Up Helly Aa peats replaced by tar barrels; route is now done...
Date 09 August 1961
Track ID 42132
Part 1 Loading...

Track Information

Original Track ID

SA1961.89.B74

Original Tape ID

SA1961.089

Summary

Up Helly Aa peats replaced by tar barrels; route is now done widdershins; anecdote about going round a croft widdershins.

Katie Laurenson recounts the history of Up Helly Aa. Before tar barrels were used, burning peats were carried round the toun [crofting township] clockwise, reflecting Norse sun worship. When she was a young girl a long peat was taken from house to house. Once when she was passing a croft, an old woman came out and started to flyte [scold], as Mrs Laurenson had gone around her croft widdergaits [anti-clockwise, against the sun]. She had not realised, as she had been trained that superstition was "very wicked".

When people got more money, tar barrels were used. Tar was widely used for sealing boats, and Stockholm tar was used for medical purposes such as healing bruises and sores. It could also protect cow horns broken off in fighting. The modern [Lerwick] Up Helly Aa proceeds widderygaits. If the old folk had seen them going round the town against the sun with a burning barrel, they would have said, "Well, no winder you canna catch fish!" Mrs Laurenson reckons that there is still [1961] a fair element of superstition attached to Up Helly Aa, and it would be considered very unlucky not to hold it.

Recording Location

County - Shetland

Parish - Lerwick

Island - Shetland Mainland

Village - Lerwick

Item Location

County - Shetland

Parish - Lerwick

Island - Shetland Mainland

Language

English

Genre

Story

Collection

SoSS