Bressay Up Helly Aa 2014 Camaro

Up Helly Aa 2016 is on Tuesday 26th January 2016.

Jarl Squad Timetable

Outlined below is the approximate timetable for the Jarl Squad for Tuesday morning:

09:00 March to British Legion - starting location varies year on year.

09:45 Leave British Legion and march along Esplanade, along Commercial Street pausing at the Bill located at Market Cross. Finish at Bressay Ferry Terminal for photos; please note area is cordoned off for official photos.

10:30 Depart Bressay Ferry Terminal for civic reception in Lerwick Town Hall.

Throughout the rest of the morning and early afternoon there are a series of visits to the Primary Schools, Hospitals and eventide homes with some lunch in between.

15:30 Visit Shetland Museum

19:15 Guizer Jarl Squad passes up the ranks of the Guizers

19:30 Procession commences

21:15 Visit first hall of evening

The timetable will be confirmed nearer the festival - watch this space!

Official Programme & Souvenir Programme

The official and souvenir programmes are available to buy in local shops such as:

  • Harrys Department Store
  • Shetland Times book shop
  • Conochies Newsagents
  • Ellesmere Stores

The Proclamation (Also known as The Bill)

The Bill is located at the Market Cross from 06:30 on Tuesday morning until 17:00.

Galley Location

The Galley is part of the marching in the morning. Once it arrives at the Bressay Ferry Terminal it remains there until 18:00 when it is taken to the Hillhead in preparation for the procession.

The Procession

The procession will light up at 19:30 on the Hillhead (below the Town Hall) and proceed along the route map (right).

Lists Of Squads

This information will be added to this website after the event. It is a secret until then!

In January, one of the darkest months of winter in Shetland, fires are lit to celebrate the islands heritage. Up Helly Aa is the biggest event in Shetland, and is one of the most compelling reasons to visit Shetland.
Accommodation and travel are booked up fast – so if you’re lucky enough to find space for Up Helly Aa – book as soon as you can!

The History of Up Helly Aa

The festival itself is relatively new – and grew from older Yuletide and New Year festivities, when young men beat drums, blew horns, fired guns, shouted and caused mischief on Old Christmas Eve. In 1840 tar barrels were introduced into the proceedings – and were dragged (on fire) on sledges through the town by squads of masked young men. Tar barrelling was abolished – but only really stopped when the young men of Lerwick had grown tired of it.

Change came around 1870, when a group of young men injected new ideas into the proceedings – delaying the celebration until late January, introducing a far more elaborate form of disguise – “guizing” and incorporating a torchlight procession. The Up Helly Aa “bill” displayed at the Market Cross was introduced and it poked fun at the pompous – sometimes driving the victims to fury. Later on Viking themes were introduced and in the late 1880s the replica Viking Longship was introduced into Up Helly Aa.

Since the Second World War, Up Helly Aa has become a much bigger festival, which is efficiently coordinated throughout the year. Previously, individuals kept open house to welcome the guizers on Up Helly Aa night, now large Halls throughout Lerwick (including Holmsgarth Terminal) are opened to entertain them.

What happens on the day

Up Helly Aa takes place on the final Tuesday of January, this year on Tuesday 30th January 2018. The day involves a series of marches and visitations and in the evening is the most famous part – the torch-lit procession. At 7.30pm, a signal rocket explodes in the sky above the town hall, torches (stout fencing posts, topped with paraffin-soaked sacking) are lit, the band begins to play and a blazing procession begins, snaking half a mile behind the Guizar Jarl – who stands upon his replica Longship.

The Galley is dragged by the Jarl’s Squad to the burning site (at other times of the year, a children’s playground) through a crowd of five thousand spectators, and then the torchbearers form a circle round the Longship and sing the traditional Up Helly Aa song. Another rocket is fired and the Jarl leaves the ship. A bugle call sounds, and the torches are hurled into the galley. The sight of the galley ablaze is amazing – but the night does not end there. Later on and well into the next morning there follows hours of performing and dancing in halls throughout Lerwick. Various Squads of men visit each hall and perform a piece. In Holmsgarth Terminal, visitors arriving from the NorthLink Ferry the next morning will arrive to a party still in full swing!

Other Shetland Fire Festivals

There are other Fire Festivals throughout Shetland during the winter – and in the other fire festivals women can participate as torch-bearers and guizers, unlike in Lerwick. Scalloway Fire Festival, held earlier in January, is unique in that the Galley is burnt whilst floating on the sea.

Dates for all Shetland Fire festivals are as follows –

  • Scalloway Fire Festival – Friday 12th January 2018 (second Friday of January)
  • Lerwick Up Helly Aa – Tuesday 30th January 2018 (Last Tuesday of January)
  • Lerwick Junior Up Helly Aa – Tuesday 30th January 2018 (Last Tuesday of January)
  • Nesting & Girlsta Up Helly Aa – Friday 9th February 2018 (10 days after Lerwick festival)
  • Uyeasound Up Helly Aa – Friday 16th February 2018 (Usually Second Friday of February)
  • Northmavine Up Helly Aa – Friday 16th February 2018 (Third Friday of February)
  • Bressay Up Helly Aa – Friday 23rd February 2018 (Last Friday of February)
  • Cullivoe Up Helly Aa – Friday 23rd February 2018 (Last Friday of February)
  • Norwick Up Helly Aa – Saturday 24th February 2018 (Third Saturday of February)
  • Walls Junior Up Helly Aa – Saturday 10th March 2018 (Second Saturday of March)
  • South Mainland Up Helly Aa – Friday 9th March 2018 (Second Friday of March)
  • Delting Up Helly Aa – Friday 16th March 2018 (Third Friday of March)

If you don’t manage to see any of the Fire Festivals, there is an Up Helly Aa Exhibition in the Galley shed in Lerwick from mid-May until mid-September.

To enter a competition to win a trip to Shetland for Up Helly Aa 2019, please visit the NorthLink Ferries Facebook page!

By Magnus Dixon
Orkney and Shetland enthusiast, family man, loves walks, likes animals, terrible at sports, dire taste in music, great taste in films and tv, eats a little too much for his own good.

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