Bressay Up Helly Aa
There were five Up-Helly-Aa festivals held on Bressay from 1930-1934.
1930 - Charlie Johnson, Heogan
1931 - Brucie Laurenson, Daal
1932 - Jeemie Deyall, Hoversta
1933 - Magnie Tulloch, Cherrybraes
1934 - Geordie Tulloch, Cherrybraes
As far as is known a new galley was built then burned during each year, with the construction taking place at various sheds throughout the Island. Nothing much is known about the torch making other than at least one year the torches were made and then steeped in Jessie Gifford's (Jessie Blue) vacant dwelling house at Gunhaa.
The format of the bill was much as it is today - humorous and good natured text and verse directed at those on the island who could, hopefully, be relied upon to take it all in good spirit. The Procession lit up and started out from Eunson's. About 70-90 people, including women, all walked in single file along past the shop, Hall and School.
The Galley burning took place North-by the Old Manse on a vacant piece of ground loaned from Hoversta Farm. The Hall was the venue for the evening’s entertainment and as like today the act would consist of colourful costumes, dances or some local skit. Dancing usually went on until around 6am.
After 1934 the festivities were stopped as the hall, which at that time was a Kirk Hall, was not allowed to be used for the purpose of what was looked on at the time as "very unsavoury".
Historical text and photographs courtesey of Stephen Anderson on behalf of the Bressay Up Helly Aa Committee.
The modern Festival
It was not until November 1961 when (during a Clapshot Supper in the Bressay Hall), Willie Johnnie Kirkpatrick of Hillside along with Geordie Tulloch of Cherry-braes and J. Lennie Matches of The Manse raised the possibility of re-establishing an Up Helly Aa Festival in Bressay, after a 28 year break. Willie Johnnie was very persuasive, and by the end of the evening all three were convinced that this was a splendid idea. J. Lennie Matches was the first Jarl and the festival has continued in its present form since then. The only year without a festival was in 1992.
Today, all the organisation is carried out by the Bressay Up Helly Aa Committee - the making of the torches, the painting of the Bill, the preparing of the galley etc., and each member serves for six years on the Committee before he is called on to take the post of Jarl. Thereafter he serves a further six years before giving up his membership. A decision made by the Committee in 1962 has been important in the organisation of the festival - the galley built in that year has never been burnt, and is kept from year to year to make its annual appearance on Up Helly Aa day. For the final bonfire a secondary Galley (an old boat donated to the Committee from year to year by different well-wishers), provides the centre-piece of the last rites.
On the day of the festival the Jarl's Squad takes the galley to the Bressay Ferry Terminal car park where the Bill is also on display. The Jarl's Squad visits the Bressay Public Hall during the day where the bairns from the Bressay School and other visitors can see the squad. Guizers muster at the Bressay Public Hall at 7.45 pm for the light-up at 8 pm. The torchlit procession then follows the road around the shop and heads north along the coast road to the burning site on the banks of the Voe of Leiraness, near the houses at Voeside. Following the galley burning the squads return to the hall to perform their acts into the early hours.
Bressay Guizer Jarls by Year
Articles on the events from 2011 are available by clicking on the year links.
|Year||Guizer Jarl||Representing||Galley Name|
Ex. Jarls Festival
The 2013 Jarl will be Njal Christie-Henry.
The Bressay Up Helly Aa galley was built in 1962 and is used each year for the festival but is not burnt. A secondary galley is burnt each year.
Shields on the side of the Galley from stern to bow 2010 :
The Shields are rotated so the current Jarl's Shield goes to the front of the Galley, and the oldest shield is removed.
Jarl's Squads since 1962