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Community / Nesting and Girlsta ready for fiery celebration

Jarl Rognvald Eysteinsson with his galley burning on Friday night. Photo: Kevin Osborn

GUIZER jarl Peter Hunter (AKA Rognvald Eysteinsson) is heading the Nesting and Girlsta Up Helly Aa celebrations today (Friday) with his squad of 24 merry men and five bairns. 

Peter’s character, also known as Rognvald the Wise or Rognvald the Powerful, had a founding role in the Earldom of Orkney (including Shetland).

According to the Norse sagas at least, Rognvald was granted the isles as compensation by Harald Fairhair after leading a great expedition to quell rebels in the Northern Isles, during which Rognvald’s son Ivarr was killed.

Around 260 torch bearing guizers circling the galley before it is being set alight. Photo: Kevin Osborn

But Rognvald returned home to Norway and handed the Northern Isles to his brother Sigurd. Back in Norway, Rognvald fathered three sons, including Torf-Einarr, whose dynasty went on to have a profound influence on Orcadian history.

According to Peter, who works as a crane operator in the Republic of Ireland, the Nesting Up Helly Aa is all about having a good laugh, with anyone welcome to participate.

He said there are a “braa twa or tree” female squads out of the 18-squad event with women making up a good proportion of the 260 guizers who will be taking part on Friday night.

Peter’s wife Shona will not be among them, but the Jarl’s squad includes his son Brydon, brother in law Philip Simpson and nephews and nieces Roxi and Stella Simpson and Jack, Erin and Shay Harries.

The guizers will head off from the South Nesting Hall in the evening before calling by the galley shed to pick up the galley, named Vassa, and on to the burning site near the old school.

Ideally the galley will be burned in the sea, but with a forecast for weather lying on, it is more likely the ship will be set ablaze on the banks, nonetheless making a fine spectacle.

The jarl’s squad is clad in a purple kirtle with a reindeer skin cloak, and wearing a black helmet adorned with buffalo horns, which were the “right shape”.

Shields are made of wood and edged with rope and will bear a Norse-style wolf motif. Each Viking is also armed with a stainless steel axe, and, of supreme importance, each guizer is armed with a drinking horn.

After the galley meets its fiery end later tonight, the guizers will visit South Nesting, Whiteness and Weisdale and the North Nesting community halls on their rounds.

Nesting & Girlsta jarl Peter Hunter looking forward to a day of fiery celebrations. Photos below: Hans J Marter/Shetland News
Jarl Rognvald the Wise thanking Nesting primary school for a great welcome on Friday morning.
Three cheers for Up Helly Aa – Vikings already in good voice on Friday morning.
The Nesting and Girlsta jarl squad, joined by the bairns of Nesting primary school, gathering for the traditional group photo.