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A Treasured Memory

By Christal Speer


On a family vacation to Iceland in 2004, one of the first places we visited was the marvelous Skogar Folk Museum in southern Iceland. In one of the rooms, Thordur Tomasson was seated at a pump organ, playing and singing some Icelandic folk tunes. Although he is shorter than my father was, he looked so much like him that I asked if I could take a picture of him.


Thordur Tomasson playing the pump organ and singing
Thordur Tomasson playing the pump organ and singing

Thordur Tomasson then invited me to sit and play the pump organ, too, which I was happy to do, and played three folk tunes from his book. He was quite surprised, but little did he know that I grew up playing a pump organ at home and that the folk tunes were easy to sight-read (no harder than hymns).


I recently looked at the Relationship Calculator on Icelandic Roots and discovered that Thordur and my father (Vernon Oliver IR637668) are 9th cousins--not close at all, but those Icelandic genes came out I suppose! My father loved to play the piano and had a very nice baritone voice. I can still picture my father at the piano playing and singing--just like Thordur was playing and singing at the pump organ.


The collection of old turf houses and buildings, plus the countless fine artifacts in the museum are such a tribute to Thordur Tomasson’s dedication to preserving the old ways in Iceland.


He had a museum staff member photocopy two Icelandic folk tunes from the book for me to take home. That day was one of the highlights of our trip and I will always remember how friendly and kind he was to us. His work has brought joy to thousands of visitors.

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