Lerwick Up Helly Aa 2003
|Up Helly Aa Fact File|
| Alex Johnson|
|Jarl's Squad Members:||49 (58)|
|Number of Squads:||46|
|Number carrying torches:||833|
The Jarl's Squad
The squad wore red kirtles with silver trim on the sleeves, and black wristguards with silver decoration. Their breastplates were black with silver decoration, as were the cloaks. Their boots were black, and the helmets silver and decorated with a pair of horns. Squad members carried axes of a bearded type, and the shields were distinctive. They were round and black, with a silver cross shape for decoration. The shield boss incorporated the Jarl's initials as part of the knotwork.
The Jarl wore a black tunic with red and silver decoration on the sleeves, and a red cloak so as to further stand out from his squad.
About the Jarl's Guizer Name
According to CM Smith in his book "Northmen of Adventure" "The battle of Brunanburgh was fought in the year 937. It was a momentous affair. A clash of 120,000 combatants was a resounding one of those barbaric days, and the casualties were in proportion..." Various areas of the country have been identified as possible sites for the battle including Devon and York, however Dumfries and Templeburgh near Sheffield remain the most likely sites, although opinion is still divided.
The apparent difficulty in fixing the exact location of the battle site is that some chroniclers claim that Olaf Sitricson brought his fleet of over 600 ships down the east coast from Scotland to the Humber estuary, but others contend that the fleet sailed from Ireland and landed either in the Solway or the Mersey estuaries. Two grandsons of Ivar the Boneless, Sitric and Godfred, were kings in York and Dublin and each had sons named Olaf. Conjecture is that both were present at the battle, Olaf Godfredson bringing his warriors from Ireland and returning there after the battle, whilst Olaf Sitricson recruited his warriors from the various settlements of the northmen in the Hebrides, Shetland, Orkney and the mainland of Scotland. They, therefore, sailed down the east coast and landed in the Humber estuary. Other Scots under the banner of Constantine, King of the Scots, entered the fray on the side of the northmen. This provides the possibility that there were three commanders of the army, however J.H. Cockburn writing in "The Battle of Brunanburgh and its Period" suggests that Olaf Sitricson was the commander in chief.
At the time of his father's death, Olaf Sitricson was a young man of 20 and appears to have left Northumberland and crossed the border into Scotland where he married the daughter of Constantine, and although this may have endowed him with an elevation of status he must have had considerably more ability to exert such influence over so great a number of warriors. It appears that he was a man of unbalanced brilliance, with a dream of unity but lacking the practical ability to put it into practice. However he must have been a prince with a persuasive personality to have attracted to his standard a mighty host not only of Northmen but Picts, Cymry, Irish and Gaels from all the outlying parts of Britain. He may have been a dreamer but the recruitment of some 60,000 men is a fairly realistic outcome to any dream, unfortunately his dream was to turn to a nightmare.
Although the result of the battle was a rout by Athelstan the road to victory was not an easy one. The issue was desperately contested and the combatants on both sides wielded their swords and shields with equal vigour. Without underrating the English of the time, it appears that Athelstan's victory was a result of a battle custom of the time. When on protagonist issued a challenge to another it was usual to mark out the battle area with hazel wands and fix an allotted day for the fight.
Olaf on this occasion was the first to arrive on the site and camped with his followers there until the appointed day. Athelstan's force, meanwhile, was arriving in detachments and could have been attacked by Olaf's superior force piecemeal, but the day Athelstan gained more valuable time for the deployment of his forces by opening negotiations for peace with the Northmen and continued so until all his force had assembled, and only then did he prepare to fight. As a result he had a larger and fitter force than his opposition and who can say what the outcome would have been if he had been faced with a less scrupulous opponent. It may be that the total of 120,000 combatants in this battle might be an over-exaggeration but it does not detract from the fact that this was a major battle of its time.
After his defeat Olaf Sitricson's life was a series of ups and downs, sometimes king in York, other times in Dublin. He may have been able to recruit men to his banner but the humdrum duties of organised government was not for him. In Ireland he had many fights, his last great battle that of Tara in 979 against the Irish King. As Smith says "...harps in the Tara's halls throbbed to a song of triumph over Olaf's defeat...'
Following this, his final failure, Olaf crossed to Iona where he found religion and died there in 981.
This years Galley was named Aaksytrik.