9th April 2020
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Summers says special day is ‘icing on the cake’ at civic reception

Liam Summers admitted he was given “no shortage of advice” ahead of his big day as Up-Helly-A’s Guizer Jarl.

Speaking at the town hall civic reception, Liam – known for the day as king of the Norse gods Odin, Lord of the Gallows – said he had benefited from the support of five ex jarls in his squad.

As well as his uncle Colin Summers – who was Guizer Jarl in 1998 – Liam was also supported by 2000 Guizer Jarl Billy Goudie, Rae Simpson (Jarl in 2010) and Neil Robertson, who lead the festival five years later.

Liam’s brother in law, Lyle Gair, was Guizer Jarl in 2017.

“There has been no shortage of advice and words of wisdom in the past year,” he said.

“It’s a day I’ve known has been coming for nearly 15 years, so it’s just a bit surreal to be here.

“I love this festival. Today is just the icing on the cake for me.”

Earlier, council convener Malcolm Bell gave what is now fast becoming his trademark civic reception speech, which was laced with his usual witticisms and cutting put-downs – not least regarding Liam’s support for the Scottish premiership team, Hearts.

Brexit was uppermost in Mr Bell’s mind when he began his speech.

“Sadly we’re now portrayed as a small, cold, windswept inward-looking island off the coast of Europe,” he said. “But we’re not here to talk about Great Britain today.”

The convener told the assembled crowd he was fast reaching the age where Guizer Jarls were increasingly of a younger appearance, making the council convener feel an advance in years.

“When I was growing up Guizer Jarls tended to look really old.

“Now it suddenly hit me I’ve hit that stage of my life where the Guizer Jarl is the same age as one of my sons.”

There was much talk of jarls only really being able to enjoy their day after the town hall speech was over.

As Mr Bell said: “Look on the bright side, you only have to do this once.”

On a more serious note, tribute was paid to mark the passing of former jarls Jack Moar, whose big day came in 1956, and John Hunter, jarl in 2011, who suffered a “sudden and very untimely death” shortly after last year’s festival.

Both convener and Guizer Jarl also spoke highly of the hard work of the hostesses from the halls.

Liam added: “They make it one of the best nights of the year,” he said, before quickly correcting himself – “well, it’s the best night of the year.”

Closing his speech, he drew on the experience of the 1913 jarl – a time when “Up-Helly-A’ had been under moral scrutiny – sounds familiar”.

He said Up-Helly-A’ would continue to be for openness and “wholehearted enjoyment”, before raising a toast to the festival.

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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