20th January 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Jarl’s Squad youngsters have a ‘braw’ time at torchlight procession

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations began last night with a helping hand from a group of Vikings from the 2017 Lerwick Jarl’s Squad.

The three-day event started with the torchlight procession which saw 20,000 people, led by the Vikings, marching through the capital’s streets.

And in a nod to 2018 being Scotland’s Year of Young People there was a special place for the junior Jarl’s Squad members, who were part of the 30-strong group that made the journey to Edinburgh.

The joined the throng as it processed down the Royal Mile, past Holyrood Palace and the Parliament to Holyrood Park. An additional estimated 25,000 people watched the stunning event. There a #ScotWord was made with the torches to launch the Year of Young People.



The word “braw” was chosen by young people to represent their pride in the nation.

The Jarl’s Squad championed their young members in their annual appearance at the procession, alongside the young #ScotWord champions who led discussions around the country to find the one word which sums up what makes young people proud to live in Scotland.

In a further celebration of the beginning of Year of Young People 2018 it was young performers from across Scotland including Pipe Idol Robbie MacIsaac who beat off three other finalists in the fierce final at Piping Live in 2017, members of Hawick Scout Pipe Band and Preston Lodge High School Pipe Band in Prestonpans that entertained the crowds.

Over 20 young pipers and drummers from Peoples Ford Boghall and Bathgate Caledonia Juvenile Pipe Band joined the procession alongside the rousing sound of talented young brass players from Whitburn Youth Band. Leith samba band Pulse of the Place kept the rhythm with their vibrant young samba sound.

The #ScotWord campaign was co-designed and led by young people, connecting with their peers between the ages of eight and 26, encouraging them to choose one word they want to say about Scotland to the rest of the world. The resounding response was #BRAW from a shortlist which also included #CULTURE #WELCOME #HAME #ALIVE #DIVERSE and #BONNIE.

2,000 torch bearers spelt out #BRAW in Holyrood Park at the end of the procession, stretching 104m long and 24m high and visible from space. Images of this launch of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay have been shared around the world putting the young people of Scotland centre stage and heralding the start of the Year of Young People 2018, a year in which Scotland will celebrate its young people and enable them to shine – in this case quite literally – on the Edinburgh stage, the Scottish stage and the international stage.


  1. Johan Adamson

    Should the headline not read Jarl squad’s young boys, not ‘youngsters’. And is it not the year of the young people 2018, not the year of the males only groups?

    • Ali Inkster

      Du must a missed da peerie lass in da pictures. is dis a case of should’ve gone to specsavers (other local opticians are available) or a case a trying hard ta be offended?

      • Johan Adamson

        There are no girls in the Lerwick junior jarl squad.

  2. Haydn Gear

    In the light of what’s happening in the world , does Johan Adamson have nothing better to do than split hairs? Or has political correctness gone completely stark raving mad?

    • Johan Adamson

      Splitting hairs?

      Girls are not voted for or chosen for the junior jarl squad. Therefore, they miss out on opportunities like this one – going to Edinburgh. Is that really justifiable or even the side we want to show the rest of Scotland, in this day and age? If you have a son, they have this opportunity, if you have a daughter it is not. More lasses play the fiddle, yet when it comes to playing for a squad, only boys will be invited. In country UHAs many lasses are in the jarl squad, the bairns are normally sons and daughters of squad members, yet in Lerwick no girls. Is this really just political correctness?

  3. Haydn Gear

    Fair enough Johan. What a pity you didn’t make those points in your earlier letter. I now see where you are coming from and it is not in my nature to argue the point just for the sake of it.

  4. David Spence

    In regard to Lerwick Up Helly Aa – when does a tradition not become a tradition for the sake of Political Correctness?

    Political Correctness may be good in most things, but to keep a tradition which is unique to Lerwick and Shetland, would only end up making this tradition a mockery, and would, I think, end Lerwick Up Helly Aa within 10 years.

    Women play a vital role in the Lerwick Up Helly Aa, and if it was not for their tremendous effort and contribution, we probably would not have an Up Helly Aa to begin with.

    Just because you are not the leading role in a play, does not mean your effort (stage lighting, props, writing, acting other roles, scenery backgrounds etc etc) is any less important.

    The sum of the parts makes the whole.

    • Johan Adamson

      Yes David Spence, doesnt matter what kind of degree you have, what your technical skills or musical ability, keep them in the kitchen, tottering on high-heels, they must be able to cline bannocks.

      • David Spence

        Well Johan, I wonder if you believe in cultural traditions or should Political Correctness as well as Technology kill off these traditions because it does not suit the political climate of the time.

        Would you ban Up Helly Aa, throughout Shetland, just because it did not suit your frame of mind in regard to Political Correctness?

        Should we incorporate people from different ethnic groups, race or religion into Up Helly Aa so that it can fit into the Political Correctness Arena?

        How far would you go to completely change Up Helly Aa until it is nothing like the original tradition just to suit Political Correctness.

        It seems in today’s climate, if one comments on the Lerwick Up Helly Aa you are branded sexist, discriminating or whatever without those even taking into consideration the tradition itself and are

        Do we not have the right to defend this tradition, Johan?

  5. Peter Hamilton

    Well said Johan.

    Is that sexist vote still happening on school premises in school time? If so the arguement could be put that the SIC has equality of opportunity / rights of the child obligations to counter sexism.

    Boys have been baking and girls have been doing woodwork for some time now.

    2018 might be as good a year as any for this aspect of the celebration to take a small enlightened step forwards. It can be done.

    • Johan Adamson

      Yes, the vote does still take place in the school, early in the first term in S2, pupils vote for the most popular boys allegedly, but the school says its nothing to do with them, someone else comes in and does it, and no one checks the ballot either.

  6. Michael Garriock

    Never mind sexism and political correctness….

    What kind of word is ‘braw’ for Shetland youngsters, or even Shetlanders in general to be standing behind. ‘Braw’ in the ‘Oor Wullie/Broons’ type interpretation which it was presumably being used in this event, has no relevance to Shetland. ‘Braw’ is not a Shetland word, unless as an abbreviated/slang version of ‘brawly’, the meaning of which is something completely different, and meaningless in this usage.

    The god-infernal Edenburry ‘one size fits all’ plague strikes again – Connect with your peers, but only if you submit to using their language, not ours. Instead of finding a word that means the same to everybody AND is descriptive of the subject matter. GREAT!

    • Brian Smith

      I can see several dozen words in Mr Garrick’s contribution which aren’t Shetland words …

      • Shuard Manson

        Braa good! 🙂

      • Michael Garriock

        That’s as may be Brian, but its English, a language which ranks third largest globally for first language speakers, with estimates as high as second language speakers outnumbering first language speakers 3:1.

        In today’s global world, speaking at least one global language is a necessity to be understood. Especially on places like the internet, which is readily available to almost everyone of all languages (North Korea excepted).

        That said, its bad enough English was foisted upon us largely against the majority will in a time and way that made nigh on impossible to resist, before we’re now supposed to have Scots foisted upn us too, a niche langauge of a handful of million mostly located in the Scottish central belt. Its no more relevant to us than German or Norwegian, and no more appropriate to identify us by as either of them.

        Allowing ourselves to be represented by a word from a culture that are both meaningless to us makes us thieves and impostors, or then is a demonstration of our submission and assimilation in to that culture. Take your pick.

  7. Peter Hamilton

    I guess a lot of people will say “where’s the harm?” and not see (or not want to see) any possible links between how young people are encouraged to see themselves and each other whilst growing up and future patterns of discrimination in society, pay inequality and indeed violence against women.

    It is very difficult conversation to have at any time of year but if schools are meant to tackle discrimination presumably there is some reasoning behind it. Tricky, but maybe not an issue for S2 pupils to have to resolve by themselves.

    • Johan Adamson

      It would be easy to resolve some of this e.g., bending the rules to allow jarl squad members to have daughters as well as sons in the jarl squad, the junior jarl organisers to impose a quota whereby elected junior jarls have to vote for a certain number of girls to be included in the squad and allowing female musicians to accompany squads. It would be great to have a Hjaltibonhoga fiddle squad just following the jarl squad with a tune or two. Women in Lerwick do not apparently want to be in squads, fair enough then, but strange that so many country women take part in country uhas and have a ball.

  8. Gregory Martin

    As a Shetland “import” I moved here because of what Shetland is. My family and I treasure both hearing the dialect and the cultural aspects of the Islands. I only hope in the future, Shetland folk will realise they are an ethnic/cultural group themselves, with a unique heritage removed from the UK and should protect that very identity before it is completely lost forever.

  9. Graham Fleming

    The auld Shetlaun wird braa is cognate with the Scots word braw.Which probably came to Scotland from our Norse/Swedish ancestors who use the word bra ,meaning very good,today.For the bairns tae use their ain culture in their ain country – what seems to be the problem!.

    • Ali Inkster

      Maybe the headline should have used “braa” if it wanted to represent Shetland culture and language. Or are the headline writers so removed from it themselves they don’t know the difference?

    • Michael Garriock

      The problem, Graham Fleming is evolution in common usage.

      The Scots common usage has evolved to mean great, grand, impressive, or as you say, very good. Whereas the Shetland common usage, has never meant ‘very good’, only the ‘very’ part has ever applied, which in today’s common usage has broadened to include meanings such as significant, quite etc.

      Possibly the biggest issue is that common usage evolution has put ‘braw’ on the neutral to positive half of Scots terminology, but on the neutral to negative half of Shetland terminology.

      ‘Braw’ can be quite correctly used and have meaning as a stand alone single word statement in common usage in Scotland, but in Shetland, it can’t. It only becomes grammatically correct and has meaning in Shetland when used as part of a multi-word statement which qualifies it.

  10. David Spence

    I was watching a documentary, and the words the narrator said ring so very true within the UK, these words being ‘ The best way to kill a culture is to kill the language ‘.

    When you are forced to speak another language from your own at school, sooner or later, the original language will die out. This strategy, on behalf of the English, has work immensely well throughout the UK over the past 150 or so years…as demonstrated, dare I say, by the text of the language being presented here.

  11. Haydn Gear

    David Spence is so right. Many years ago the English incomers to Wales did exactly that. Even though native Welsh speaking children did not naturally speak English at home, they were forced to speak English in school and failure to comply was met with physical punishment. In that way the culture was undermined. However, the English underestimated the determination of the Welsh and not only was the culture reinvigorated but the language too is recovering. Ni fyddwn yn tanseilio. !!

    • David Spence

      It is amusing Haydn, when you see programmes on tv about Shetland, they always go on about our strong Scandinavian heritage, history and our world famous Up Helly Aa, depicting our viking roots. However, it is amusing with such a history Shetland has, Shetlander’s speak English.

      I know this may sound contradictory, and has possibly been lost in the mists of time, but did Shetland ever have a language it could call its own or was it mainly based from the Scandinavian languages?

      May be somebody can shed some light on this matter and ascertain Shetland did indeed have its own language, and what connections this may have had with Scandinavia?

      I believe Jakob Jakobsen did what was called ‘ The Shetland Norn ‘ an analytical look at the Shetland language and where this was placed in regard to other Scandinavian languages and beyond?

      The Shetland language should be taught in Schools and further afield as part of our history and cultural origins within places of academia around Shetland.

      An example, replacing the Scottish places names on road signs with the original Shetland/Scandinavian place name first, and then the Scottish/English name in smaller text.

      • Stuart Hannay

        Before moving to Shetland, I lived in the Catalan region of France, near the Spanish border. I only knew a few older people there who spoke Catalan and French and it was taught as a ‘second’ language in the school. Many parents objected to this as a waste of time which was sad. Just across the border in Spain, or rather Catalunya,, the language is thriving again after being banned by the Franco government following the civil war. You could have been arrested for speaking catalan in the street but the language continued in the homes. I find the Shetland dialect fascinating and would wholeheartedly support it being taught in the schools as a distinct dialect. I recognise that, as an incomer (and worse, one of the dreaded ‘English’ refered to above) I may only contribute to its decline but would hope I contribute to Shetland in other ways. The thing is, we all have to communicate with each other and so eventually end up moderating our speech – language is never static but it pays to value what you have, I’ve learned many dialect words that have enriched my vocabulary and helped me understand the distinct Shetland culture.

  12. Haydn Gear

    I have read and heard it said that the Picts predated the Vikings in Shetland. The Scottish Picts apparently spoke a Celtic language not dissimilar to Welsh, Breton and Cornish ( all three sharing a common root). I wonder if there is evidence to show the probable line of development which took place before links with Scandinavia were forged.

    • David Spence

      Unfortunately Haydn, there is very little evidence of the Picts language, as it is believed they did not write or document events or whatever in the written form.

      There is certainly plenty of evidence they were a sophisticated race of people in their art and religious relics in terms of jewellery and similar artefacts which have been found across Britain.

      The famous Old Croghan Man, discovered in Ireland, is dated around the Iron Age, 362 BCE and 175 BCE, making him over 2,000 years old. It is believed he was a human sacrifice?

      Whether the language origins of Shetland, before the vikings, had any influence on the vikings themselves and it was, partially, incorporated into the Scandinavian language, I am unsure of.

    • Ali Inkster

      “Scottish Picts”? The Scotii came to Alba displacing (ethnic cleansing) the Picts, in Shetland on the other hand there is ample evidence of the Norse and Picts living side by side but this does not suit the current narrative.

      • Brian Smith

        The late Tommy Watt had an amusing routine where he portrayed a Shetland Pict greeting a Viking with the gift of a sampler. Tommy didn’t share Ali’s hyper-sentimental view of local history.

      • Stuart Hannay

        What language did they communicate in?

      • Ali Inkster

        So pray tell us o wise and wonderful one how norse women are mentioned on pictish stones?
        If anyone is skewing history to suit themselves Brian it is you.

      • James Watt

        Apparently it’s not just Tommy Watt who doesn’t share Ali’s views.

        “In response to the threat of the Viking invasions, the Picts and the Scots became even more unified. Giric, son of Donald Mac Alpin, Kenneth’s brother, is the last ruler mentioned as `king of the Picts’ and, after his death in c.899 CE, the Picts are not mentioned in history again. McHardy writes: “the tribal peoples of Pictish and Scottish origin combined to form the new political entity of Alba which in turn became Scotland” (175). Dr. Gordon Noble supports this claim, stating there was “an increasing amalgamation of Picts and Scots – probably because of increasing Viking pressure on the native kingdoms of northern Britain” (Wiener, 3). The Picts of the ancient world did not disappear nor were they conquered and destroyed; they remained, the indigenous people of northern Scotland, and their ancestors still walk their lands and fields in the present day”


      • Brian Smith

        Glad to help, Ali old son. There is only one stone that could be interpreted in the way you propose: the Bressay stone. But it’s a very weak clue to base your theory on. If you look at Michael Barnes’s book on Shetland Norn you will find that the word ‘dattr’ on it ‘might after all be a Pictish word or element, given that so little of the inscription otherwise is comprehensible’.

      • Ali Inkster

        Perhaps it is mr McHardy and Smith that have the overly sentimental view of the scoti invasion of alba, this added to the sewed accounts by christian monks of events as they unfolded leads to a misconception of history.

      • Brian Smith

        Goodness, what’s a sewed account, Ali? Another of your theories …

      • Ali Inkster

        Imagine that James right after the scoti arrived the natives decided to stop all use of their own language and rename their land scotland in gratitude. what wonderful folk those first scoti must have been. of course we now this from the written words of christian monks as to this turn of events, and according to them the vikings arrived in fire breathing dragons and ate babies.

  13. Peter Hamilton

    Indeed Johan, but there would need to be willingness for change. It is strange no Lerwick women want to participate in a squad. Perhaps they feel they wouldn’t be welcome. Space could be made for a women’s squad if the squad with the worst act was asked to sit out for a year.

    David’s comment ( 5th of January ) about defending tradition is also a little strange. If the tradition had never changed then the guisers would all still be clean shaven.

    David asks: “Should we incorporate people from different ethnic groups, race or religion into Up Helly Aa so that it can fit into the Political Correctness Arena?”. Where to start… Is there a ban? Wasn’t the original purpose of UHA to bring people together?

    What is the fear here that makes some people think minor changes would bring it all to an end? Traditions are made by people and happily people can and do change them, and their attitudes too, otherwise we’d all still be blacking up, laughing at gays and demeaning women like we used to in what some folk may regard as the good old days. Bring back flogging for them I say! Only joking.

  14. Haydn Gear

    Maybe some attention should be paid to Esperanto, the language devised by the Polish Jewish man called L L Zamenhof in the late 1800s. This could promote easier understanding between people without threatening cultures,native languages or aggression.Everything we know and value could be retained without fear of being erased from existence. I think it’s the concerns that are felt by small populations in particular which prompt defensive and unyielding postures. It is amazing that such a huge number of languages have been devised throughout the world with 22 of the major ones being used in India alone using 720 dialects. Relatively speaking, we’ve got it easy !!

  15. David Spence

    I take your point, Peter. As far as I know, the whole purpose of Up Helly Aa in Lerwick, was for people of Shetland to celebrate their norse heritage…1. Shetland’s Scandinavian heritage, 2. The ending of the Yule Year (ok, stretched until the end of January) and 3. A viking burial ceremony (minus the sacrificial maid).

    Up Helly Aa (modern version) is not that old, the first being in the 1870’s I believe?

    The modern version was, I believe again, devised by J.J. Haldane Burgess (the famous Shetland poet) who wanted the Shetland people to acknowledge and celebrate their Scandinavian heritage/history. He was also the composer and writer to the Up Helly Aa song(s).

    I also believe it was to replace the previous version of celebrating the new Yule New Year, as it was seen to be a rather noisy, violent and ruckus event.

    My information may not be 100% accurate, and possibly Brian, could shed more light on Up Helly Aa?

    Why J.J. Haldane Burgess, decided it should only be men in the event, I do not have an answer to this.

  16. Peter Hamilton

    Hello David,

    Thanks for this balanced and moderate response.

    I have been having a look at the Common Ridings in the Boarders, some of which go back far further. A woman has beeen given a senior role in Selkirk and a I believe young Scot of Pakistani heritage has been the Bonnie Laddie in Gala(shiels). Btw. did anyone notice the BBC news that some Vikings were thought have been Muslims?

    I suspect diversity has long been with us and that we have become the better for it. I am fairly sure the DNA of the folk of the Western Isles shows that those who rocked up there in times past came from far and wide, but I’ve yet to meet someone who chose where they would be born. It would be great if we could become a little more relaxed about all this and think how much more good UHA could do for Shetland into the future if wee changes could be considered now.

  17. Haydn Gear

    Couldn’t agree more Peter. Only those who are intent on endlessly bickering would disagree. Solving problems is hard enough but reaching out to and then receiving reasonable responses from some people is far more difficult.

  18. Peter Hamilton

    Opps, that should have been “perrie” not “wee”. Stuart Hannay has it right – we should all be supporting the dialect, though I have felt a little awkward using it sometimes in the past, as if I were reverse knappin. Lets hope the Scalloway use of jamp never dies out. How far across Shetland does that jamp extend?

  19. Haydn Gear

    Peter. I suspect you meant to say PEERIE not PERRIE !! I recall that I first heard the word when I visited Foula many years ago. It also appears in a book by Sheila Gear called “ Island west of the sun”. What a great place that is.

  20. David Spence

    I take your points Peter and Haydn, but like a house, you can do what you want inside in terms of rooms, decoration etc etc as long as the main structure of the house is not altered. Once you start to change the structure of the house, it ceases to become ‘ an original design ‘.

    I use the analogy with the house to this of Up Helly Aa. We can incorporate this and that, but as long as the main body and meaning of Up Helly Aa still stays intact.

    As said ‘ When does a tradition not become a tradition for the sake of Political Correctness ‘?

    If we have to change the original format of Up Helly Aa so much to suit political correctness, then we may as well not have it in the first place.

    • Johan Adamson

      including bairns of both sexes is not going to bring the house down

      • David Spence

        Point taken, Johan.

        I am curious if there is any documentation, maybe in the Town Hall or with the Up Helly Aa Committee, where there is the original format of Up Helly Aa, in terms of rules and regulations, and why it is only men that are allowed to take part in it?

        I suspect J.J. Haldane Burgess, may have known the role of women within viking culture and also, probably, knew women did take part in fighting, but decided it should only be men due to, dare one say it, the social climate of the time?

        If such a document exists, it would make interesting reading?

  21. Johan Adamson

    I asked my lasses last night and they said it came over the tannoy in the new school “would all S1-S3 boys interested in being in the junior jarl squad go to the hall …”. One of my lasses said – I did wonder why lasses couldn’t go – I said you could have gone, I said there is no reason why you couldn’t be in the jarl squad (the Adamsons after all claim blood all the way back to Norwegian royalty).

    See, wir lasses have been visited at Tingwall School in the past by Nesting and Scalloway jarl squads, which includes young lasses and boys and they won’t understand why there are no lasses in the Lerwick one. They also put their trust in teachers to include all pupils. The organisers of the 2018 Scotlands Year of Young People would never have thought there would still be boys only groups in existence.

    Next year any other mother of the same mind and teachers of S1 to S3 classes should encourage daughters to go to the hall with the boys if they want to be included in the jarl squad. And the Lerwick UHA committee need to tackle this because if they dont, folk will only come to UHA to laugh at us – how un PC, how quaint, no women (do they have internet? Phones? running water?).

    • Darren Johnson

      “The organisers of the 2018 Scotlands Year of Young People would never have thought there would still be boys only groups in existence.”

      The Boys Brigade, Girl Guides to name just two such organisations.

      • Johan Adamson

        There is also a girls brigade and girl and boy scouts (sister orgs to guides and brownies)

  22. Haydn Gear

    Johan’s advice should be heeded and acted upon. All too often unacceptable actions are prompted by unthinking dyed in the wool individuals who need to be dragged into the 21st century. Many years ago when my daughter and son were making subject choices in school, assumptions were made by teachers that they would fall into line based on gender. They didn’t, much to the discomfort of the teachers! So, my daughter chose Design and Technology and my son did Home Economics. This has served them well since she can do technical things and he can cook food very well and I’ve helped them to make good any imbalances that happened along the way. It is most important that young people, whether male or female, should be included not excluded in order to engender equality of opportunity.

  23. Peter Hamilton

    The past year has seen these issues take on increased significance. It is not so long since our own tourist office criticised the treatment of a Blue Peter presenter visiting to report on UHA. Were that to happen again the media coverage could go beyond national and damage Shetland’s reputation as a welcoming community.

    We are all stakeholders. Please do not leave this to S 1-3 lasses to sort. The education department is at fault but could ask Shetland’s children’s rights officer to step in. This is not an issue of being PC for the sake of it. It is about including people or discriminating against them. Do we really want to be represented by a festival that needlessly discriminates against girls? It is time to step up our intolerance of this boorish needless and outdated discrimination. Let’s see the lasses carry torches and be done with it.

  24. David Spence

    Just finished watching the latest episode of Vikings, and the life of Ragnar Lothbrok (and his sons) the Guiser Jarl of the Scalloway Up Helly Aa is portraying, and in the latest episode, it has women in battle fighting other vikings.

    So, it does beg the question, Why are there no women in the Lerwick Up Helly Aa ?

    It is a contradiction to my previous statements, and it begs the question, At the time of the first Up Helly Aa, in the 1870’s, were they aware women also took part in fighting or was it, at the time, sociably unacceptable to envisage women in such a role?

    However, I believe, the first Up Helly Aa with a Jarl Squad was in either 1905 or 1906, the same time Norway became independent from Sweden? Why was the decision made to have only men in the Lerwick Up Helly Aa?

    If the Lerwick UHA, is supposed to be portraying vikings, surely one must also incorporate women, since they also were in the battlefield fighting along with men?

    In saying this though, how much would it cost, if there were 2,000 guisers, in terms of organising, safety etc etc???

    • Allen Fraser

      Up-Helly-Aa as envisaged at the start had nothing to do with any factual Viking history, purely an an imagined one.
      In the Victorian and Edwardian eras when all this began women were regarded very differently, and the ideology of Separate Spheres was the rule of the day –
      “The ideology of Separate Spheres rested on a definition of the ‘natural’ characteristics of women and men. Women were considered physically weaker yet morally superior to men, which meant that they were best suited to the domestic sphere. Not only was it their job to counterbalance the moral taint of the public sphere in which their husbands laboured all day, they were also preparing the next generation to carry on this way of life. The fact that women had such great influence at home was used as an argument against giving them the vote.:
      From: https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/gender-roles-in-the-19th-century#

  25. Peter Hamilton

    It would likely start gradual David, with permission given for a women’s squad to form and for squads to be mixed if they wished. If space needs to be made just make the squad with the weakest act to sit out the following year. If they put in another poor show when they return then axe them for good.

    Returning to the Junior Jarl, there is of course more to it than just handing out some more torches. Things are done to a pretty high standard and those involved are putting in their own time and deserve recognition.

    Maybe they have some willingness to change but are confused about how to start and worried about the extra work involved. Perhaps all that is required is for some P7/S1/S2 parents in the AHS catchment area, or indeed others with something to contribute to step up.

    That said, the SIC’s education officials cannot allow the Junior Jarl election to take place unchanged for much longer. The bottom line is that the UK has signed the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child. Articles 2, 3, 4, 12 and 42 are a start.

  26. David Spence

    Oh gosh Peter, this is now taking another turn in getting international law involved. lol

    Mind you, I am surprised UHA throughout Shetland is not banned on Health and Safety grounds, and a line of hand rubbing lawyers waiting to pounce to sue the UHA Committee for somebody getting slightly burned or their clothes slightly marked with all that flying sparks all over the place.

    I believe it has already been mentioned about women having their own Up Helly Aa, and by the same token, there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm for it on the grounds of…

    It does pose the question, if a person was to complain of ‘ gender discrimination ‘ because they were not allowed in Lerwick UHA, would this potentially end the festival due to the legal implications and the fact our legal system, after Brex*hit, will be in par with the USA, where the ‘ compensation society prevails for even breathing in the wrong direction ‘ ?

    I sincerely hope UHA does not go down this road. The irony being the politically correct enforcement resulting in the demise of the Lerwick UHA. If we cannot join, nobody can, thus end it?

  27. Peter Hamilton

    It shouldn’t get to that point but the UNCRC informs Scottish law and therefore what the SIC can and cannot allow in Shetland’s schools.

  28. Michael Garriock

    You’re descending in to a purely theoretical argument here.

    The LK UHA is, and has been for a long time at a state of the aribtarily decided maximum manageable numbers of participants and squads. There is, I am led to believe a waiting list of both guisers and squads already, effectively the only way in is to ‘fill dead mens boots’.

    There is nothing ‘banning’ females from participation, its just no female has attempted to participate yet as a guiser. If some female wishes to, she’ll either have to join a pre-existing squad or get together with other like minded females and form a squad of their own, and join the queue for space to become available.

    Its not a public event, its a private party held partially in public, its not about ‘putting on a bad show’ or otherwise, its about participating. ‘Forcing’ in a female squad for the sake of being PC is positive discrimination which solves nothing and is as bad as the other type.

    A route exists for all adults to participate, regardless of gender. Until a female attempts to use it and is prevented on gender grounds, there is no issue to address.

  29. Johan Adamson

    There are Lerwick families who do not get involved with UHA because of the discrimination. Women could stop running the halls altogether of course. This is happening already – it is difficult now to get folk to become hosts, and I can only see it getting worse as women withdraw from the whole thing and a lot will say – why are you interested? Nothing to do with us, just why bother? It will be something to do with all of us when we are branded as the most backward and golliwog loving part of the UK. With bairns who believe that tradition is an excuse for excluding women and other minorities from anything and everything.

    • Michael Garriock

      You’ve illustrated the ‘problem’, as your perceive it, very well, but what ‘solution’ do you propose that does not involve employing positive discrimination?

      Personally I am completely indifferent to everything UHA and have nothing to do with it, but as an ‘outsider looking in’, so to speak, this self same debate gets rehashed every year around this time, but never moves ahead, and that’s gotten old.

      The UHA organisers claim there is no ‘rule’ preventing female guisers. No female or group containing females have stood up and said ‘I/we tried to become guisers but weren’t allowed because we’re female’. If folk are boycotting the event due to their belief its sexist, only the females involved can justify why they have chosen not to ‘break the ban’ by attempting to become a guiser themselves. Without a subject and a test case, nothing can happen.

      Is UHA any different to a professional league football team or a fishing boat crew etc, where if no female attempts to join them, the result is the virtually wholly male dominated nature of those positions which we have.

      The ‘no women guisers’ is a perception, an allegation, not a fact, until proven differently.

      • Johan Adamson

        I think I have suggested things above – first girls and boys with their dads in the jarl squad – who are very organised and always have bairns with them, second, Junior jarl squad – either no more tannoys at school for boys only to join or teachers and parents to encourage lasses to go as well as boys to become junior jarl. Im sure if lasses go to hall they will be asked to join squads but if not then impose quota – say 4 lasses to be in junior jarl squad, third, allow women musicians with squads, fourth, have Hjaltibonhoga mixed fiddle squad with jarl squad who will then need at least two buses, positively encourage squads to include women when looking for new members, at least tell them they can.. If women do not want to form squads for the Lerwick UHA then ok, whatever, but those that do should have the choice. Dont think it will be the end of male domination or that the sky will fall in anywhere.

      • Ali Inkster

        What happens if the junior jarl does not have 4 female friends as it is them that picks the squad, or if 4 females don’t come forward and want to be in the squad will we then draw lots for 4 unlucky girls who will be forced to go out in the name of diversity. What about the jarls pals will they be stopped from going in the squad because numbers have been reached with the 4 female members? setting quotas in the name of diversity is never a good idea it will only breed resentment and surely that is the opposite of what you want to achieve.

      • Brian Smith

        Excellent contributions by Johan. Someone told me about an occasion when someone broached the subject of girls having access to the junior UHA at an AHS teachers’ meeting. One of the teachers present muttered: ‘Sacrilege!’ That’s what you’re up against: a religious syndrome.

      • Ali Inkster

        Someone told me something about somebody and I’m now going to present it to you as fact.
        Are you a historian or a hysterian Brian?

    • kenneth Groat

      It will be something to do with all of us when we are branded as the most backward and golliwog loving part of the UK.

      Golliwog loving ? explain please.

  30. Gordon Johnston

    I can confirm what Brian Smith says about a teacher suggesting that the Junior UHA Jarl’s Squad should be open to girls as well as boys. I was at that staff meeting when the suggestion was made, as ,long ago as the 1970s. A single word- “sacrilege” – uttered by an elderly gentleman in his low seat, brought any possible discussion to an immediate end! It seems absurd as well as discriminatory to continue the male -only policy. The rural and island UHAs or fire festivals have never had a problem with mixed-sex squads, why does Lerwick persist in banning women and girls?

  31. kenneth groat

    Johan does golliwog lovers and backward relate to anyone who takes part in Lerwick UHA ?.
    I fail to see a connection in relation to a shop in the sooth end of Lerwick selling golliwogs in 2013 and Lerwick UHA in 2018 please explain further.


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