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Three cheers for Chris

Chris Dyer, a Viking from the English south coast - Photo: Mark Berry

AS SHETLAND’s fire festival season goes into full swing this weekend Chris Dyer had his moment in the spotlight at the Bressay Up Helly Aa on Friday.

The archaeologist is leading a squad of 14 adults and two princesses this weekend as he represents the Viking character Rollo, who was the first ruler of Normandy in France.

The guizer jarl said the big day was the “culmination of many months of hard work” in preparation for the festivities.

The crofter has lived in Shetland since 2006 and looked to his own past when deciding which Viking he should represent.

“I’m from Hitchin in the south of England, so it’s a bit tangential to find a Scandinavian Viking link,” Chris said.

“The man I am representing was a Viking born in the mid ninth century in Norway, but he went south and was one of the first Viking rulers of Normandy.

“He was a direct relation of William the Conqueror, who sort of owned the town I’m from. The crest on my shield references William the Conqueror, who himself had Viking heritage, so there is a Viking link there.”

The jarl’s dad has travelled up from England to take part, while his father-in-law also made the trip from Orkney.

Taking inspiration from the shark-themed galley head on show at this year’s Scalloway Fire Festival, the Bressay galley also enjoyed a rather unusual animal theme.

“We breed turkeys, which is a bit of a fun, and the head of the burning galley is a turkey head,” Chris said. “They had the shark in Scalloway, and we thought we could adapt that a bit.”

Some of his other animals were reflected on the day too, with the jarl squad’s outfits honouring the colourful sheep on the croft.

“We run a flock of Shetland sheep, and we breed them for their colours, so I was very keen to get our sheep fleeces made into skins,” Chris said.

“All of the skins are natural colours, so there’s variation – brown ones, grey ones, white ones. The one that I am wearing is one of our own. The kirtle is brown, and there’s black breeks and brown boots.”

The Morecambe and Wise version of Bring Me Sunshine was one of the tunes bellowed out on the day, while around 100 guizers took part in the night’s festivities.

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