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Published 11. October 2000

Last update 04. June 2019

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Sunnfjord Folkehøgskule - memorial stone over house fire fatalities



"In memory of the fatalities at Solvang" is cut into a stone in the churchyard of Førde parish church. Between 1 and 2 o'clock in the night of Saturday, 3 September 1910, the new home of "Søndfjords ungdomsskole" burnt to the ground. Six people lost their lives, principal Rasmus Øvrelid's wife, four of his children, and his mother-in-law. The memorial stone is on their grave.

'Søndfjords ungdomsskole' at Solvang in Førde before the fire on 3 September, 1910. The school had from the start in 1902 until 1910 been housed in rented premises at Naustdal. The house was new, and the family Øvrelid had just moved in when disaster struck.

'Søndfjords ungdomsskole' at Solvang in Førde before the fire on 3 September, 1910. The school had from the start in 1902 until 1910 been housed in rented premises at Naustdal. The house was new, and the family Øvrelid had just moved in when disaster struck.

Owner: I Frå Indremisjonssoga i Sunnfjord.

Date: 1910.

Photographer: Postkort, truleg Fauske.

The victims

On the front of the stone there is a cross with the date 3 September, 1910, followed by the names of the deceased:

JAKOBINA ØVRELID 8 February, 1879
SVANHILD 1 November, 1903
ELLBJØRG 2 February, 1905
JORUNN 19 April, 1907
RAGNHILD 5 August, 1909
SKALOTTA KVASNES
---
KJÆRT ER MINNET (dear is your memory)

Three children and a grown woman lost their lives in the fire. Two more died a short time after, the youngest child the same day, and the children's mother, Jakobina Øvrelid, on 10 September. Mrs. Øvrelid was expecting a child and gave birth to a son the night after the fire.

Rasmus Øvrelid was away on a speaking tour to Stadlandet.

In the church two days later

Somebody from Førde sent a note about the disaster to Fjordenes Blad (local newspaper)at Nordfjordeid. The note also gave an account of the church service that took place on the Sunday after the tragedy:

"On the Sunday after the fire there was a church service in Førde. The weather was pleasant, the sun was out, and there was a soft, southerly breeze, so the birds were singing and playing in the forest trees. Yet something sad and heavy was everywhere. There was a large gathering of churchgoers, on foot and in carriages. They were all depressed and looked serious. There was some talk at times, but mostly it was quiet and subdued. When the church bell called, the church was full after a short time. People walked carefully and quietly up the aisle and took their old, known seats. Nearly all wore black clothes."

The funeral

On the Friday the youngest child and the three children who died in the fire were buried. Two coffins were in a church filled to capacity. The dean Landmark gave a touchingly warm sermon, "and it was a church service which none of those present will ever forget ", the writer told Fjordenes Blad. "All wept."

During the burial there came a message to Øvrelid to come to his wife. He left at once, with his two sons. Mrs. Øvrelid was dying. She died early next morning.

Jakobina Øvrelid was buried on 14 September. That same day the son she gave birth to two days after the fire, was christened.

Carried on

"It must truly have been a difficult message to receive," the paper Nordfjord wrote. Rasmus Øvrelid lost six of his closest family members and all his earthly belongings. It was time for a new school year to start, and the school had no home. How was it possible to look forward - for the family man, the principal, and the school?

Rasmus Øvrelid did it. And a great many people offered their assistance. He came to "know the warmth of thoughts, prayers, and generosity." There was an offering for the victims in the church. In newspaper articles people were encouraged to help. At the teachers' training college in Volda, where Øvrelid had been a student and a teacher, they collected money, and several newspapers organized fund-raising campaigns.

The chairman of the school board, the parish clerk A.M. Erdal, was in mid-September able to announce that school would be housed in rented rooms, and that Øvrelid would carry on as principal. Øvrelid confirmed this at the same time, and gave practical information. At the end he gave thanks:

"As I write this about the school, let me express my warmest regards and thanks to all who have given me their thoughts, compassion, and love at this difficult time. Thank you so much from me and my family."

Telegram about the school

Mr. Haugen, engineer at the aluminium factory at Stongfjorden, was a friend of the school. He sent a telegram to the school:

"I share deeply with you the grief at the loss of the school building. I encourage you to carry forward the noble cause. The district of Søndfjord cannot afford to lose its "folkehøgskule". Knowledge is worth more than money."

The students were encouraged. A new building was taken into use the next year.

See geometric position on detailed map at Fylkesatlas or on a 3D-map at Google Maps by clicking on the 3D-button down to the right at the Google-map.

resources:

Frå Indremisjonssoga i Sunnfjord. 1965.
Sunnfjord Ungdomsskule Solvang 1902-1952. 1952.
Fjordenes Blad. 14.09, 21.09, 22.09.1910.
Nordfjord. 06.09, 08.09,13.09.1910.

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