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Community / All set for Cullivoe’s unique Up Helly Aa celebrations

Jarl Steven Brown with his two daughters Lucy (left) and Kerry who joined him in the jarl squad. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News
Cullivoe Up Helly Aa procession on Friday night.

WITH three Up Helly Aa celebrations pencilled in for the coming days, it can be rightly said that the last weekend in February marks a particularly busy point of fire festival activity in the isles.

And, unsurprisingly, Cullivoe made an early start when three days of fiery celebrations that require a lot of stamina and takes in the whole of the island of Yell kicked off with a hearty breakfast in the Burravoe hall on Thursday morning.

Guizer jarl this year is Burravoe man Steven Brown who was nominated by the 2020 jarl Craig Dickie to take on the reins for the next festival.

Like most other jarls, he and his squad of 15 had to wait an additional two years due to the pandemic, and so it is no surprise that everybody involved is raring to go and ready for the biggest event in Yell’s social calendar.

“I have been involved in squads since the early 1980s and I also have been in the jarl squad in the year 2000, so to be asked and to have been chosen to be the jarl is such an honour,” the 54-year-old father of two said.

He is joined in the squad by Colin Dickie as well as by next year’s jarl Brian Spence, and also by his two daughters Lucy and Kerry.

“So, yes, we are all really looking forward to the weekend as we had such a long wait,” he added.

Kerry Brown in deep conversation with nursery kids.

A firefighter at Sullom Voe for more than 30 years, he is seen as a safe pair of hands to oversee Friday’s torch-lit procession and burning of the galley at the old Cullivoe marina.

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Clad in blue velvet kirtles, leather boots and reindeer hides, his squad is armed with replicas of swords and spears which, he jokes, will mainly be used to open bottles of beer.

Jarl Steven Brown in conversation with Savannah Inkster with her daughter Frankie looking on.

Depicting Logi Fornjotson, an ancient king from northern Norway, Steven said: “He is reported as being a god, and his son was Mogi representing fire. I am fireman at Sullom Voe, so that fitted perfectly.

“And he had a wife and two daughters, so that gelled with me right away.”

Celebrations kicked off gently in Burravoe on Thursday morning. After the breakfast Steven and his Vikings made it across to the primary school for some entertainment from local pupils.

The Viking mob then moved on to Mid Yell for a number of social engagements, including a visit to the school’s nursery, although the traditional visit to the care home has been somewhat curtailed due to worries over Covid.

Friday will see the main event get underway in the morning when the galley will make a first appearance, and Cullivoe’s school children will hitch a ride to their school.

The day will be spent with visits to local folk and other social engagements ahead of the procession, which will involve around 120 guizers organised in 14 squads.

Friday’s celebrations will culminate in the community coming together in the Cullivoe hall where the Alan Nicolson Band will entertain the crowds, to be followed by the hop night on Saturday when it is the turn of the Peter Wood Band to play up for a dance.

Cullivoe jarl squad line up with the local primary school bairns for the traditional galley photo.
The jarl squad visited the nursery at the Mid Yell school in Thursday morning.

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