By LOUISE THOMASON
It will be the culmination of years of preparation, so this year’s Guizer Jarl Stephen Mouat can be forgiven for feeling a few last-minute nerves amid the excitement as he gets ready for his big day on Tuesday.
Originally from Unst, Jarl Mouat, 52, has lived in Lerwick for 33 years, and his mother was from the town. It was partly this that made him want to be involved in Up-Helly-A’.
As with all jarls, for him the lead up started years ago. His connection with the festival began in 1973 when he started guizing with a hostel squad and he was also a boat builder for some time. “It’s something I just always loved to do and be a part of,” he said this week.
However one day being Jarl wasn’t something he initially had in mind. He said: “I never thought about it [joining committee], but two other members asked me to join.”
A site contractor for Irvine Contractors, he became a member of the committee in 1994. “I should have been Jarl in 2010, but Brian Hunter died,” he added.
Joining him in the squad are son Michael, 18, who is coming home from university to take part, brother Graeme and father in law George Jamieson. “I’ve got a good bunch of guys behind me, a good squad.”
The squad is made up of 55 men and two boys, the youngest being five year old Nicol Smith and seven year old Sam Finlay.
Extra Viking flavour will be thrown into the mix this year, with the addition of Helge Hjelle from Norway, who Stephen met through football.
He said: “I met him through Spurs, on my first trip to Måløy in 1982 and we’ve been friends ever since.”
Preparations for the big day have kept the Jarl busy for around a year, mostly with the designing of the suits – which, of course, are being kept top secret – and it’s clear that Tuesday night’s celebrations have been a priority for some time.
He said: “Up to [Christmas] it was fairly steady, just work with the suits, then there was the nuisance of Christmas to get by with! After that though the phone has never stopped ringing.”
Asked how he was feeling about the day itself, he said: “It’s a funny feeling – some days you’re excited, the next you’re feeling nervous. I’ve had countless texts, one today saying ‘only a week to go!’ Everybody’s been so nice.”
At 968 in total and 886 torch bearers, this year sees the biggest turn out of guizers since 1986, when there were 974 men with 892 carrying torches. There was a large turnout at Tuesday’s mass meeting.
After the celebrations of next week are over, the first official engagement for the new Jarl and his squad is in February, with a Burns night in Overtonlea care centre in Levenwick. Then in March the squad are going to Unst for a supper dance and a visit to the care home there.
There is also talk of a possible trip to Edinburgh and perhaps Norway, given Mr Hjelle’s involvement, but this hasn’t been finalised yet.
As for his expectations for Tuesday and the lead up to it, Jarl Mouat said: “They say nobody can prepare you for it, but it’s been very enjoyable.”
Meanwhile, NorthLink Ferries is to host the Lerwick Junior Jarl along with his squad and their families at a reception on the Hrossey on Tuesday.
Kristoffer Thomason, 13, a pupil at the Anderson High School, will be the seventh Junior Jarl to have been honoured with a NorthLink reception.
Lunch will be served in the ship’s restaurant and gifts exchanged.
NorthLink Lerwick service manager Jane Leask said: “The NorthLink reception for the Junior Jarl has become very much part of the Up-Helly-A’ week. We expect to entertain about 90 guests on board.
“Kristoffer will meet the vessel’s master and gifts are presented to the master and those who have helped to make the costumes. We’ve had the reception since 2003 and it has always been a great success.
It provides a good example of NorthLink’s commitment to the Shetland community.”
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Police call on motorists to be sensible
Lerwick Police have asked motorists to bear in mind effects on traffic caused by Up-Helly-A’ in Lerwick on Tuesday.
As in previous years, measures to try to minimise congestion in the town, particularly during the morning and evening, will be brought into effect.
Residents in the streets affected are asked to remove their vehicles from the road and to leave them outside the parade route if they require to use them during the times of the processions.
The morning procession will assemble at Isleburgh at around 8.30am and the Jarl’s Squad will march to the Toll Clock shopping centre, via King Harald Street, King Haakon Street, St Sunniva Street and Gilbertson Road. They will stop and enter the Toll Cock Shopping Centre via the lane between Frank Williamson’s and the old fire station.
As this happens, the galley will make its way from the galley shed at St Sunniva Street, down Gilbertson Road on to North Road and will stop at the British Legion to await the Jarl’s Squad.
After meeting with the management at the Toll Clock Shopping Centre the Jarl’s Squad will reform and march to the Legion, where they will meet up with the galley and march on to the Bressay ferry terminal, arriving at approximately 10.05am. Traffic will be subject to delay as the Jarl’s Squad and the galley make their way through town and motorists are strongly advised to avoid this area if possible.
The area of Upper and Lower Hillhead, King Erik Street, St Olaf Street, Union Street, Prince Alfred Street, King Harald Street, Harbour Street and Market Street will be subject to parking restrictions all day and will be closed to all traffic from about 4pm until the area is cleared at the end of the burning ceremony.
Arrangements have been made for a limited number of spaces for disabled people’s vehicles on King Erik Street outside King Erik House. Folk should ensure that they arrive early as no spaces are guaranteed.
In order to allow maximum parking, and to ease traffic congestion, a one-way traffic system, from north to south, will be in force in Burgh Road. Anyone parking in Burgh Road before the introduction of the system and residents are asked to park facing Scalloway Road to ensure safe and speedy access from the area. Motorists parking in Gilbertson Road are strongly advised to park facing northwards, exiting via North Road.
A police spokesman said: “These measures are intended to enable people to enjoy the spectacle to the full and for a safe and rapid dispersal of traffic afterwards. All motorists are asked in their own interests to comply with these measures.
“In recent years these have significantly minimised traffic congestion and delays. It may appear that the restrictions imposed come into effect some time before various parades but drivers are assured that this is for a good reason.
“Every year the police have to spend many hours trying to trace drivers who have left their vehicles in defiance of the no parking signs. While many drivers may intend to return and move their cars before the main parade, the police cannot be sure of this. For safety reasons they cannot afford to wait until the last moment to start trying to trace the owner and have the vehicle moved.”
Any vehicles in contravention of the Traffic Regulation Orders will be liable to be towed away and the driver liable for the cost as well as prosecution.