With a Welsh father and a surname more redolent of the valleys than the islands, Dwayne Davies may not appear a typical Viking – but he feels like one.
But Dwayne has DNA evidence to show his roots can be traced all the way back to the 9th Century and the Norwegian king, Harald Fairhair. And on his wedding day, he appeared in full Norse regalia accompanied by his guard of similarly-dressed best man and ushers.
Dwayne, from the Shetland village of Brae, said: “I can trace my heritage back on my mother, Diane Johnston’s, side.
“My dad, Peter, is Welsh and came to work in Shetland, met mum and they married. But living on the islands has always made me hanker after my Viking ancestors.
“I have been fascinated by the Vikings on Shetland ever since I can remember. Their blood runs through my veins, so much so, that our wedding had to be a Norse one.
“I made the leather armoury and cut and stitched the breastplate by hand.”
Norse engravings were carved into the breastplate and rabbit fur was sewn on the shoulders. Dwayne’s long red beard took three years to grow and his hair was plaited in ancient Nordic style.
Dwayne is in final training for March’s Delting Up Helly Aa, one of four Viking festivals on the islands, when he will be the Jarl, and lead a squad of warriors. It’s a 10-year apprenticeship to wear the Jarl’s crown and he will be youngest in its history.
The 30-year-old’s weekends are spent building a 22-ft long boat, the 16th vessel he has constructed with the help of four friends.
Their latest craft will take four months to complete and will feature a painstakingly-carved, Danish-themed dragon figurehead.
“A Jarl is a coveted role and it’s the best thing that’s happened to me – aside from meeting, Ashley, my wife of course,” said Dwayne, who will take the name Steinthor Petursson, or Peter’s son, at the festival, which takes place on March 20. “We will march in full Viking regalia and carry burning torches. The ship will be burned along with a replica figurehead.
“An intricately-carved copy will be kept as a memento.
“It is identical in detail to the type of craft used by my ancestors to explore and navigate narrow inlets and invade islands and the mainland.”
Wife Ashley, 29, jokes that she is married to a real-life Viking. She said: “Dwayne is really into his Nordic heritage. I’m a Viking’s wife, really.
“A Norse wedding was always on the agenda for us. There was a fiery torch parade and the cake was cut with a sword.
“Each table name was named after Viking invasions of England, starting with the invasion of the Isle of Portland in 787. His mum says that since he was able to talk, it’s all been about Vikings.”
Almost one in three Shetlanders carry Viking genes, according to research carried out on the islanders.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Delting Up Helly Aa, which has its roots in a school festival held in 1970.
Alex Cox, spokesman for geneology website Findmypast, said: “TV programmes like The Vikings have sparked a huge interest in people clambering to find Norse ancestry.
“Shetland and Orkney people have the closest links. They are significantly higher than other areas of the UK. Despite a strong Viking presence, just 5.6 % of modern day Yorkshire people carry Viking DNA.
“It’s amazing. We can’t escape out genes – they follow us through the centuries.”
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