Leif Eriksson Day: The New Canadians

Written by Harold McNeill on October 10th, 2011. Posted in Adventure

A Nordic History Lesson

The New Canadians

Two fine Nordic specimes, one with traces to another culture, stand with young women
they captured in earlier raiding parties in Eastern Canada. Even a casual comparison
to the painting of Erik the Red (below), demonstrates an
amazing resemblance to these modern day men.


A Day of Celebration

As October 9th again rolled around we took the city by storm in our Norwegian horned helmets and ninth century Nordic sweaters. With a plentiful supply of mild tasting Aquavit (45% alcohol by volume), delicate lutefisk appetizers and singing the ever popular Norwegian folk song “There Ain’t No Norwegians in Dickeyville”, we spent the evening celebrating the life and times of Leif Erikson, son of the famous Nordic Explorer, Erik the Red.

While last year we had braved heavy winds and rough weather in our trek around the downtown pubs, this year the wool sweaters and helmets took their toll and we had to carry a few who succumbed to heat exhaustion, well, at least that’s what we assumed, as no one ever heard of anyone getting sick from to much aquavit while eating lutefisk appetizers!  

Christopher Columbus was not the First

Nordic Globe TrottersThe man whose life we celebrated, had travelled to North America on a family vacation nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus was even a gleam in his father’s eye. While it was reported in the Italian and Spanish Press that Columbus, a media darling, had “discovered” the new world in 1492, the whole thing revealed to be just an advertising coup by an Italian Public Relations firm representing some spaghetti manufacturer looking for new markets.

Map:  Erik the Red and his middle son, Leif, covered most the the north and eastern shores of North America 500 years before Columbus.

As for Leif, he was the second of three sons of Erik Thorvaldsson (aka “Erik the Red”). The boys, all with the flaming red hair of their father, had been mercilessly bullied in school as had their father before. Fortunately for the father, the nickname ‘Ginger’ had not stuck or he would have forever been referred to in history books as “Erik the Ginger”.  Even a thousand years ago it seems school children could be cruel.

Because of his rebellious nature, and after Leif’s dad was unceremoniously kicked out of Norway following some disagreement with the church or a manslaughter charge, depending on which account you read, he talked the old man into buying a small sailing vessel so they could take a working holiday in search of a new land. It was during those travels that Leif discovered continental North America.

The Thorvaldsson Boat Works

In the early stages of their travels, the family first settled in Hornstrandir in Iceland then, later, built a small village in Thingverllid where they established the first in a line of Norwegian Travel-Gift Shops and the Thorvaldsson Boat Works. From that point Leif struck out on his own along the East Coast of “new world” where he made arrangements with the natives to open franchise shops in Greenland, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and points south (see map insert). These “Erik the Red” shops, sold all manner of Norwegian goods including the ever popular ‘horned helmet’ as well as papyrus run-a-bout that became hugely popular. Amazingly, after 1000  years, the shops continue doing a brisk business.Kon-Tiki

Early in the last century, another Norwegian, Thor Heyerdahl, purchased two of the Thorvaldsson designed papyrus boats, named them the Ra and the Ra 11 and opened a successful eco-tourism business. Thor later became world famous after being chartered by five well healed Americans to sail across the Pacific in a balsa raft named the Kon-Tiki. Design of the Kon-Tiki was taken directly from drawings found in documents left behind by the Thorvaldsson family.

Photo:  The Kon-Tiki sets sail across the Pacific.

Thor and his passengers completed their epic 8,000 km journey from South America to Tuamotu Islands (a part of French Polynesia) in 101 days. While their craft was eventually lost after being dashed on a reef, Thor firmly established that travel between continents could have been accomplished at a much earlier date than first believed. On his visits to Canada, Thor was periodically hosted by a locally famous Norwegian-Canadian archeologist, Bjorn H.G.G. (Hoot ta Goot ta Gorten) Simonsen.

In an unpublished history of the Thorvaldsson family, Simonsen states there is archeological evidence linking Leif’s brothers Thorvald and Thorsteinn and his sister, Feydis, to a number of east coast communities where they opened shops under the name of Oootwalmartian. Evidence in various shell middens, suggest the shops were likely forerunners to today’s retail giant. Whether this proves to be true or not, it is certainly an intriguing hypothesis.

Family Links

Erik and EmmaAlso, Erik the Red and his children have direct genetic links to our very own flaming red haired nephew, “Erik the Twenty Second”, the first son of Debbie and John Tarbush. Erik, better known as the brother of that famous Guelphinian rocker, Emma “Crazyhead” Tarbush, exhibits many of the adventurous characteristics of our ancestors.

While Erik continues his scholarly research at Dalhousie University, his sister attends the more prestigious NSCAD University in Halifax. There she is working to complete a post doctoral thesis on the “Transcendental Aspects of the Norwegian Horned Helmet”.

Meanwhile, back in Victoria, our group of fearless explorers was eventually turfed from the Irish Times Pub after getting into a dust up with a group of exiled Finnians. Can you believe it, those religious rebels tried, unsuccessfully I might add, to steal our horned helmets! Next year we shall return in even greater numbers to claim back our lost territory. At that time it will be our intention to rename the Irish Times Pub to something more befitting of our Norwegian-Canadian heritage. No Norwegian worth his salted lutefisk will put up with being pushed around for long.

Harold McNeill
October 9, 2011

Harold’s Stepfather, Wilfred Geoffrey Skarsen (1922 – 2003) hailed from a long line of Norwegian pioneers who helped to settle north-eastern Alberta in the area around Cold Lake in the last century.  Originally from Beitstad, a farming community north of Trondheim, Wilfred’s mom and dad immigrated to Canada in the late 1800s.

A bit more Norwegian history is provided in Cornocopia Traditions,



Victoria, BC, October 9, 2011. A Proclamation being read by Jim Hill gives the
Son’s of Norway, their families and friends, Freedom of the City.
Seated: Betty Hall and Agnes Capjon

Committee Interrogates a Prisoner

Friends of Norway


Names TBA


Erika and Linda Simonsen


 Norwegian Mom and Daughter (Erika and Linda Simonsen)

Friends of Norway

Fredag kveld jeg utbrakte en skål til ære for kvinnelandslaget i fotball og deres store seier over Sverige i EM i forrige uke.  (Not sure but I think they are celebrating the defeat of Sweden sometime back in the sixteenth century (the only time Norway beat Sweden at something)

A Clash of Cultures


 Names TBA


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  • Harold McNeill

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Rick,
    Great to hear from you and trust all is going well. Our family members are all doing well but it must be pretty tough for a lot of people. I had once heard you were going to do some writing but never heard anything further. I would be most interested, but do you think the OB News have archives back to that time. Any link or information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Did you keep copies? Regards, Harold

  • Rick Gonder

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Harold
    About 22 years ago I spent several weeks going through the OBPD archives. I wrote several stories that were published in the OB News. Feel free to use if they are of value to what you are doing.
    Keep this up, I’m enjoying it and it brings back memories.

  • Harold McNeill

    April 12, 2020 |

    Hi Susan,

    Glad you had a chance to read. I decided to update these stories by proofreading as there were several grammatical errors in many. Hopefully, many of those glaring errors have been removed.

    Many of the stories carry a considerable amount of social comment regarding the way the criminal justice system is selectively applied. Next up involves a young woman from near Cold Lake, Alberta, who was abducted by an older male from Edmonton. Her story is the story of hundreds of young men and woman who have found themselves alone and without help when being prayed upon unscrupulous predators.

    Cheers, Harold

  • Susan

    April 8, 2020 |

    Great read, Harold!…and really not surprising, sad as that may sound.
    Keep the stories coming, it is fascinating to hear them.
    Love from us out here in the “sticks”, and stay safe from this unknown predator called Covid.

  • Harold McNeill

    February 17, 2020 |

    Update:  Times Colonist, February 16, 2020, articles by Louise Dickson, She got her gun back, then she killed herself,” and,  Mounties decision to return gun to PTSD victim haunts her brother. 

    Summary: I don’t know how many read the above articles, but they contained the tragic details about young woman, Krista Carle’, who took her own life after suffering for years with PTSD. While tragedies such as this play out across Canada every week, the reason this story resonates so profoundly is that the final, tragic, conclusion took place here in Victoria. Continued in the article.

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  • Harold McNeill

    February 15, 2020 |

    Testing the comments section after changes made. Updated: February 10, 2020

    Further to the update below (February 1, 2020), I note that since the government announced a “No-Fault” insurance plan for BC, Robert Mulligan is taking a slightly different tack, suggesting that no-fault will only increase the problems by taking away the right of an injured party to sue.

    I’ve copied just one sentence from Mulligan’s longer discussion, “And I think people don’t like the idea that somebody who’s, for example, was drunk and ran into you and you become a quadriplegic is going to be treated exactly the same way you would in terms of getting benefits (go to minute 00:15:26 to see his full comment)

    Statements like this appear to be simple fear-mongering. As was the case in the past, people who commit criminal offences, as well as other forms of negligence while driving, may well lose their insurance coverage and in all likelihood would be sued by ICBC to recover costs of the claim. (Link here to Mulligan’s full conversation on CFAX radio)

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    September 18, 2019 |

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