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HERRING-ERA MUSEUM

Region: North Iceland
Coordinates: 66.1512° N 18.9213° W

The so-called Roaldsbrakki (Roald’s-barrack) was a temporary dwelling of female labourers, the office building of the Norwegian fishing outfit and an equipment storage. Two Norwegian brothers, Olav and Elias Roald from Aalesund in Norway, owned the fishing outfit and operated a herring processing factory there for 20 years. It was the best and largest of its kind in the country at the time with good piers. In 1916, it produced 30.000 barrels of pickled herring, and other factories in their possession produced 10.000 barrels.

After 1931, the company Isafiord Ltd continued the operation until 1968. Half of the barrack stood on poles in the sea and the ground floor was a part of the pickling and storage space. On the first floor, the clerks were busy calculating the workers weekly wages amidst the stores of spices and fishing gear. On the third floor, the female labourers shared the rooms, 8 in each, a common kitchenette and a room for drying the working clothes. In the loft fishing gear and spices were stored. During the summer season, almost 50 people were accommodated in the barrack, and 50-80 young women worked in the factory. The work was often hard and the hours were long when the fishing vessels brought their catch in continuously, because it had to be processed immediately as it could not be preserved fresh. Sometimes the workers did not even have time to eat properly.

Most of the workers worked outdoors and praised the good weather, but suffered the cold in-between. The women worked according to a bonus system at the pickling. The more they pickled, the more they earned. They often earned more than the male workers did when the raw materials were in abundance. People of all classes of society from all parts of the country, especially students, flocked to the fishing outfits during the fishing seasons, and stood side by side working. This was the best way to earn quick money and they did not mind the hardships and long hours. Sometimes the fishing seasons failed and the labourers went back home worse of financially than before.

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