Jarl’s squad lights up record-breaking celebrations

The Jarl’s squad was on hand in Edinburgh on Sunday to mark the beginning of the capital’s Hogmanay celebrations among record-breaking crowds.

Outgoing Jarl David Nicolson was watched by up to 40,000 revellers as he led 26 men on a torch-lit procession through the city. 
Some of the squad members had travelled from Inverness, Glasgow and even as far as Newcastle to attend the event.

Organisers say as many as 10,000 folk carried candles as they followed the squad from outside the National Museum of Scotland in Chambers Street on a route which took them up Calton Hill in time for a firework display.

Mr Nicolson had been to the celebrations before when he attended with his brother Graham, who was Guizer Jarl in 2007. And he will most likely attend again when his other brother, John, keeps up the family tradition in 2019.

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But there was little to prepare him for the volume of people who came to cheer them on.

“The city was certainly looking forward to it. It was absolutely packed with people,” he said.

“It was very difficult to describe, but there were tens of thousands of people there.”

Mr Nicolson said the squad enjoyed carrying out their duties, but spent an awful long time trying to get away from Calton Hill at the end of the procession, as large numbers of tourists from across the globe rushed to meet the men who were in their usual, though splendid, traditional Viking dress.

“There were Japanese, Australians, Americans. They can’t really understand how you can put on something like this [Up-Helly-A’]. When you are in Shetland you do get blasè about it. But when you are down there, the number of photographs you get asked to take is unbelievable.”

Mr Nicolson said the squad also attended a photocall on the steps of the city’s council building just off the Royal Mile. He later learned during a radio interview he was “part of a world record” in terms of crowd numbers. Gates at the bottom of Calton Hill had to be closed for safety’s sake.

In the ensuing party, the squad managed to speak to tourists from all over who had flocked to Edinburgh to join in the Hogmanay celebrations. But the care-free spirit had to be tempered when Mr Nicolson learned the bus taking them to the airport for their flight home would be leaving before the clocks struck eight the next morning.

More in Friday’s Shetland Times.


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