Good time ahead for Thorkell the Tall

There was some good singing when the jarl squad visited Urafirth primary school on Friday morning. Photo: Kevin Osborne

AFTER a week of high winds and a scattering of snow it looks as though the Viking weather gods have finally turned soft for this weekend’s two Up Helly Aas in Northmavine and Uyeasound.

Northmavine guizer jarl David Brown leads one of the largest jarl squads ever assembled for a country fire festival with 38 adults and 15 children, including his own kids Christopher, aged 8, Elisabeth, aged 6, and Vaila, aged 3.


A day to look forward to for Thorkell the Tall, aka David Brown. Photo: Kevin Osborn

“We even had to book two buses to move everyone around,” he jokes.

The regional manager for salmon farming company Cook Aquaculture represents Thorkell the Tall, a jarl from East Anglia who was as tall as David is, but had no other link with Shetland.

At 39 years old, David is an experienced hand at everything Up Helly Aa.

Looking back at more than 30 years of involvement in the north mainland fire festival, it is already his 11th time in the jarl squad. He never even got around to cutting off his impressive beard after last year’s festival.


The Ollaberry man is thoroughly relaxed at what lies ahead of him over the course of the next 48 hours (“I don’t have a problem with public speaking”) and is determined to enjoy every moment of it.

He says being chosen Northmavine guizer jarl has been important to him, adding that it was “a great honour to lead the festival”.

Clearly, the community aspect is the most important element for David, as it brings people together and allows everybody to have a good time.

“It has been great so far,” he said. “It’s slightly daunting initially after having been selected, but then you very quickly realise what skills and enthusiasm you have in the squad to make it all happen,” he said.

“We are hoping to see as many people as possible throughout the day, including pupils at the three primary schools.

“It is a community event and it for everybody to enjoy.”

Tonight’s torch lit procession will start at 8pm from the Hillswick hall to Urafirth where David’s galley Olafsberg will be sacrificed to the flames before the party kicks off in the local halls.