JARL Haakon Haraldsson was enjoying a day of sunshine as he led the first of February’s fire festivals through the central mainland, Nesting & Girlsta Up Helly Aa.
Scottish & Southern Energy team manager Stewart Thomson donned the mantle of the Viking known in the 10th century as Haakon the Good because of his connections to his birthplace in Unst.
This year’s jarl hails from Clisbo, in Haroldswick, named after Haakon’s father Harald Fairhair, who is apocryphally buried nearby at The Heogs.
The jarl has adapted the family seat’s name for his galley, adding the initials of his daughters Kirsty and Lucy to come up with KLisbo.
The 35 strong squad spent the morning at South Nesting primary school after mustering for breakfast at the nearby hall, before heading on to the Little Tykes nursery, which was boosted by extra bairns from the Burra playgroup.
After lunch back at the hall it was on to Whiteness & Weisdale primary before moving on to the primary in Tingwall.
The squad includes 18 adults, just outnumbering the 17 school bairns, with Biff Knight making his annual sojourn from Dundee to take part in the squad.
Also up from south were regular visitors Dave and Jan Brayshaw from Birmingham, using the occasion to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary.
The jarl moved to Girlsta 16 years ago and this is his fourth time in the jarl squad, leading a procession of 188 guizers in 14 squads for the 52nd Nesting and Girlsta Up Helly Aa.
Haakon was a popular Viking leader who was known as a wise and just ruler after doing away with taxes imposed by his father.
He beat off two attempts to usurp his authority, though he died from wounds inflicted during the second battle.
The squad’s red and black outfit was inspired less by Haakon’s legend than by the squad’s predilection for beverage logos.
Having chosen Kestrel and Millers in the past, this year’s Girlsta squad has gone for the harsh but medicinally powerful Jaegermeister.
“It was more for the image than for the drink itself,” the jarl confided over lunch.
“The day itself has gone really quickly and it was really good to see all the bairns at the schools and 40 bairns at Little Tykes.”
The halls at North Nesting, South Nesting and Whiteness & Weisdale will be celebrating Up Helly Aa on Friday night, with a Hop night on Saturday at North Nesting and a Guizer’s Dance at South Nesting on 23 February.
Go Haakon go!