Damp night, high spirits and great fun

Weather wise Up-Helly-A’ day in Cullivoe never promised to be good, and so it proved. Nonetheless Guizer Jarl Euan Henderson and his squad completed their round of visiting, which included the school and various folk who could not be out on the night.

To be the jarl has been Euan’s ambition ever since he was a small child at school, when the jarl of that year gave him a cream egg. Every year since Euan has been involved – it is hard to imagine a more enthusiastic participant. He is the first jarl in Cullivoe to be third generation, following his father and grandfather, and it might be a long time before this happens again.

In memory of his late grandfather Willie Barclay Henderson, Cullivoe’s first jarl, Euan used the same name for his galley, Sigr (Victorious). Euan chose to be the Viking explorer Flokki of the Ravens; this is probably, in Shetland, the best known of all the sagas.

Jarl Henderson gathered around him eight friends to make up his squad, big men, powerful singers, formidable and looking every inch the part. He also invited a number of musicians to be part of his entourage.

It seems that every year the jarl adds that something extra and the festival has become inclusive, with squads from all over the island and beyond taking part. All the young folk, like students, who are away from home move heaven and earth to be present for what is a great weekend.

The very worst of the weather came at lighting up time. Undaunted and unbowed, Euan marched his squad up and down the ranks and led the procession into the teeth of a south-east gale and moderate rain along a route where shelter was a scarce commodity.

In the comfort of the hall and the school the squads put on a variety of clever and entertaining acts. The Jarl’s Squad members had to be especially thick skinned; Euan himself came in for a lot of stick as did Sonny Priest of Valhalla Brewery.

Robert Williamson, the oldest member of the squad, and an ever present at Cullivoe Up-Helly-A’, was never allowed to forget his age or the fact that he loves poetry, especially Burns.

The trip to Burravoe on the Saturday has become an annual event, and the Jarl’s Squad and many others enjoyed generous hospitality in the Burravoe Hall. In between times the Cullivoe Hall had to be prepared for the concert and the guizers’ hop and the school had to be put back to rights.

The concert on Saturday night was enjoyed by a hall full. Artistes from as far away as Gulberwick, Lerwick and Tingwall as well as home grown talent put on a wonderful show. However, the biggest cheers and applause was for the ladies from Whalsay who went down a storm. Music for the dance, both nights, came from the Ian Anderson Dance Band, by common consent one of the best bands of recent memory.

List of squads 1. Jarl Squad – Flokki Vilgerdersson (9) – The squad members wore winged helmets, skins, red kirtles, black boots and carried swords and shields. With their travelling musicians they sang two songs. Euan made a speech and they rounded off with a Boston two-step.

2. Euan’s Big Night (17) – This was the Cullivoe school children. Dressed as leprechauns, they did a River Dance routine.

3. I’m In Orkney Get Me Out Of Here (12)

4. Muckle Euan’s House (12)

5. I’m A Celebrity Big Jarl Axe Factor (11)

6. You Can’t Beat A Bit of Tuppy (7) – This squad poked at the Jarl and his nickname. There was a big and amorous bull for sale and it highlighted Euan’s decision to sell his cattle to concentrate on his work on the ferries.

7. Greased Lightening (11) – This squad came all the way from Lerwick and was the most spectacular of all. It had no less a person than Stephen Mouat, the Lerwick Guizer Jarl, in it. A giant car was the platform for this athletic, colourful and beautifully choreographed dance routine.

8. Big Cook, Peerie Cook (5)

9. Da Tup’s Den (10) – A really clever squad that combined Dragon’s Den with the credit crunch. Well-established characters Hansie and Cissie were the “dragons” who refused to support the most deserving of projects but, at the same time, had a noisy machine that, quite literally blew vast wads of notes, issued by the Royal Bank of Gloup, to all the aerts with a roar that frightened children. Again many local characters appeared.

10. The Black Tarry Road (8)

11. Da Reekie Aert (5)

12.Tuppies Top Tattie (13) – This all female squad was really colourful and attractive and did a lively dance routine highlighting yet another aspect of the Jarl’s life by giving out tatties, the Tobermory variety.

13. Gone With The Wind (6)

14. Euan Through The Ages (10)


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