Faroe Islands History
The adventurous St Brendan led a group of Irish monks to settle the Faroe Islands in the 6th Century bringing their Irish language and Christian religion with them. The tranquillity of these remote isles was shattered with the appearance of Viking longboats that plundered the monks around 650 and ultimately replaced them. In the 9th Century the islands became subject to the Norwegian king. The union between Norway and Denmark was dissolved in 1814 and the Faroe Islands became a Danish province. In 1940 the British occupied the islands following Germany’s march into Denmark and Royal Engineers kindly constructed an airbase which became the islands international airport. In 1948 the Faroes gained considerable autonomy under the Danish Crown and later refused to join the European Union. The polite discussion over full independence continues but many of the islands 50,000 inhabitants value their historic and economic ties with Denmark.
The beautiful and lonely Faroe Islands has one of Europe’s lowest unemployment rates and its economy is entirely dependent on fisheries. In the 1990’s over-fishing caused major financial problems and the islands have struggled to diversify their economy. Burger King’s opening in 1990 was actually seen as a big event but also as a threat to local identity (and waistlines). The Faroe Islands receive an annual subsidy from Denmark which helps maintain air and sea links between Tórshavn the capital, and the country’s many inhabited islands. Ólavsøka is the feast day of St Olaf and a time for the islanders to celebrate their language, culture and unique way of life.