On the morning of Up-Helly-Aa, the day begins with the first
sighting of the Galley or Viking longship as she emerges from the galley shed
where she is built during the long winter months. She is taken by trailer,
along the road to Hillswick where she sits at the waterfront. If the weather
is not too inclement then a sailing galley is also floated off on the water
at Hillswick. The Up-Helly-Aa Bill is a proclamation artistically written,
below a beautifully painted Billhead, this is usually a picturesque scene
from somewhere in the locality of the Jarl and always incorporates something
Norse like a striking Viking warrior or a galley.
The small skits, hearsays and rhymes about local happenings
qver the past year are eagerly anticipated each year, although, some people
must tremble before reading its text.Thankfully, it is generally taken in
good fun and for some; it is almost an honour to be decried in the Bill! In
the afternoon the Jarl and his squad of Vikings return from visiting the three
local schools and along with his warriors they gather at the galley for photograph's
before the galley is taken and made ready for the procession and burning.
In the evening, it is an amazing spectacle when the torches
are lit and the procession starts. Each guizer carrying a flaming torch and
singing, marches off behind the Jarl and his squad of Vikings, who pull their
longship over a quarter of a mile along a country road from the Hillswick
Hall until they reach the shores of the Wadill loch, close to the sea at Urafirth.
Here the galley is set adrift as everybody throws his or her torch into the
ship to set it alight. At this point, all the guizers sing the Norseman's
Home, a Nordic style of song praising the medieval Norse heroes, as the galley
looks like a ceremonial funeral pyre.
Following the burning of the Viking galley,
events move to the local halls where the celebrations continue. The halls
are family affairs with the young and the old present. About 15 squads of
guizers arrive in turn and perform their acts before moving onto the next
hall. Between each performance, traditional dance bands provides music and
the dancing, eating and sometimes partaking of the odd strong refreshment
will continue into the wee small hours of Saturday morning. On the Saturday
evening there is a Hop at one of the local hall where everyone gets together
for another night of celebrations.
Northmavine's next Up-Helly-Aa
- 18th Feburary 2022
Other local men and women taking part are called guizers
- yes, in Northmavine women are welcome to join in and are often part of
the Jarls squad. The guizers form themselves into squads and then choose
a topical theme for their act. Costumes are made to suit, but all arrangements
are kept secret. The topic chosen usually depicts something exciting that
has happened either in the parish or on the news during the past year -
whatever is decided the squad will have a practiced routine to
act out later in the three local halls that will be open.
Northmavine's Up-Helly-Aa is not as big
as the one held in Lerwick, but the celebrations are every bit as enjoyable.
Northmavine held an Up-Helly-Aa into the 1930's when it discontinued during
the war years. It was 1975 before Northmavine resumed celebrating the return
of the sun, but once more, it is an annual event and held, on the third Friday
of February each year. Sullom, Ollaberry, North Roe, Eshaness and Hillswick,
with all the hamlets in between, come together each year to elect a Jarl or
Viking Earl and organise this local Up-Helly-Aa. Districts take it in turn to
have the Guiser Jarl represent them and it is a great honour to be chosen for
this role. About 20 or 30 of the Jarls friends and neighbours will act as his
Viking warriors and accompany the Jarl for this special night.Virtually
a whole year goes into preparing the costumes and tunics,
which they wear on the night, but the most work is in making helmets, and the
beautiful shields and swords or axes that each member of the Jarl's squad carries.