Fantastic feeling for Scalloway Jarl Kenny

It promised to be a grand day for the Scalloway fire festival, if the morning’s crisp but clear conditions were anything to go by.

And Guizer Jarl Kenny Grant was happy as could be as he prepared to lead this year’s squad through the day’s events.

Heading off from the NAFC in time for the morning procession along the waterfront, he was eager to get things underway.

And the jarl, otherwise known as Guttorm (The Gruesome) Hart, was already enjoying the day.

“Seventeen years I’ve been in the squad, so when your time comes around it’s a fantastic feeling,” he said.

“It’s good to entertain the whole village and give everybody a good day.

“We have visits to the local nursery, the Walter and Joan Eventide Home, and we’ve got schools – Scalloway school, Tingwall school and Hamnavoe school. We’ve also got the British Legion, then it’s time for tea before we are up for the procession at half past six. It’s a full day ahead.”

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Although many came out to see the squad, galley Eiluj – complete with smoke-breathing effect which drew gasps of admiration – also drew some positive feedback.

The name Eiluj is a reversal of Mr Grant’s wife Julie’s name, but the impressive-looking vessel also reflects another love of his life.

“I’m a Hearts of Midlothian football fan, so the galley is burgundy and white for my favourite football team.

“The shields on the side of the galley is all the ex-jarls’ from our squad and I’m very proud to say that we have, including myself, four of the jarls out of previous jarl squads in the squad.

“I feel a wee bit nervous but I’m very excited. I want to enjoy the day and I want everybody else to enjoy the day.”

Looking resplendent with his long, red beard was fellow squad member Kevin Sinclair.

He said the event was well worthwhile.

“It’s been a whole year of making ready for this. A lot of hours in the shed making stuff. It’s taken so long to come and it’s finally here.

“We started at eight o’ clock in the boating club, went to the fisheries college. There are a lot of visits to do through the day, but we’re all fired up and ready.”

He said the community-spirit made the Scalloway fire festival a special event.

“Everybody kens everybody. It’s completely different from everywhere else.”

Keeping events in tune were a trio of young musicians, fiddle player Tom Jamieson and accordionists James Morris and Finlay Simpson.

Tom said: “Today we are being musicians for Kenny Grant and his Jarl’s Squad in Scalloway here. So far it’s cold – very cold – I’m struggling to try and play, I think, but otherwise the atmosphere here is brilliant.

“I’ve never seen this many folk in Scalloway before altogether at one time, so it’s a good day so far.

Finlay added: “I’m really happy that I was asked to play for the Jarl Squad because me and James play for the Junior Jarl Squad in Lerwick, but we’ve never played for the Senior Jarl Squad before so it’s pretty good.”

Squad member Grant Gilfillan was also impressed by what he had seen.

“The weather couldn’t be better, there’s a big crowd at the street, and it’s just good to see.

“It’s a bit of a community effort. It brings people together and that’s always a good sight.”

Ali Clouston made for an unusual Viking – but only because the accomplished accordion player was the one squad member to have come from Orkney.

“I’m the musician with the squad usually. But this year is slightly different. I’m in the squad this time. It’s good to be up here. I come up every year.”

As well as the 28 adults who made up the squad were 19 children.

One of them, Scalloway lass Olivia Inkster, was delighted to have travelled on the galley along the waterfront.

“It was quite bumpy when we were going down and it was quite funny as well,” said the seven-year-old pupil from Scalloway Primary School.

Friend Jessica Halcrow, 6, said: “It was fun in the galley.”

One thing which added to the event were the crowds who turned out early to see the start of the day’s proceedings.

Onlooker Gordon Reid said: “It’s a beautiful day. It’s a great day for Scalloway. It’s a day to look forward to and the weather’s been kind.”

Alistair Fullerton was Guizer Jarl 12 years ago. He was especially impressed by the squad suit.

“It’s good – it’s a bonnie outfit. It’s just a good community spirit, and everybody gets together and has a good time. I think that’s the biggest attraction. It shortens the winter.”

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor is a reporter at The Shetland Times

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