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Community / ‘A day of fun above anything else’ – Nesting and Girlsta Up Helly Aa underway

This year's Nesting and Girlsta Up Helly Aa jarl Scott Hatrick and wife Wendy share a kiss on the galley on Friday morning. Photo: Shetland News

WITH the Up Helly Aa season in full swing it is Nesting and Girlsta’s turn this weekend with Weisdale guizer jarl Scott Hatrick and his squad of 46 Vikings leading the community festival.

Following a hearty breakfast at the South Nesting hall this morning the squad’s first social engagement of the day was the traditional visit to the local school just round the corner.

Scott’s wife Wendy and their four boys Sam (19), Jos (17), Tom (14) and Fin (12), as well as the jarl’s brother Stuart, are all members of the squad.

And as they marched down the road from the hall to the school on Friday morning, clad in blue and wielding axes and fine shields, they certainly made a splendid sight.

Originally from Greenock, the 54-year-old jarl said it was almost inevitable that he should represent King Haakon Haakonsson of Norway, who – famously – lost the Battle of Largs in 1263, which was fought just a few miles away from where he spent his early years.

While preparing for the battle with King Alexander III of Scotland, Haakon anchored with his armada of 120 galleys in Bressay Sound for a few weeks, so there is also a strong historical link.

However, that is as far as it goes with the sagas, the jarl says, as for him the most important aspect of the festival is the community element and the fact that all generations are involved in the event and are celebrating together.

“This will be a fun day for all involved,” the operations team leader at Sullom Voe Terminal promised when speaking about his role in the festival earlier in the week.

“The whole experience ever since we started last summer has been a laugh. I said to the boys: if anybody of you gets stressed about this, take a step back for a while.

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“This is a very local squad. I would say 90 per cent of the squad lives locally either in our road or not far from our road.

“That’s what you get in Nesting: the community is so proud of the festival – it’s very low key, really good fun but they are so very proud of it all.”

A fair chunk of the Nesting and Girlsta 2024 jarl squad musicians are members of local rockers The Revellers. Photo: Shetland News

But this weekend is also a moment to reflect on the untimely death of Dean Gilfillan who was jarl exactly ten years and whose memory lives on.

As a tribute, Scott is wearing Dean’s helmet to which he has made some changes.

Following a packed day of visits to local schools and shops, as well as the Eric Gray Centre in Lerwick, guizers will muster at the South Nesting Hall for the lighting up of torches at 7.30pm and the procession to the burning site.

After that the party will get underway in the North Nesting, South Nesting and Whiteness and Weisdale halls.

The Nesting and Girlsta 2024 jarl squad. Photo: Shetland News
Family photo: Jarl Scott Hatrick, his wife Wendy, and their four boys (left to right) Jos, Tom, Sam and Fin. Photo: Shetland News

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