The long wait is over. Up-Helly-A’ is finally here for another year and Guizer Jarl Lyall Gair will be leading his squad of 58 Vikings around Lerwick.
On the cards for today are visits to the usual visits Toll Clock Shopping Centre, Lerwick Legion, Bell’s Brae and Sound primary schools, old foks homes and the Gilbert Bain Hospital. And The Shetland Times will be offering unrivalled coverage of the squad every step of the way – online, on social media and in print.
Keeping refreshing this page and checking our homepage for the latest updates including photos and videos. And this year we are able to bring you live footage (below). Events will be streamed throughout the day, including the procession and burning, thanks to Promote Shetland.
So wherever you are you can watch the festivities and enjoy the spirit of Up-Helly-A’.
The procession and burning will start at 7.30pm and it is sure to be a spectacular sight. A total of 1004 guizers are taking part in the 2017 festival, 872 carrying torches which will help send the galley to its fiery demise.
Enjoy the day and join us in wishing the Guizer Jarl all the very best for Up-Helly-A’.
Here’s peerie round-up from the halls.
Boxing fans will no doubt be familiar with the term “main event”. On Up-Helly-A’ day there’s no questioning that the central attraction, for tourists and locals, is the senior procession culminating in the burning of the galley.
So it was fitting, perhaps, that this event kicked off in rather surreal fashion with Lyall Gair marching down the ranks to the sounds of the brass band performing the theme tune from Sylvester Stallone’s hit boxing flick Rocky.
With this odd introduction played out the 1000 guizers lining the Lower Hillhead lit their torches for the start of the winding procession past streets packed with eager spectators. Tourists and locals alike jostled for position, holding cameras aloft as the procession made its way to the burning site in the King George V Playing Field.
Powerful gusts turned the park, now awash with guizers, into a swirling maelstrom of embers. So strong were the winds that some guizers even lost the tops of their torches. The bugle call then sounded the death knell for Lyall’s galley Falcon, which went up in a glorious blaze.
As guizers and spectators dispersed, with many bound for halls to continue the festivities into the small hours, not one gripe could be heard despite the howling winds and barrage of rain.
It was a night which Lyall and his squad are unlikely to forget. And if the traditional tendency to imbibe copious quantities is observed it will be fair to say that it is also a night which some other guizers might struggle to remember.
All photos below: Dave Donaldson
The dry weather which had graced proceedings earlier in the day was not kind enough to stick around for the junior guizers. But this was not enough to dull the passionate roars of the youngsters who turned out in force for the junior procession.
Marching a shortened route beginning on the Lower Hillhead Jarl Brandon Talukder led his squad of 15 and a further 72 guizers to the playing park for the burning of the galley.
This year’s galley was poignantly named for Brandon’s late grandfather Tor who came from Norway. Tor’s name was also emblazoned on the squad’s shields which Brandon designed.
Speaking ahead of the burning Brandon, who was portraying Harald Hardrada, said that he was excited for the big moment but “sad that it’s almost over.”
Proud mother Ann Katrine praised the boys who had been “so loud” during their “once in a lifetime” day. So emotional had the day been for Ann Katrine that she had felt a “a bit teary and weepy” as she watched her son honour her late father throughout the day.
Civic reception at Mareel
The Jarl’s Squad marched into Mareel cheering and horns blowing exactly on cue this morning as the arts centre takes over from the town hall – wittily dubbed the new White House by council convenor Malcolm Bell – who welcomed Jarl Lyall Gair and his 72 squad members to the reception.
Mr Bell said that there were now two vacant White Houses in Shetland – the abandoned council headquarters at North Ness and the plastic swaddled one at the Hillhead. Unfortunately the one in the USA was not vacant, he quipped.
Prior to that the Jarl’s Squad had launched lustily into the Up Helly Aa song followed by the Proclaimers hit I’m on My Way and Elvis Pressley’s Burning Love.
The members were attired in suitably warrior style with spectacle helmets disguising each man’s identity and particularly fine, wolf-head carved timber shields – the manufacturing process for which, the Guizer Jarl, a joiner to trade, explained.
Special guests were Faroese Prime Minister Aksel Johannesen and a delegation from Malloy who were of course toasted in the traditional way.
After Mr Bell’s speech, Jarl Gair made his own, and both speakers had the guests at Mareel in frequent laughter and chuckles.
He thanked the squad’s musicians who provided a rousing backing for the squad, the torch boys and ex-Jarls as well as the hosts and hostesses. He said that he was looking forward to a night of dancing, but, as he needed a big turning circle, “watch out”.
Jarl’s Squad are ‘on their way’
Crowds gathered to see the Jarl’s Squad come out in force as Up-Helly-A’ began to unfold.
Following an early-morning start at Islesburgh, Lyall Gair and his loyal band of men ventured into the Lerwick morning as the big day dawned.
After a brief stop-off at St Sunniva Street, and an all important visit to Lyall’s grandmother, the troops ventured on to the Toll Clock, where a whole host of happy faces were waiting to greet them.
And the squad shared their enthusiasm for the day, with a rousing rendition of that famed Proclaimers classic, I’m On My Way.
More songs followed, but it wasn’t long before the men were heading towards its next stop at the British Legion, where the galley, Falcon, was waiting to be taken under escort by the Jarl’s Squad and brass band.
Cameras clicked and phones were held aloft. Many in the crowd thought the costumes looked just the ticket.
Visiting from France was Genevieve Colin. She was particularly interested in the outfits being worn by Lyall and his loyal band of followers.
“For me, I sew, and I am interested to see how they are made,” she said.
“We feel that the local population are very much with the guizers.”
Sue Taylor is originally from down south but moved to the isles a few weeks ago. She was eager to see the morning procession, and was looking forward to the fiery climax.
“I think it’s going to be spectacular at night with the torches.”
Inside the Legion, Jarl Squad member Robert Balfour was looking forward to the big day – in between posing for selfies with admiring visitors.
“It’s a great honour. I’ve kent Lyall for 12 or 13 years, being part of his squad. I got asked in by his brother, Russell Gair. We’ve been part of the squad for years, and it’s all been building up to today.”
Galley Falcon is ‘streaks’ ahead…
VIDEO: The first glimpse of the Jarl’s Squad
So the fun begins…
Somebody’s been getting into the Up-Helly-A’ spirit nice and early … #UpHellyAa
Get with the programme
Staff at The Shetland Times were working into the small hours to make sure the official Up Helly A’ Programme was ready to hit the stands this morning. With a visit from the Guizer Jarl along the way.
— The Shetland Times (@shetlandtimes) January 31, 2017