Brännskär is located in the southwestern archipelago of Finland, in Åboland, south of Nagu. The island is not far from Kirjais in Nagu, which is connected to the mainland via bridges and commuter ferries.
Brännskär is an island of great natural beauty with hills and cliffs; nowadays there is rather dense vegetation consisting of both coniferous forest and meadowland. The island boasts an abundance of species in the varying landscape which has been utilized by man for hundreds of years.
The history of people on the island has been documented since the 1500s; however, the first details of settlement date back to as late as the 1700s. On hilly islands such as Brännskär agriculture was limited to self-sufficiency, and people took on fishing and hunting for additional income. Even animal husbandry was limited due to the poor availability of grassland and winter feed. Many people associate Brännskär with smoked fish, for which the Östermans were well-known.
Brännskär är ungefär 50 hektar stor. Idag ägs öns östra del av Åbolands Skärgårdsstiftelse och Svenska småbruk och egna hem Ab. Detta område om ungefär 20 ha förvaltas av Åbolands Skärgårdsstiftelse och hyrs ut till de två familjer som bor på Brännskär året om. Den västra delen av ön är i privat ägo.
Det finns en besökshamn öppen för alla eller så kan ni hyra en av öns stugor för en skärgårdssemester. Ön är full av service som bastu, kafé, hantverksförsäljning, lunch, frukost, rökt fisk, livemusik och friluftsaktiviteter. Paddla kajak eller prova att få in siktet rätt med pilbågen eller så bokar in årets sommarfest.
THE NATURE OF BRÄNNSKÄR
Brännskär is located in the southwestern archipelago of Finland, in the part of the archipelago which could be called the middle archipelago. The island boasts an abundance of species in the varying landscape which has been utilized by man for hundreds of years.
Plants on Brännskär have been studied by Docent Ole Eklund in the 1930s and later by Docent Mikael von Numers in 2011. Mr Eklund estimated Brännskär to be an island rich in species. This was particularly true of the eastern part of the island influenced by cultivation. In the east the impacts caused by people (such as pasturage, cultivation, haymaking etc.) combines with the natural deciduous woodland which was there originally already before the island was inhabited. In the course of years the area has become overgrown, but when the meadows are taken care of again, many of the old species may appear. The cat’s foot is a pretty little plant which can no longer be found on the dry meadows. However, it might benefit if the high vegetation was cleared.
Most of the bird species of Brännskär are birds living in forests or aquatic birds. However, there are also some species which like to live on the open meadows. If you are lucky you may see a redstart or perhaps a red-backed shrike with its characteristic bandit mask sitting on a pole.
On the basis of altitude contours it can be concluded that about one thousand years ago there has been a narrow strait in the north-south direction through Brännskär which separated the eastern point of land from the rest of the island. The picture shows the shoreline of Brännskär as it may have been a thousand years ago, provided that the upheaval has been 50 cm per 100 years.
The areas outside the parts strongly affected by people are significantly more barren. The forest there comprises mainly of pine trees with some spruce, aspen and downy white birch. The types of forest vary from a little thicker forests with bilberry shoots to dryer forests dominated by lichens. Here and there in hollows you can see small swampy areas with white moss and cotton grass, and if you are lucky you can find cloudberries. On the rocky southern and southwestern side of the island the forest comprises of windswept, beautiful old pine trees. The scenic value here is very high. Apart from a few minor sandy and gravelly beaches the shoreline consists mostly of moraine and bare rocks.
(extract from ”Brännskär, en pärla i Skärgårdshavet” (Brännskär, a pearl in the Archipelago Sea), written by Anders Fagerlund. 2011)
Fishing has always been the most important source of livelihood in the outer archipelago. During centuries the methods have changed and developed. At first, fishing was free at the open sea, but there were limitations around the small islands. Just by referring to the old tradition one could go fishing in certain areas. Fishermen built their cottages at a suitable distance from the fishing grounds for Baltic herring, which was caught both with seines and gill nets. Fishnets and fyke-type fishing tackle were used for catching scaly fish.
In wintertime fishermen used under-ice winter seines. Winter also offered the opportunity to catch seals, which at that time belonged to the most difficult and demanding game. Young seals could be clubbed on the ice, whereas the full-grown ones were extremely alert and disappeared immediately down the hole in the ice when in danger.
Salting was the most important method for preserving the fish caught. There is no certain evidence of when they started to smoke Baltic herring on Brännskär. However, the smoked fish, Brännskärs-böcklingen, has been widely known in Åboland (Turunmaa) as a genuine delicacy of the archipelago for several decades!
Waterfowl was hunted in the early spring. Bird nets were stretched between two islands and when the migratory birds, e.g. oldsquaw, eider, velvet scoter, goldeneye and other ducks came flying, they got entangled in the nets and could just be picked out and killed. This method was widely used before firearms came into common use.
So-called egg picking used to be a very important method but is no longer practised at all. Hundreds of nesting boxes (so-called ”stombor”) for nesting aquatic birds were brought out on the islands. It was mainly goosander and goldeneye which occupied the nesting boxes, and when the birds had laid their eggs, the fowlers sailed from one island to the other and “taxed” the birds by taking two to three eggs from each nest. Eiderdown was also important at certain times. After the birds had left, people went to collect the remains from the nests, particularly of eiders. After cleaning the down from impurities it could be sold.
Self-sufficiency was also important for people living in the outer archipelago regarding milk, butter, meat, wool and other necessities. As there was very little grassland on Brännskär for bovine animals, cows and calves could only be grazing freely in certain parts of the island in the summertime; the hay needed for winter feeding had to be acquired elsewhere. The people had to sail to other islands to scythe hayfields and seaside meadows, put up hay poles and dry the hay, and finally carry it down to the shore, load it on a barge and sail back to Brännskär.
The estate inventory deed after Abraham Vilhelm Österman in 1920 lists the following: ”Bovine animals: 1 cow, 2 sheep. Fishing tackle: 20 gill nets for herring, 15 nets, 1 drag”. Even if all the animals or utility articles were not listed in the estate inventory deed, one could see that people were forced to manage with extremely scarce resources on Brännskär.
Similar details are given in the estate inventory deed after Axel Gottfrid Österman in 1947: ”Animals: 2 cows, 3 sheep, 4 hens, 1 calf. Boats and fishing tackle: 2 motorboats, 2 rowing boats, 26 gill nets for herring, 19 small fykes, 6 nets, 1 gill net trap”.
According to the publication ”Bönder, byar och bol i Åboland 1540” compiled by Bengt Forss in 1999, based on Gustav Vasas Jordebok, the following is stated about Brännskär: ”Brendsker är ängh land Liggr for 4 mck. Utbysman haffr 1 örth R aff forsc(ri)ffuin ängh Land. Thet är 1 öre”.
The first person known to have lived on Brännskär – and can be assumed to have built the first houses – is bridge bailiff Carl Erichsson. He had a family and lived first on Innamo and purchased Brännskär in 1760 and paid ”Aderton Dahler Silfwermynt” (eighteen silver thaler) for the whole island, which remained in the possession of the family for four generations until the year 1845.
After that, the place was owned by Adolf Mattsson and his family for a little over twenty years until it was sold to pilot Abraham Vilhelm Österman and his wife Fredrika Johansdotter, who lived in Östergrannas croft on theislandofAspöin Korpo. They moved to live on Brännskär in 1873 together with their daughter Maria Fredrika and lived the life of farmers and fishermen there. In the next few years the family had three more children, Edla Vilhelmina was born in 1874, Viktor Vilhelm in 1875 and Axel Gottfrid in 1882.
Axel Gottfrid took over Brännskär together with his wife Selinda Matilda, and they had four children. The eldest son Uno Gottfrid was a boat builder already as a young man, working together with his father Axel Gottfrid, both on Brännskär and also out on other islands.
In 1947, Uno Gottfrid purchased Brännskär from his mother Selinda and his siblings. Uno married Hildur Lovisa Söderholm (”Notdrottningen”, the Seine Queen) from Hästhaga, Klobbnäs in August 1948, and they began to build a house for themselves on Brännskär. Grandma Selinda then lived alone in the old house, which was called ”Fammos” (Grandma’s). Uno and Hildur had a son Ulf Gustav in 1951.
The son Uffe and his wife Heli Österman purchased Brännskär from Uno in 1989. Fish processing was developed, the porch of the house was expanded into a baker’s shop and products were made for sale. The Baltic herring caught was further processed and smoked to make böckling. The family caught cod in the 1980s, made various kinds of preserved fish and actively sold their products at fish markets. Brännskärs-böcklingen, has been widely known in Åboland as a genuine delicacy of the archipelago for several decades!
When Uffe died suddenly in 2003 the widow Heli Österman decided to stay on Brännskär and carry on fishing and selling the products at fish markets. However, 7 years later she decided to sell the farm to Åbolands Skärgårdsstiftelse foundation and Småbruk och Egna Hem Ab. The foundation has rented the farm to Lennart Söderlund, a boat builder from Dragsfjärd.
THE WRECK BRÄNNSKÄRSVRAKET
Just off the shore at Storpäran on the shipping lane between Brännskär and Byskär there lies a wreck which is known to be a 17 metres long and 5 metres wide sailing vessel built of wood, possibly a brig named ”Enigheten”, which suffered shipwreck in 1897.
The hull is more or less intact, but the deck is missing or has been destroyed in the course of the years. Although the bow is partly damaged, the stern is intact. The vessel has apparently had three masts; the large middle mast is still intact and standing. The foremast and the mizzenmast are broken, and their remainders are 2–3 metres high above the deck.
The wreck is standing upright at approx. 15 metres’ depth and 30 metres off the shoreline, on a clayey sand bottom, which may be the reason for the ship standing in upright position. A number of dives have been performed to the wreck; among others, Kim Lund, reporter of the newspaper Åbo Underrättelser, from Nagu, has dived to the wreck several times.
In the autumn of 2010, Åbolands skärgårdsstiftelse foundation and Svenska Småbruk och Egna Hem Ab together purchased the archipelago estate Brännskär in the southern Nagu archipelago. The foundation acts as the manager of the estate. By purchasing the archipelago estate they aim at promoting through-the-year inhabiting and activities, as well as preventing the socially and culturally important estate from being taken into private leisure-time use. In late summer 2011, the place was rented to Lennart Söderlund. Today the owners manage and develop the place together with inhabitants of Brännskär.
ÅBOLANDS SKÄRGÅRDSSTIFTELSE FOUNDATION
The foundation works for a living archipelago with a focus on the environment, as well as residential and livelihood issues.
According to the rules and regulations of Åbolands Skärgårdsstiftelse the purpose of the foundation is ”to act for a living archipelago by promoting and supporting opportunities of permanent living in the archipelago and moving there, as well as working on other ways of promoting a sustainable, economic, ecological and socio-cultural development in the Åboland archipelago”.
The foundation provides financial support, as well as initiates and participates in projects such as the possibilities of living and working in the archipelago. In order to be able to fulfil its purpose the foundation will need funds. The foundation is happy to receive gifts, donations and testaments. Condolences of the foundation can be found here and congratulations can be loaded on the Internet under this link.
Contact information can be found at:
SMÅBRUK OCH EGNA HEM AB
Founded in 1908 by the immediate circles of Svenska folkpartiet, the company Svenska Småbruk och Egna Hem aimed at "working for the settling of the Swedish-speaking population on land” and wherever possible to work for acquiring and selling land to those Swedish-speaking Finns on the countryside who were not estate owners. The initiator was Edvard Blomqvist Ph.D.
In the course of years the company has bought several large properties in Nyland and Åboland (Uusimaa and Turunmaa) provinces. These have been divided to build about 2,300 small properties and plots totalling 32,000 hectares. In 2006, the company Svenska Småbruk och Egna Hem owned about 2,500 hectares of land in Nyland (Uusimaa), where they run significant forestry work with an annual felling of 8,000 m3 of timber. In earlier times the company maintained the gardening and agriculture schools Överby trädgårds- och lantbruksskolor, founded in 1915 in Kyrkslätt (Kirkkonummi). In 1944 the schools were moved to Margreteberg in Esbo (Espoo) and in 1978 they were taken over by a municipal federation. The company bought Margreteberg back in 2002 and rented out the estate to Ab Utbildning Sydväst, which carried on the traditions of the former gardening school further within the educational institutions Yrkesinstitutet Sydväst (gardener education, Axxell) and Yrkeshögskolan Sydväst (trained horticulturist education, Novia University of Applied Sciences). In 2011, Novia’s department for horticulturist education moved from Överby to Ekenäs (Tammisaari) in Raseborg (Raasepori).
From the foundation of the company until 1937, Svenska Småbruk och Egna Hem was led by Eric von Rettig, chairman of the Svenska folkpartiet party for many years. In 1922, a fund Stiftelsen Ab Svenska Småbruk och Egna Hems undervisningsfond was started to support the farm school in Överby, and in 1949 the foundation Stiftelsen Finlandsvenska Jordfonden was established to support the cultural and economic co-operation of Swedish small farmers inFinland as well as assisting Swedish-speaking Finns to acquire land. Nowadays the funds are supporting different projects in agricultural education and granting long-term loans on transfer of farms to descendants with attractive interest rates to young Swedish-speaking farmers. (Hj. Gustafsson, S. 1908-58)