Steinn Steinarr

2. Bæir

At Bæir there was a place of worship in the old days. In 1703 there were two farms there, with 23 residents according to the census. By 1801 there were three farms, with 20 inhabitants. In the early part of the 20th century Sigurdur Ólafsson and María Ólafsdóttir lived at the farm Hærribær. Sigurdur was a great singer, and had a very strong tenor voice; for a long time he was the lead singer at Dalskirkja church. His sons all played accordion, except the ones who were left-handed. There was a turf farmhouse with a double-peaked roof. As you entered there was a room with a well to the left. The farm spring ran through it, and from there was access to the barn where the animals were kept.

The old farmhouse at Hærribær was torn down in 1939, and Sigurdur built a stone house at the same site. People lived in the barn (Berghús) while the house was being built. That house was later demolished in the year 2000. Jens Gudmundsson and Gudmunda Helgadóttir were the last residents of Hærribær, leaving in 1990.

Furthest up in the yard at Bæir is the so-called Hólhús house. In the old days there was a turf house there where Kolbeinn Jakobsson lived for ten years with his servant Frída, after he sold his land at Unadsdalur valley. In 1893 Kolbeinn wrote a memoir about events connected to the ghost of Bæir, and was the leading authority on that story. Arngrímur Fr. Bjarnason published Kolbeinn's story of the Bæir ghost in his book of folk tales of the West Fjords. Before that Thórbergur Thórdarson and Sigurdur Nordal had taken narratives from people of that time about the ghost and published it in Gráskinna. The teacher Jóhann Hjaltason bought Hólhús in 1935 and soon built a stone house which still stands today (2003).

In short, the origins of the Bæir ghost lay in the death of 17-year-old Rósinkar Pálmason on February 5, 1894, at the Nedri-Bær farm at Bæir after a two-month illness. It was believed that his death was caused by persecution by a ghost who came to be called the Bæirghost. It was described as being so slippery that it was impossible to grasp. The story went round that the ghost was the spirit of a man who had been in the same boat as Rósinkar in the spring of 1893, which had been based at the Gullhúsá river. He had had a grudge against Rósinkar after losing a fistfight with him, but drowned that December as the boat sunk in the Jökulfirdir fjords. One version of the story was that the ghost was in a seal's form, as a washed-up seal was found right by the washed up corpse. Children were told not to tie their scarves, just have them crossed around their necks, in fear that the ghost would pull the end of the scard, as he supposedly did to Rósinkar. After Rósinkar's death his friend Benedikt Brynjólfsson allegedly challenged the spirit, and met similar harassment. The ghost was then called Bensadraugur ("Ben's ghost").

In 1930 the residents of Nedri-Bær at the time, Halldór Halldórsson and Thorbjörg Brynjólfsdóttir, got Ingvar Ásgeirsson of Unadsdalur valley (later from Lyngholt) to build a new wooden house at Nedri-Bær. The house had a cellar, ground floor, and upper floor under the roof with three eaves. There was a yard by the house, no windows faced in that direction. Halldór at the Nedri-Bær farm handled the mail deliveries. This house was torn down in 1967 after a new stone house was built. Páll Jóhannesson and Anna Magnúsdóttir were the last residents of Nedri-Bær, and for that matter on the entire Snæfjallaströnd coast, which became deserted in the autumn of 1995.

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