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Uyeasound: A fiery end to a family boat

Uyeasound guizer jarl Paul Thomson watching his family boat going up in flames. Photo: Kevin Osborn

THERE is likely to be a tear or two shed when the galley of this year’s Uyeasound Up Helly Aa finds its fiery end following the torch lit procession on Friday evening.

Guizer jarl Paul Thomson and his wife Linda have decided to sacrifice the family’s 50 year old Shetland model boat built by Paul’s great uncle Charlie Thomson in the late 60s when he was stationed in Orkney with the Northern Lighthouse Board.

The boat, renamed Jörmungandar for the occasion, has been in family for many years and travelled with them from just outside Largs to Unst when Paul’s parents moved back to the island in 1994. Paul’s father’s side of the family hail all from Haroldswick.

Paul has been involved with Up Helly Aa ever since, initially as a member of the junior squad at the Anderson High School, and now for many years at the Uyeasound fire festival.

Representing Haakon Haakonsson, a king of Norway with a large naval fleet who was defeated by the Scots near Largs in 1263, Paul has gathered a squad of 21 adults, four boys and five girls, including his own three children Kirstie, aged 7, Ayden, aged 5, and Calum, aged 3.

While the men all carry axes, the girls have been kitted out with bows and arrows after insisting to be Viking warriors rather than princesses.

The 38-year old head teacher of Baltasound Junior High School said choosing Haakon Haakonsson had been easy due to the shared connection with Largs.

Paul describes it as “a great privilege” to be leading a festival that goes back as far as 1911, and is one of Shetland’s oldest Up Helly Aas.

“It is really exciting for my children and particularly for my wife Linda who is a Uyeasound lass; a real honour for me to be asked to be guizer jarl,” he said.

“What I am really proud of this year is the fact that everything has been produced on the island, all the shields, all the cloaks have been made by family members of the jarl squad. We didn’t have to go off Unst.”

He added some work had to be done to turn the Shetland model into a galley by extending it slightly and adding a head and tail, but other than that the Jörmungandar is the original boat once built by his great uncle.

“It is a fine and fitting end,” he said. “We have a lot of really good memories with that boat.”

Guizers circling the galley prior to the burning on Friday night. Photo: Kevin Osborn


Uyeasound Up Helly Aa can look back at a history of more than 100 years . Photo: Kevin Osborne