Erik the Red – who else?

Jarl John Duncan's galley Larkspur is being sacrificed to the flames - Photo: Mark Berry

THE LONG Shetland winter comes officially to an end this weekend with the Delting Up Helly Aa – the final Viking festival of the year – already well under way.

This year’s guizer jarl, council roads engineer John Duncan, said he has had no difficulties in finding the right character to represent.


Known for his red hair and beard, Erik the Red made his mark on the sagas as the founder of the first Viking settlement in Greenland. “It was the obvious choice for me and no one at Delting had been him,” John joked.

The Lunnasting school bairns welcoming the Delting jarl's squad with their own song.

John is leading a squad of 38 Vikings, five boys and four princesses, including his partner Suzanne’s daughter Kaitlin, through the Delting community dressed in green kirtles, black cloaks and also black helmets.

As a committed Celtic F.C. fan he said he naturally would have liked a green and white theme, but he conceded that would not have done the job.


“We thought white is not manly enough for a Viking,” he smiled. “Black and green goes better, but it always had to be green.”

A Brae boy all his life, the 36 year old moved with his family to Tingwall last year.

“But they [his squad] didn’t hold that against me. That was a very generous thing to do,” he laughed.

Jarl John Duncan said it was an easy choice to depict Erik the Red.

John was introduced to the fire festival at the age of 12 when he was a junior member of the jarl squad. Since then he has been out more or less every year starting his own squad with a group of friends in 1998.

“It is such an honour to be the guizer jarl,” he said on Friday morning. “I am excited and still a wee bit nervous, but at the same time I am looking forward to the day.”


Following the short morning parade through Brae to the local hall where the first group photos were taken, the squad set off to Lunnasting to visit the local school in Vidlin.

After visits to other schools in Brae and Mossbank, the squad will rest at the Mossbank hall where BP provides the traditional lunch. This is followed by visits to the care home in Brae before final preparations for the all important torch lit procession are getting under way.

Erik the Red’s galley Larkspur will go up in flames on the water at the Brae marina before the party starts at the Delting Boating Club and the local halls in Brae, Mossbank, Vidlin and Voe.

Delting guizer jarl John Duncan and his squad performing the Up Helly Aa song at Lunnasting Primary School - Photos: Hans J Marter/Shetland News