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The squads

From The Shetland Times, 30th January, 1998


This year's 873 guizers made up 47 squads - and a motley crew they were too, their colourful acts ranging through contemporary events, local and national, to fictional characters and the odd dance craze or two.

1. Thorbjorn of Wast Burrafirt (57).

The Jarl's Squad wore highly polished solid brass helmets with black wings. Their kirtles were of dark blue velvet, trimmed with brass studs. Reindeer skins covered their backs and were attached with clasps of a double dragon design on a blue background. The boots were also of reindeer skin.

The breast plates were brass laid out in an intricate pattern. The same pattern was also featured on the axe, the buckle and the shield.

Their belts were of black leather with the buckles having a background of blue velvet to match the kirtles. Attached to each belt was a traditional drinking horn and a dagger in a blue sheath which had on it a design replicated from the shield.

They carried double-headed brass axes with ebony handles and a shield with a Nordic cross as the centre piece on a background of blue velvet. Trimmed in brass, the shield was of a very unusual design.

The squad entered each hall singing their specially composed Up the Ranks tune, Jarl Summers Time. After counter marching they formed up in tight ranks. When joined by the Jarl, the Up-Helly-A' Song was sung after which Jarl Thorbjorn gave the traditional vote of thanks to the hosts and hostesses. The squad then sang the squad song There May Be Trouble Ahead, after which they faced the music and danced!

2. Footix (25).

Footix, the France 98 World Cup Football Mascots, were 6ft high blue cockerels, with bright red head and tail feathers and yellow beaks. They entered the hall to the tune of Queen's It's A Kind Of Magic, and the leading cockerel started a commentary on the final penalty shoot-out. Norwegian, Moroccan and Brazilian cockerels had an attempt on goal, but all failed miserably. Then up stepped the Scottish rooster and amazingly he scored. As he stepped up to receive the World Cup, the rest of the blue roosters led the Scottish piper around the hall on a victory march.

3. Where's Humphrey (C)at? (19).

Humphrey the black and white furry cat wasn't very popular with Mrs Blair at No. 10 Downing Street.

When the Blairs went out galavanting Humphrey and his furry feline friends had a party.

The Blairs came home to No. 10 where the house was in a shambles and they proceeded to throw all the cats and Humphrey out.

4. When in Rome (14).

On the last day of their European tour this Roman battalion met their toughest gig, the British Isles. After trampling the English into the ground they had a tough campaign against the Scots who didn't know the meaning of defeat but were finally brought to their knees.

The final conflict was against the greatest foe of all, the Old Rock, the edge of the world. The only way to beat the crazy Shelties was to learn their war dance. Could they or couldn't they - that was the question?

5. Rhythm Method (20).

An ensemble of oil drums, bits of wood, cans of dried peas, old buckets and a piece of old metal were all cunningly disguised as musical instruments.

A mesmerising and stunning array of musical notes were beaten and shaken out to create a wonderful samba sound which had hall goers dancing in their seats.

The squad's bright, streetwise costumes helped enhance the party mood and sound that Rhythm Method brought with them to each and every hall.

6. River Queen (13).

The croupier from the Breck casino organised the annual Black Jack tournament on board the Mississippi riverboat, The River Queen. The four best card players in the district have reached the final, where the stakes are rising fast.

As the hands progressed and the bourbon uptake increased, the game deteriorated into a shootout where Hop-along Anderson took a fatal shot, from Buffalo Bill. Unhappy with the proceedings and the continual miss-deals, the captain of the riverboat removed the card players and converted the card table into the beautiful ship, The River Queen, ably assisted by the resident dancing girls and his minstrel crew.

7. B.A. Flags Out (20).

It cost 60 million for British Airways to replace the flag logo with ethnic background on the tailfins of their planes. This squad, amazingly and with great dexterity, managed to do the job for a mere fraction of this cost; Ayling Bob please note.

Baroness Thatcher, however, was not at all pleased at the flags' removal. At a special aeronautical display, followed by the inspection of the new colours, her displeasure was more than obvious - indeed such was her passion that she felt moved to cover up the offending appendages with the only thing she had available - a pair of Union Jack unmentionables.

Richard Branson cleverly saved the day by adding the flag to his tailfins, thus putting BA to shame, much to the delight of the baroness.

8. 2 + 1 = Amigos (17).

This musical squad were dressed in fancy Mexican costumes, frilly white shirts, short black jackets and big hats.

Using their own musicians to liven up proceedings and get the crowds going the squad entered dancing and carrying on. After a quick 3 Amigos salute to the females it was time to dance on out to them crazy tunes. Simple!

9. Robbie's Last Supper (20).

10. Does Ants Bud (20).

11. Impulse (22).

The SIC road squad were out on a special mission, but following the appearance of half a dozen sweet smelling busty blondes the audience were left wondering just what kind of little erections were actually being constructed behind the screens.

However, all was revealed following the arrival of two old ladies, ably assisted by the local constabulary, who together despatched the road squad to leave a trio of Lerwick's famous bollards, proving that men just can't help acting on impulse!

12. Jumpin Drunken Pumpkins (19).

Voted by Which magazine the best squad (ever) in the history of Up-Helly-A' and voted by Hello magazine as the squad with the most charisma, elegance and sex appeal and chic. Once again the boys from Emmerdale Farm dug up another brilliantly colourful, unique and amazingly intelligent act and suit.

Tootsie, one of the key and founder members of this squad, stated to the world press, on acceptance of the above accolades, that the success of this squad was in no small part due to his influential contacts in Hollywood!

Using Spielberg's technology, this highly sophisticated, space-age technology suit amazed and overwhelmed audiences with its sheer inventiveness and power. Never in the age of man has such a major leap for mankind been made in Up-Helly-A'. The act and suit are the biggest breakthrough since the coming of the wheel.

13. Ken and Barbie (16).

Ken and Barbie were skilfully brought to life in a visually exciting and cleverly choreographed dance routine performed to the No. 1 hit song Barbie Girl.

Ken was soberly dressed in a nice blue suit and colourful shirt, while Barbie had on her best pink party dress. They had both done their hair especially for the occasion and it is believed that they had shaved as well.

Warmly welcomed by everybody, they were an excellent couple who certainly knew how to party.

14. Shetland Identity Crisis (17).

15. Hot Stuff (19).

This squad entered the hall to a high-kicking routine. Their suits were top hat and tails in a variety of colours. They went on to dance to a medley of old time musical tunes. One variation of the old classic, Dancing Cheek To Cheek, was different to say the least. They also did a very raunchy Full Monty style dance to Donna Summer's Hot Stuff.

Their routine ended with them leaving the hall to the tune Let's Face The Music And Dance. A very lively squad indeed.

16. Clickimin Broth (Green Pee Soup) (18).

As the name suggests this squad depicted the recent pollution of Clickimin Loch. A scientist and a twitcher appeared to take samples and look for birdlife. Then the green furry algae appeared and encircled the loch. When the circle opened nothing of the scientist and twitcher remained but a white scientist's coat, a test tube and the twitcher's wax jacket.

17. Jumping Jack Flash (18).

18. Da Cross Folk (22).

Two surveyors came into the hall to survey the area and decided that they needed to get some paving slabs laid. Workmen were instructed to lay stone slabs in a precise order.

They then built a market cross in the middle but found it was a bit on the low side, and with great effort they heightened it to double its height. The local shopkeepers watched this with interest but were dismayed to find old slabs had been put down at the cross. They demand that they get new paving slabs.

Once the new slabs (with the flags of countries painted on them) have been laid the shopkeepers all come out to celebrate wih bunting, flowers and good cheer to find that the young ones have yet again taken up their places at the cross.

The local constabulary are called in to remove this element from the new cross, to the cheers from the shopkeepers.

The surveyors appeared again and instructed the workmen to remove the slabs and start from scratch.

19. Summer Fruit (21).

To the tune Tutti Frutti, groups of colourful "summer" fruits entered the hall, following their leaders, the pineapples. Amongst the strawberries, plums, oranges, etc., an ex-Jarl was spotted, suitably attired as a STAR-fruit!

The choreographer had again worked miracles with some difficult material and the dance variations surprised and delighted, particularly the "push pineapple, shake the tree" sequence from the song Agadoo.

20. Men In Black (17).

Aliens entered the hall to sci-fi type music followed by men in black who did a MIB dance routine to the recent chart hit Men In Black by Will Smith. The detailed dance routine called for a lot of practice. A squad cooler than a snowman's cold bits!

21. Clangers (16).

Septagenarian John Glenn boldy went forth for the last time on a space mission accompanied by a mysterious Young Buck. They planted their flag in what appeared to be a grey furry cone, which it later transpired was a crater. Fourteen pink aardvarks entered who proceeded to invent the game of golf but failed to hole the ball until up strode Bernard C. Langer who slotted the ball home in dramatic, if somewhat artistic, fashion.

22. Roarin Robbie's Swingin Skiffle Orchestra (20).

The squad was dressed in black trousers, shirts and bowler hats, sporting bright lurex bow ties and waistcoats.

The orchestra entered the hall, settled themselves before the stage and began the complex tuning of their various instruments. On queue from orchestra leader "Roarin Robbie" the band then burst into a medley of skiffle songs from the 1950s and Lonnie Donnegan era.

23. Ear Tyson (20).

The big rematch - Tyson v Holyfield! Tyson came into the ring with the usual media circus, photographers, press etc., only to find out Holyfield was once bitten twice shy and didn't turn up. Not to worry, the late substitute bravely turned up with appropriate entry, "ear we go, ear we go, ear we go, etc." Fighting out of Toytown, weighing 5 and a half stone, it's a surprise entry - Big Ears!

Round one and Big Ears had Tyson down in 30 seconds. Unbelievably, up got Tyson and missed with two haymakers. Big Ears, in great form, caught Tyson again. Down he went for a count of eight. Getting mad, Tyson clinched into Big Ears against the ropes. Big Ears screamed, Tyson had one of his ears in his mouth.

Referee Miles Lane disqualified Tyson to make Big Ears WBC, sorry lightweight, champion of the world.

24. Summers' Undercoat (17).

The squad wore white painting overalls and handmade rubber masks of this year's Jarl, Colin Summers. They appeared following a small, "loud" galley carrying specially-made shields and torches. They formed a circle to a fast version of The Up-Helly-A' Song.

Then a lifesize picture of this year's Jarl without his suit on was shown around the hall to Boney M's Painter's Man. The song changed and a picture of the Jarl's wife was shown around the hall.

25. "Soonds Lik Da Carnival's Ower (22).

Brightly dressed calypso dancers were led into the hall by the "Grim Reaper" who wanted to stop the carnival. After much persuasion and merry making the "Grim Reaper" joined the dancers and did the conga on their way out of the hall.

26. Ferry Sober (17).

This squad consisted of various sailors. First into each hall came part of the Royal Yacht Britannia crew, marching to the tune of Rule Britannia and looking for work in Shetland. They all got jobs as choirboys with this squad, singing a specially written song (to the tune of What Will We Do With The Drunken Sailor).

Next to arrive was an officer, almost covered in bold braid, and looking remarkably like Captain George of the Ceowncil. He was followed by a realistic replica of the Bressay ferry, with four crewmen aboard, and steering an unsteady course.

Captain George breathalysed the crew and dismissed two offenders. Two replacement crewmen were selected from Britannia's crew. The ferry then sailed off into the sunset, on a much steadier course. The choir marched out behind the ferry to the tune of Rule Britannia (not to mention deafening applause).

27. Country Club Capers (19).

The recent turmoil at the Country Club extraordinary general meeting provided the inspiration for this squad. One brave soul attempted to broaden his fellow members' musical tastes by introducing the Six Watt Ceilidh Band, who were smartly dressed in the Jimmy Shand style, with white shirts, black trousers and tartan waistcoats and other accessories.

Two pairs of Scottish country dancers demonstrated a sprightly reel, the two female country dancers proving particularly attractive as were their linedance equivalents. The Scottish music was clearly not appreciated by the other half of the squad, wearing jeans, cowboy shirts and black stetsons. Their version of the classic Crystal Chandelier accompanied a lively linedance performance, and at the end the advocate of change was slung out of the club to a suitably ribald refrain.

The whole squad then combined forces, ensuring that harmony would reign in the club forever more . . .

28. Can The Red Can (20).

The act was focused on a group of elderly and pain-racked Shetland women, who gathered together on a regular basis during the long winter nights.

When they arrived at their meeting place with their stiff joints and sore backs, they were barely able to conjure up a dance step or two. However, as the evening progressed, with the introduction of one of the members with a kishie full of red cans, the women were transformed into an athletic and daring showgirl troupe, who amazed onlookers with their colourful "can can" dance routine.

29. Auld Rock(ers) (17).

The reputation of Unst's Priestly brew was greatly enhanced by its speedy transformation of woeful dirge to raucous rock n roll and melancholy clerics to raving rockers.

30. Lurpak's Band (18).

This year the squad slipped into the idea of "Douglas" Lurpak. Not of course happy with one Douglas, they decided to have three, making it all the more widespread.

As the Lurpak (beginners) band paraded, they were constantly interrupted by the slippery wee guy with his scooter, or was a it a trumpet? Finally the band were lured out by a completely different tune.

It is also rumoured that this wasn't really squad No. 30, as they were recently spotted (by keen-eyed post office workers) robbing a butter bank in Dundee, ie. their masks went missing.

31. Tamagotchi Fever (15).

32. Heritage's Holiday (14).

33. Rod's Rodents (14).

34. Wallace(i)'s Ban(ne)d (15).

Our MP's unfortunate debut as a squad musician last year was the idea behind this squad's act. Colourfully dressed as band members they were all equipped with triangles (what else?) and kazoos. Two members also carried placards depicting "you know who".

35. Hit Squad (17).

The Fetlar nuns were forced to admit defeat and call in the Beechgrove Garden "Hit Squad" to transform their plot of land.

Enter the "Hit Squad" who performed gardening miracles by producing a floral masterpiece which was crowned by the use of the Shetland Rose. Audiences clapped wildly in amazement at the wonder of the spectacle which stood before them.

36. Po and Co (20).

For Tinky Winky, Dipsy, La La and Po, read Drinky Winky, Tipsy, Ga Ga and Poteen and you get the general idea.

These man-sized, Po-faced Teletubbie lookalikes bore fur fabric resemblance to the small screen children's favourites. Their dance routine was at least as well choreographed as the real thing and gave ample demonstration of why there was such a national shortage of their merchandise at Christmas. Not everyone might agree!

37. Pentium Party (20).

38. The Fool Mounty (14).

This squad was dressed as Canadian mounties with long red coats and hats to match., black trousers and T-shirts under their coats with a print of a male chest.

They were not to be confused with the hit movie of the similar name The Full Monty nor did the squad remove their clothes. Instead they entered the hall and formed a circle. Then they started to undress but turned to face each other in the circle. They then turned round to face the guests in the hall and opened their coats with a "flash".

39. Rock-a-Mania (22).

Dressed in 1960s hippy style with bright flared trousers and multi "flowered" tops, this squad once again performed live music with a medley of three popular songs from that era.

The singing and live music was of the highest quality and was well received in the halls.

40. Tubthumping (20).

Disclaimer: This squad in no way condones the over-indulgence of alcohol on Up-Helly-Aa night.

Nevertheless they took as their inspiration last year's most unlikey hit song Tubthumping, described on Top of the Pops as complete drunken anarchy. The title may not be instantly recognisable but once heard, never forgotten - no matter how hard you try.

Guizers were dressed in the style of the singer with brick-effect suits and shaggy red/blonde wings.

Entering to Alfredo's Drinking Song from Verdi's La Traviata the squad progressed around the halls dancing the Chumbawamba Waltz (Rerwick variation). Going on to form two concentric circles facing each other. A sudden change in tempo saw the squad launch into their expertly choreographed dance routine incorporating all elements of the song from "getting knocked down" to "getting up again" and even "passing the night away".

41. Grannies From Y(H)ell (19).

It is an unhappy time in Pensionville. Having just been given a 200 Christmas bonus by S(I)Claus the pensioners then have it disgracefully taken away by the nasty S(I)Crooge and his horrible henchmen.

Just when all hope was evaporating of getting any Christmas drams this year, the pensioners decided to enlist the help of the infamous Grannies From Y(H)ell. The GF(Y)H burst onto the scene and, weighing up the situation, decided to "fire the canon, smote the groat and gub the blub".

After a frenetic chase these avenging angels grabbed the councillors, kicked some ass and retrieved the bonuses for the pensioners.

42. The Pirates' Hornpipe (16).

A spirited dance, involving climbing the rigging and heaving on ropes, performed by these swashbuckling bandits of the sea.

43. Mexican Heritage (11).

44. The Broons (14).

The famous family gathered for the wedding of Maggie to Mahatmacoat White. The groom appeared a little hesitant at first but was soon persuaded to proceed thanks to the urgings of the gun-toting Grandpa.

The players left the hall to a crescendo of applause and the strains of Brown Girl In The Ring after another bravura performance.

45. Are You Lonesome Tonight (24).

The squad entered the hall dressed as choirboys and harmonised to Are You Lonesome Tonight. As the musicians started to play Blue Suede Shoes the choirboys stripped off to reveal Elvis and proceeded to do a dance routine.

46. (Q)We're In The Army Now (17).

It was officers' inspection day in the guards. But one sergeant was having trouble with his recruits - they would rather "mince" than march.

His verbal encouragement was not well received and the recruits ripped off their trousers to reveal non-military issue underwear, and so give total disregard to their superiors.

The sergeant, beside himself with fury, attempted to shoot himself, missed, and hit the officer. Stretchr bearers collecting the body were upset by the sight of guns and left the body lying.

Recovering his cool, the sergeant carried his officer away while shepherding his wayward recruits back into some military style, but at the point of a gun.

47. Animal Hospital (19).


© All text copyright, The Shetland Times Ltd, 1998.
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