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Community / Updated: Fiery celebrations climax with spectacular torch-lit procession

The 2020 Lerwick Up Helly Aa. Photo: Chris Brown

PERHAPS the Norse Gods were listening, but Guizer Jarl Liam Summers, representing the boss of them all, Odin, and his 62-strong squad and the Junior Jarl’s Squad were blessed with a fair day as the marched along they Esplanade from their earlier rounds at Islesburgh Community Centre, The Tollclock Shopping Centre and Lerwick British Legion this morning.

The entourage of guizers, dressed in black and red, plus the brass and pipe bands and hundreds of followers tread the accustomed morning circuit, turning hard right into Commercial Street before gathering at the Market Cross for the bill, which was erected in the early hours of the morning.

The procession gets under way. Photos: Chris Brown

The guizers were in good voice to blast out hearty renditions of the Up Helly-A’ Song, The Galley Song and much waheying.

The galley Yggdrasil, named after the mythic tree of life, was meanwhile pulled from the Legion to her stance on the pier.

Lerwick Town Hall was next on the itinerary and guests were treated to some fine fiddle and accordion before the entry of the Jarl’s Squad.

Once the squad, decked in their finery, were seated, Shetland Island’s Council Convenor Malcolm Bell welcomed Jarl Summers and his men with a typically witty speech, often ragging on the Guizer Jarl’s support for Hearts Football Club, not currently enjoying one of the finer seasons.

The convenor quickly covered Brexit, increasingly youthful guizer jarls, the ordeal of the town hall speech, the ever increasing numbers of visitors to Up Helly Aa, including a large film crew for NHK tv in Japan, and the diligent efforts town hall staff.

Perhaps as a portent of thing to come, the convenor said: “Billy [town hall steward Billy Sandilands, overseeing his last Up Helly Aa] asked me to point out the sign on the gents that says ‘wet floor’ is a warning and not an instruction.”

The galley goes up in flames. Photo: Chris Brown

Bell pointed out that the Guizer Jarl’s father Robbie, as father of Odin, was perhaps the Godfather, something that would come as no surprise to anyone visited by suited committee members with the collecting sheet.

For his part, Jarl Summers seemed not at all daunted when giving his speech, proclaiming he was “really happy and proud to lead this festival”.

He also gave heartfelt thanks to everyone of the cast of hundreds who had been helping the Jarl’s Squad prepare, naming ex-Jarl Rae Simpson and colleague Erik Moncrief in particular, but most of all his family and children Libby, Glynn and his wife Sandra.

Jarl Summers said that he had been on the Up Helly Aa committee for 15 years but it had really come home to him this year just what the festival meant to the community.

He also paid tribute to former Jarls Jack Moar and John Hunter who died in the past year and his friend Michael Johnston, who he was sure would be looking down on proceedings with approval.

The Junior Jarl’s Squad is led today by Marley Teale representing Sigmund “Fish-Hook” Andresson. The quad made a striking contrast to the seniors with their largely white costumes and brown shields.

Photos from Tuesday morning are below:

Guizer jarl Liam Summers gathers his men at the Market Cross for the Up Helly Aa song. Photo: Chris Brown
Guizer Jarl Liam Summers addressing folk at the civic reception in Lerwick Town Hall. With him are Lord Lieutenant Bobby Hunter and council convener Malcolm Bell. Photo: Chris Brown