It was a bitterly cold morning with a biting wind and a smattering of snow.
But the wind was not the only thing with bite as the Scalloway Fire Festival got under way this morning. In a break with tradition the dragon’s head at the fore of the galley has been replaced with a shark.
The weather did little to deter people from turning out for a first look at this year’s Scalloway Jarl’s Squad.
After an early morning visit to the NAFC Marine Centre Victor Laurenson led the near 50-man squad along a route starting at the Scalloway Boating Club.
The Burra resident’s squad wore blue kirtles with reindeer skins draped over their shoulders. A strong nautical theme ran through the designs this year, in an apparent allusion to Victor’s career as the skipper of whitefish vessel Radiant Star.
The marine theme is echoed on the axe heads and shields, where a black fish is emblazoned on a sea blue background.
At the head of the galley the squad have used some artistic licence and departed from the traditional dragon’s head. Instead a shark’s head has taken its place.
In a procession which marked the start of the fire festival season throughout Shetland Jarl Hakon marched his squad, and blue and white striped galley Fuglaness, from the Boating Club along to the Scalloway Youth Centre at the Da Waterfront.
Along the way the squad made a point of making stops to let out hearty cheers and sing songs outside the windows of certain landmarks along the way – including the Walter & Joan Gray Eventide Home.
As they approached the end of their route a throng of excited residents lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the squad. Family members, local residents and even a few tourists stood with cameras and phones at the ready, braving the wintry weather to witness the spectacle.
Not all of the audience were stoic in the face of the frosty winds with one English couple remarking on what a strange time of year it was to hold such an event.
After the procession the Jarl Squad will be making stops in a number of community centres including schools, care homes and a meal at the Boating Club. They will present miniature shields to each venue they visit.
The procession tonight will culminate with the burning of the galley at around 8pm at Port Arthur.