I was out last night. Not that uncommon, really – lots of people go out on a Friday evening. My night out was a little different to most, and even then was nowhere near as wild as that of some in Shetland.
Last night was the South Mainland Up Helly Aa or, as it’s known here, SMUHA. (Pronounced just how you think it will be – ‘smoo-haa’). Some 400 men and women were dressed to the nines as either Vikings or practically anything else that took their squads’ fancy – there was even someone dressed as the Pope. Carrying flaming torches they processed from the Spiggie Hotel down past the shore of Spiggie Loch, massed on a small sandy beach looking out into the Atlantic and, led by their leader Scott Lobban, the Guizer Jarl, they set fire to their Viking galley before pushing it out to burn on the sea.
Like I say, some people were having a wild time last night… My friend, Maurice Henderson of Fiddler’s Bid and Fullsceilidh Spelemannslag musical fame, was in the Jarl Squad – so dressed in full Viking costume and finally giving the beard he’s been growing for months an outing.
Hundreds turned out on a cold, blustery evening to watch this tremendous spectacle. The road was lined with local folk. I’d decided to try for a different perspective so had donned a survival suit and positioned myself up on the exposed cliffs above the beach before dark fell. I wanted photos of the galley burning with the sea in the foreground.
As plans go, it worked well – up to a point – I got the photos I wanted, but also got to see what it’s like to be in the midst of a firework display as the rockets that mark the end of the evening exploded at eye level around me!
It was a good night out, and I’ve hundreds of photos to work my way through now. Many thanks to Dave and Jan Winter for kindly letting me park at Spiggie House and providing easy access to the cliffs.