Galley head graphicGalley head graphic

Perfect weather for burning

From The Shetland Times, 3oth January, 1998

ALTHOUGH the main focus of Up-Helly-A' is the senior procession, those who lined the route for the junior march and there were quite a number of them were in for a treat.

A very fine collection of characters could be seen making their way along Lerwick's streets after the 5.30pm light-up. Celtic strips marched alongside Darth Vader and the Spice Girls, instantly recognisable in a splendid set of wigs.

And, of course, there was the Junior Jarl's Squad too belting out the songs with gusto - with Magnus Erlandsson (Grant Polson) sitting proudly in his galley Vigga, meaning the way to the wetland and named after his great-grandmother's house in Yell.

As the procession rounded into King Erik Street from Lower Hillhead, the Jarl's Squad, gathered opposite, gave a mighty roar of support to spur them round the south playing field before entering the King George V park.

There, they split into two and marched along each side of the park to circle it, crossing over at the bottom end. Watched by their Jarl, the two lines made their separate ways back up before coming together again in the middle, this time marching down to form a circle around the galley.

Around the park were crowds of faces and lots of pairs of legs hanging down the inside of the wall, their owners having been hoisted up for a good view.

Sparks drifted off the torches in the breeze which, if it wasn't coming from the north, certainly felt like it. After three cheers, the Jarl climbed down from his boat and the guizers pitched their torches at the boat.

The first one to land fell just by the head, and with the flames licking at the base, the others followed. Soon the blue curled tail of the boat was beginning to succumb and her innards were ablaze.

It wasn't long before the fire had eaten up most of the boat, which started to crisp up and crumble, and the mast surrendered to the fiery mass just before six o' clock.

As his boat blazed behind him, Jarl Magnus Erlandsson said he felt "pleased, really happy". One of his favourite parts of the day, he said, was the three cheers for the torchmarkers just before the torches were heaped into the boat.

"It was nice seeing them all carrying torches around. I wish they could have given me one . . . " he added.

Grant said he had been a bit nervous at the start of the day but as it had gone on he had got used to it. And he added that the experience had been "even better than I thought it would be".

That was not to be the end of the night for the junior Jarl, however. He was rushing off to be a fiddle-box carrier for one of the senior squads later that evening.

© All text copyright, The Shetland Times Ltd, 1997.
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