Northmavine Up Helly Aa
An account in the Shetland News of the 1912 festival (held on the 30th January), states, "The display may not have been on such an ambitious scale as that carried out by our brethern in the City [Lerwick], but what was lacking in other respects was compensated in a measure by the amount of enthusiasm shown."
The weather at the 1912 burning was reported as very poor, with strong winds and heavy rain showers, but the procession took place with a galley built by Mr John Sandison Junior. The Proclamation (Up Helly Aa Bill) had been put up on Up Helly Aa morning near the Hillswick Hotel. The guizers were individually dressed - not organised in squads - and there were apparently quite a few women among the total of approximately forty.
The report also states, "The galley with its crew of fiddlers behaved splendidly despite rough weather, but it needed a firm hand when descending a slope to prevent it running away." The procession, after a fairly long march, turned up the Eshaness road, and here the galley was pulled off and burned. Thereafter the guizers went to a house in the neighbourhood. which had been placed at their disposal.
Although the Hillwick festival was not celebrated annually after WWI it is recorded as producing the first Up Helly Aa procession "Turning Movement" in 1912, some time before this was introduced to the Lerwick Up Helly Aa in 1921. It was reported in the Shetland News that a Mr. William Thomson, who had been a Corporal in the Guards, introduced what had been a cavalry manoeuvre into the festival procession with impressive results from the point of view of the spectators. Corporal Thomson had apparently, on occasion, mounted guard at Buckingham Palace, and had acted for some time as personal messenger to King Edward VII.
The text of the 1912 Proclamation is reproduced below. The original documents are available to view at the Shetland Museum and Archives.
The Modern Festival
The current Northmavine Up Helly Aa started in 1975. Hillswick man Willie Leask was keen that Up Helly Aa celebrations should begin again in the area and a conversation he had with Peter Sinclair in 1974 set the ball rolling and a committee was formed by a small number of local enthusiasts. The first committee members were: Chrissie Manson, Willie Leask, Peter Manson, Bertie Mowat, Peter Sinclair, Alistair Williamson, Andrew Ramsay, George Thompson, Addie Mowat and Angus Mowat. Chrissie Manson remembers the humble beginnings, "We relied on donations to get the Up Helly Aa up and running. There were about 11 or 12 of us that put £1 a piece on the table and that's what funded Up Helly Aa!" Chrissie added, "Most of the materials used to build the galley were donated and I seem to mind the only cost for the first galley was about one and eleven pence ha'penny for the nails!"
Peter Sinclair was the first Guizer Jarl in 1975, the festival being celebrated annually thereafter, with the first Up Helly Aa programme introduced in 1978. The five districts of Sullom, Hillswick, Eshaness, North Roe and Ollaberry take it in turn each year to be represented by a Guizer Jarl.
The festival is held on the third Friday of February and follows an established pattern of events during the day. The years galley (a new one is constructed and burnt each year), and the proclamation are on display from the early morning outside the Booth at Hillswick. After breakfast the Jarl's squad visit the Northmavine schools - Urafirth Primary School, Ollaberry Primary School and North Roe Primary School. After lunch the Jarl’s squad return to Hillswick around 3pm for a photo session with the galley.
The evening procession starts from outside the Hillswick Public Hall. Guizers assemble at 7.30pm for light up at 8pm and the torchlit procession along with the galley, heads north along the road past Swarthoull, towards the loch at Urafirth (The Wadill), where the galley is burned floating on the loch.
Each year, 3 of the 4 local halls - Hillswick Public Hall, Ollaberry Hall, North Roe and Lochend Hall and Sullom & Gunnister Public Hall, are used for the evening events with the hall not used on Up Helly Aa day hosting the Hop Night the following day. Each of the 4 halls take turns to host Up Helly Aa. Around 15 squads of guizers participate in the festival each year and go from hall to hall through the night performing their acts. Northmavine welcomes men and women into the squads. The following weekend, the guizers and those directly involved in the Up Helly Aa can attend a ‘Return Night’, where each of the squads can see each other’s acts.
As the Northmavine galley is designed to float for the burning, it is also used (weather permitting) to allow members of the Jarl's Squad to be photographed while afloat on the sea off the Booth at Hillswick during the day. The galley was also used as the wedding venue for the 1991 Jarl George Robertson, who was married on the galley on Up Helly Aa day in full costume. Photos of the event can be seen on the Heard Website.
Northmavine Up Helly Aa by Year
Northmavine Guizer Jarl’s by Year
Articles on the events from 2010 are available by clicking on the year links.
Solheimavagr (Sullom Voe)
Jarl's Squad Shields
Northmavine Jarl's squad shields are on display in the Sullom & Gunnister Public Hall. A small number are also on display (along with some axes), in the St. Magnus Bay Hotel dining room. Photos by Kozetland1.