THEY say there is strength in numbers and the jarl squad for this year’s South Mainland Up Helly Aa (SMUHA) certainly fits the bill.
Guizer jarl Ian Bray is leading his squad of 33 men, 13 women, 10 bairns and three babies around the south end and Lerwick today (Friday) in what is thought to be the biggest SMUHA jarl squad yet.
The SIC housing officer, who is representing former king of Norway Olaf Tryggvason, has around 20 family members in his bulging squad, including a brother who has travelled from Florida and a sister and her family who has come from Cornwall.
Ian said he picked Tryggvason, who reportedly brought Christianity to Shetland and Orkney, partly because of his well-travelled nature.
“I have links to Skye – my granny is from Skye – and I have links down to Cornwall as well,” he said.
“When I started researching vikings who travelled the UK, this Olaf Tryggvason had supposedly been in both the Hebrides and in Cornwall.”
Among the visits on the day are Sandwick’s Carnegie Hall for breakfast, the ASN department at Anderson High School, Cunningsburgh Primary School and the Sumburgh Hotel.
Keeping up the SMUHA tradition of holding the procession and burning in different locations in the south mainland, this year’s festivities will take place in his home village, Sandwick.
The burning will be held at Sandsayre in the bay near to where the Mousa boat leaves from.
“I guess it’s a kind of special place for our family – we’ve kind of been brought up around there. We’re all involved in the sailing club and that’s the kind of base for the club,” Ian said.
The galley was named Spindrift following a competition among Sandwick school children, while kids from all the schools the squad is due to visit took part in a shield designing task.
Ian has also “recycled an old sail that my dad used to use on his boat for the sail itself”.
The outfit includes leather helmets surrounded by pewter work, a brown leather breastplate, scales and a suede back. There is also burgundy cloak knitted locally, and a charcoal kirtle.
Ian has been on the SMUHA committee since 2013 – three years after it launched – and he has been guizing since 2012, although he would have started earlier if there was less demand from squads to enter.
The procession, meanwhile, will kick off not far from Ian’s house, so “it’s a nice place to start”.
The light up will take place at 7.30pm before the night revs up a gear at halls in Gulberwick, Bigton, Cunningsburgh, Sandwick Social Club and Ness Boating Club.
There’s been plenty of demand for tickets, however, with Gulberwick Hall selling out within 15 minutes.