Sea-going Weisdale man Ryan Leask has traded in merchant navy ships for a galley today as he leads his squad of vikings for Nesting and Girlsta Up-Helly-A’.
Portraying Arnkel Einarsson Jarl Ryan led a hardy squad of 38 vikings and shieldmaidens, including 12 youngsters, in full-throated song at the South Nesting Hall to kick-off the day’s festivities.
The squad started proceedings with breakfast and songs at the South Nesting Hall, before being presented with a small viking mascot for the day by Alexis Symington, courtesy of all of the hall’s kitchen staff.
From there the merchant navy chief officer marched his squad on a short route for a photo opportunity with the galley Red Lichtie, named for a boat owned by the Jarl’s father Peter.
This brief photo-op was nearly gatecrashed by the bin lorry, leading to a good-humoured shout of “three cheers for the essie-kert”.
The squad were dressed in blue kirtles, with grey woolen cloaks and leather helmets complete with horns. They carried oak handled axes with a dragons head motif on the axehead and blue and white shields embossed with celtic dragons.
The Jarl wore a silver helmet adorned with raven wings, while the shieldmaidens wore blue pinafores with a nordic compass design. This year’s billhead has been painted in impressive detail by Dirk Robertson, featuring a galley departing a burning village surrounded by sea serpents.
Stopping for a quick word with The Shetland Times before leading his squad into the South Nesting Primary School for their first visit of the day Jarl Ryan said that it was hard to convey his feelings on the big day.
“It’s hard to put it into words. Overwhelmed a little bit by the support of the community and of my friends and family. A bit relieved too that we’ve made it here, it’s been a busy few weeks but we made it.”
As the skies opened and the snow started to fall Jarl Ryan ducked into the South Nesting Primary School, their first of many visits before tonight’s procession.