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Community / Northmavine Up Helly Aa: a day to sing, dance, ‘and have a right good laugh’

A long and exciting day ahead for Kevin Jamieson and his squad

Northmavine Guizer Jarl Hansom Brucison, aka Kevin Jamieson, enjoying every moment of his big day. Photos: Garry Sandison

IN THE guise of the fictional Viking warrior Hansom Brucison, Guizer Jarl Kevin Jamieson strides across the realm of Northmavine today (Friday) leading his assembly of 55 Vikings for the annual Up Helly Aa.

Fifty five Vikings may seem an imposing number of fearless warriors to descend on the mainland’s northern shores but fear not, this jarl squad is very much family centred with 23 Vikings being children, the youngest baby turning one year old this week.

Guizers shortly before the galley is set ablaze.

Kevin considers Up Helly Aa an important community event for young and old alike and wanted to include his four children as well as his many nieces and nephews at the helm. 

“I am pleased to have so many bairns involved in the jarl squad. Hopefully by participating it will inspire some of them to be involved in future Up Helly Aas in Northmavine as well as enjoying the day with family and friends.”

Kevin’s 80-year old father, Bruce, and his two brothers are also in the squad while his brother Neil has designated him the Viking persona, Hansom Brucison.

“Neil has written a saga about me, but I’ve not seen it and he’s keeping it secret and not releasing it until today but it’s based on my life and written in a light-hearted way. So, I’m not taking myself too seriously!”

Although stemming originally from Sandsound, near Bixter, Kevin has lived and worked as a crofter for the last 14 years in North Roe and has utilised many local talented creative people in the design and creation of outfits and accessories for his squad.  

Local seamstresses, Margaret Tulloch and Norma Aitken worked tirelessly over winter months to hand sew 55 outfits for men and children from cloth woven from Shetland wool by the Jamieson’s mill at Sandness. 

The earthy, natural colours were chosen by Kevin, his wife Isla and her sister Lynette, who also played a huge part in the design of the garments and the inclusion of mustard tunics for the princesses which bring a cheerful warmth to the squad’s ensemble. 

A Norwegian styled star features predominantly in the squad’s apparel, on the cloaks and shields which Kevin explained was due to an old lady, Mary Hay, who was a family friend that used to knit mittens for him as a young boy and they always had a Norwegian star on them which is why he choose this as his emblem.  

North Roe based ceramist, Sharon McGeady has utilised the star motif and created ceramic star brooches for the jarl squad as well as ceramic star pendants for the princesses.

The earthy, natural colours of Jarl Hansom Brusison’s outfit were chosen by Kevin, his wife Isla and her sister Lynette.

The wealth of creative talent is in abundance in Northmavine with so many people being able to turn their hand to designing and crafting beautiful functional objects for a communal celebration and nowhere is this more apparent than the galley shed where over the winter months the men have made wooden shields, axe handles, leather tiaras for the princesses and constructed the sacrificial galley Mavaroam.

Mavaroam is decorated with shields designed and painted by the children of Urafirth, Ollaberry and North Roe primary schools and will be on display at the Hillswick waterfront until late afternoon. 

It will be a long and exciting day for Kevin and his squad with visits planned to Urafirth, Ollaberry and North Roe schools in the morning, a lunch break at the North Roe hall before photos at the Hillswick waterfront at 3pm. 

Whilst waiting for the jarl squad to arrive, the Weaving Shed gallery in Hillswick has opened its doors for refreshments and warmth from the cold outside.

In the evening at 8pm, Kevin and his squad will light up their torches and lead 14 squads in procession to the loch at Urafirth where Mavaroam will be set ablaze accompanied by the uplifting tunes from the Lerwick Brass Band.

The celebrations continue on Saturday for Hop Day with food from 2pm-8pm at the North Roe hall and live music at the Hillswick hall from 8.30pm as well as live music and food available all day at the St Magnus Bay Hotel.

For Kevin and his family this will certainly be a day to remember, and Kevin hopes “will be a day to sing, dance, eat good food and have a right good laugh. That’s what Up Helly Aa’s aboot.”

Alex Purbrick