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Fire Festival 2013 / From Edinburgh to Norwick

Guizer Jarl John Laurenson with his burning galley Aumstr - Photo: Mark Berry

A CIVIL engineer from Edinburgh had the honour of leading Shetland’s most northerly Up-Helly Aa celebration at Norwick,  at the weekend.

John Laurenson, whose parents John and Ena moved from Kirkaton to the capital more than 60 years ago, said he felt privileged to have been asked to be the jarl.

He said he had always kept in close contact with relations in Unst, and had recently bought a house in Baltasound.

“I spent all my holidays up here until I was almost in my twenties. Now at 62, I have more time on my hands again so I have started to come up here again more regularly.

“I have actually still got more relations up in Unst than I have in Edinburgh. I keep quite close contact with them, and I just enjoy the way of life up here. It is so much more relaxed.”

John said he was surprised when he received a phone call from the local committee at the end of last year enquiring if he was up to being the jarl.

“The committee thought they wanted somebody different, and because I have so many ties up here. I got a phone call in December asking about this. I just jumped at the chance.

“I was involved in the same ceremony in 1999 when my cousin Jimmy Laurenson was the jarl,” he said.

On Saturday, John and his squad of 11 Vikings, including business partner Derek Hogg and son John-Ross, had to follow a busy schedule of photo opportunities, public engagements, sacrificing their galley to the gods and finally a night of merriment.

Speaking on Monday shortly before setting off on the long journey home, he said: “It was really exciting and I was quite honoured that they had actually thought of me to do it. There are not any kinds of words that can explain how it all was. It was unbelievable.”

Please see also our dedicated Shetland Fire Festivals’ pge at: http://www.shetnews.co.uk/features/fire-festival-2013/