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A wild weekend up nort

Jarl Thorkill Haraldson before his burning galley at Northmavine Up Helly Aa.

THE SECOND youngest Jarl ever to lead the Northmavine Up Helly Aa is having trouble believing that the wildest weekend of his life so far is over.

Determination was the theme for 23 year old Mark Kearney, from Sullom, who spent two years preparing for his big night leading 46 stylish Vikings, eight princesses and three peerie ones through a coarse night to burn his galley on the sea loch at Urafirth.

The jarl squad manage to keep their torches alight on a coarse night

The wind was so strong it took the best part of 20 minutes to set the galley alight, but this hardy crew were undeterred and the galley eventually floated onto the loch where the orange flames licked the night sky.

It has been quite a road for Kearney, who set up a new garage business in Lerwick just one year ago and is getting married to one of his squad princesses Carlyn Johnson next June.

Sparks fly during the procession

As Guizer Jarl Thorkill Haraldson on Friday he led a fearsome looking bunch of axe wielders displaying the sign of the wolf, a creature Haraldson promised to protect after conquering the northern half of Ireland. The jarl’s own Irish blood was further honoured by his choice of song – Whiskey in the Jar.
The largely home-made outfits were flashy and modern, displaying more than the usual amount of shiny steel around their silver grey kirtles and fine reindeer skin cloaks and boots.

Up Helly Aa day was spent visiting bairns and old folk – including Brae High School, and the North Haven care home where the jarl’s neighbour and former jarl Bobby Mowat is staying – before a night of carousing around the north halls.

Local band The Revellers packed the St Magnus Bay Hotel early on hop night, before the main event started at Hillswick public hall.

Speaking after the celebrations, Jarl Haraldson could hardly believe it was over. “After two years in the planning, it’s all gone by in three or four days. It’s so quick!

“I was standing in front of the hall on hop night thinking this is what it’s all about. You’ve got everybody there, everybody supporting us – it’s hard to explain how it feels, but there is such community spirit the whole weekend. That’s what Northmavine is all about.

“And now that it’s by…I’m quite vexed, but it’ll be good to have a couple of nights in a week at least.”