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Community / Jarl Hakon Galinn takes the helm as Delting Up Helly Aa gets underway

Delting jarl Daniel Johnson with his two children Mitchell and Ada at Lunnasting Primary School on Friday morning. Photo: Shetland News

DELTING jarl Daniel Johnson is leading his squad for an action-packed day in the community as the Up Helly Aa fire festival season draws to a close.

The 51-person squad opened their day at the Northern Lights in the Brae Hotel before marching to the galley shed this morning (Friday). They will go on to visit local schools, Busta House Hotel and the Northaven Care Centre before the evening’s festivities.

Johnson was nominated by his uncle in 2009 and expected to be the Delting jarl in 2021 but Covid-19 pushed things back by three years.

“It didn’t really bother me, but I felt really bad for Dwayne (Davies, Delting jarl of 2023) since they’d had all the build-up and momentum and it would be like pulling the rug from us in the final week,” he said.

“For me it meant my bairns were getting older, so they’d get to enjoy the day more.”

Johnson’s children Mitchell (8) and Ada (5) are both in this year’s jarl squad with their father. His wife Karen has taken on a lot of the background work to help make this year’s Up Helly Aa happen.

“She’s done so much. I don’t know how I would have had time to do everything – it seems like I’ve sent more messages and emails in the last three to four months than I’ve ever done in my life.”

The entire jarl squad have been working to get ready for the event too, with Johnson adding: “It’s been hectic and I’ve had a really good bunch of people involved. The bairns, the family, and the squad, they’re all a really good bunch.

“I’m looking forward to that moment on the day when everyone who has put in all their hard work over the last few months gets to just relax and enjoy the day – the moment when we’re standing in the Lights’ function room and we can think ‘that’s it’”.

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Hakon Galinn and his squad carry great Viking broadswords and wooden shields with a deep blue resin stripe meaning every shield has a unique resin pattern. They’re held together with brushed steel circumferences and a steel circular centre featuring the triple horns of Odin.

Mitchell and Ada have unique bairns shields with a shark and unicorn encased in the blue resin so they stand out on the day.

The squad are wearing navy blue pigskin kirtles with black leather breastplates sewn by Lorna Erikson. Johnson said he always wanted to go for dark choices for his colours, while keeping things comfortable and mobile for the squad.

“Every breastplate has been fitted to the man so it’s really comfy to wear.”

They put rivets in their suits themselves, with one managing over 4,000 in a single day. The breastplates are embossed with the triple horn of Odin, and a Viking dragon pattern.

For helmets, Johnson didn’t want to use wings, explaining: “It’s each to their own but I’ve been in jarl squads with the wings and if the wind catches it, it’s difficult.

“So, I wanted a very simple design, black leather on helmets and brushed stainless steel.” The triple horns of Odin were etched on by N-Graved.”

When choosing his Viking name Johnson pays homage to his uncle Stuart Robertson who was Hakon Herdebreid at the 2009 festival.

“Hakon Galinn is Hakon Herdebreid’s nephew in the sagas, so it was only fitting for me to use it,” he said.

Keeping it personal, Johnson named his navy-blue and grey galley Rödahamar after his house name. The property name came from the late George Peterson, poet and writer, who has been closely involved with Delting Up Helly Aa for many years.

Galinn translates to ‘furious’, referring to his ferociousness in battle, and the jarl comes with a saga penned by John Tait that features various family members under pseudonyms.

The squad will be singing Swords of a Thousand Men by Tenpole Tudor. “A while ago there was a film [The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists] and this was one of the songs in it.

“Mitchell absolutely loved it so he picked the song, and also then picked the weapons because we couldn’t use the song without having the swords too.”

He wasn’t deterred by the Lerwick jarl squad also choosing the song for this year’s festival, saying: “What are the chances?’

“We decided to go for it, it’s practised, and no other song meant as much as this one.”

Light up for the procession through Brae is at 7.30pm before a night of revelry in local halls.

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