Primary pupils set boat alight in tribute to Viking festival

Miss McGregor with her P3 class
Miss McGregor with her P3 class
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they paraded through the streets of Gracemount, chanting and shouting, before setting their hand-crafted Viking Longship alight.

Pupils at St Catherine’s Primary School took their Up Helly Aa project to the next level, by making their own handcrafted helmets and flaming torches in a bid to re-enact the renowned festival – which takes place in the Shetland 
Islands every year.

Teacher Morag McGregor said her primary three pupils had enjoyed the topic so much that they wanted to do something to see it out in style.

Miss McGregor said: “Our Viking day went really well and it will certainly be one the kids will always remember.

“We’ve been learning about the Vikings since January and they were really keen to see their longship go up in smoke.

“It took us two whole days to make it, and two seconds for it to burn.

“They all made their own Viking helmets, without horns, and made flaming torches out of tissue paper to carry.

“Their boat was about eight feet long and we managed to draft in some parents to help us carry it as we chanted through the woods.

“The wind was too powerful for the kids to carry the longship, so it was great the parents helped.”

Torchbearing guizers and their parents left St Catherine’s as they headed for Gracemount Mansion Walled Garden, where they were greeted by a crackling bonfire, ready to burn their longship.

As they watched their work go up smoke, each pupil threw their paper tissue torch onto the fire and watched in awe.

Miss McGregor told of how her pupils had been intrigued by Viking videos she had shown them.

She added: “It was a great opportunity for the parents to see what we’ve been working on.

“These are the kinds of days the children will always be able to remember.

“There was a huge cheer as the longship went up in smoke. It has been a fantastic project.”

The official Up Helly Aa celebration involves a procession of up to 1000 guizers in Lerwick.

They are formed into squads who march through the town or village in a variety of themed costumes with burning torches.

It grew out of the older yule tradition of tar barrelling which took place at Christmas and New Year as well as Up Helly Aa.

It is a tradition that originated in the 1880s.

Councillor Cammy Day, education convener at the city council, said: “What a great project.

“Yesterday’s ceremony was the finale to many weeks of hard work by the P3 class and their teacher, Miss McGregor.

“Thanks to everyone who was involved, they should be very proud of their efforts.”