A Helping Hand to Our Oldest Norwegian Seamen’s Church, Edinburgh
On Saturday 14 June, Director General Elisabeth Bødtker Larsen from the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Defence unveiled a plaque on the facade of the former Scandinavian Lutheran Church in Leith, Edinburgh. The unveiling was in commemoration of the inspiration given by that Church to the members of the Norwegian Armed Forces and the Norwegian Merchant Navy during the dark days of the Second World War. The initiative to unveil a plagque on this Church was taken already in 1985 by the Foundation "A helping Hand to our Oldest Seamen's Church" approved by the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Defence.
Consul General Arne Sivertsen (left), Director General of the Ministry of Defence Elisabeth Bødtker Larsen, Lord Provost, The Chairman of the Foundation Lieutenant Colonel Sedberg and Assistant Director General of the Ministry of Defence Even Enge.
The Scandinavian Lutheran Church in Leith opened in 1868 and was the first church of the Norwegian Seamen's Mission outside Norway. The Church, built by James Simpson - a well known Leith architect - was officially opened by Pastor Johan Cordt Harmens Storjohan from Bergen. It was Pastor Storjohan who took the initiative to establish the seamen's church in Leith. Christian Salvesen (the founder of Salvesen company) and Mr. John Warrack sponsored the commissioning of the Church. The first Seamen’s priest was Andreas Michael Hansen who served from July 1865 until April 1872. At that time Leith was an important seaport and host to seamen from many parts of the world. The Church in Leith also rendered services to seamen in the ports of Grangemouth - Glasgow - Methil and Greenock. Approximately 850 ships annually called at ports in the area between 1865 and the turn of the century. During the Second World War the Church attracted thousands of members from the Norwegian Armed forces who served in Scotland as well as other Norwegians who stayed in Scotland.
The model at the Norwegian Consulate General
Like Mrs Bødtker Larsen said, "We can hardly imagine how very much it meant to Norwegian exiled in Scotland and England, to be able to meet and share their faith - and maybe sometimes even their doubt - that som day the war would end, and they would once again be able to go home to their friends and families in Norway". There were various fixtures kindly donated to this Norwegian Seamen’s Church in Leith. These included a stained glass window and an organ. A reading room was opened at the back of the Church. Total building costs of the Church amounted to £ 1400. The City of Edinburgh Council has accepted a model of the Church, which is currently being held for safe keeping in the interim at the Norwegian Consulate General. Today this former Scandinavian Lutheran Church is home to - and owned by - the Leith School of Art.
More pictures from the ceremony and the following reception at the Consul General