Scalloway Fire Festival

In the village of Scalloway, Shetland’s first capital, the fire festival tradition begins at the turn of the last century.

Friday 10th January 2020 (Second Friday of January)

In the village of Scalloway, Shetland’s first capital, the fire festival tradition begins at the turn of the last century, when the event was held on Christmas day. A ‘grand procession and bonfire’ were held, sometimes involving a galley - once, a model croft house - before the vent moved to the days in between Christmas and New Year.

These early traditions continued throughout the 20th century, until 1979 when the festival officially became known as the Scalloway Fire Festival. In 1984 the date was moved to the second Friday in January, where it has remained.

The festival is made up of twelve squads - seven comprising men, and 5 comprising women. There are no mixed squads, and women don’t take part in the Jarl Squad, but there are Viking Princesses in the Jarl Squad.

During the day, the Jarl squad visits local schools before preparing for the evening festivities. Following the evening’s torchlit procession through the village, from Lovers Loan to Port Arthur and taking in Main Street and the West Shore, the galley is burnt at Scalloway Boating Club and set to sea once alight.

In Scalloway, tradition dictates that the following year’s Jarl squad builds the galley, while the previous year’s squad build the torches. The Jarl for that year does however choose the design for the galleys’ figure head - usually a dragon, but sometimes something else, depending on the Jarl; and its colours. Squads then visit five local halls: Bridge End, Hamnavoe, Tingwall, Scalloway Hall, Scalloway Legion and Scalloway Boating Club, for a night of acts, dancing, and fun.

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