Grímsey - Childhood in Grímsey

How is childhood in Grímsey?

Listen to a story from Hulda Signý Gylfadóttir who is born and raised on the island.

In the player below you can listen to the story as well as it is available in writing further down the page.
The story is read by Birna Pétursdóttir.


"My name is Hulda Signý Gylfadóttir and I was born in 1975. I grew up on Grímsey island with my brothers. I also have two older half-sisters who were raised on the mainland.

It was wonderful to grow up on Grímsey. The island community was very tight-knit and people socialised a lot. The kids were surrounded by people of all ages and often conversed with the adults. We took part in everything. There was no playschool or after-school programmes, so we joined in on the haymaking and tagged along when the grownups collected eggs from the guillemot nests.

When collecting eggs, the procedure was as follows: Three men (it was only men in my youth) would go to the edge of a bird cliff. One was tied to a rope, which was tied to a tractor, and then he abseiled down the cliff. The second man would stay in the tractor and hoist or lower the one in the rope, and the third would lie flat on cliff’s edge to explain what the sigmaður, the one in the rope, wanted. It was always exciting to count the eggs when the sigmaður came back up with his bag.

My parents had sheep but it was mainly my brothers who helped care for them. I loved playing with the lambs in the spring but I wasn’t of much use in the barn. In the spring we went searching for Arctic tern eggs, ate seabird eggs and enjoyed our school break.

The school only had two classrooms, one for the older kids and one for the younger kids, and a few classes studied together in each of them. There was no swimming pool, so the parents tried to find swimming courses for the kids on the mainland in the summer.

We played a lot outside, all over the island, in the summer and winter. We went on long beach walks and collected conches and seashells, sailed on the Sandvíkurtjörn pond, played house in a small hut, had fun in the snow, went skating on the pond when it froze over and played all kinds of games outside in the evening.

Usually we were on the island all year round and only visit the mainland once a year during the summer break. I experienced a great sense of freedom and I loved living on my island. However, the local school was only until the age of 12 so after that, the kids had to move away and stay on the mainland the entire winter. I went to Ísafjörður when I was 12 and I missed the island and my family a lot."