Saints alive, it’s the Vikings o Brae

Brae Guizer Jarl Peter Peterson wows the bairns at Lunnasting primary at the start of a long and busy day and night. Photo Kevin Osborn

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SHETLAND’S long Up Helly Aa season finally comes to a close with the Brae fire festival battling against strong winds and heavy downpours that have been such a mark of the winter.

The 40 Vikings in Guizer Jarl Peter Peterson’s squad managed to keep their winged helmets on their heads despite the gales as they kept to their busy schedule travelling north from Vidlin to Brae via Voe, Mossbank and Sullom Voe.


The jarl chose as grand a theme as could be imagined for his big day out, representing perhaps the northern isles’ most famous Norse ancestor, Magnus Erlendsson, Earl of Orkney, better known as St Magnus.

The Peterson family’s connections go back to the isle of Papa Stour, which some, including historical expert Dr Barbara Crawford, believe was the saintly Viking prince’s base during the 12th century.


“There’s St Magnus Bay, so why not St Magnus Isle?” the chief of the day argued, his round shield bearing a map of the island in questions, a Celtic fish design and the letters P and S.

Barely recognisable beneath that beard, the Guizer Jarl enjoying his day out. Photo Hans J Marter/Shetnews

The 38 year old SIC executive manager, normally smart in his suit and tie, was indeed transformed with his impressive beard, and his axe-wielding squad’s traditional Up Helly Aa outfit of a reindeer skin over a black cloak and blue kirtle.

A former prominent footballer, Peterson’s squad reflected the County team’s colours with the blue and white galley Betty Rylea, named after his wife Beth, six month old son Ryan and three year old daughter Leah – one of five proud princesses in the squad.

The Brae jarl squad have one of the busiest schedules in the isles and unlike Cullivoe, they do the lot in a single day. Schools in Lunnasting, Olnafirth, Mossbank and Brae all get a visit, as do the North Haven care centre and the Northern Constabulary – or rather Police Scotland – in Brae.

BP’s manager provided the lunchtime feast at Sullom Voe and even the Petrofac crew at Sella Ness were treated to a taste of Shetland warrior chic, all before the big night that sees out the 2014 season and sees in the light of the spring…we hope.