Legend has it that Irish monks were the first people to set foot in the Faroe Islands, only to be kicked out by Norwegian Vikings.
In his book De mensura Orbis terrae (On the measurement of the world) from the year 825, Irish monk Dicuil writes:
“There is another set of small islands, nearly all separated by narrow stretches of water; in these for nearly a hundred years hermits sailing from our country, Ireland, have lived. But just as they were always deserted from the beginning of the world, so now because of the Northman pirates they are emptied of anchorites, and filled with countless sheep and very many diverse kinds of sea-birds. I have never found these islands mentioned in the authorities.”
It is believed that Dicuil referred to the Faroe Islands here.
The first settler
This brings us to Grímur Kamban, who came here around the year 825 and is said to be the first person to settle in the Faroe Islands. Funningur (meaning ‘finding’ or ‘found land’) has always been singled out as the place where he landed.
Scholars believe that Grímur came from the South. The Kamban name is said to be based on the Celtic ‘cammán’, meaning ‘limp’. His name may not be unique, as an early Norwegian king went by the name of Vemundur Kamban, and Grímur is an ancient name in Norway.
Grímur Kamban’s exact origins remain a mystery, but there is little doubt that he was of Norwegian descent. He has a long ancestry not only in the Faroes but also in Iceland. His chief status was so high that sacrificial rites were held in his honour after his death. History books list the following lineage in Iceland: Grímur had a son named Torstein Skrofin, and Torstein had a son named Tórólvur Smør. Tórólvur had a son named Solmundur.
It is fairly certain that Grímur spent the rest of his days in the Faroe Islands, as is evidenced by the sacrificial rites in his honour and in honour of many of his descendants, including Torstein skrof, Tórólvur smør, Solmundur and probably others too. The history books contain no exact details on locations beyond the settlement area in Funningur. The name Solmundur, however, occurs in the name of the old Eysturoy village of Søldarfjørður, formerly Solmundefjord.
Tales from locals
Føroya søga (The History of the Faroe Islands) from 1929 quotes a local source as saying: “The settlers were pulled by the current into Funningsfjørður fjord. They moored their ship by the Funningslíð hillside at a spot they named Føroyakletturin (The Faroe rock) and drank from a cascade running from the rock. They named the stream Føroya Á (Faroe River), and the place became known as Føroyar (Faroe Islands). They then sailed further into the fjord and found a spot where they settled, naming it Funningur (‘finding’ or ‘found land’).
“Føroyar í søguni 1” – Poul Petersen
“Føroya søga” (1929) – Jóannes Patusson