts and was active in the Martha Organization.
Our family life was calm and nice, and my parents didn’t have any conflicts, or at least I didn’t notice them. Already at an early age, I wanted to help my mother. I have been told that I used to stand on a stool and help my mother do the dishes in Ljungåkra.
White cat turned into black
Pippy and I were close friends as children, like sisters, and we did everything together.
All girls wore their hair in plaits. We wore skirts and hand-knitted socks that were probably itchy, but we were used to them.
I had a black cat, and when Pippy got a white cat, she wasn’t happy at all. She also wanted a black cat, and that’s why she dipped her cat in tar. The cat sneaked into a forest after that, and I think that some adult fetched it. The tar of course ruined the cat’s fur entirely.
Pami in an evening dress
Pamela and Sven were my godparents.
I will never forget my birthday when I turned maybe five or six. It was the beginning of October, and Sven and Pami came to Ljungkråka to congratulate me and eat cake. They came directly from a potato field, so they were wearing dirty work clothes. I didn’t like it at all that they were so mundane at my party. Pami noticed that, and in the evening she returned wearing a beautiful evening dress and black gloves. She stood in the doorway without speaking, almost like a statue. All that effort just for me. I will never forget that moment.
School and confirmation class
We went to Rörstorp school, and our teachers were Vega Johansson and Karl Sjöstrand. I liked spelling and natural science, and I also had the best grades in these subjects. I didn’t like mathematics at all.
After the sixth grade, we thought we were finished with school, but at the last minute a change was made, and there was a seventh school year for us. We had no choice but to continue. We were a little disappointed.
After school, I continued helping my mother. I studied at the Åland Folk High School for a year, and later I completed a cooking course in Högvalla, Borgå.
At the age of 15, we went to confirmation classes. At the time, it was a big thing to be confirmed and “walk up”, like we used to say about walking to the altar. Girls had to cut plaits away before confirmation and have their hair permed.
At the confirmation school, we had to learn five psalms by heart, and at regular school, we studied catechism.
Bible interpretation events were organised at the farms every now and then, usually close by on the Nedergård farm. At times, the Salvation Army ministers came from afar. They were enthusiastic and sang vibrant melodies.
Parish catechetical meetings were organised at regular intervals. At the meetings, the priest first explained the Scriptures and then examined adults about how well they knew the Bible. At the same time, the parish clerk took us children to another chamber and questioned us about the catechism.
Tragic car accident
My brother Rey lived at Pellas with his wife Gunvor. Rey owned the farm with his uncle Peder, who lived in America.
Ray and Gunvor had two daughters, Gun-Britt and Git. When Git was six years old, she was severely injured in a car accident. The accident occurred at the junction of Pellasgatan and Lemlandsvägen on Boxing Day in 1968. Git and her friend were on their way to visit the house across the big road. The friend walked ahead, and Git followed running behind. Because of a snowstorm, the driver didn’t see Git and drove over her. Git slammed towards a rock alongside the road.
Git was paralysed from the neck down. Her parents had many hard years caring for their child. Eventually, Ray became depressed and took his own life. Later, both Git and Gunvor died.
This tragic event has marked our family.
When I was 17, I met Viking Nordberg, “Vicke”, who came from Lumparland. He had been in America with his family, and I had seen his family driving past in a big American car, which in my opinion was fantastic.
Vicke and I liked dancing. There was one dancing place in Granboda, north of Björkebo, and another one in Hellestorp sjö. My cousin Leif had taught me to dance. On the Pellas’ barn ramp, we learned waltz, jenkka, hambo, and polka.
We dated for ten years, and everything seemed fine – as it really was. In 1963, we married, and the wedding was organised at Pellas. Minister Erik Franzén was our wedding priest.
We have two children. Ronald lives nearby in Svinö, and Susanna lives in Finström. We have three grandchildren, all boys.
I have been a housewife and a farmer. My husband likes to remind me that not many days after coming home from the maternity hospital, I rowed across the strait to my home island to milk the cows.
We celebrated my 60th birthday at Pellas with open doors, and many friends and acquaintances showed up. It was fun.