Celestial drama as festival season flickers out

Guizer Jarl Alan Jamieson, aka Kveldulf Bjalfason, with his 11 year old eldest son Fraser at Brae primary department on Friday morning. Photo Shetnews

THE 2015 Up Helly Aa season could have hardly come to a more dramatic end in Brae on Friday.

The final fire festival of the winter started with a rare solar eclipse and ended on the spring equinox, when night and day are in perfect balance.

Guizer Jarl Alan Jamieson from Vidlin was well prepared for such celestial events as he led his squad of 43 men and eight bairns through Shetland’s north mainland, taking in Lunnasting, Mossbank and Sella Ness after starting and ending in Brae itself.


Norse mythology had it that a solar eclipse involved an extremely large wolf eating the sun.

The galley Solnyter in the sun, shortly after the celestial orb had been regurgitated by the wolf of Norse mythology.

So the 39 year old jarl had taken on the mantle of Viking berserker chief Kveldulf “Ulfr” Bjalfason, whose name means “evening wolf”, and named his galley Solnytar, or “sun eater”.

“I read a lot of the sagas and got a lot of help with them and I just liked the way Ulfr was and what he had done,” Jamieson said.

Bjalfason was an accomplished blacksmith, and the jarl shares his love of all things metal.

The son of a blacksmith himself, Jamieson works as a garage foreman and maintenance supervisor at EMN Plant’s base in Sella Ness, fixing plant and trucks.


This gave the squad access to a suite of welding masks through which they were able to get a good glimpse of the moon passing directly in front of the sun on Friday morning.

There were other galleys out in Brae on Friday. This one stood proudly outside Brae secondary department...

The squad’s outfit kept up the metallic theme, with chrome helmets and chrome fixings on the leather breastplates, over grey pigskin kirtles and black sheepskin boots all set off with a reindeer skin on their backs.

The jarl himself wore an impressive sword in honour of the much-sought after swords that Bjalfason was said to have made.

“There’s a lot of metal in the suit because I work with metal, my father’s a blacksmith and I really like metal,” he said.


“I always liked to see a suit sparkle in the procession and I was wanting a suit with a lot of glints in it, so we tried to get a lot of different textures on the suit and there’s nothing other as grey and black and skin.”

...and here's squad member Martin Jamieson admiring the primary department's effort at boat building.

Along with the excitement comes a poignant feeling for a man who loves his fire festivals so much that he attends several each year and has already featured in the Northmavine jarl squad this year behind Magnus Nicolson, who returned the favour by joining his squad for the Delting Up Helly Aa.

“It’s almost sad,” he said. “It’s great to do this today, but I am always vexed when the Up Helly Aa season is by.”

The squad is also missing Arthur Grains who is recovering in a Glasgow hospital from a recent accident.

“He’s a big part of the squad, he’s done a lot of work on the helmets, and we’re all thinking about him.” Jamieson said.