HLFlogo.jpgThe þing - The galley

Click here to see how to make a galley

The Inspiration - The Story
The Nesting & Girlsta Up Helly Aa dates back to 1961 whenTony Herculson from South Nesting was the first Guizer Jarl. His galley that year was named Lady C. From 1961 until 1982 the Jarls did not portray any historic Viking figureheads although this changed from 1983 onwards. The first two Bill's (1961 & 1962) were written by the inaugural Jarl Tony Herculson, followed by Charlie Tait in 1963 and Charlie Anderson for several years thereafter. The early galleys were boats revamped at the back house of Garth, then taken to Vassa to attach the the head and tail. From 1961 to 1963 a different boat was used and burnt but in 1965-67 and 1970 the same boat was used each year and a bonfire was lit instead. Following a four year break in the festival from 1971-74, the Girlsta Mill was used as the galley shed from 1975 until 1981. The current galley shed adjacent to the South Nesting Hall was built in 1982 and continues to be used for the festival.

At the inaugural 1961 festival there were individual guizers but no squads. Charlie Tait marshalled the proceedings with the galley towed around Nesting by Alan Sandison's tractor Da President, driven by Tony's brother Maxi. The galley was burnt at the quarry between the South Nesting Hall and Eswick. Tony made the head, tail and shields for the galley which was an old boat from Coxs at Gletness. His regalia was a turquoise nylon peenie with silver trim at the bottom, a sheepskin cloak, black breeks with white laces to the knees and he carried an axe and wooden shield with crossed axes and a star painted on it. His helmet was half of an aluminium buoy fitted with raven wings. The Friester shop donated paraffin and the torches were made from driftwood. After the burning those involved had supper and music by Bobby Sandison and Mavis Tait at the South Nesting Hall. Da whole Up Helly Aa cost not wan ha'penny.

external image 230px-1962_NAGUHA_Jarl_Squad.JPGexternal image magnify-clip.png
1962 Jarl Squad - Andy Wood,
Jarl Tammy Sandison & Tony Herculson.

external image 145px-1963_NAGUHA_Bill.jpgexternal image magnify-clip.png

external image 355px-1963_NAGUHA_Galley.jpgexternal image magnify-clip.png
The 1963 Galley 'Cuddy'.

Historical text and pictures courtesy of Andy Bradley on behalf of the Nesting & Girlsta Up Helly Aa committee.

The Modern Festiva

external image magnify-clip.png

2008 Galley Mareel.
external image NAGUHA_Logo.JPG
external image magnify-clip.png
The modern festival follows a well-established pattern on the day of the UHA. The Jarl's Squad muster at the South Nesting Public Hallin the early hours for breakfast, followed by visits to the Nesting Primary School, the Little Tykes Playgroup at the Girlsta Chapeland the Whiteness Primary School. They may also visit theLunnasting Primary School, the Tingwall Primary School and theHappyhansel Primary School at Walls.

From 6.30pm to 8.30pm a one-way system is in place on the loop road through Nesting. The squads muster at the South Nesting Hall at 7pm and at 7.30pm a flare signals the lighting up of torches. The procession then moves off singing the Up Helly Aa song, past the school and heads south towards the burning site on the opposite side of the road to the Old School.

The squads form a circle around the galley and sing the Galley Song while the Jarl squad march around the Galley. Cheers follow for the Galley builders, the torch makers, Nesting & Girlsta Up Helly Aa and the Jarl. The Guizers then throw their torches into the Galley, re-form a circle round the burning Galley and sing the Norseman’s Home song before dispersing to the halls. The South Nesting Public Hall and the North Nesting Public Hall are used for the evening guizing with a third hall the Whiteness & Weisdale Public Hallintroduced for the first time in 2012.

The Hop night is the following day, with the Guizers’ Dance on the Saturday night two weeks after the festival. The Galley Shed is adjacent to the South Nesting Hall where a new Galley is made and burnt each year.

The 2011 festival marked 50 years since the start of the Nesting and Girlsta Up Helly Aa. The Jarl's squad for that year was made up entirely of former Jarls with Tony Herculson once again the Guizer Jarl - 50 years after he was the first Jarl in 1961.

Click to hear this tune