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Fire Festival 2013 / A double helping of Up Helly Aa

Jarl Hrollaug Rognvaldsson with his galley burning - Photo: Garry Sandison

ON YELL it takes two days to complete the annual fire festivities, as Guizer Jarl Hrollaug Rognvaldsson and his squad of 10 Vikings discovered.

Starting in the south of the island last Thursday morning, Michael Nisbet and his merry men set off from Burravoe and gradually worked their way north visiting schools and care centres along the way.

Parents Linsey and Andrew cooked up a feed of lasagne to keep the squad and their families hale and hearty overnight before they continued in Cullivoe on Friday.

Dressed in dark green kirtles with a reindeer skin over their back and wingless helmets on their heads, the squad visited the children at Cullivoe school on Friday even though it was a day off.

Rognvaldsson is a less well known Viking, chosen after consulting Andrew Jennnings of the Centre for Nordic Studies, which is based at the NAFC Marine Centre where Nisbet works as an IT technician.

“I asked him for a Viking that was less well known, and he was the first one Andrew came up with,” he said.

Rognvaldsson was one of the sons of Rognvald, Earl of Shetland and Orkney, who was deemed too soft-hearted to take over the running of the isles when his father hot-footed it back to Norway.

So the young Viking headed in the opposite direction, ending up in Iceland where he is still remembered in stories over 1,000 years later.

Nisbet himself is half Orkney, his mother hailing from the isle of Westray where folk are colloquially know as “aaks”, which provided the name for his galley, Aak.

He follows in the footsteps of his Yell father who was Guizer Jarl 28 years ago, and maintained the family tradition of wielding a spiked shield.

Catching up with the jarl, he was having a great time despite nursing a cold and feeling the strain of sleepless nights.

“Adrenaline and Fireball” were keeping him going, he said, as he cleared his throat ready for another rendition of the squad song – a re-written rendition of Hom Bru’s “Smugglers”, now called “Vikings”.


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