Ferryman Umphray honoured to be Jarl


Last Friday looked as if it would be a fine day for Bressay Up-Helly-A’. The fresh fine morning soon turned to rain showers, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of those who turned up to the Bressay Hall to catch their first glimpse of this year’s Jarl’s Squad.

The bairns from Bressay Primary School sang the Up-Helly-A’ song for the assembled community and heralded the arrival of the Jarl’s Squad.

Resplendent in kirtles of deep purple, trimmed in silver with sheepskin cloaks, the 26-strong squad made their entrance into the hall lead by Guizer Jarl Charlie Umphray, dressed in a distinctive moorit sheepskin and intricate steel pattern breastplate.

Charlie, who works on the MV Leirna, introduced himself as Charles the Fat, who, by all accounts, was a “bit o’ a lad” and who invaded France, returning home to Denmark missing his right arm; Charlie said he wasn’t too worried if he got into any similar mischief because he was left handed.

The Jarl presented a replica shield to the Bressay School and after three cheers the squad sang The Wild Rover, ably assisted by the band Grant’s Galley-Vanters: Grant Nicol, Robbie Leith, Kenny Johnson and Stewart Grains.

Scalloway man Charlie, who has worked on the Bressay ferry for seven years, said if anyone had told him when he came to Bressay that he would be Jarl one day he would have laughed in their face, but he felt privileged to have been asked and was very grateful to the Bressay Up-Helly-A’ committee for the honour.

After refreshments it was then down to the ferry Leirna to have pictures taken with the some of Charlie’s crew mates.

The squad were in very good spirits, despite the persistent rain, and after the ferry left for its scheduled run it was up to the top of the pier to view the bill and admire the bill head, this year painted by Lowrie Simpson who works with Charlie on the ferry. After a few photos in the galley Arvah, it was a short walk up the road to Maryfield for lunch.

At 3pm the Jarl’s Squad visited the sheltered housing at Glebe Park. The small day room became even more cramped as 26 Vikings and their band managed to squeeze in. Charlie thanked everyone for their hospitality, even if, as one Viking commented, they did smell a bit like damp sheep.

The procession in the evening had a good turnout of participants and observers even thought the rain had steadily become heavier.

It is tradition in Bressay to burn a replica of the galley and, while not as grand as the real McCoy, the “peerie galley” was rather splendidly decked with shields painted by the bairns from the Bressay School.

Once the assembled drew around the galley there were the appropriate three cheers and the torches were hurled on with the loudest collective roar of the day – then it was on wards to the Bressay Hall for the night’s entertainment.

The Jarl’s Squad made their entrance and marched around the hall raising their axes aloft in a guard of honour for the Guizer Jarl.

The running order of the squads was slightly altered due to time delays, but the dance floor was filled at every occasion and after the supper the squads got back on track. All the squads displayed large measures of local humour and, no doubt, induced a few red faces in the crowd too.

1. The Jarl’s Squad 2. Squad One 3.Charlie saves the day 4. We have a dream 5. Shetland shop showdown 6. Happy flappers 7. Charlie’s angels 8. Life of Charlie 9. Bar Wars: return of the red-eye 10. Shopoholics

The partying went on into the small hours of Saturday morning, but lack of sleep and the prevailing rain didn’t deter anyone from returning to the Bressay Hall for the hop on Saturday night. The Vinyls provided the hop night musical entertainment and a thoroughly good night was enjoyed by all.

The annual guizer beard-shave and pool tournament took place on Sunday at Maryfield. Announcing that the money raised would be split three ways, to CLAN 1,2,3, Stroke Victims and Alana’s Fund. Charlie Umphray thanked everyone for a great weekend and he took his seat to be first in line for the shaver.

Next Year’s Jarl, Neil Smith, took £5 bids for each suggestion of a new “do”, which got wilder for every fiver in the kitty. Armed with the shaver Katrina Gifford delivered reverse Mohawks and handle-bar whiskers to worried recipients and in some cases aided the complete eradication of eyebrows as per the winning suggestions.

All together £1,300 was raised for three worthy causes and it was a fun end to an enjoyable weekend.


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