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A night that “couldn’t have been better’

No wonder Guizer Jarl Mark Evans was delighted with the night so far - all photos: Austin Taylor

A crisply beautiful night more than made up for the damp start to this year’s Up Helly Aa, writes Genevieve White.

As the crowds gathered at Hillhead for the lighting up, the skies were cloudy, but as the evening progressed the clouds rolled back to reveal a starlit sky.

Guizer Jarl Mark Evans and his squad must surely have had a night like this in mind when they decided on the colour of their suits and shields, which flickered into life under the torch light.

The still, dry night allowed the torches to heat the air, which was just as well considering that the usual amount of goose pimpled flesh was on display.

A bevy of bewigged beauties paraded alongside cows, Stormtroopers and a squad wearing high visibility suits which bore the legend “Anderson School of Rock”.

Although many of the familiar ingredients of Up Helly Aa were present and correct, it was possible to discern one or two new elements in keeping with the changing times.

One young guizer was spotted with a torch in one hand, selfie stick in the other, while a voice in the crowd remarked that this was the first year she could remember that no squads had “blacked up.”

Many people experiencing Up Helly Aa for the first time appreciate the element of anarchism they perceive to be involved. Neil Morton, from Airdrie is currently working in Shetland, installing “super-fast” broadband.

Watching the procession with his colleagues, he was cheering and shouting support at the squads passing by. “I just love this. Where else can you set fire to things and get away with it?”

Patrick Turner (Eight years old) and his family had moved to a vantage point halfway up Cockatoo Brae. Patrick said his whole day had been “really good”, but chose “the big bang going off” as his personal highlight.

“It made me feel really excited. I love the Jarl squad suits – they’re so shiny and colourful. My favourite squad was the Star Wars one though.”

A hush then fell over the crowd, and it was possible to hear the thunder of torches being thrown onto the galley. It was a beautiful burning, and some voices in the crowd remarked that it was hard to tear your eyes away from it, even to enjoy the spectacular fireworks, which were simultaneously dancing in the sky overhead.

With the galley burning complete, it was time for the crowd to disperse and for puffins, princesses, and Stormtroopers to make their way purposefully to their various meeting points across town.

A black and white cow kindly stopped for a quick word and introduced himself as Rory Goodlad from Squad 28. “It’s been a fantastic night. The weather’s made it. Now I’m just looking forward to going round the halls and meeting folk. My squad’s doing a cat themed dance – I know I’m dressed as a cow, but this is just a sacrificial suit because I knew it’d get dirty.”

Leaving King Harald Street Park, Guizer Jarl Mark Evans seemed delighted with the night so far. “It’s been great, really great. The weather didn’t dampen our spirits this morning, and tonight couldn’t have been better.”