Monday, March 14, 2011

2011 Norwick Up Helly Aa - Day Pics

The 2011 Norwick up Helly Aa was celebrated a week later than planned on Saturday 5th March with guizer Jarl James Gray portraying Flóki Vilgerðarson. The event was rescheduled as a mark of respect following the unfortunate death of Morag Sutherland from Haroldswick, a long time supporter of the Norwick festival.

Flóki Vilgerðarson was born in the 9th century and was the first Norseman to deliberately sail to Iceland. His story is documented in the Landnámabók manuscript which tells that he heard good news of a new land to the west, then known as Garðarshólmi. He wanted to settle in this new land so he took his family and livestock with him. From Western Norway he set sail to Shetland where one of his daughters, Geirhilda drowned. He continued his journey and landed in the Faroe Islands where another of his daughters was married. There he took three ravens to help him find his way to Iceland, and as a result was nicknamed Raven-Floki (Hrafna-Flóki) and he is commonly remembered by that name.

This was the 27th year celebrating the most northerly Shetland fire festival since it began as a local Up Helly Aa back in 1985. The Jarl’s squad comprised 14 members including 2 princesses. As crew on the inter-island ferries serving Unst and Fetlar the Jarl decided to name his galley ‘Fivla’. The environmentally conscious will be pleased to learn that the Norwick Jarl’s Squad recycle and re-use as much as possible for their suits from previous years. Most of this years suits, shields, axes and helmets have been used previously and like Uyeasound in the south of Unst, Norwick keep their galley from year to year with a ‘secondary’ galley (an old boat donated to the Committee from year to year by different well-wishers), used for the burning. The pyre for this year’s burning was large and probably rival’s only Lerwick in terms of its volume of material burnt.

Each of the Jarl’s Squad members had a red bow on the right shoulder of their black cloaks in memory of Lance Corporal Liam Richard Tasker, an Arms and Explosives Search dog handler attached to the 1st Battalion Irish Guards. He was killed in Afghanistan on 1st March 2011, while on patrol with his dog Theo. Liam was known to many folk on Unst as he was a pupil at the Baltasound Junior High School from 1997 to 1999 while his parents were stationed at the then RAF Saxa Vord. It was believed that snipers may have been targeting the dog because of the animal's importance in locating bombs and although Theo initially survived the attack, the springer spaniel later died after suffering a seizure.

The day started with the Jarl’s squad mustering at the North Unst Public Hall in the early morning where breakfast was served. On display at the hall were the Bill Head painted by Eyvor Renwick, depicting a Viking settlement at Norwick beach looking towards the cliffs at Burgar, along with what was probably the largest Bill ever seen. Spanning numerous pages and running the full length of the hall, it was all hand-lettered by “Jackie Chip”. Around 11am the Jarl’s Squad headed off to greet well-wishers at the galley shed along the Skaw road on the Ward of Norwick. Refreshments were served at the galley shed, followed by group photos with the galley of everyone at the shed, and the Jarl’s Squad. Official squad photos followed on the beach at Norwick along with further Jarls’ Squad and galley photos. The galley is equipped with floodlights and loudspeakers attached to the yard, with a sound system installed in the stern. The experience of watching the Jarl’s Squad bus and galley arrive at Norwick beach to Cher’s Shoop Shoop song blasting from the galley speakers was entertaining to say the least.

From here it was back to the Hall for soup, tea and cakes and presentations thanking volunteers for their work supporting the Up Helly Aa. It is worth mentioning that the official photographer, Desley Stickle, did a stalwart job marshalling and positioning the Jarl’s Squad. When presented with a bouquet of flowers by the Jarl at the hall, she was asked to move slightly to the right, back slightly and hold the bouquet up so as not to obscure the folk next to her!

Following lunch at the Baltasound Hotel the Jarl’s Squad visited the Nordalea Care Home. Further refreshments were available and dancing ensued with some of the squad. The Jarl’s son Andrew reluctantly posed with a copy of the August 1993 Shetland Life magazine (the centrepiece of an Up Helly Aa display at the Home), the cover of which shows a picture of him and his parents just after he was born. Further visits to houses were made during the afternoon including a bairn with Chickenpox who was unable to attend the procession and burning. An entertaining visit was also made to the ‘Final Checkout’ shop to share a dram with Charlie Priest, one of the original folk who started the festival in 1985. The Jarl also shared some of his specially commissioned malt with those present and several squad members took the opportunity to replenish their stock of personal refreshments.

The word ‘Fivla’ is commonly mentioned in an old Norse myth, told in several places in Shetland with slight variations. From Jakobsens’ “Dialect and place names of Shetland” (1897), the Fetlar version says: The "guidman" of Taft had been to Urie with his butter-tithe and was on his way home again. He was riding a grey mare and leading a red one. On passing a knoll he heard a voice from inside the knoll crying the following words : " Du at rins de red and rides de gray, tell t0na Tivla, at f0na Fivla is fa'en i' de fire and brunt her." When the man came home to Taft, he shouted these same words into the byre, where a fairy was sitting, milking one of his cows. The fairy on hearing this immediately left off milking and cried : "Oh, dat's my bairn," whereupon she fled, leaving the pan she was milking into. This pan was kept in the house of Taft and caused the house to prosper ever afterwards. In this old myth Fivla is the name of the troll's child, but at one time "Fivla" has been a common troll-name in old fairy legends, both Shetlandic and Scandinavian.
‘Da tree Fivla’ is also the name given to three concentric circles (ancient dyke-steads), at the top of Crussa Field, a hill between Baltasound and Haroldswick.

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