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Community / Big day for Richard and family as Up Helly Aa takes to the streets of Lerwick

2024 guizer jarl Richard Moar leading his squad early in the morning in Lerwick. Photo: Peter Parker for Shetland News

RICHARD Moar’s long wait to become guizer jarl of Lerwick’s Up Helly Aa is finally over – on what has ended up becoming a historic day for the event.

Among his squad is four females – his daughter Jenna and three nieces – in what is a first for the town’s Up Helly Aa.

Moar, 47, will spend the day leading his squad across Lerwick on various visits and engagements before the fiery procession and night-time revelry.

Speaking ahead of the big day, the Sullom Voe Terminal engineer – who is representing King Harald Olafsson – said it had been a busy year getting things ready for the event.

Meanwhile Oran McCulloch is also having his spot in the limelight as the guizer jarl of Lerwick’s Junior Up Helly Aa, which is taking place during the day too and will have its procession ahead of the senior light-up.

Moar’s association with Up Helly Aa stems back to 1990, when he was a fiddle box carrier and member of the junior jarl squad.

Since then he has been in the senior jarl squad twice, in 2011 and 2018, while he was elected to the committee in 2008.

This year is Moar’s 30th Up Helly Aa, having missed three whilst studying in Edinburgh.

Many family members, around 30 in total, are taking part in Moar’s squad, including his sons, dad, brothers, uncles, cousins and father-in-law.

Guizer jarl Richard Moar and his family. From left to right: Jenna, Finlay, Richard, Marie, Kennedy and Bethany. Photo:Dave Donaldson

It is only the second year that there are no gender restrictions on squads in the Lerwick event, and this year is the first time there have been females in the jarl squad itself.

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Moar also said around 95 per cent of the squad suits are hand crafted. “There’s very little that we’ve actually paid for,” he said.

“I’m incredibly proud of it and I think the guys should be incredibly proud of it, because they created it.”

He said some of the key things he is looking forward to are taking part in the procession, walking through Lerwick during the day and visiting primary schools.

Moar also said he was grateful for the work hosts and hostesses do in running the halls at night time.

Daughter Jenna meanwhile said being involved in the jarl squad is quite a historic moment.

“I think some people will be happy and some people will be mad, but it’s going to change,” she said.

The squad member added that it is a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to have your dad as the jarl.

“If I didn’t do it I might have regrets,” Jenna added.

Richard Moar’s daughter Jenna in the centre. Photo: Shetland News

Speaking about what she is looking forward to, she said seeing family and friends at all the different halls could be a favourite moment.

“Every year my favourite part is the procession at night with the torches lit and you hear the crack of a flare, so I think this year it will be even more special having dad going up the ranks with the galley surrounded by his squad,” Jenna added.

The galley this year is called Ethena, while the junior one is named Fenrir.

Earlier this morning, at around 6am, the bill – a proclamation full of local satire – was put up at the Market Cross in a ceremony involving a small number of flaming torches.

The bill being erected this morning. Image from Shetland Webcams.

On the schedule this morning is the usual stop-off at the Bressay ferry terminal alongside the galley, before visits to places like schools, the hospital and care homes.

One public engagement is the visit to the Shetland Museum at half three, although it is a ticketed event.

The procession, which kicks off at 7.30pm after the junior one (5.30pm), is sure to provide the usual eye-catching spectacle.

After the galley is burned in the playpark the many guizers will make their way around the various halls to perform their act, with the merriment carrying on until breakfast time.

Meanwhile junior jarl Oran McCulloch, who is portraying Skeppare Nokkvesson, said he was excited about the big day.

“Going around the schools, I’m quite excited about that,” he said when asked about what he is particularly looking forward to.

“But the thing I’m most excited for is being in the park, with everyone around me doing the three cheers.”

The events follow on the Scalloway Fire Festival earlier in January, the first event of its type of the 2024 season.

Next on the agenda is the Nesting and Girlsta Up Helly Aa, which takes place on 9 February.

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