It was a family affair for Guizer Jarl Bryan Garrick at today’s beginning of the Scalloway Fire Festival.
Bryan, aka Jarl Haakon Haraldsson, led out his 49-strong squad of Vikings in fine style, as the Up-Helly-A’ season got officially underway on a dry but bitterly cold morning.
Looking on proudly among the squad members was Bryan’s father, Allan, who took on the role of Guizer Jarl in 1994.
Bryan’s wife, Alison, and his young daughter, Molly – already taking part in the fire festival at the age of three – were also enjoying the moment of his big day.
“It’s brilliant. It’s beyond expectations,” said Bryan, after leading the rather splendid-looking galley, <i>Astrieg</i> – it is an anagram of Griesta, from where Bryan hales – along the waterfront.
“It’s an amazing feeling so far and it will continue throughout the day. To see everybody here, friends, family, and everything – it’s great.
“It’s been amazing so far. It’s great to see all the boys come out in their suits, and see them all together. With the weather we’ve had recently it’s been really good so far.
“I’m just trying to take it all in – it’s such an amazing experience.”
Alison was standing proudly by his side, with Molly busily taking in the experience.
“There has been a lot of hard work put into it. It’s good seeing it all come together. The guys have really enjoyed themselves. They’ve put a lot of effort in, so it’s good.”
The day brought back happy memories for Allan, who fondly recalled his time as Guizer Jarl 22 years ago. Allan has kept a keen interest in the fire festival since the first one was held way back in the 1970s.
“I’m feeling very proud. I’m obviously proud of my son being the jarl this year, but I’m also proud having been jarl in ’94.
“It’s a very proud day.”
He said the Scalloway Fire Festival was a special event – particularly as it was used to kick-off the much-anticipated season of galley burnings.
“I’ve been involved in it since 1979 when it started, and I’ve been in a squad since 1979. I’ve been in the Jarl Squad six times since it started.
“I’m very impressed. I’m very proud of the rest of the boys in the squad, and how the suits turned out. They’re looking really good, very smart, and very neat. It’s a very proud day.”
Also in the squad was first cousin to Bryan, Robert Garrick.
“It’s gone really well. We’ve been lucky with the weather so far.”
He said the turnout of onlookers was “excellent”, with a good number of folk.
There were certainly plenty who turned out to see the squad as the day got under way, with dozens pointing cameras and holding mobile phones aloft to capture the moment.
Pupils from the Scalloway school were also taken down to be among the spectators and see for themselves a photo-shoot involving Jarl’s Squad members young and old.
“There has been a lot of hard work put into it. It’s good seeing it all come together. The guys have really enjoyed themselves. They’ve put a lot of effort in, so it’s good.” GUIZER JARL BRYAN GARRICK
The green-themed galley, which matched the similarly-coloured costumes of the Jarl’s Squad, resplendent with artistic shields and colourful horns, certainly seemed a spectacular sight. But Bryan had one other trick up his sleeve, as far as the galley was concerned. The pull of a lever resulted in a loud whoosh and a jet of steam emitted from <i>Astrieg’s</i> fiery mouth – much to the surprise, and delight, of the gathered children.
“It’s a good touch. The bairns like it,” added Bryan.
On-looker Mabel Gilfillan was incredibly impressed by what she saw.
“Brilliant – absolutely fantastic. I love the galley, love the colours. The bairns are just beautiful. Weatherwise, they are so lucky. It could have been yesterday. It’s really cold, but a good atmosphere.”
• Details of the Jarl’s Squad programme are published in today’s Shetland Times.