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Community / A lot of laughs as SIC convener and guizer jarl lead Up Helly Aa civic reception

From left to right: Lord liutenant Bobby Hunter, SIC convener Andrea Manson, 2024 guizer jarl Richard Moar. Photo: SIC

THERE was a jovial atmosphere within the four walls of Lerwick Town Hall earlier this morning (Tuesday) for the Up Helly Aa civic reception – with laughs aplenty.

Guizer jarl Richard Moar was given a warm welcome from Shetland Islands Council convener Andrea Manson following a couple of songs from the squad.

It was a civic reception with a difference given it was the first to feature a jarl squad with females – one of Moar’s daughters, and three nieces.

Manson wished Moar, a “stalwart of Up Helly Aa”, all the best on what was a “culmination of many years of preparation and planning”.

She paid tribute to the “enormous amount of hard work” involved in the squad – especially the suits, which were mostly made in Shetland.

The civic reception gives a chance for some influential figures in Shetland to gather – such as politicians, emergency service chiefs and ex-jarls – and hear speeches from the convener and the guizer jarl himself.

Manson said Up Helly Aa commemorates Shetland’s “strong Viking roots, and confirms that we are all very proud of our Scandinavian origins”.

She added: “There are female warriors amongst our Viking ancestors, and it is only right that we say an extra warm welcome to the lovely lasses who have joined their family here today as members of the jarl squad.

“You’re making history lasses – and who knows, sometime in the 23rd Century we might be welcoming a female jarl to the Town Hall on Up Helly Aa day…and then the press will give us peace about it!”

Manson was on fine form delivering jokes and quips, poking fun at Moar’s “overwhelming passion” for spreadsheets.

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Nicola Sturgeon and caravans, as well as the Reestit Neeps and Shetland Road Conditions Facebook pages also got a mention.

SIC convener Andrea Manson. Photo: Shetland News

Speaking from the podium, Moar himself said Up Helly Aa “creates many memories and whole load of joy”, adding that he was honoured to lead the event this year.

“The highlight of the winter, a focus for the community and above all, a real good fun,” he said.

Moar said he was representing King Harald Olafsson as he was married to the daughter of Haakon Haakonsson, who his father in law Kenny Crossan portrayed when he was jarl in 1982.

He paid tribute to the host of folk which have helped to put everything together for the day, from the suits – “all the squad kirtles have been made by my mam” – and designs by artist Dirk Robertson to pieces made by Shetland Jewellery, as well as the hosts and hostesses who will keep things running smoothly at the halls at night.

Moar noted how around half of his squad are made up of family, while he also toasted absent friends who are no longer here since he joined the Up Helly Aa committee.

He added: “I stand here before you as the figurehead of a festival, [but] I couldn’t do this without the help and support of my family and wider family.”

Two customs during the event are a toast to Maløy, the town in Norway which Lerwick has been twinned with for decade – this year the drink of choice was rum – and the jarl and his squad being given the freedom of Lerwick for the next 24 hours.

Up next for Moar and his squad are various visits around the Lerwick community before a public gathering at the Shetland Museum mid-afternoon – with the fiery procession then lighting up at 7.30pm.

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