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The Municipality of Vestmannaeyjar - 100th Anniversary

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About The Municipality of Vestmannaeyjar - 100th Anniversary

Vestmannaeyjar – the Westman Islands – first acquired municipal rights along with five other towns in 1786, all of which became the first townships in Iceland. In 1836, all except Reykjavík lost their municipal rights, gradually regaining them with more being added. New legislation enacted by Althing on the township rights of Vestmanna­ eyjar took effect on January 1st, 1919. At that time, the population numbered more than two thousand people. The solidarity of the islanders has been tested in great tragedies. In 1627 pirates from Algeria abducted 242 islanders while killing 36. The development of the town was also affected by great infant mortality and vast migration to America in the 19th century.

Vestmannaeyjar are renowned for diverse cultural and musical life. The history of the islands is, however, closely connected with the fishing industry. Fishing with motor­ ized vessels began in 1906 and since then the islands
have been the home of Iceland’s largest fishing stations. The population increased fourfold in the period 1906­ 1926, from about 700 to 3000 inhabitants. When volcanic eruptions started on the main island on January 23, 1973, the population had reached 5,300 people, decreasing dramatically with approx. a third of the buildings being buried in ash and lava. Population development in the islands has been rather favourable in recent years, reaching about 4,300 people at the end of 2018.