In 1940, following the German invasion, hundreds of Norwegian and Danish refugees – men, women and children – sailed across the North Sea in small fishing boats to seek refuge in Scotland. Many of these refugees settled in Buckie, a community of some eight thousand people on the Moray Firth coast, and the town often became described as ‘Little Norway’ during the war years. There was a Norwegian Consulate, reading room and Sjømannskirken opened in the main street in 1942 and King Haakon VII visited the town in the summer of 1943. The Danish refugee population, although smaller, was no less significant a part of the town’s wartime experience and collective memory.
Both the Danish and Norwegian communities were, therefore, important parts of the life of the town during the war years, bound together by their common heritage of North Sea fishing and a determination to achieve victory in the War. Many of these ties have endured ever since. There were many marriages between Norwegians, Danes and Scots. Some settled in Scotland permanently, many others returned to Norway and Denmark with Scottish spouses. Notable figures, such as the businessmen Trond Mohn and Otto Thoresen, were born in Buckie as part of this exiled community.
Although the story of the Shetland Bus is well-known as perhaps the pre-eminent link between Scotland and Scandinavia during this period, the narrative around the men, women and children from Norway and Denmark who left their homes and found safety in Scotland during the Second World War is much less well-known.
Buckie and District Fishing Heritage Society was established in March 1986 after a meeting of a group of local history enthusiasts who each gave a small financial donation and agreed a constitution. The Fishing Heritage Society exists to preserve the rich fishing heritage of Buckie and District and to provide assistance to research and gather information on the past, present and future history of the local area. The Society possesses an extensive collection of objects and artefacts (most donated by individuals), much of which is on display in its heritage centre. It also possesses archival materials including a particularly significant photographic collection which runs to many thousand images.
The Society manages and runs a heritage centre, located in the centre of Buckie, which is open to the public for most of the year and it is staffed by volunteers on rota basis. There is an annual membership scheme, with members worldwide. The Society is a registered Limited Company by Guarantee with Charitable status and is run by a board of directors with eight members and, beneath which, is a larger management committee. The Society has a strong connection to and affinity with its local community and is highly regarded by the public and in terms of the level of professionalism it brings to its work. The Society has worked previously with Robert Gordon University (in a project looking at social media as tool for community heritage and reminiscence).