Up Helly Aa Bill

Bill Painter and Ex-Jarl (1974) James Kerr applies the paint over the Guizer Jarls signature.  Photo courtesy of Millgaet Media.

In the early days orders had to be conveyed by means of placards or proclamations at the Market Cross. This meant that the Guizers had to go there to find out where and when the festival would take place it was not always held on the last Tuesday of January as is the case today.

The first ‘Bill’ as we know it was produced in 1899, its primary purpose still being the conveyance of constructions. However, it was soon to be elaborated on by the addition of local jokes, satire, etc. and the bill head, painted each year by a local artist chosen by the Jarl. The painting usually depicts a scene from the Jarl’s saga.

The Bill painters hard at work on Monday (the day before) Up Helly Aa. Photo courtesy of Millgaet Media.

The contents of the ‘Bill’ Are produced in secret by a committee, the lettering being hand painted on the board the day before and finally the Jarl gives their seal of approval by signing the ‘Bill’ that same evening.

At six o’clock in the morning of Up Helly Aa Day the ‘Bill’ is erected at the Market Cross for the public to read and is removed before the procession at night.

There is a lot of anticipation as to who is going to be featured each year and in general everything is taken in good humour.

View the 2009 Bill.