The assembled throng bristled with excitement as the streetlights across Scalloway went dead – signalling the imminent arrival of the torchlit procession.
Since morning a steady but light fall of snow had given the ground below a crisp white dusting. The bitter wind which greeted the Jarl’s Squad earlier in the day had now eased, though gusts arrived again in time for the galley burning.
Around 300 guizers marched through the streets of Scalloway, lead by Guizer Jarl Victor Laurenson, aka Hakon Magnusson, and his shark headed galley Fuglaness – named for the Hamnavoe lighthouse.
When he earlier in the day addressed the break from tradition which had become something of a talking point Victor smiles, before saying “That’s just part of the fishy theme, for a bit o a change.”
The fish theme is extended to include the axe-heads and shields as well, which all carry nautical motifs. On top of blue kirtles the Jarl’s Squad have draped reindeer skins over their shoulders.
By the time the guizers have reached the burning point at Port Arthur they have drawn a bustling crowd of followers, all here to see the burning of this rather special galley.
One thing that Scalloway, and all other rural Up-Helly-A’s, still have over their big cousin in the town is the galley burning on water.
That other communities take pride in this aspect of their respective Fire Festival’s is perhaps best exemplified in the Big Bannock song which took a humorous swipe at the Lerwick installment singing “We don’t burn our galley in a playpark.”
And you can see why it is such a point of pride. On a clear, calm night with the flames from the galley reflecting against the ocean the view across the voe is truly spectacular.
Earlier in the day the Jarl’s Squad’s busy schedule had seen them visiting nearby schools and the Scalloway care home. Their evening meal was in Da Haaf, at the NAFC Marine Centre. 12 other squads will be performing acts with the merriment set to continue into the small hours.
• For a gallery of photos and short clip from the morning procession see our earlier article
• To see pictures from the evening festivities see next Friday’s Shetland Times