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Photo © Alistair Williamson
The annual Northmavine Up-Helly-Aa is a spectacular Viking fire festival which celebrates the end of winter and the return of the sun. Various squads of guizers meet secretly throughout the winter, planning the theme for their act or skit which they perform in various local halls on Up-Helly-Aa night. This is often a humourous take on a story from the local or national news.
On the third Friday of every February, the guizers dress up in themed costumes and, with flaming torches lighting up the dark winter sky, the procession makes its way from the Hillswick Hall along the main road to the loch at Urafirth. The procession is led by a squad of Vikings, the Jarl Squad, headed by the Guizer Jarl who is the specially chosen leader for that year. A brass band provides the rousing music for the traditional Up-Helly-Aa songs, and spectators line the route as the Jarl Squad pull a Viking galley to the burning site. The flaming torches are thrown into the galley, and as the guizers and onlookers disperse to a night of revelry in local halls, the galley is left ablaze on the water, like a mythical Norse funeral pyre.
Photo © Hans Stöteknuel
Photo © Hans Stöteknuel
Each year, 3 of the 4 local halls used - Hillswick, Ollaberry, North Roe and Sullom - take it in turn to host Up-Helly-Aa. The guizers go from hall to hall through the night performing their act. The other hall then hosts the
Hop the following night. If that isn't enough revelry, guizers and those directly involved in Up-Helly-Aa attend the Return night around a week later, where they can see each others acts.
Various Up-Helly-Aas are held all over Shetland through the winter months, with Lerwick's being the largest with around eight or nine hundred guizers. The Lerwick Up-Helly-Aa is very much a male affair, whereas the country festivals, including Northmavine, welcome men and women.
HEARD have an archive of Up Helly Aa photos from 2000 until present day and hope to add details of jarls from 1975 onwards.
Although last Friday dawned wet and windy, the weather did nothing to dampen the spirits of Northmavine Up Helly A? Guizer Jarl Ivan Goodlad, from North Roe. The Jarl squad, comprising 27 hardy Vikings, looked resplendent in kirtles of black velvet edged with silver. In addition, Jarl Goodlad wore a silver chain mail tunic. The suits were completed with black helmets with silver edging, white sheepskins fastened with dragon brooches, shields decorated with the same dragon design and shiny stainless axes. The 7 princesses, led by Jarl Goodlads daughter, Kelly, looked the part in deep red velvet dresses, complimented by black velvet cloaks and silver headbands.
The Jarl squad spent the morning touring the Northmavine primary schools at Urafirth, Ollaberry and North Roe where they were given an enthusiastic welcome from bairns, staff and parents. After lunch at the North Roe and Lochend hall, it was off to Hillswick for photos at the Galley Feroalangur. Ivan was particularly keen to involve the local school bairns in the festival, so pupils from the three schools designed the shields for the Feroalangur. He especially wishes to say a big thank you to all the bairns for their contributions. During the day Jarl Goodlad was presented with a tune written specially for him by Steven Spence. The tune, entitled ?The Feroalangur Waltz? was a gift from his family and Jarl Squad members and he was very touched by such a lovely gesture.
After a ?Viking Feast? at St Magnus Bay Hotel it was time for the evening procession. Although the wind and rain prevailed, a total of 237 guizers were not about to let a drop of rain spoil the procession and the galley was burned at sea in true Viking style. Then it was on to the halls for an evening of song, sketches and gentle mickey taking. This year the halls open were: Ollaberry, Hillswick and North Roe.
A total of 16 squads took part in the evening celebrations with most acts having a local or topical slant. The standard of acts at the Northmavine Up Helly A? is usually very good and this year was no exception. Squads had obviously put a lot of thought and hard work into their acts, props and outfits and should be congratulated on providing a great nights entertainment.
The weekend celebrations continued on Saturday with events during the day at the North Roe & Lochend hall and the St Magnus Bay Hotel. A succession of buses ferried people to a packed hop in the Sullom hall at night with some superb music from The Vinyls. For anyone with a spark of energy left on Sunday, the weekend was rounded off in style to the sounds of the infamous GTL at St Magnus Bay Hotel. As I chatted over the weekends events on Monday with Guizer Jarl Ivan Goodlad, sporting a somewhat trimmed hairstyle and beard, his last comment was, "Everyone who took part set out to have a good time and that?s what was achieved. It really was a splendid weekend"
The fruits of a long winter's labour have finally come together today, as Brydon Anderson of Eshaness takes his place as head guizer in the Northmavine Up Helly A'.
Jarl Anderson and his 'Northmavine Berserkers' have spent long hours in the galley shed over the past few months, preparing all the aspects of their costume. As well as some traditional elements, the outfit also features some unique and intricate additions like the beautiful spears each member will be seen carrying. Like most Guizer Jarl's, Brydon has taken inspiration for his squad from Norse history. The Berserkers were Norse warriors who are reputed to have fought hard whilst wearing a kind of shirt or coat made from the pelt of a bear during battle. A shortage of bears in the wilds of Northmavine in recent times, may necessitate that Jarl Anderson and his crew have fashioned their battle coats from a more readily available native species!
The day will begin with the traditional unveiling of the galley and the proclamation in the morning. Both will be on display in the car park at The Booth in Hillswick. During the day the Jarl's squad will visit venues and schools throughout Northmavine, culminating in a photo session at the galley around 3pm.
The evening procession starts from outside the Hillswick hall. Guizers should assemble at 7.30pm for light up at 8pm. The procession travels along the road, past Swarthoull, towards the loch at Urafirth where the galley is burned. Three halls, at North Roe, Hillswick and Sullom will be open to ticket-holders after the procession for an evening of song, dance and merriment. The visiting order of the Jarl's squad will be Sullom, North Roe and finally, Hillswick.
Good luck and best wishes to Jarl Anderson and his squad members for a most enjoyable Northmavine Up Helly A'.