Up Helly Aa: The songwriter who introduced Vikings to Shetland's fire festival


Up Helly AaCharacterize copyright Getty Photos
Characterize caption Shetland’s Up Helly Aa festival has a series of passe songs

Flaming torches, longboats and Viking squads are an integral piece of Shetland’s fire gala’s – but that wasn’t consistently the case. The blueprint for the up-to-the-minute-day Up Helly Aa became created by the poet in the help of 1 among the occasion’s passe songs.

Up Helly Aa is the supreme fire festival in Europe, held on the final Tuesday in January to shield in tips the Vikings who dominated the Shetland islands 1,000 years previously.

The Guizer Jarl and his squad take piece in a series of marches and visits which lead up to the fruits of the day’s events – a torchlit parade which ends with the burning of a reproduction Viking prolonged ship.

But the occasion became a extra unruly occasion when it began in the 1820s.

In its early days, americans in hide would budge burning tar barrels via the streets of Lerwick.

“Of us were environment issues on fire and smashing windows,” explains Up Helly Aa historian Brydon Leslie.

“They idea it became relaxing – though I’m certain the owners of the windows did no longer reflect that.”

Up Helly AaCharacterize copyright AFP
Characterize caption A Viking galley is burned as piece of the celebrations

The occasion tied into Yule traditions as a manner to label the transition into a novel year.

“It became going along americans’s properties, eating, dancing and drinking – it became nothing to terminate with Vikings at all,” acknowledged Brydon.

Burning tar barrels were banned in 1874, with torches being adopted from 1881 onwards.

Then Lerwick poet JJ Haldane Burgess began to form Up Helly Aa into the occasion we recognise this day.

He printed a new, The Viking Route, in 1894.

Brydon described this work because the “blueprint” for what the festival would change into in the end.

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BBC Scotland’s Marc Ellison captured the atmosphere of the 2018 celebrationsin a 360 video.

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The radical capabilities the Guizer Jarl and loads of the imagery which is now piece of the Up Helly Aa celebrations.

“Haldane Burgess became in actuality into Shetland’s Norse past. From then on, Up Helly Aa becomes extra and extra Viking-ised,” acknowledged Brydon.

His enter led to at least one among the festival’s most infamous sights – the burning of a reproduction Viking galley.

JJ Haldane BurgessCharacterize copyright Shetland Museum and Archives
Characterize caption Poet JJ Haldane Burgess wrote the song which became first equipped in 1897

He also wrote the Up Helly Aa Music, which is performed at schools, in village halls, and for the length of the burning of the longship.

It became equipped in 1897, in the starting up to the tune of the American abolitionist folk song, John Brown’s Physique.

The song became influenced by Haldane Burgess’ involvement in socialist politics.

“His conception of the Viking perfect and Marxism looked as if it will dovetail – he sees the Viking as a freedom fighter and standing up for rights,” explains Brydon.

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Media captionPeep as islanders on Shetland speak a passe song for the length of the Up Helly Aa festival

On the opposite hand, the song became no longer universally smartly-liked in the starting up. Native newspapers described it as a “funeral dirge”, and a determination became made to put in writing novel song.

This became quiet earlier than the 1921 festival by local publisher and creator Thomas Manson. His tune has been performed ever since by the Lerwick Brass Band.

The band’s secretary, Dougie Johnston, acknowledged: “They match collectively completely – they’re the identical rhythm and the range of song is the identical.

“Apparently Manson became unwell and obsessed on song – the tune came to him whereas he became in his mattress.”

In fresh decades, parts of the Up Helly Aa Music agree with change into merged with a 2nd passe tune, The Galley Music.

Up Helly AaCharacterize copyright Getty Photos

Dougie is in absolute self belief that the song will continue to conform in the end.

“The Galley Music beforehand had its jam and became played one after the other – what occurs now have not got came about in the vulnerable days.

“Even the idea to be taking half in the Up Helly Aa Music at the morning procession would were sacrilegious – the phrases are: ‘Up Helly Aa has come’. Well, it hasn’t – no longer till the evening procession,” Dougie explains, laughing.

“That’s change into completely acceptable, and absolute self belief there’ll most doubtless be additional adjustments.”

The lyrics and the novel song were printed to help company and locals who attended the festival in 1921.

Up Helly AaCharacterize copyright Getty Photos

Shetland Library these days uncovered an common reproduction by likelihood among their collections.

Catherine Jeromson, who chanced on it inner a donated e book, acknowledged it had “stood the check of time”.

So what would Haldane Burgess agree with fabricated from Up Helly Aa this day?

Brydon believes the festival is “honouring” his imaginative and prescient.

“If he were able to gape the galley burning, he can be proud to gape that continuing and that or no longer it is soundless alive.”

Up Helly Aa takes jam on the final Tuesday of January.

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