Knut Olai Bang was born 1831 in Norway near where Aalesund now stands.
As I have been asked to write a little about my life’s history I shall now try. I must first start with my very dear father, Knut Olai Bang, born on the 16th September 1831, at Aalesund, Norway as he had a great influence in my earlier life.
At an early age my father left Aalesund for Bergen to learn shipbuilding. Here he was fortunate to find lodgings with a man who was foreman of the shipbuilders. When he showed an interest in the work the foreman did in his private capacity outside of the company’s time this man took a special interest in him and taught him to construct small vessels. In this way my father not only learned to be a carpenter but also one who could construct small ships.
When father’s apprenticeship was over he moved to another shipbuilding concern and there he found lodging with the Bergesen family – husband, wife and daughter Christine.
At this time there was a great revival in Bergen and over the whole of Norway. Father, Christine and her friend, Caroline Hansen (?) went to these revival meetings. These meetings made an impression on my father but his real conversion came later.
In the meantime the Norwegian Lutheran mission had commenced work in South Africa and Madagascar. With travelling difficulties at that time it was decided to build their own missionary ship and there was great interest in the project. Many workmen offered to build a ship cheaply. Among those was my father.
At about this time the Crimean war between England and Russia commenced. England needed small vessels that could enter the Black Sea and other places in the Mediterranean to buy fodder for the military horses. My father joined one of these ships (probably a Norwegian vessel contracted to England). There were no large or small ports in the Ose... My father had in this way been from Jaffa in Palestine and right round and through the Dardanelles into the Black Sea.
On one of these journeys one night, when the sea was very beautiful my father stood on the deck and felt as if all nature spoke to him. He counted this night as his true conversion. When he returned to Norway – I cannot remember if the Crimean war was still in progress or if it was over – my father and my mother Christine, who had been engaged for a long ti me, got married and lived in Bestemor’s house. The house belonged to Bestemor after the death of her first husband (Christine’s father).
Now my father began sailing again with the Missionary ship "Elieser". I do not know for certain but of one thing I am sure that he sailed with a Captain Clausen to Natal and Madagascar and they became very good friends.
After a while when they tired of sailing father and a friend started a yachtbuilding concern on Floro Island and father, mother and their first child Carolina moved to the island. On this island the second child, Petra, was born.
Things seamed to go well and the first vessel, which I think was a Galeas, was completed and a second one was nearing completion.
Meanwhile both father and his foreman went out on the harbour fishing one Satrurday afternoon when suddenly as they looked back they saw their yachtbuilding premises were on fire. Fortunately, the Galeas was anchored so far out in the harbour that it was safe. This was the end of their project. The Galeas was sold to cover all expenses so there was no profit. Father and mother and their two children were glad to come back to Bestemor’s again.
On the 5th June 1861 my brother Christian was born in Bergen at Bestemor’s home.
Now and then Father took a trip on the "Elieser" with Capitain Larsen sailing to Natal and Madagascar. I think it was on one of these trips that father contracted Malaria on Madagascar and came to Durban where he was treated by a Dr Schultz.
Meanwhile the "Elieser" sailed further to Madagascar and Rangoon with cargo of mainly rice back to Europe.
During this time father was in Durban at least 3 mths he spent looking and wandering all around. He collected polished wood specimens of 21 Natal tree species which he brought back to the Museum in Bergen.
My father knew that two of his uncles were living in S. Africa and all this had influenced him so that he had a special attraction to S. Africa.
While travelling with Capt. Larsen they spoke much of all they had seen in different places both in Natal and Madagascar, and of the attraction of both places.
Hermanda (fourth child) was born at Bestemors in February 1863.
Now as the family grew Father saw that he must get his own home and this he bought on Nordnes in Bergen. Where I was born on 13de December 1864 and my brother Knut on 7th Dec. 1866.
Lina (Carolina) never came to live at Nordness but remained with Bestemor as her child and when Bestemor died Lina became heir to half her estate. The other half was divided between us five.
When we lived at Nordness it was wonderful to visit Bestemor and especially Bestefar who was so friendly and kind to us all even though mother was his step-child.
While we were at Nordness father again sailed on "Elieser". Larsen was still the Captain. On the way back home from Cape Town my father said to Capt. Larsen one Morning that "Now my wife is dead because last night I dreamt that I saw people trying to get the coffin out of the window as the door was not wide enough". When they then called at St Helena Father received a letter to say mother was dead and the time coincided with the time of his dream.
I was 2 yrs and 8 months old and my younger brother Knut was only 8 mths. It is wonderful but true that although I was only 2 yrs and 8 mths
What then happened I do not really know but suddenly there was a terrific noise downstairs in the parlour Bestemor was there and she and others were going down to see what was the matter. I, who was so small, was so terrified that I didn’t want to stay upstairs or to go downstairs either. My sister Petra had to carry me down and when they opened the door a huge black cat came out.
Now Bestemor had to make arrangements to get someone to care for us until father came home so it was a sad homecoming for father. There was nothing else to do but to find homes for us. There was a sister of Bestemor’s (Mothers Aunt) who was married but had no children so she took Christian at once. An Officer from the Officers Academy who had one daughter who was a little simple was very glad to take Petra to be with her and Petra was happy there.
Hermanda was a very pretty girl and there were several people who wanted her. Finally she went to a couple who had no children – sandalmaker Eyde and his wife. This couple were, in a way, very good and while she was still small did almost too much for her, but later whether they became tired or what, things became the opposite.
Knut, who was only 8 months old was taken by a couple from the country who had no children. They spoke the country dialect. Knut was with them for some years. They were almost too good to him and he always got his own way specially when he grew older and went to school. He went to school when he wanted to and stayed away when he wanted to and they did nothing to force him to go.
Then there was me. I was not yet three years old and therefore I was almost always in a grubby state but at that age one is not worried about clothes etc. Father had to pay more for my board than for any of the others so I became the most expensive. The lady I boarded with prided herself that she had given her son a hiding even in his confirmation day. Things did not go well so father had to remove me as soon as possible.
Meanwhile my fathers youngest brother, Herman who had just become a captain was ready to go on a course. About a month before leaving he had married Helene Natland from Bergen and everything seemed so promising. The ship went out and met terrible weather. How far they had sailed no one knows. The ship disappeared with no survivors.
Herman’s widow later volunteered to look after fathers children together with her daughter Constance. Later little Constance married a Swedish minister and went to Sweden. Aunt Helene and Constance were with us until father came home again but aunt Helene had become sonewl?? at frail Suffering with arthritis in her shoulders.
When I was 5 yrs old my Father again sailed to Madagascar and took Christian with him. My father was then under contract to an English business firm. This happened in the following manner Captain Larsen found it necessary to give up the captaincy of the "Elieser" as he had and some other who had been sailing for a very low wage felt they could no longer carry on. Captain Larsen then went to London. There he saw a home that looked like a church of some sort and found that it was a meeting place of the Quakers. He became accquinted with them and when they heard that he came from Madagascar several of them became very interested in them. The Quakers had for several very interested in him. The Quakers had for several years had missionaries had written home about the difficult circumstances there especially that the Indians and the Mahommedan were fleecing the natives in business and many other ways.
Three of the Quakers, who were rich folks and had businesses had come together and wondered if it would be possible to start honest business on Madagascar and in this way to work against the Indians and Mohammedans thieving ways. Larsen thought this might be possible and it was, therefore, decided that he should go home to Bergen and enlist a party of 30 men who were willing to go out on a 3 years trial. The Company’s name was Porter, Muir & Long. The company would then provide a ship and a smaller vessel for coastal trade. They also undertook to stock the ship with goods suitable for Madagascar trade.
Larsen then came home and the first person he contacted was my father and it was then made known that there was an opportunity for 30 men to go to Madagascar with very good wages as compared with Norwegian prospects. There were fairly many who applied but father and Larsen had to evaluate their Christian living and other things. Those from Bergen side were mainly chosen by father and those on the Farsund side were chosen by Larsen, who was born in that district.
When they were ready they travelled to England and my brother Christian who was only 10 yrs old travelled with them.
While father was away Bestemor died. Carolina then went to Domestic Science school. She was already engaged to Carl Johan Bjørseth. I must have been 7 or 8 years old. All I remember is the memory of the hearse and Knut and I who had to follow the hearse as father and Christian were not there and we were the nearest relatives. Following us I saw some tall, large men and I was quite frightened of them. This is about all I remember of the funeral. Those men were Bestemor’s relatives and my mothers cousins and came from the country and therefore not known to me. They were all called Mortensen. Later I became acquainted with them and found that they were very kind folk.
When I think back I realise how kind my sister Lina was to come and visit us four children every Sunday Afternoon. She was after all only young and may have wished to be with her friends. In later years I have admired her, who showed so much love to her siblings.
After 3 years my father and Christian returned and you can imagine how happy we were to see them again. To be near us gather took on work at home. Some time later he told us that we were to have a new mother (step-mother). We all came home except Lina who was employed in a fashion boutique where she was well paid. She was there until she went to Domestic Science School. Thereafter my sister Petra took her place in the fashion house.
This time father was married in the Magistrate’s office and then there was a reception in the Baptist church. All was now apparently fine. Our Step-mother was the widow of a cabin-maker and it was, therefore, not to be wondered at that she put our old furniture in the attic and brought in her fine furniture. This caused is sorrow but we were too young to understand and were therefore not kind to our step-mother. I have often regretted that I was not as kind to her as I should have been. In later life I have often advised children to be kind to their step-mothers.
Before father left Madagascar he and those others who had remained had spoken about forming an Immigration Company in Norway and then returning to Madagascar, picking up those who were still there and continuing to the Aldabra Islands – 5 large islands and some smaller ones.
Things moved very slowly for those who returned to Norway. One man set up a business and did well and lost all interest in the Aldabra project. Others followed suit. Because of this, matter took a long time to finalise. Father and a Captain Schjønning and some others, six males bought a Brig and this sailed with Capt. Schjønning and everything looked promising. One Easter morning, however, father got a telegram that read "Hannah complete wreck mouth of Leith, Scotland. All hands safe."
This was a great disaster but they did not lose hope but continued to plan to get to the Aldabra Islands there were some who wished to accompany them but had not sufficient money. A great deal of money was required to buy a vessel and stock and with 2 years supplies and materials for building when they arrived at the islands. Towards the end of 1878 father had enough money to sail on a small boat "Fritjof" to some place where a galeas had just been build. After an inspection he found that it was very well built and everything was fine. Even though it was small he bought it and the "Fritjof" towed it in to Bergen. Now there was a quickened interest in those who wanted to sail. They came and visited the ship and were unanimous that she should be called "Debora".
Deborah showed that she was a wonderful little vessel. She was like a goose on the waves. All the men had their specific tasks. Tobiasen was chosen as Captain, Berentson to first mate. Helge Jonsen who had a restaurant in Bergen was chosen as steward or cook. Even those who were not sailors soon all became sailors. Deborah took much sail and on journey from Bergen to Toulear way entirely.
As soon as we were at sea and felt waves there were some who wished to go to bed but we others stood and watched the Norwegian coast as long as we could. We did not see land again till we reached the Cape. From now on things went more or less according to schedule with no really bad weather till we had passed the Cape where we had to batten down (Cape Agulas) but all went well.
Our Journey from Bergen to Toulear took 89 days 2 days less than 3 mths and this was wonderful as many ships took 3 mths from England to Durban.
After passing the Cape we came across a German ship so close that we could be heard. It was a Schleswik-Holstein ship but they spoke Danish and said that they Zulu war was over and that times had improved very much in Natal. This information put ideas into the heads of some (especially those that had no share in the ship) and from then on they seemed to think it would be better to go to Natal.
In Toulear we were well received but my father soon found that he, whom he had relied on to take over administration of the whole project (father had until now been the leader) did not now seem anxious to go to the Aldabra Islands.
Capt. Larsens circumstances were now altered. He had again married with an English lady who did not want to hear of the Aldabra Islands and his 2 sons and 2 daughters were expecting to go to Natal.
Meetings were held on board ship and also at Capt. Larsons. There appeared to be no other course but to dissolve the company.
Capt. Larsen offered father work to repair a schooner and this he accepted. Those who remained on Madagascar were my father, stepmother, my sister Hermanda, Knut and myself. Christian had remained in Madagascar the whole time. Lina and Petra remained in Norway.
Lina now married the land surveyor Carl Bjørset and Petra to Lars Jensen who was a smith and lived in Bergen. Jensine came out to Durban one year later.
Now to return to Madagascar. Those that remain there were K. O. Bang and wife, my sister Hermanda, Knut myself and a relative Peter Bang (Jorgesen then there were Anton Andreasen, with husband and 3 children, Anders Olsen and wife (she died for some time afterwards and he travelled to Natal, Forsdal, Oftedahl, Madame Eglandsdal who was the Nurse and Syrene Solbakken, sister of Mrs Frederich Larsen. Later she was married to a Norwegian Captain Olsen and soon after he died of fever.
Those who died on Madagascar were, firstly, Mrs Anders Olsen. Her husband later sailed to Durban and remarried. One of the daughters Olea came to Glendale as a governess for our children. Both her parents were dead and her sisters lived in a small house on a large piece of land with many fruit-trees. It was near Berea Rd and Canada Road.
Then my stepmother died. We were then living at Augustine but, as there was an opportunity to sail on the same ship that we had wet near the cape to og to Samatave. Therefore, my stepmother and Hermanda, travelled as passengers with this ship to visit my brother Christian. My sister remained with Christian while my stepmother returned on the same ship to Touliar and to us at Augustine but she soon became feverish and although my father got her to Touliar as soon as possible for treatment she unfortunately died soon after. She was buried in the only available coffin, a gun case, and under a huge tamarish tree. Father returned to us without her, having travelled in a small boat which was overturned in huge seas and all my mothers things were lost. Father was, however, saved.
Meanwhile we had been robbed of all our clothes so we were in great need. (We had brought what we considered enough for 2 years.)
I remember my father giving Knut and I some soap and told us to go to the river and wash our clothes as they were so dirty. We went into the river clothes and all and after we had swam a while we rubbed our clothes with soap and then got back into the river to rinse off the soap. So that washing was quickly done.
As already stated Christian was left of Madagascar and was employed by Porter, Aiken and Co. Muir and Lang had left the firm some years previously and had never been out to Madagascar. Porter was the only one of the original firm who came out. He then joined the Canadian of Aitken. About this time the English Consul, Pakkenham died and then Porter-Aitken took over his post. When Christian was 21 years old a British warships lay in the harbour and they had a reception for the officers. At this reception Christian found a card under his plate "Congratulations. Porter Aitken and Co" and who was the "Co." – it was Christian on his 21st birthday – he had already worked for the firm for 10 years.
My sister Hermanda (Manna) never came back to Augustine but stayed with Christian. Later it was decided that she should go to Natal so she went to Mauritius to wait for a ship to Natal. She was not in Madagascar for long."
Unfortunately S.A. Bang became ill and passed away before having completed this.
We are grateful to his daughter, Inga, for having encouraged him to
tell of his adventures and for having written down those memories."
Severin Andreas Bang was born in Bergen, Norway December 14, 1865. He was the son of Knud Olai Bang and Christine Johanne Hansen. Knud Olai Bang was a carpenter working as a shipbuilder, and as a seaman, and he was born in Borgund Sept. 16, 1831. In Bergen Knud Olai Bang had married Christine Johanne Hansdtr March 8, 1857. She was born in Bergen March 22, 1835. She was the daughter of Hans Peter Johannessen and Synneve Monsdatter. In 1835 they lived in house numbered Sandviken 1-16. Later they bought a house numbered 21-137. In Bergen Knud Olai and Christine Johanne got six children:
Larsine Caroline, born Aug.27, 1856
Knudsine, born Oct. 25, 1857, died a few days old.
Petra Andrine, born Feb. 28, 1858
Hermanna Bergithe, born Feb. 25, 1863
Severin Andreas, born Dec. 13, 1864
Knud Olai, born Dec. 7, 1866
In addition they got a son Christian June 5, 1861, while living in Florø.
Christine Johanne Hansdtr died in Bergen September 30, 1868, at the age of 33.
Knud Olai Bang made many trips as a seaman, and had visited Madagascar and South Africa several times. He had been sailing with the "Elieser", the missionary ship, and in 1872 he joined captain Ludvig Larsen for the Agnes expedition, and stayed three years in Madagascar. His son Christian Bang (age 11 in 1872) joined him on that trip. In 1875 Knud Olai Bang returned to Bergen, intending to set up an emigration party for settling in the Aldabra Islands. Soon after returning to Bergen (Sept. 16, 1875) Knud Olai Bang married Hansine Martine Monsen, a widow born April 28, 1837.
July 19, 1879 Knud Olai Bang, his wife, and three children, Hermanna
(Amanda), Severin and Knut, left Bergen on the small vessel "Debora", to
emigrate to Madagascar. His son Christian Bang had remained there. Larsine
Caroline Bang had married Carl Johan Bjørseth Dec. 26, 1876, and
Petra Andrine had married Lars Jensen Hvidsten Dec. 13, 1878, and they
stayed in Norway.