Peder Nilsen Søvig and his dream of having a room of his own

Peder Nilsen Søvig from Fana was a patient at Pleiestiftelsen Hospita when he wrote a letter in 1881 requesting to be transferred to St. Jørgen’s. That was not an unusual request. Many wanted to be transferred because residents at St. Jørgen’s had more freedom. The residents at St. Jørgen’s Hospital also had private rooms. Although the rooms were very small, many considered them preferable to sharing a room with six other patients at Pleiestiftelsen.

In his letter, Søvig writes that he was 23 years old and had been in hospital for nine and a half years. He had thus been at Pleiestiftelsen since the age of 13. Now he was hoping for a room of his own, for which he had longed. ‘Once I get a room of my own, I hope, young as I am, to find some relief from my illness and that my life might be somewhat easier’.

However, Peder Nilsen Søvig’s story has a sad ending. It took a long time, nine months, for the application to be forwarded to St. Jørgen’s Hospital from Pleiestiftelsen. We do not know if the reason for this was that there were no beds available at St. Jørgen’s or because the doctors at Pleiestiftelsen were reluctant to transfer patients to a freer hospital. When the application was finally sent, it was followed ten days later by another letter stating that Peder Søvig had died. Peder had been granted a place shortly before his death, but he never knew about this. He died before he could be transferred to the hospital in Marken and the private room of which he had dreamed.

When we read the sources in the archives, they often describe problems. People who wanted a place at the hospital or a transfer would use any arguments that might make a difference, and they were not the happy moments in life. However, people have a great capacity to make the most of their life situation, despite challenging circumstances. Most residents, including Peder Søvig, probably had many happy moments in the hospital, even if these are rarely the moments that are documented in the archives.

Letter with application for transfer to St. Jørgens Hospital. Regional State Archives of Bergen.
Application of transfer to St. Jørgen’s from Peter Nielsen Søvig, patient No. 1013 in Pleiestiftelsen.
Bergen City Archives.
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