Uyeasound Up Helly Aa
The first Uyeasound Up Helly Aa was in 1911 making Uyeasound the third oldest Shetland fire festival (after Lerwick and Scalloway). The 1911 festival comprised approximately twenty guizers, a bill and a bonfire (no Galley), and the Chief Guizer was James J. (Joannie) Sutherland. The Galley was introduced in the 1912 festival along with further squad improvements. Female guizing, always one of the big attractions at Uyeasound Up Helly Aa, commenced in 1913.
After the First World War the Uyeasound Up Helly Aa was not revived until 1924. The festival was popular during the twenties but with a dwindling Unst population during the thirties, the number of guizers averaged only 30 or 40 each year. Following the Second World War the festival restarted in 1947 and saw the first appearance of an official Jarl's Squad. Post-war austerity led to shortages of guizer costumes but by the 1950's this had improved and during the 1960's the Uyeasound Up Helly Aa was firmly established as the outstanding social event it remains today. The Uyeasound festival is unique in that the Guizer Jarl each year does-not portray a historical Viking figurehead (and never has). The early Uyeasound galley's were frequently named Dim Riv (daybreak), and was the origin of the name given to the Viking Longship currently available for charter around Lerwick. Dim Riv website.
The Modern Festival
The modern festival follows a well estsblished series of events. The Jarl's Squad muster for breakfast at the Galley shed in the early hours to prepare for the day. Around 10am the years Jarl squad plus the Galley visit the Baltasound Junior High School, followed by the Nordalea Care Centre at Baltasound. After lunch at the Galley Shed they visit houses in the Uyeasound area before heading to the Uyeasound Public Hall around 3pm. There follows refreshments and a chance to meet the Jarl's Squad at the Hall during the afternoon.
In the evening the Guizers begin to muster at the Galley Shed from 7pm onwards. The light-up begins at 8pm and the guizers and galley march (unusually) in single file north along the coast road from the galley shed around the Ayre of Uyeasound to the Uyeasound Hall. At the hall the guizers turn and march back to the beach adjacent to Easter Loch where the secondary 'burning' galley has been prepared for burning on the beach. The guizers march around the galley before throwing their torches into the galley. After the burning the squads make their way to the Uyeasound Hall to perform their evening acts into the early hours.
Uyeasound Up Helly Aa by Year
Uyeasound Guizer Jarls by Year
Gallery of Jarl's Squads
The Galley Shed
The Uyeasound Galley Shed was built in 1996 and was specially decorated to celebrate 100 years of Uyeasound Up Helly Aa festivals in 2011. The Galley Shed is the Muster location for all the Guizers prior to the procession.
The current festival uses a special Galley which is kept from year to year and not burnt, with a secondary galley used for the burning. The kept galley, named Engistou in 2010 and Orrik in 2011, is very impressive - with her head intricately carved from a single piece of wood. She is attached to a trailer fitted with steerable wheels.
Jarl's Squad Shields
Jarl's Squad shields are on display in the Uyeasound galley shed. Photos by Kozetland1.