Hrollaug Rognvaldsson rules in Bressay

Bressay guizer jarl Hrollaug Rognvaldsson enjoying every moment of it. Photo: Chris Brown

SHETLAND’s busy Up Helly Aa season is peaking this weekend with three fire festivals being celebrated on three different islands.

Bressay and Cullivoe Up Helly Aas take place on Friday, followed by the isles’ smallest fire festival at Norwick on Saturday.

Guizer jarl in Bressay this year is Tam Christie, who works as a bar supervisor at the Grand and Queens hotels in town.


Besides a busy job with KGQ Hotels, the recently married 71-year old also volunteers for the Red Cross, the Independent Living initiative, and occasionally accompanies patients to hospital in Aberdeen.

And, following in the footsteps of his brother William who was the Bressay jarl in 1993, Tam’s life has become an awful lot busier in recent weeks.

Researching the sagas, he has come up with a wonderful story which sees him depicting ninth century viking Hrollaug Rognvaldsson, one of the sons of Rognvald Eysteinsson, who was the earl of the Norwegian region of Møre.


Incidentally, his brother depicted Hrollaug’s brother Torf-Einarr, the Earl of Orkney, when he was jarl 25 years ago.

And the two brothers fought together in the islands: “We were tasked to take out the Danish leaders that were settling here in Shetland.

“Myself and my brother decided since I had been sent to Iceland and passing Shetland, we decided to do this together,” he said.

Tam enjoying his day as Hrollaug Rognvaldsson. Photo: Shetland News

“We did that on Midsummer Day, and easily succeeded as the Danes were all half drunk on the Shetland mead they were drinking. We had little or no fight at all, and rounded them up.

“While we were doing this one of the Danes realised it was all over and took his dagger out and stabbed me.”

In his tale, Tam (or Hrollaug) is looked after by a local woman called Mariod Dahli.


He describes her as strong and feisty, capable of swinging a battle-axe with one hand better than most men could do with two.

Needless to say that they became involved with each other and eventually married. And by pure coincidence Tam got married to local woman Mary Dalziel just a few years ago.

“So there is a bit of truth in all this. It’s not pure history, but it’s not pure fantasy either. If you had it purely historical it would be rather boring,” he said.

Following morning engagements in the Bressay Hall and the local shop, Tam and his squad of Vikings will tour the community before the torch lit procession and burning of his galley at night.

And in an additional twist to his story, Hrollaug Rognvaldsson and his Vikings will cross the sea over to Lerwick the following day to visit King Erik House and then parade through Commercial Street on their way to the Queens Hotel where they all have been invited for a Viking banquet.