FAMILY AND ANNUAL MEETING AT STEGEBORG, MAY 26 AND 27, 2006

On the road, coming up from Tjolöholm Manor to Stegeborg, our conversation often went back to the joy and benefit given to us as non relatives, to be allowed to take part of the interesting Dickson family history, through your personal stories and memories. To Christina Fermheden and Maria Försell Six, this of course is an advantage in their work, not in the least in their dramatized guided tours of the manor, where they personify Mrs Dickson and “the Duchess” (Blanche Bonde). To me, Birgitta Lundin, it is a source of joy, knowledge and stimulance. Even more so now, as I’m trying to give, in a novel, a more personal picture of the above mentioned strong women and their dramatic life at Tjolöholm.

Another advantage is to be able to spend time with the now living, strong personalities of the family. And the more members you get to know, the more clear it becomes, that the genes of the Keith clan and the Dickson family produce successful, brave, target-oriented (and outgoing) people, who also – it seems – are provided with a subtle and intelligent humor. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you are born in Sweden, England or Scotland either, the family characteristics appear very clearly to us, who are observing you from “the outside”. And it is just as clear, that you attract partners with the same qualities, so that your offspring is guaranteed double sets of genes, which is promising for the future!

In this light, we were naturally looking forward with joy and expectations to meeting you again, and not even the rain, keeping us company from Norrköping (though I have to point out, that we had the sun with us all the way from Tjolöholm!) could reduce our enthusiasm. And we were not disappointed! In the Magasin, where we were having lunch, the grey and rainy sky had shut off the light, and in spite of the festive lamps, foreboding a crayfish party rather than lunch, we had a little difficulty in the beginning in getting a general view of the people, standing in large or small groups chatting. But it wasn’t long before we were pulled into happy and welcoming hugs, and we felt like we usually do at these meetings: at home.

The hostess of Stegeborg, Britt Danielsson (2:6:3  4:3:1P), and her family showed us right from the beginning what we could expect: excellent food and service, mixed with inspiring settings and stories. While we were having our lunch, delicious, home-made (of course!) pies and salads, the large room was filled with happy laughter and voices. New acquaintances to me were Jan (2:6:7  2:3) and Ian Fowler. But Jan’s aunt, Helen Burrough (2:6:7  3), is well known to me, since she visited Tjolöholm manor during a number of summers with her husband Tom. Ian had videorecorded an interview with Helen, which he showed us (the text is to be find elsewhere on this home page), and it was clear that both her memories and knowledge of the Swedish language were just as sharp as when I met her many years ago.

A visit to Skällsvik church

After lunch, we made a visit to the church, which I suppose must be regarded as the castle church of Stegeborg, as it was enlarged during the 16th century by the Lord of the Castle, Johan III, and turned into the first renaissance church in Sweden. The first castle church was destroyed at the same time as the original castle.

We had a guided tour of the church led by the former churchwarden, Sten Flink, living up to his name by delivering his great knowledge at a rapid speed. It was sometimes hard to hear him, when we were sitting on the benches, but it became clear to me, that the oldest part of the church is considered to be from the the first half of the 14th century. It seems like people would rather place it in the late 13th century, when a stave church was burnt down, and a place for a new one had to be find. A pair of oxen pulling a wagon were set free. The new church was to be built on the spot were they stopped. This new church found itself in the middle of many battles around the castle and was destroyed several times. King Johan III was born at Stegeborg, and he had, as I have said before, the church restored in an Italian style.

An interesting feature was the so called “Wednesday Wedding” in the castle church of Stegeborg, at the time it was situated in the castle itself. The lady-in-waiting to Princess Anna, Sigrid Brahe, was betrothed to a young man (Erik Bielke) but in love with another. In order to help her get the man she wanted, the Princess arranged a wedding in the middle of the week (which was unthinkable and therefore caused no suspicions) before the original wedding was to take place. So the lady-in-waiting got her  beloved, Johan Gyllenstierna, and her bridal crown, given to her by Princess Anna, was in use as late as in the 1970’s.

In addition to interesting effects like the altarpiece, donated by Elsa Elisabeth Brahe, married to the brother of Karl X Gustav, the Duke of Stegeborg, Adolf Johan, and a medieval saint’s cupboard with a sculpture of Mary and the Child, I remember the story of how some graves (I think it was the Posse tomb and the so called stegeborg tomb) were excavated in the 1950ies in order to make room for a gallery. The remains were therafter buried in a mass grave under the floor of the church, and the slab stone with inscriptions was thrown away. It came back after someone suggested that it should be smashed. Luckily enough, it was saved (by a. o. Sten Flink) and it is now positioned beside the church door.

We made a short stop at the grave of Ragnar Danielsson outside the church. Ragnar was Alice’s (2:6:3  4:3) husband and Britt’s father in law. He had already before his death found the rock he wanted on his grave. The rock is rounded at the back and totally flat in front, where the text is. It originates from a rock that nature cut in two parts like a giant knife cutting butter. A beautiful wreath of flowers was laid on the grave and Akke Bengtsson played poetically on his flute.

“3 o’clock tea” at Trädgårdshotellet with photo and film show

After the visit to Skällvik church, we gathered at Stegeborg’s Trädgårdshotell (Garden Hotel), where Britt Danielsson served tea and scones in a cosy setting with posters from when aviation was in its infancy (explanation to follow). Harriet Dickson (2:6:11  2:5) and Björn Uhrenius had made a trip to Scotland – for “whisky and dicksonia” – and Björn showed us beautiful photos of the grand scenery and the distilleries, which were the marks they navigated between, just as planned. They also visited Arthur and Helen (née Dickson) Ramsay’s home (their son, James 2:6:11 3:2 has attended several of the family meetings, and arranged the trip to Scotland in 1993).

Strangely enough, Harriet and Björn met a man from Montrose (I don’t remember where they actually met him), and when they told him that Harriet was a Dickson, the man showed a map and pointed out the Dickson family grave (James’, who sent his two sons to Sweden). They also visited this grave in Montrose. They had earlier visited one of  the Keith Clan castles, Dunottar, and brought daffodils from there. Harriet planted these at the grave. Unfortunately, she could also state, that the sides of the graves are deteriorating, and the text is soon not to be seen. Something for the board to discuss… 

There is much to tell about Dunottar, and Björn did so, but it takes me too far from the purpose of my report, so I leave it to the reader to look for information about this “ruined” castle, as James Ramsay so charmingly expressed it in his otherwise as good as perfect Swedish. It has a thrilling story interwoven with the Keith Clan and the Scottish crown jewels. You can read about this on the Dickson homepage under “Gatherings –Skottland 1993”.

We were told a story just as thrilling about Maggie Dickson (no one knew if this was a relative, but she was a fish monger, and it doesn’t sound like she was “our” relative…). She had a pub in Edinburgh named after her, and her story was, that she had a child by the owner of the inn she worked at. This would of course not do, and Maggie was going to throw the baby in the river, but she changed her mind and put it among the reeds instead. She was arrested for this, and she was punished by hanging. Later it was found, that she had not been dead when they put her in her coffin, and when it was taken away for the funeral, a knocking was heard from its inside. The fact that Maggie had not died at the hanging was pointed out as an omen, and she was reprieved and was thereafter called “Half-hanged Maggie”.

After this photo show, Ian Fowler told us, that he had videorecorded Helen Burrough, his wife Jan’s aunt, when she, with a memory sharp as a razor, told about her experiences with the relatives in Sweden. We were listening, very impressed, to Helen when she (guided by Jan’s intelligent questions), described her memories, also from her childhood. I got the videotape from Ian in order to transcribe it, and thereafter it will be filed in the archives of  Tjolöholm manor, where there are already large Dickson archives. Helen’s story is to be found elsewhere in the report from the Stegeborg meeting.

Britt tells us about Stegeborg estate (please also refer to www.stegeborg.se)

Stegeborg estate with the “new” manor house, built in 1806, rebuilt in 1910-1915, was bought by Alice and Ragnar Danielsson. Britt married Casimir, their son, when they both were 30 years old and “mature”, as Britt puts it. In order to make an addition to the large agriculture business, managed by Casimir, and in order to make an attribution to the income with a business of her own, Britt baked pies and sold. This naturally became a success and she’s still on that track! This energetic, creative and positive woman now has a lot of irons in the fire on the estate together with her family. Sadly, her husband passed away last year, but together with her two sons and the help of 24 seasonal employees, she now goes on managing the estate. The agricultural and shooting parts are now leased, but Hamnkrogen (the Marina Restaurant), The Garden Hotel, leasing of summer houses and cottages, airfield, marina with 300 berths and camping, as well as guiding at the old castle ruin demand quite some time.

It’s astonishing what this family achieves! As if Britt’s creativity does not get enough outlet in the above, on top of it all, she is a splendid artist! You can see exmples of this in the brochure about Stegeborg, which she has illustrated with charming drawings. The “coat of arms”, not in the least, shows her creativity: in the four fields she has drawn the things that represent the estate: 1) the old caste ruin with a twin-winged aeroplane in the foreground – her husbands grandfather, Carl Florman, started and ran with his brother Adrian the first aerotransporting company in Sweden, ABA – Aktiebolaget Aerotransport. But most of all the aeroplane represents, of course, the present airfield  2) a ship with three masts (for the marina) with three stars, which I like to think of as the dicksonian ones  3) a wild boar (there is an enclosure on the grounds and shooting is arranged) with two hearts (the two sons) and  4) fish and an anchor, showing that a fishing club is there for additional activities (bathing too!) on these grounds that are alive with activity.

The coat of arms is crowned by a knight’s helmet with a visor and a crown – a concession to the sons, who wanted the coat of arms to look grand. In the cross of the shield there’s a smaller shield with a twig of oak and acorns. This naturally symbolizes the beautiful park with the old oaks. But the most charming thing is a heart in the middle of the twig – the third heart of the coat of arms – representing Britt’s husband, Casimir. The small rose in the heart is the only sign of where the the artist herself has her place, emotionally and physically: in the heart of Casimir and Stegeborg. Britt’s maiden name was Rosén…

After the break with refreshments, a lot of exciting and amusing information and many impressions, we moved on to more exciting stories: a tour at the old caste ruin guided by Britt. A short report in English is to be found elsewhere on the homepage. The history in English can also be read on www.stegeborg.se/ruin15.htm.

The time between the guided tour at the old caste ruin and the drink before dinner was not long enough for my friends from Tjolöholm to be able to return to their hotel, half way to Söderköping, to change, so we shared my room at the Garden Hotel. To prepare three women, sharing one bathroom, for dinner takes some time, and we didn’t make the aperitif, but we didn’t miss the three-course dinner at the Marina Restaurant! Fortunately, because it was delicious all the way through. Since I don’t eat meat, I was served poached pike-perch as main course – a delicious dish newsworthy to me, as I mostly eat saltwater fish.

During dinner I got some very valuable and personal information about family members, mainly from Alice Danielsson, Jane Uggla (1:2:1  7:2) and Malin (2:1:1  1:1:1  3) and Sven Öberg. I have visited Vibyholm earlier, and then too got information about Carl Bonde, Malin’s great grandfather, who lived for some time at the manor with his wife Blanche, one of my intended leading parts in the novel.

Jane Uggla gave an entertaining speech about her great-great grandmother, one of the ancestresses, Wilhelmina Charlotta Bratt, married to the immigrant, Robert. I can contribute to the story by quoting a man, supposedly WC’s (sorry about the initials giving less noble associations!) father’s, Henrik Bratt, coachman: “When Miss Wilhelmina Charlotta was riding in the carriage, people surrounded it to admire her beauty”. And you can really state that she was beautiful by loooking at her photo on the homepage – “The Dickson Family History part II”.

Unexpectedly I also got, together with the rest of the dinner party, an elaborate and amusingly performed presentation of one of WC’s sons. It was another one of her descendants, Hugo Nordenfelt (1:3:6  5:1:1), who responded to the inquiry by William. And being a true Dickson, he just got up and overflowed with humor, warmth and knowledge! There’s no use in denying that I wish I had some of the Dickson genes… Via WC’s son, Charles the physician, and his descendants, Hugo arrived at last at his own place in the line.

I have to mention the Marina Restaurant specially. It is situated extremely beautifully in the marina, with a broad bridge where you can  take a walk and sit and admire the view. On the bridge (maybe it is called a pier when it is so large?) there are pots with palmtrees, giving a sensation of the Mediterranean rather than Slätbaken. Add to it lapping waves against white hulls, the velvet night and the stars, and you have the best of Sweden and the south of France!

Day 2

The Annual Meeting

This was held in the Magasin, and the minutes will maybe soon to be added on to the homepage under “Annual Meetings – Minutes”.

A feature, as unexpected as welcome to me, was the story that Ian Lauritzen (2:6:11  5:1) told us, about how he searched for (and found) the family roots in Sri Lanka/Ceylon. Ian’s dedicated presentation of how his road to his grandfather’s (Oscar D, 2:6:11) plantation was going upwards, upwards and upwards deserved a videorecording. But he has written down his story, and it can also be found on the homepage.

After the meeting we all split up in different directions. Christina, Maria and I went on – after having been given permission to enter the beautiful manor park to get our pictures taken there – to Hörningsholm manor. It is the estate of origin to the Bonde family, and we were given a memorable guided tour here too by Caroline and Carl Bonde. But that is another story!

Written and translated by Birgitta Lundin

Sven and Malin Öberg  (2:1:1 1:1:1 3) were kind enough to bring parts of a family porcelain, that they have on Vibyholm. The porcelain has probably been bought to Tjolöholm from England and then inherited straight down via James Fredrik (2:1:1) and Blanche (2:6:1) to their daughter Blanche Bonde, who was the grandmother of Malins father.

You can read more about Malin and Vibyholm on our page from the family gathering at Sparreholm
http://www.swedickson.nu/sparreholm/sparreholm1999.htm

When I spoke to Malin about the porcelain, she told me that on that meeting someone had said "Oh, you also have this porcelain" This person had more information about the porcelain, but Malin cannot remember who it was. If you recognize yourself from this description, I would be very glad if you could contact me, so that I could update this page with your information.

Maud (2:3:3 2:3)

 

 

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