Shetland Amenity Trust celebrates Lerwick Up Helly Aa
Published: 05 February 2024
It was all go at the Shetland Amenity Trust last week as we celebrated Lerwick Up Helly Aa with a series of fiery events and extended opening times at our sites.
Our programme kicked off at the Shetland Museum & Archives with a brilliant lecture from Linda Riddell titled 'Exit the Viking?’ which explored the attitudes to war and Vikings in Shetland in the early 1920s. Linda discussed the civic seriousness of the war memorial campaign, followed by the recreation and fun at Up Helly Aa a fortnight later. We had an excellent audience in attendance brimming with questions and discussion. A great start to the week.
The following day we organised a fun-filled morning for pre-schoolers in the museum's auditorium, together we made paper helmets, shields and torches and held our own mini procession through the galleries, led by local musician Trevor Jamieson.
We also ran our Origins of Up Helly Aa tours throughout the week which were popular with visitors. There was a lot of interest in learning more about the history of the festival and how it has evolved into the format we recognise today.
Up Helly Aa day is always a busy one at the museum and this year was no exception – we welcomed three school groups throughout the morning who enjoyed our Viking crafts and learnt about Viking artefacts, we also ran tours and were delighted to have the Junior Squad’s peerie galley on display at Hay’s Dock.
There was a lovely buzz around the building throughout the day, and it was great to see visitors and locals of all ages enjoying Up Helly Aa at the museum.
The highlight of the day was of course the visit from this year’s Jarl, Richard Moar and his squad. They sang their UHA songs and took the time to chat with locals and visitors alike showing off the craftmanship of their outfits, shields and helmets.
The day was rounded off in style as some of the Jarl Squad lit their torches and gave us a beautiful fiery display at Hay’s Dock.
Although the weather was kind to us on Tuesday - that wasn’t the case on Wednesday with gale force winds battering the islands - unfortunately we had to cancel our sell-out tours at Old Scatness Broch and Iron Age Village and also close Sumburgh Head Lighthouse and Visitor Centre which was due to be open for the day.
As the site was closed on Wednesday the team at Sumburgh Head created a great Viking Longhship activity sheet for bairns download and enjoy at home.
Thankfully the wind and rain eased (a little) towards the end of the week and Sumburgh Head opened for visitors on Thursday and Friday. Many visitors were stranded in Shetland with weather related travel delays and so made the most of Sumburgh Head being open out of season, taking in the Visitor Centre as well as warming up with a coffee in the café while experiencing the stormy view.
We also continued the Viking theme online, sharing interesting content throughout the week from the Shetland Archives and the Museum's Collection...
Viking mitten: A fragment of Viking Norse life in Foula. Read textiles curator, Carol Christiansen’s blog, which tells us more about this fascinating and important fragment of cloth which is now part of the Shetland Museum’s collection.
- The images of Up Helly Aa go like this – the burning longship, arms and armour, and bearded men. Read archives assistant, Angus Johnson’s blog, which tells us more about Attie’s bearded squad and how they changed Up Helly Aa.
- Viking Brooch - video. Join our Curator of Collections, Jenny Murray as she shares the fascinating story of a Viking Age brooch that was found in Fetlar in 2002 by Channel 4's Time Team - discovered during their excavations of a mound which to their surprise uncovered the burial site of a Viking woman of high status.