By JIM TAIT
THREE new members were elected to the Lerwick Up-Helly-A’ Committee at the first mass meeting of guizers on Tuesday.
Lerwick harbourmaster Calum Grains, from Whiteness, was joined by town men Richard Moar, who works for BP at Sullom Voe, and Lynden Nicolson, who is employed by Scottish Water.
Six people stood for the three vacancies, which were due to the resignation earlier this year of Dhanni Moar, following controversial remarks he made on the internet, and the emigration of Andrew Angus to Australia, along with finding a replacement for outgoing Guizer Jarl Roy Leask. The unsuccessful candidates were Ryan Wright, Martin Henderson and Chris Sim.
During the evening Mr Leask handed over the chairmanship of the committee to next year’s jarl Stephen Mouat, and the date of the 2009 festival was fixed for Tuesday 27th January.
The meeting also had an element of controversy over a visit to Kirkwall and burning of a galley there by this year’s Jarl’s Squad.
When the proceedings began almost 15 minutes late every seat in the Garrison Theatre was taken, most likely the biggest for a first mass meeting and more akin to the main meeting a week before the festival itself.
The minutes of the previous meeting were read by joint secretary Liam Summers, while treasurer Ivor Cluness revealed a very healthy bank balance, with over £6,000 in the current account, £3,000 in the cashflow account and £18,000 in the building account.
There was laughter all round when ex-jarl Magnus “Mitnie” Simpson asked: “Is ony o’ wir money in the Icelandic bank?” But he failed to get any confirmation.
Mr Leask thanked everyone for the support he had received throughout the year, one of the best of his life, before giving up his seat to the incoming jarl.
Mr Mouat paid tribute to his predecessor who had been “a tremendous jarl” and “a tremendous ambassador” for Up-Helly-A’.
“The only thing I haven’t got from him yet is the address of the guy he got the weather from,” Mr Mouat joked, rekindling memories of the glorious day in January when Mr Leask had his moment of glory.
Re-elected unanimously were secretaries Mr Summers and Neil Robertson, treasurer Mr Cluness and auditors Willie Binns, Stevie Tulloch and Paul Wishart, with Mr Binns being given a special thanks for the 26 years he had spent in the post.
The six candidates for the three vacant committee places, all of them backed by ex-jarls, were then given the chance to state why they considered themselves best qualified for the position, and they all made a decent fist of the the opportunity.
Mr Moar and Mr Nicolson both made the point that their squads had only once previously been the Jarl’s Squad.
The Home Furnishing squad, which Mr Moar belonged to, was actually asked to accompany the late Tammy Moncrieff when he was jarl in 1965 as he did not belong to a particular squad. Apparently Mr Moncrieff wanted to find a squad which had “nice” members, hadn’t been a Jarl’s Squad and were not likely to be.
On the first count Mr Moar was elected with 79 votes; on the second Mr Grains made it with 86, and on the third Mr Nicolson was successful with 124.
The only controversy arose during any other competent business, when Harry Jamieson said a group of ex-jarls, himself included, were concerned about the Jarl’s Squad’s trip to Orkney earlier this month.
During the visit an event had been referred to as the Kirkwall Up-Helly-A’, Mr Jamieson said. Up-Helly-A’ was a unique event and he would like to know what others thought of using the name outwith Shetland.
Mr Leask said it was the press that had been responsible for terming the event Up-Helly-A’, and it was never his squad’s intention for that to happen. The event had actually been called Kol’s Return.
“The trip was to thank the Kirkwall City Pipe Band for coming to Shetland to play this year. They went down really well and the Lerwick folk appreciated them very much,” he said.
“It was just a return thanks and to give the Orcadians a little taste of Up-Helly-A’, and the main thing was to raise money for the CLAN 1,2,3 appeal and £1,200 was raised.”
Mr Leask received rousing applause from the audience.
Ex-jarl Colin Summers asked Mr Leask if his suit had been insured during the Orkney visit, as you could lose “the axe or anything”. He also wondered if the burning of galleys was maybe going a bit far.
Mr Leask replied that the cost of the galley had been borne by his squad while the suit was all intact and ready to be handed on to Mr Mouat for next year. He did not think there was any danger of the festival being “taken out of Shetland”.
Robbie Leith said the name was already being used in places like New Zealand and Australia, and his own brother had even staged an Up-Helly-A’ in India.
Mr Mouat asked if there was any more business and someone shouted: “Can we go home now?”
Roll on January . . .
ELECTION OF NEW COMMITTEE MEMBERS
Calum Grains 73
Martin Henderson 34
RICHARD MOAR 79
Lynden Nicolson 50
Chris Sim 15
Ryan Wright 42
CALUM GRAINS 86
Martin Henderson 37
Lynden Nicolson 71
Chris Sim 12
Ryan Wright 79
Martin Henderson 44
LYNDEN NICOLSON 124
Chris Sim 13
Ryan Wright 100