Translated form an article published in Oyggjatiðindi nr. 58, 12. December 1979. With permission from the author © Janus Mohr and Oyggjatiðindi.
Fleyge. To catch flying puffins with a tool almost like a racket, with a net suspended between two slim rods attached to the end of a ca 3.6 meter long pole.
Fleygeses. The place where one is sitting while fleyging the puffins. A kind of chair (ses), formed by some stones from the vicinity in a depression in the surrounding landscape, so the man fleyging is hidden from the passing puffins.
Pay attention to the fact, that the direction of the puffins flying and the direction of the wind is not the same.
The seals are lying along the coast and the puffins are flying in circles.
So is written by Jóannesi Niclassyn in the 37. verse of Brókatátti. It gives a good impression of, what one see, when visiting the westernmost of our islands, Mykines.
In Landalćruni, the Faroese geography book, published in 1926, Mikkjal Dánjalson á Ryggi among other things write so about Mykines:
»Around the whole island there are steep mountains, dark canyons, beautiful puffinlands, smaller and bigger spells with grass and greens for feeding sheep and rams. The Landing place on the south side of the island is in a little protected creek, so it is not necessary to land the boats when there are no waves. But sometimes there is an immense breaking of waves and in the winter months can pass, where it is impossible to come and go by boat.
The current in Mykinesfjřrður, the strait between Mykines and Vagar, is unusual strong and unpredictable and it is said to be the worst fjord to sail on the Faroes. In the fjord there are more underwater rocks and shoals, among others Skjaldarbarboði Tindagrynnan, Mýlingsgrynnan, Saksunargrynnan.«
So is written about Mykines in the geography of the Faroes, which Mikkjal á Ryggi published in 1926.
As introduction we used a cite from Brókartátti. Another place in the same tátti - in the 34. verse, Joannes Niclason writes: "I owe earth on Mykines, better than the purest gold" - Yes, without doubt the earth on Mykines have been better than gold at Joannesar Niclassonar's time, but much has changed. At that time there was maybe 200 inhabitants on Mykines, while there nowadays are 12 - 15 living there all the year round, so it easy to understand, that the earth and the bird mountains can't be as prosperous now as then.
But even all this is a time passed, Mykines is still beautiful and impressive to visit, because the seals are still lying around the coast of the island and the puffins are flying in circles.
In the 1960-ies I studied the history of Mykines and collected different material. Among my sources was Niclas Hansen, who's ancestors were from Miðvági. He came only 15 year old to Mykines to work on the Handanágarð (farm). That he became a Mykines man came about in this way. Men from Mykines were in Miðvági hunting pilotwhales, were in grind. The farmer Jákup from the Handanástovun, were among them and asked Niclas to come and wind the grindstone, so he could sharpen his knives.
Jakup found this obliging and handsome boy pleasant and asked if he would like to come to Mykines to learn farming and learn to fleyge puffins.
Niclas joined the men westward and stayed on the Handanagarð to he married 25 years old.
Niclas was, although he wasn't born on Mykines, one of the most bold and clever men in the mountains and among the best men fleygin concerned. His greatest catch one single day -was 870 puffins, which he fleyged north on Nesinum, four nautical miles from the village. He was very eager fleyging, puffins in the summer and fulmars in the winter. He also went fishing, at any opportunity, and it has been told me, that if he knew, that there were someone in the village who had no fresh bird and fish, he always was very generous and gave from his own catch.
Niclas died in 1969, 95 years old.
The story Niclas told me, is here written exactly as Niclas told it to me;
There are many fleygesesses around Mykines and I will tell You of some of them. The island is divided according to how much earth one owned and where the property was placed. The farmers had their property most jointly. Lamba e. g. was almost and alone owned by the Túalsgarð. There are only three gylden in Lamba, which are privately owned. Lamba is 33 gylden all together. There were five sesses in Lamba: Fleytanevið, Drangsessurin, Hóva, í Setuni, and one up on á Ryggi. They called it Ryggin á Hvalagjónni. Here the puffins flew south-east.
They also fleyged more places in the Urð - a scree, which was inner related to the flat Lamba. The sesses there have no names of their own, but were all together called in the Urð. The old man Jákupi á Túal, was especially fond of the most inner ses in the Urð- close to Myrkhelli as it is- and because of that there were many guillemots flying there. But they was difficult to catch an eye on, when the wind were upwards the mountain.
In Eggini í Múla there is not more than one ordinary south ses. They also used to fleyge south in Bakkanum now and then, when the wind was northern.
A westward ses is on Nevinum. There is only one west ses and one south ses there, which usually were used. And then there is a place called beneath Havinum. It is there, where the slope goes up against Rógvun. There was only one ses there.
On the edge, Eggin, i can mention Skarðsflřtt. It was in former times a good fleygeses. Skarðsflřttur is directly above the village. At that place there were many guillemots flying and the guillemot had not to be divided with the land. What one fleyged of guillemots was ones own. It like fishing catfish in former time. One got nothing for them. - North easterly wind was the best direction of the wind in Skarðsflřtti. As it also was in Skúgvalið, that place was also best in north-easterly wind.
On the north side of the island they fleyged in Kumlalíð and there was a ses which was called Gamlasessen. In that ses both fulmars and puffins were fleyged. There was also a place which was called i Břkkinum. It was only reachable by lines. That place belongs to Túalsbonden. - And down by the landingplace, they fleyged in south-easterly winds.
In Kálvadal there were sesses on the outer rim, where the pen is. There is also there a scree, which is called Vallaskriðu. There were there two good sesses, the one north and the other south.
In Borgardal there are many sesses. In Ennisskriðu there is one good ses, when the wind came from south-east, but it was also possible to fleyge in that when the wind was north east. An then there is Núgvunes. I always went there, because I was 9 years on the Handanástovan and it belonged to Handanástovan and it was my duty to go to Núgvunes.
The best conditions an Núgvunesi, was when the current was "řstfald", going eastward, because then all the birds lying on the sea are floated pass the Nesið. There is a counter current from Núgvunestangen and the birds go flying, when they are coming into the turbulent counter current and then join the circling puffins above the land.
There are many sesses in Bjřrgunum. It is possible to fleyge many different places in Bjřrgunum. I went all around in Bjřrgini - inside Stúgvar.
I used to fleyge on Stórarygg. Two sesses were there close to one another, Stóriryggurin and Keldan. And on Ryggin við Drang, there were three sesses, only short from from one another. One there was fleygin in northerly winds.
In Slumbuni they fleyged. It is also in the Bjřrgunum. When one was fleyging there, the land only had to have one fourth of the catch. In Borgardal the land had to have one third and in the Bjřrgunum one fourth. In Kálvadal it is one third.
In the Skorunum there are many good sesses, yes even on Heimaranesi. In Heimaranesi I often fleyged 500. It was best in north-westerly wind. That is the best direction of the wind in Heimaranesi. And south-east down on the slope on Heimaranesi. Then they flew south. That also is best directions of the wind in Tanga and in Skorunum.
Close to there they fleyged all over. I Lírabergi. That just south of Gásdal, but a little higher. They also fleyged in Tindskrið. Tindskrið is connected with Íralið, and one can walk from Íralið and to Tindskriðu.
On Gásdalsmúlan there was two or three sesses up in the Urðin and there was one called Bólinum. That is directly opposite Urðin. One is there sitting under a stone. On Gásdalsmúlanum the best directions of the wind are westerly and southerly. Due south is the best. They fly south on Gásdalsmúlan, if the wind is south southwest. It is the first place on the island, where they are flying south.
In Íralið there are three sesses. It is Drangasessin, one called Túgvusessin and one down on the rocks, á Helluni. They a very close to one another. The fleygestangs (poles) can almost touch each other. They are all for westerly winds, but if the wind is going high, almost northerly wind, then they fly west.
In Uldaliðbakken there are two sesses. One good westward-ses and one south-ses. The wind have to be south and going southeast in the south-ses. For the the west ses in Uldallið the best direction of the wind is south southwest.
As well as I know, there are no fleygeman (man catching puffins t .r.), who have caught one thousandths puffins on on stang on one day. I think that someone named Laurits, is the one who have caught the most - either if was Laurits or Andrias á Túal. They caught more than 900.
I myself have never caught more than 870. That was on Núgvunesi and at that occasion I was back home at noon. I left three o'clock in the night.
There are four nautical miles to go, almost the whole length of Mykines. I used to walk that in one and a half hour, but doing so I also had to run for a great part out during the level part of Borgardal.
The day before I got these 870, the farmer had asked me to go over there to fleyge. A farmhand, who was in Handanástovun at that time, also went that same morning, but left somewhat later than I.
Jákup, the Handaná farmer, should join me later. I reached the ses five o'clock, and at seven o'clock the aforementioned farmhand came. At that time I had got close to 300 in two hour. He swore - who had given me permission. I answered, as it was, that Jákup himself had asked me to go and that he would join me later.
If I had continued that day, I do think, that I could have fleyged 1000. But I had to go home. He threaten me, that if I didn't left, he would trough me over the edge. I collected 100 puffins to a load, hided the rest in a "krónna" (a place for hiding caught birds, if one had caught so many, that it was impossible to carry them home in one carry t. r.) and of I went.
Coming up on Lánna in Borgardal, I went to Brúgvarendan to a ses, which is placed there and got almost 100.
A fleygestang has normally a length of six "alen" (One alen = 0.62 meter). The length of the arms I used to have sixteen hands width down to 12. I didn't throw them away, if they broke, but longed them, as long as they were longer than 12 widths of a hand. And it didn't matter whether the pole was only five and a half alen. Have one the same stang in the same ses, yes, then the bird fly after the length of the stang.
Usually we used bought rope for the lines, but now and then were made the rope ourselves. We did it out of hemp - made it with a top (a top is a conical tool, with aligned furrows for the lines, used for making ropes t. r.). They said that it was just as strong as the bought.
Lines made of the hair of horsetail was very strong. They were especially good for lowering one down with, because they were very elastic, they lengthened when stressed and regained their length when unloaded. When one put his foot in a loop of these lines, it was almost as walking. A man who was easy to haul upwards, had the ability to swing in harmony with the hauls. He thereby was twice as easy to lift up.
To hang in a line is a kind of art. The man not able to do it hang as a passive weight, didn't move either legs or anything else. Was there an overhang, one had to thread with the legs and swing far out from the mountain and then inwards again. One had to swing with both legs and arms in the air, to come back to the mountain in the right way. One in a way swam in the air to come back to the mountain in the right orientation.