Fire festival off to fine start

Not a whistle of wind troubled the Jarl’s Squad this morning as Bjorn Ironside, spear in hand led the way to the waterfront for the Scalloway Fire Festival.

The excitement was building as playgroup bairns waited patiently – with their handmade card helmets and shields, bouncing up and down as a glimpse of the galley Burrness came into view.

“I can see them, I can see them,” shouted a few youngsters and before long the roar of the near 60-strong squad could be heard down the street.

Sporting fearsome black-horned helmets superb spanner-spoked shields and splashes of teal, the Viking clan, from young to old made an impressive site.

The female standard bearers too held teal banners and wore knitted headbands in a matching colour.

Guizer Jarl Craig Smith stood proudly on the front of the galley with gold chainmail breastplate and golden-decorated helmet glinting in the light.

A healthy crowd had gathered to welcome the squad and galley and photographers scaled ladders for a perfect picture before the squad mingled with the visitors.

“I’m having a brilliant time, it’s been a long while in coming,” said Jarl’s Squad member Alex Nicolson.

Ian Blance said it was good fun, and the weather had been “unbelievably good so far”.

It was “so far, so good” despite a storm expected to be on its way, and it was nice to see the bairns out to welcome them.

Layne Jamieson, 11, said he was enjoying the day so far, the outfits were comfy and keeping him warm, and he was looking forward to the burning of the galley the most during the day of festvities.

Gary Smith, brother of the Guizer Jarl, said it was nice to have family there, while mechanic Craig said he was enjoying the day, with family and folk from work there too.

“So far the rain has held off for the photos,” he said. “It’s all looking good,” he added. “We got there in the end.”

The bairns in the hall were then in for a treat as musicians Jackie Robertson, Ali Clouston, Alison Kay Anderson and Liza Fullerton struck up a tune.

Craig Smith onboard the galley Burrness
Craig Smith onboard the galley Burrness with junior members of the squad. Photo: Adam Guest

The squad belted out a version of The Up Helly Aa Song and afterwards Craig showed off a clever-looking Guizer Jarl cupcake, complete with winged helmet and beard.

As the squad made its way to the Walter and Joan Gray Eventide Home the squad squeezed in as residents and staff clapped along to the music.

Another rousing rendition of the The Up Helly Aa Song followed before the Guizer Jarl presented a shield to 98-year-old Betty Harper, formerly of Burra.

Then it was on to the primary schools to spread the fire festival cheer.

• Full coverage of the squad’s day, galley burning and the halls in next week’s Shetland Times.


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