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Weisdale jarl pays tribute to family friend

'An honour to represent the festival', Nesting & Girlsta guizer jarl with his burning galley on Friday night. Photo: Chris Brown

WITH Lerwick’s Up Helly Aa already ten days in the past, attention turns to the country area where Weisdale boy Ryan Leask has assembled a fine crop of 26 Vikings and 12 boys and girls to celebrate the Nesting and Girlsta Up Helly Aa.

A chief officer in the merchant navy, Ryan has, appropriately, chosen a sea-going Viking to depict for the day.

Arnkel Einarsson was one of the rulers of Orkney in the 10th century when he decided to join Erik Bloodaxe on a raiding and plundering tour of Ireland and then Wales and England, where he and his brother Erland eventually met their end on the battlefield.

Friday’s affairs in Nesting and neighbouring communities will of course be peaceful and jolly, as Ryan and his squad are set to enjoy a packed day of social engagements which will climax with the torchlit procession and burning of the galley at night.

Nesting and Girlsta guizer jarl Ryan Leask. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

A lot of effort has gone into the design and preparation of the suits for the squad – from black leather covered helmets to cloaks manufactured by Jamiesons of Sandness and a sophisticated shield design.

The jarl’s suit looks only slightly different in that the lower section of the breastplate is finished off with mired scale. In addition, Ryan wears a chromed helmet that was provided by David Nicolson, the 2012 Lerwick guizer jarl.

The 35-year-old jarl said he has always been “a big Lerwick Up Helly Aa man” but after joining the Whiteness & Weisdale Hall committee he became involved in the Nesting and Girlsta fire festival, and was keen to spread the reach of the festival further to the west.

And so he is only the second Weisdale guizer jarl taking the reigns.

The jarl squad gathers for the traditional squad and galley photo outside Nesting school on Friday morning. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

Ryan paid tribute to Weisdale’s first jarl and family friend, Dean Gilfillan, who tragically died just a few months after having been jarl in 2014.

To honour Dean’s untimely death, Ryan has incorporated a ram’s head on Dean’s shield into the rear of his squad’s helmets.

“Had he still been with us, he would hopefully have been out with me, and I wanted to do something to honour his memory,” he said. “I am also very proud to have his boys Harold and Magnus out with me on Friday.”

Nesting and Girlsta guizer jarl Ryan Leask is keen to get Weisdale more involved in the festival. Photo: Chris Brown