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Double Up Helly Aa day

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BLACK and white have been the themes of February’s final two island fire festivals on Yell and Bressay.

Council roads inspector David Spence was transformed into the white-helmeted, hammer-wielding Viking warlord Thorstein Olafsson for the five day Cullivoe Up Helly Aa that culminated on Friday night with the galley burning.

During a break in the proceedings he explained he had based his suit design on that of his father Bruce who was Guizer Jarl 50 years ago.

This year the 41 year old went down the mythical route to choose a hammer, not a weapon of choice of the Vikings but of their thunder god Thor, who used his hammer Mjölnir to fell mountains, amongst other things.

Spence felt the weight of his own shot-blasted aluminium hammer as he toured the isle with his 14 strong squad.

They spent two days covering Yell from south to north, followed by a procession, a galley burning, a party, a hop and a charity “hairstyling” – a series of events lasting from Wednesday night to Sunday afternoon.

The hammer was designed by his “chief engineer” Brydon Barclay from Unst, who also shaped the halberds carried by the squad and the cold-moulded plastic helmets that gave the band of warriors a distinctly modern appearance, along with the white leather straps.

“I always fancied wearing dark clothes with white leather and it looks really good, especially with this fine weather we’re having,” Spence said.

Meanwhile on Bressay young Guizer Jarl Lyall Tulloch stepped out with his squad of 19 to meet the local school bairns in the hall and the old folk in their sheltered houses before two nights of partying in the local hall.

The 25 year old naturally assumed the name Harald Fairhair for the day, setting off his own blonde locks against a silver and black outfit topped with crow’s wings on the helmets and a black sheepskin on the back to reflect his crofting lifestyle.

The self employed joiner kept a low profile earlier this year when his beard barred him from serving as a retained fireman, but that will be no problem after Sunday when the squad will shave their beards off for charity.

First though came the burning, not of the galley Nordus (Norse for northern woman) which has graced the event for the past 50 years, but an old boat that has no use any more and was topped and tailed with dragon’s features for the occasion.