The special bond forged during the war between Dumfries and Norway is celebrated in an exhibition this year

MOST of us have heard about the apocryphal kilted traveller whose national dress costume comes in fine and dandy during hitch-hiking sojourns abroad. It is less widely known, however, that the lonesome traveller, kilted or otherwise, would be treated like a king if he let it slip anywhere in Norway that he hailed from Scotland. What's more, if he declared that he was from Dumfries, he would be treated better than Cleopatra and the Queen of Sheba put together.

When, in 1962, the then King of Norway, Olav V, received the Freedom of Dumfries (a rare occurrence for anybody last century), he told reporters: ''In Norway, Dumfries is a well-known name . . . and it stands for kindness, friendship, and hospitality.''

South-west Scotland's special bond with Scandinavia began on May 28, 1940, when the first refugees from the Nazi invasion of Norway made it there, having defied Vidkun Quisling, their newly-installed puppet leader. Quisling wanted them to snuggle up to the Germans. Instead, many chose to become the first Scandinavian settlers in Dumfries and Galloway since the Viking period. But they came in peace.

There was a natural affinity between the Dumfries folk and the incomers. They were kindred spirits, sharing quiet, self-effacing mannerisms, patriotism, and dry humour. Their temperaments coincided, too: Scots and Norwegians were generally slow to rile but fierce when provoked. They integrated. They drank with the locals. They shopped with the locals. Their tongues were similar. To the Norwegian, the hospital was the sik hus

for example.

Furthermore, Scottish and Norwegian scenery were comparable, and the streets of ''the Queen of the South'', with its seafaring tradition, had often resounded to the clatter of smugglers' and sailors' boots, if not those of Merchant Navy men and whalers. (Hundreds of Norwegians had hunted whales in the Atlantic and had made the perilous crossing to Scotland on anything that would float after Quisling had dictated that all his country's merchant ships berth at neutral or German ports.)

Many a Dumfries girl fell for the blond and blue-eyed young men from the Nordic regions. There were as many as 100 inter-racial weddings, which was hardly surprising when the friendly invaders sometimes made up 20% of the local population and had plenty of charm and, of course, money. Female Dumfriesians wooed by the blond men either returned to Norway with their husbands after the war or persuaded them to remain in Scotland.

Not long after the first Norwegians arrived in Dumfries, their king, Haakon VII, and his ''government'' boarded a British vessel for London, which was the cue for Norwegians to join the Resistance. The Norwegian Army-in-Exile picked Dumfries as a base from which they could train for the day they could re-occupy their country; the Army HQ was established for five years in a building across the road from the site of Greyfriars monastery, where Robert the Bruce had, ironically, kindled the long battle for Scottish freedom by slaying Comyn.

During the war, King Haakon visited

the town, as did Crown Prince Olav and

the Prime Minister. During one of his reports for the local newspaper, Dum-

fries town clerk James Hutcheon have

us an insight into the fact that, like that of the Doonhamer, the humour of your average Norwegian can be as dry as a sun-blanched starfish.

Wrote Hutcheon, after observing that he could not find the visiting Prime Minister to welcome him to a civic reception in his honour: ''A wee, stoutly-built man carrying two well-worn Gladstone bags came up to me as I stood at the end of the line and asked who was the VIP we were expecting, and when I answered 'the Prime Minister of Norway', he stunned me by saying 'Good Heavens, I am Prime Minister of Norway'.''

While the Norwegians were in Dumfries, Queen of the South FC laid on a friendly match, but they were thrashed. Nobody had informed them that nine men from the Norway line-up had been part of the Norway football XI in the Olympic Games.

The footballing links have been kept alive year after year through exchange visits between Dumfries's Greystone Rovers and Bergen-based SK Brann.

So important is the friendship between Scotland and Norway (whose government send Dumfries its Christmas tree every year) that Dumfries and Galloway Council is running a special 60th anniversary Norwegian exhibition at Dumfries Museum all summer.

One of the exhibits is a miniature wooden longboat, which was presented in recent years to Dumfries by a

Norwegian who had been stationed in town and had trained as a wireless operator. Siobhan Ratheford, of the museum, takes up the story: ''He returned to a Norwegian island called Karmoy where he sent transmissions from a farm to the Allies.

''His cover, apparently, had been to act as if he were simple-minded. At the end of the war he had asked the farmer for the hand of his daughter in marriage. He had a lot of work to do to convince the farmer that he was of sound mind.

''The model was presented while Greystone Rovers were touring Karmoy. We also have wartime photographs, mementos, and photographs of two weddings. We have even had an e-mail from South Africa from someone who was stationed here.

''An interesting part of the exhibition is a video made by a Norwegian company during the 1940s in Dumfries. The interviews are in English and it provides a great snapshot of

the period.''

The links between Scotland and Scandinavia are now spreading to the business world. In August, Dumfries will be the venue for a five-day event called Scandinavia 2000. Organiser, John Kilgour sees the week as one which may result in joint international ventures between small businesses in Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland.

''If you take 300 bed spaces in Dum-

fries and Galloway over a five-day

period, it yields about #200,000 for the economy,'' says Kilgour, who is chairman of the Federation of Small Business in

the region.

''The week will involve seminars, Nordic clinics, and other events designed to encourage mutual trade. There will also be pipe bands and a civic reception.''

According to Kilgour, the programme of events will be ''a mix of serious work and serious socialising, a mix of business, culture, heritage and visits to the two main cities

of Scotland''.

n By way of a post-script, soldiers from the Dumfries area paid tribute to their Scandinavian friends in the best possible way in May 1945 - when they helped liberate Norway from Nazi rule. A detachment of the King's Own Scottish Borderers was airlifted there as part of the 1st Airlanding Brigade. Their task was dear to their hearts: to impose upon German troops the terms of surrender.