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Norman’s big day in Nesting

Nesting & Girlsta guizer jarl Norman Johnston enjoying every moment of his big day - Photo: Ivan Hawick

DESPITE hailing from Cunningsburgh, Norman Johnston is a well-kent face at the Nesting and Girlsta Up Helly Aa.

And today (Friday) the electrician is enjoying his moment in the spotlight as guizer jarl after first taking part in the festival around 25 years ago.

Welcoming the jarl's squad to Nesting primary school headteacher Kate Coutts reveals that this is also her 25th Up Helly Aa anniversary since working as a teacher - all other photos: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

Johnston – aka Ingólfr Arnarson, the first Viking to settle in Iceland – is leading a jarl squad of 31 adults and children, which includes a number of family members ranging from his kids and brother to his grand-nieces.

He first featured in the Up Helly Aa many years ago, but it seems he caught the bug and has kept returning ever since.

“I was first invited to the Nesting Up Helly Aa about 25 years ago as a last minute thing,” Johnston said.

Teacher Vaila Stevenson accepts this year's Nesting & Girlsta Up helly Aa plaque on behalf of the school.

“One of the squads was short of a man, so one of my pals phoned to see if I would join for a night. I’ve been going ever since.”

It is the fifth time he has been in the jarl squad and he will be kitted out in a green kirtle, fur covered boots and reindeer skins, while the squad’s axes are shaped like a galley.

Among the tunes set to be belted out through the day and into the night around local halls include an altered version of a well-known country song.

“We have a reworded version of Galway Girl,” Johnston said. “It was going to be just changed from Galway to Nesting, but it’s been modified more and more.”

Around 13 squads of over 200 guizers are taking part in this year’s Nesting and Girlsta Up Helly Aa, which is being held on the same night as the fire festival in Uyeasound, Unst.

While there are still some tickets available for the tonight’s halls, the hop night at the North Nesting Hall on Saturday is sold out.

Nesting & Girlsta Guizer Jarl Norman Johnston flanked by his standard bearers Leyna Johnston (left) and Karis Johnston.


Guizer Jarl Norman Johnston at the Nesting primary school on Friday morning, at the start of a busy day and night ahead.