Suits add a ring of authenticity at Northmavine Up-Helly-A

Fine weather got Guizer Jarl James Titcomb and his squad off to a great start on Northmavine Up Helly A’ day –  and high spirits continued even as the wind and rain appeared.

Jarl Titcomb took on the mantle of Thorir Hund, an accomplished Viking from Northern Norway.

 Guizer Jarl Thorir Hund. Photo: Gordon Stove
Guizer Jarl James Titcomb, aka Thorir Hund. Photo: Gordon Stove

Hund was a strongly independent character who refused to be governed by the political and Christian tools of the chiefs.

James and his squad of 30 men and six princesses began their day with visits to all three primary schools at Urafirth, Ollaberry and North Roe. The squad also included two very special mini Vikings in the shape of two-year-old James Hamilton and his peerie sister, five month old, Holly Hamilton.

They were joined by six musicians to ensure the day went with a swing.

After a welcome lunch at North Roe & Lochend hall, it was time to head to the waterfront at Hillswick for photo opportunities with the galley, Ain Urridarrida. The galley was named in honour of the Jarls’ mam, Adrienne, and is an Icelandic translation of the name of her hometown of Troutbeck in the Lake District.

There was general agreement in the crowd gathered at the waterfront that the squad suits had a real ring of authenticity this year. The level of detail was stunning and the overall muted green, black and brown tones were highlighted with exquisite splashes of copper.

The squad was dressed in green tweed kirtles from Sandness Mill, with contrasting reindeer skins.

They wore helmets adorned with copper rivets and a beautifully designed and crafted copper nose piece.

The leather breastplate worn by the Jarl was also decorated with copper rivets and squad member carried a shield bearing the striking Norse ‘gripping beast’ design, in copper. Each Viking also carried an axe or spear.

In the late afternoon, some of the squad visited the North Haven Care Centre at Brae before tea at the St Magnus Bay Hotel.

The guizers mustered at the Hillswick hall at 7.30pm before the light-up and procession to the burning site on the loch at Urafirth – directly below the Jarl’s house. A technical hitch arose with the galley trailer, but nothing that a few strong men could not overcome. The galley was burnt in true Viking style.

Then it was time for the 14 squads, containing more than 230 guizers, to make their way round the three halls at Ollaberry, Hillswick and North Roe. The evening event was a night of music and merry-making, filled with many gentle jibes at the Guizer Jarl and other folk in the district.

Full coverage in next week’s Shetland Times.

Maree Hay


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