Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lerwick Galley Shed

More pics from the LUHA shed - suitably decorated for the annual Summer Exhibition.
This galley shed was officially opened by Magnus Shearer, the then Lord Lieutenant of Shetland on the 30th October 1984.

A galley is kept at the shed and used for the exhibition each year.
A Junior Galley is also in the shed & is also kept each year for the exhibition.
There are historic guizers suits on display.
Along with several masks from previous years squads.
Bill heads, The Bells Brae Collection of Shields and several more previous years guizer masks are on display around the walls of the shed. The Bells Brae shield collection is transported to the Galley Shed each year from the School for the summer exhibition and then transported back again to the school hall after the exhibition closes at the end of September.
There are also several previous Jarls Squad suits on display, along with some banners and axes.
The Galley shed is used during the autumn and winter months for making the years Galley and the procession torches.
The 2010 squad banners banners on display.
The current years Bill is also on display - the 2010 Bill.
The Guizer Jarl's Suit, shield, helmet & axe are also on display. These are used each year by the Guizer Jarl.

For details of how to get there, when its open, admission costs, etc. see the official website

History of the Lerwick Galley Shed
Text mainly from Lerwick Up Helly Aa Programmes

By tradition, the construction of the Galley and the manufacture of torches for each years Up Helly Aa festival has always been associated with the Docks area of Lerwick. There was ample availability of stores and sheds in that area - because of seasonal fluctuations in fishing activity many buildings, busy during the summer herring fishing, were empty and unused during the winter months. Hays boat-shed was used tor many years for Galley and torch making.

After the Second War, however, with the decline in activity, fewer buildings were available, as business patterns changed. J. & M. Shearer Ltd., carrying on as herring curers, made a shed available to the Up Helly Aa Committee until 1965, when changes in their operations necessitated redevelopment of their premises. Luckily, space for building the galley was offered by Wm. Fraser and Partners Ltd. in a shed at the North Ness. This offer was accepted as the best possibility under the prevailing circumstances although the shed was not wind and water-tight and the builders had to wear rubber boots all the time. The torch makers found accommodation in D. Shearers premises in Hangcliff Lane until 1967, when again changes in that company's operations forced a move to Hayfield Cottage on Gilbertson Road. Hayfield Cottage was generously made available by Lerwick Town Council on a temporary basis. At the same time the Committee itself had the use of the jail in Fort Charlotte, a very cramped little building where the painting of the Bill was only just feasible.

Lerwick Town Council came to the rescue in 1968, when they offered to lease the former R.E.M.E. wartime workshop in St. Sunniva Street to the Committee for galley building and torch making. This building, a large Nissen-type shed constructed of a steel framing clad with corrugated steel sheeting, was erected during the Second War and was later occupied by Andrew Stewart Ltd., and used as a weaving shed until 1966. The Town Council commissioned a housing scheme on an adjacent site and in 1974 the south end of the shed was cut back some 14 feet to create access to the housing site and a concrete block gable erected. The Up Helly Aa Committee took over the shed in 1968 as it then stood. On the impending demise of Lerwick Town Council, the Council granted the Committee a twenty-five year lease of the shed on 1st May 1975. It is notable that the Town Council and its successors had no responsibility for external maintenance of the property.

Up to the time the Galley Shed was let to the Up Helly Aa Committee a single base of operations had not existed, but it soon became apparent that such a base had a very considerable effect on the Festival. A more cohesive spirit developed between the members of the Committee and the dedicated band of volunteers creating the means of celebrating Up Helly Aa. For the first time, working conditions could be described as tolerable and storage space could be found for torch bags and other materials and equipment.

As soon as was practicable, the Committee organised a summer exhibition on the subject of Up Helly Aa, as an attraction to visitors to the town. A special galley was commissioned for use at this exhibition and a large number of items for exhibition were donated by the public and guizers, such as bill-heads, shields, squad suits and models. For the first time a permanent home for these items was available. Showings of Up Helly Aa films were also organised during the exhibition opening hours. The first exhibition was opened in 1969 and summer exhibitions have been successfully staged ever since with several thousand visitors recorded as having visited the exhibition.

From the outset, the Committee realised the responsibility of maintaining and improving the Shed, and funds were devoted to this purpose whenever possible. Given the nature of the exercise, the funds seldom stretched beyond the purchase of materials, and the work was largely carried out by Committee members. Over the years the outside of the shed was re-coated and sheets replaced where possible. The north gable deteriorated to the extent that it was not considered feasible to renew it with metal sheeting, so, with grant assistance from the council, it was demolished and replaced with a concrete block gable in 1977. This work was carried out by a contractor, but during the same year the Committee room and toilets were reconstructed by members of the Committee. This reconstruction was a great improvement and an asset to the shed because it enabled more people to see the summer film shows.

All the time however it was increasingly evident that the external fabric of the shed was deteriorating faster than it could be maintained. The stage was reached when the galley workers had to take shelter in the stores during snow and hail showers! A casual survey revealed that to all intents and purposes the sheet metal cladding had reached the end of its useful life, and that many of the frame members were badly corroded. It was therefore agreed to commission designs and estimates for the reconstruction of the shed in more permanent materials, utilising as much of the existing blockwork and internal structure as possible. The subject was put to mass meetings of guizers held in October 1982, and in January 1983 the guizers' approval to the project was sought and obtained, along with their commitment to help raise some of the cost of the project. The project was put to tender and Phillips & Duguid were successfully contracted to do the works. Grant assistance was provided by the Shetland Islands Council, the Shetland Amenity Trust and the H.I.D.B, together with fund raising by the guizers and Committee.

During recent years as the financial climate improved and the festival 'settled down' in terms of participating numbers, it has been possible to consolidate all aspects of the festival and make provision for the future. In considering this, the beneficial effect accruing to the festival by virtue of the possession of the Galley Shed has been all too apparent, and Lerwick Up Helly Aa now has a truly permanent base of operations from which to continue the success of the Festival.

If you get a chance - visit the shed - its an excellent display.

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