Glenn Freychurch RIP

26 01 2016

Glenn Leodhas Freychurch RIPWhen the Outer Hebrides Licensing Board met in 1975 to make up their infamous List of Songs That All Bands Playing In Stornoway Pubs Have To Play All The Time For The Next 100 Years At Least, Glenn Freychurch’s “Take It Easy” was beaten to the top only by “Freebird”. (And maybe “Whisky In The Char”). 
Indeed, “Take It Easy” was the only song that many Stornoway covers bands bothered to learn, and a fair few of them made a good living out of playing it over and over and over again all night, every fleekeem fleekeen night.
That’s one of several reasons why the demise of the Seagles’ guitarist is such a bitter blow to his fellow Hebridean musicians, following so swiftly on from the departures of Lemmy, David Bowie and thon cove in the Specials.
Freychurch and the Seagles popularised their smooth, mellow brand of West Side sounds in the early 70s. These were cold, grim times in Stornoway – plagued as they were by peatcutters’ strikes, herring shortages, brown flared boiler suits and Austin Allegros. Freychurch’s songs transported the listener to a different world, where they could cruise down the sunny boulevards of Santa Bragar in a convertible, sip cocktails in a beachside bar under the palms in Malibu ( or Melbost Borve, at least), and strut about Los Arnol-es wearing a daft big medallion and a chest wig.
Freychurch’s songs captured the contradictions of 70s West Side life – a laid-back freewheelin’ lifestyle of empty hedonism on the surface, with an undercurrent of melancholy, desperation and impending cuiream beneath.
Glenn Leodhasach Freychurch was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1948, to parents who’d emigrated to Canada on the Metagama then sneaked over the border to get jobs in the city’s automobile industry. Glenn was a mere 6 months old when the family returned to their home village of Grimshader in 1949. His old man had been deported for receiving contraband marags, duff and craggan’s biscuits from dubious West Side associates in the post and peddling them among Detroit’s large exile community. (This experience was the basis for his solo hit “Smuggler’s Brues” in the 1980s).
Growing up in the beat boom of the early 60s, Freychurch developed an early interest in music, His first band in the mid-60s was The Subterraneans, not to be confused with the 1980s Sandwick band of the same name. Unfortunately Freychurch often did get the 2 bands mixed up, and for most of 1964 was in the habit of turning up for practices at Deadollac’s shed on North Street, only to find that it hadn’t been built yet, and the rest of “his” band were either in nappies or hadn’t been born. Many years later, in his drug-addled 80s period, Freychurch once again took to appearing at Subterraneans rehearsals until AJK told him to fleek off. 
In the late 60s Freychurch got tired of Grimshader and decided to make for the West Side, where he cruised the freeway between Ness and Carloway, networking with various hippy musos such as JD Southdell and Jackson Breasclete, and spending a lot of time smoking kippers with the self-absorbed community of singer-songwriters up in Lionel Canyon.
The Seagles first came together in the early 70’s to back well known country singer Linda StRonanstadt. The original four musicians immediately gelled and decided to develop the country rock sound by forming a band. Joining Freychurch in this line up were Domhnall Henhouse, Berniera Leadon (previously with the Frying Buntata Brothers) and Randy Minister.
Their first album, simple called Seagles, became a overnight sensation with local music fans and sold over 5 copies in DD Morrisons. It contained such tunes as “Peaceful Easy Sheiling” and “Witchy (Tolsta) Cailleach”, which set the template for their musical direction.
Leadon decided to leave the band in 1975, unhappy that they were moving away from the chanter and melodeon tunes he loved and becoming more rocky to appeal to the crowd in the Lewis Public. This rocky element was beefed up even further when Don Elder joined the band as lead guitarist.
In 1977 Joe Lochalsh joined the band. A native of Wester Ross, he’d made his home in Stornoway after being chucked off the Loch Seaforth in 1968, and had made a name for himself with the Jamieson Drive Gang, scoring big hits with “Fank#49” and “Waulk Away”.
Lochalsh’s first album with the Seagles was the legendary “Hotel Callanish”, and his epic solo on the title track was to become a timeless classic. Indeed it won “worst lead break of all time” in a 1998 “Tolsta Guitar” magazine poll. 

The band had always been a fractious bunch of bleigards, continually fighting over what chords to play and who got to sit in the wee seat next to the driver whilst on tour on a Mitchell’s bus. Arguments were ten a penny and threats of bodily harm flew thick and fast across the stage. Eventually it all came to a head and the Seagles announced that they were splitting up at the end of a massive tour of the Scout Hall, the YM and Sandwick Hall. 
Famously, Domhnall Hensupper was asked if they would ever reform, to which he replied ‘When Wee Free’s Is Over’, making reference to the small chance of the Free Church rejoining the Church of Scotland.
Freychurch had a successful solo career following the Seagles’ breakup, and he always remained on good terms with Henshed. He had a big hit with ‘The Peat Is On’ from the soundtrack to ‘Barabhas Hills Cop’. 
Eventually the lure of a lucrative residency in the Golf Club (every second Saturday throughout April and May depending on competitions and weddings) brought the five band members back together. They toured extensively round the whole of Lewis and recorded several live albums and one studio album.
But let us close our appreciation of Glenn Leodhas Freychurch with his own words, the original lyrics of “Take It Easy”- about a tractor driver providing his services to folk taking their peats home – (before the band persuaded him to change them because it was “too fleekeen maw-ish”):

Take It Peaty

Well I’m driving down the road

Trying to hang on to my load

I’ve got seven peatstacks on my mind

Four wanna go to Bayhead

Two wanna go into a Cearns shed

And one load’s for a friend of mine
Take it peaty, take it peaty

Don’t let the sound of your own Massey

Drive you crazy

Load up while you still can

Don’t even try to use a van

Just find a place to dump your load

And take it peaty.
Well, I’m dumping at the corner

In Willowglen so warn her

and such a fine sight to see

It’s a blone, my lord, in a 52 Ford(son Dexta)

Slowing down to give an order to me

Come on baby, don’t say Tuesday

I got to know when your Peatstack 

Is going to be ready.

We may lose some peats and smuir

But it’s better than carting manure

So fill the trailer and climb in

And take it peaty.





Bowie: Scary Ministers (and Cheeky Chips)

16 01 2016

  
2016 has already been a year of tragedy in the Outer Hebrides’ music scene (see our Lemmy tribute), and now we mourn another much-loved Leòdhasach after the shocking loss of international pop icon David Bowie. 
Born Donald John Macleod in 1947 in the leafy Stornoway suburb of Branahuie, DJ became fascinated by Tibetan Presbyterianism at a young age. He studied the discipline for some time under the watchful eye of a Cheviot ewe (as there weren’t any llamas on the island at the time). However, his patience with mysticism wore thin, and he eventually jacked it in and spent his time studying Jazz chanter.
Donald’s growing interest in music saw him join a series of early 60s rhythm ‘n’ blues combos including the King Frees and promising Hearach band the Mànish Boys, before crossing the Braighe to Point and forming his own outfit – Donald John and the Lower Bayble.  
A master of reinvention, Donald began to experiment with dyeing his hair in the mid 60s. Back in these days, Kenny Froggan’s wouldn’t sell hair dye to coves, so Donald resorted to using various flavours of J*mmy B*ller’s luridly-coloured “Slàinte” lemonade instead. In 1965, inspired by Gress beat combo the Diamond Dogs and their flamboyant guitarist Daibhidh Bàn, Donald applied a Pineappleade rinse. Proudly sporting his new tartrazine yellow hairdo, Donald announced that his new name was “Daibhidh Buidhe”. Predictably the Townies were unable to cope with Gaelic spelling or pronunciation, so it wasn’t long before Daibhidh Buidhe became “David Bowie” and started out in new musical directions.
After several abortive attempts to jump on the Mòd bandwagon, and a singular lack of success at cabaret crooning in the style of Anthony Newallsnursery, Bowie scored a minor novelty hit in 1967 with “The Laughing Genome”, about the Niseachs’ abortive attempts to clone guga. But it was in 1969 that he first captured the zeitgeist conclusively. In a year that saw the moon landings, Stanley Kubrick’s “2001”, and the beginnings of the traditional music tuition movement for kids in the Summer holidays, Bowie released “Fèis Oddity” – a concept single about a botched attempt to send Duncan “Major” Morison into space.
“Ground control to Major Mor-is-on

Fetch your boilersuit and put your wellies on”

Bowie’s reputation grew steadily with the release of acclaimed albums such as “The Maw Who Sold The Wool” (1970) and “Fanky Dory” (1972). At this time he began to work with long term collaborators such as top producer (and BEA baggage handler at Stornoway Airport) Tony Viscount-i, guitarist Mick Rawasamaw, bassist Trevor Ollack and drummer Woody Woodlandcentre. 
Megastardom arrived in 1973 when Bowie developed his first alter-ego; “Ziggy Starmore” – a fictional extra-terrestrial rock hero who designed knitting patterns in his spare time, a persona which he later morphed into “Aladdin Stèinis”. 
Around this time Bowie experimented with religious androgyny, leaving people unsure if he was an FP or a Wee Free, as he wandered around the Ordhuigheans in his knitted uni-sex wellies and outrageous boilersuits. Sadly his bobban Ziggy outfit got wet after an open air gig in the Town Hall carpark and sagged so much he had to dash into Burton’s across the road to preserve his modesty. Bowie emerged from the shop in a dapper suit and tie and his next incarnation, the Thin White Plook, was born.

In this particular style, Bowie released “Young Amadans” and “Mitchells Bus Station to Bus Station” (a concept album about a trip on the West Side Circular) featuring songs described as ‘soul destroying’. 
Bowie also spent several notorious years in East Garrabost, living and working with Iain G Pop – and Brian Eneclete, producing two seminal albums “Hearachs” and “Low-erBayble”. Life in the seedy demi-monde of cold war Garrabost took its toll, however. Bowie grew addicted to a toxic diet of 4 Crown, Woodbines and Hen Suppers, joined the Dawn Squad in the Castle Grounds and released the not very good “(Porter’s) Lodger”.
He returned to form in 1980 with “Scary Ministers (and Cheeky Chips)”. This contained the groundbreaking single “Ash Carts to Ash Carts”, which had a video filmed in front of a bulldozer out in Tawse’s quarry. The video and single heavily influenced the Newton Ram-antic movement. 
Bowie was a great collaborator, producing and writing for other artists and also copying the fleek out of them and kidding on it was all his idea. Some of the more successful ones include:
Writing “All the Tong Dudes” for Mawtt The Hoople”.

Producing “Transfarmer” (1972) for Paddy Reed, the album which many say rescued Reed’s career after he split with 60s avante-garde legends the Bobban Underground. Bowie was often accused of plagiarising Reed’s decadent image and edgy material, and indeed they had a famous catfight in the Macs in 1973 when Reed accused Bowie of nicking 2 of his songs, plus 4 penny chews and a bag of maltesers.

Producing “Maw Power” for Iain G Pop and the Stoodies

Recording Xmas carol “The Little Drum an Aoil Boy” with Bing Crossbost, to raise money for North Lochs Community Centre

Two collaborations stand out above the rest. A productive writing session one summer at Freddy Mer-coorie’s Shawbost àirigh spawned a classic duet inspired by the Queen frontman’s prize Galloway cow and her battle with mastitis; the 1981 hit collaboration, “Udder Pressure”. 
The other stand-out partnership was 1985s “Dancing In The Peats” with Mick Bragar as part of LimeAid, the global charity event to raise funds to enable Parkend beverage firm Sm*th’s to develop a replacement for Z*p-a- Cola (banned due to new EU regulations on creosote). The video was shot entirely at Parkend Industrial Estate behind the Lemonade Factory where nobody could see how woefully inept their actual dancing was.
Despite all his successes, Bowie’s private life wasn’t a bed of roses. He divorced his first wife when he found out her name was spelled Angie rather than Angaidh but later found lasting happiness with Ioman, international supermodel and captain of the Somali ladies’ shinty team.
Bowie also tried his hand at acting when he joined the Stornoway Thespians. He took part in many of their Christmas Pantomimes including “The Man Who Fell To Urgha” and Jim Henson’s Gaelic Fantasy “Abair-ynth” (which featured the Mawppets and a revolutionary puppeteering technique developed in Arnish known as Animacantronaichs). 
His output during the 80s and 90s varied in quality, tone and topic, from 1989’s experimental “Tin Masheer” to the 2002 Sunday Ferry protest album “Heathen” but he returned to form in later years and as a thank-you to all his fans in the Broadbay area released his final album “Backstar” only days before his death.
Bowie often contemplated life beyond the here-and-now and one such quote in particular has been oft-repeated in these last few days; 
“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be Borsham”





Lemmy RIP

29 12 2015

Lemmy RIPTributes have been pouring in for recently departed local rock superstar Lemreway (Lenmy) Kontinuingminister. Born 70 years ago in South Lochs as Iain Freechurchminister (he changed his name in 2000 after the big ecclesiastical schism), Lemreway rose to fame as bass accordion player with massively influential hard rock band Mawtörhead.
Lemreway’s career began in the late 50s after seeing T*mmy D*rkie playing in the Star Inn. He played with a number of no-hope bands around the island including the Coulegreinmakers and the Mawtown Sect before achieving moderate success with the Rockin’ Seceders, a dynamic beat combo comprised of off-duty Free Presbyterian ministers. The Rockin’ Seceders toured extensively and were the first Western rock band to perform behind the Iron Curtain, when the Politburo of the Federal Socialist People’s Republic of Point invited them to play a dance in Bayble in 1965.

The Rockin’ Seceders split in 1967 in a bitter dispute over whether taking the church bus on the Sabbath was in breach of the 4th Commandment. Lemreway moved to town, where he shared a flat with Noel E*die, bass player for Jimmy Hen’s Dreich Experience. This led to jobs as a roadie for the band and as an egg packer at Jimmy Hen’s battery sheds in Tong. In 1968, Stornoway worthy Coinneach Gobha introduced Lemreway him to his cousin Psalm, a precentor in Kuala Lumpur Free Church and virtuoso tabla drummer. Psalm hired Lemreway and they went on to enjoy some success on Stornoway’s 60s psychedelic scene, mixing Eastern drumming, Gaelic precenting and thrash bass accordion in proto-world fusion outfit Psalm Gobha’s Pal. Lemreway later dossed about with other ruppish bands like Soval Butterfly and K*ntr*st before joining dyspepsia-plagued space rockers Ochwind in 1972. 

Ochwind reached their commercial peak in the early 70’s with evergreen hit about fake jewelry ‘Silver Masheer’ and a raft of successful albums including ‘Warrior on the Veg and Thyme’ and ‘Feis Ritual’. 

The rest of Ochwind were vegan cosmic hippy white settlers who insisted on a strict diet of LSD and lentils, so it was no surprise when, in 1975, Lemreway was eventually ejected from the band for “pharmaceutical differences”. En route to a gig in Rodel, Lemreway’s accordion case was opened by Hearach customs. There was fleek all LSD or lentils in it, but there was a large stash of spealtrags, amphetamines and Rennies. The fiasags in Ochwind were mightily offended that their bass player should be polluting his body with salt fish and indigestion tablets, so Lemreway was abandoned at the side of the road outside Ardvourlie.

Undeterred, Lemreway got the bus back to town, rounded up a couple of bleigeards that were hanging about the Macs and formed Mawtörhead along with guitarist Fast Eddie Cearc and drummer Philthy Phil ‘Amadan’ Whaler. Their first few studio recordings performed acceptably well, and included ‘Overkill’ a concept album about Niseachs hunting too many gugas, and ‘Bomber’, a tribute to the illustrious Rong, Murderers of Love and Dun Ringle drummer. But their biggest album chart success was a live recording of a gig on the Uig moor from 1981; “No Sleep Till Hamnaway”. 

From their formation to the present day, Mawtörhead have stood out as one of Stornoway’s premier rock bands with hits including “Peat Iron Fist” (about a particularly impressive tairsgeir that Lemreway got from Calum Steallag) and their most commercially successful offering, an ode to Lemreway’s days working on a Tawse road crew, “The Ace of Spades”. 

Lemreway’s unconventional fashion choices made him stand out from the rest of the musicians in the Stornoway music scene. Shunning the big hair and spandex favoured by the likes of B*d R*put*tion and T*sh, Lemreway favoured a wartime Mitchell’s bus uniform festooned with “Keep NATO Out” badges, huge sideburns and two lumps of marag geal that got stuck to his face in 1967 that he never bothered to wipe off. He was seldom seen without a glass of his favourite tipple, Fasinex and Coke.
The band’s hard ‘n fast sound has been deeply influential in the world of heavy mawtal, but Lemreway was always dismissive of attempts to pigeonhole the band into any of the subgenres that it spawned. ”It ain’t no fl**keen speed metal, thrash metal, death metal or danns a’ rathaid metal”, said the inveterate social security scrounger and 4-crown addict to the Newvalley Musical Express in 1985, “It’s chust fl**keen Deoch ‘n’ Dole”.





Siar Wars

13 12 2015

With all the frenzy about the new Star Wars movie coming out, it’s easy for people to forget about Lucasfilm’s close ties to Stornoway. Although Ge*rge Lucas’ original trilogy is renowned as a Sci-fi masterpiece, the lesser known films that predated them (and directly led to their creation) are still held in high regard in the Outer Hebrides to this day.In 1967, while young Ge*rge was swanning around California making ruppish experimental films, Lucas’ older brother B*ll moved to Stornoway and took a job as a reporter at the Gazette. In between sherrif court reports and death notices, he put together the screenplay for the expansive movie trilogy that would go on to delight dozens of Hebridean filmgoers: Siar Wars.
Originally concieved as a nine part series, Lucas penned treatments for the first three movies, The Phantom Meh-Ness, Attack of the Blones and Rev-enge of the (Ang*s) Smith, but eventually decided to start with Part 4 since he couldn’t be fleeked with setting the scene. 
The first film to actually get made, “Siar Wars Episode IV: A Loom Hope” focuses on the exploits of a young Sgitheanach fisherman, Liù Skyewalker. Skyewalker longs to break away from his tedious life of mending nets and hauling creels, runs away from his tiny village of Tattarskavaig and hops across the Sound of Harris on the Tarbert ferry. On board he encounters a strange old man, shunned by others, propped up in the bar lounge with snifter and a pint. He reveals himself to be the legendary mystic Bogie Wan Kenobi. Together they catch the bus from Tarbert to Stornoway where Liù hopes he will find adventure and Bogie Wan hopes he will find the Crit still open.
Along the way, they pick up a Newly-Come-Over eco-warrior, Leia Organophosphatesheepdip, who is on the run from the corrupt Shawbost Common Grazings Committee for stealing their plans to drain Loch a’ Bhaile in order to build a gigantic Harris Tweed Mill. Upon their arrival in Town, and finding the Crit closed after all, they make their way through the Narrows where they bump into famed Gaelic singer, Mòd Solo and his faithful collie companion, Cù-Bacca. Together they join forces and ride off on Solo’s tractor, the Millenium Fordson, to save the Shawbost Machair and defeat the might of Emperor PalpatInacleteroad of the Common Grazings Committee and his black-clad Free Church elder henchman, Darth Shader.
Memorable scenes include the part where Liù and his friends are trapped by Darth Shader inside a dilapidated àirigh on the Barvas moor. Just before the walls start falling in on them, Mòd Solo utters the much repeated catchphrase, “I’ve got a bad shieling about this…”
Other famous quotes include the part when Bogie Wan, who has a cruel thirst on, finds a discarded bottle of 4 Crown on board the Millenium Fordson. He fears Cù-Bacca may have peed in it, but out of desperation takes a swig regardless. His relief is palpable when he exclaims, “That’s no’ mùn!”
The film was a runaway success at the Galaxy Cinema, which gave Lucas the push to complete the trilogy. The next film continued the story of Liù and friends as they join a breakaway Point congregation (the Rebels) in taking on the evil Common Grazings Empire, who have begun work on a new Harris Tweed Super-Mill that will require the destruction of the entire area from Upper Coll to Gress. In “The Empire Strikes Back” we follow Liù as he learns to use the power of the Cùram, as well as introducing a host of new characters such as the administrator of MaCloud City, Lando Collriversian.
The third film in the franchise, “Siar Wars – Episode VI: Return of the (Calum the) Ledi”, expanded the cast still further, with Mòd Solo falling foul of woodworking gangster Habba the Hutt. After Habba encases Solo in peat, Skyewalker and friends stage a daring rescue mission, and despite Skyewalker having a close shave with the fearsome Fankor monster, the gang rescue Solo and go on to defeat the Grazings Committee for good with the aid of a flock of cuddly blackface ewes.  
Despite the films’ local success, the big studios wouldn’t touch them due to the ridiculously parochial subject matter and ropey acting. The films were never released on video and the original 16mm reels were lost in a freak Bon-Accord lemonade bottle explosion. Thus, Siar Wars faded into obscurity.
That was until 1976, when Ge*rge Lucas was home visiting his brother for the August communion weekend, and seeing the opportunity for a quick buck, seized the manuscripts, changed the names, added a robot or two and went on to make cinematic history.
So as you watch Episode VII, spare a thought for the elder Lucas brother whose idea got shamelessly lifted to spawn a multi-Billion dollar movie franchise, and whose shoddy screenplay was still fleekeen streets ahead of that nonsense Ge*rge punted out in the prequels.





Farewell oh Suilven

26 11 2015

Poor Suilven, worthy/infamous Stornoway ferry of yore.

Your demise reminds us of the words of Calum Ossian…..

Farewell Suilven, you’ve met your fate

After forty years of carrying freight

Cars and lorries, box and crate

Squeezed on the car deck by the Mate.
And passengers by the rope would wait

Until the gangway was lined up straight

Then single file they would locate

To the lounge or bar at a steady rate

And sprawled out sleepers then berate

For taking up the best real estate

Then queuing up with tray and plate

For the full cooked breakfast many ate

When you broke down we got irate

And we’d ring Calmac for an update

The weather often made you late

Cos when the Minch was rough it would undulate

But once those waves did dissipate

You took us over at a steady rate

For work or hols or further educate

And plenty folk who did migrate

But there were crossings you’d navigate

Like a summer evening that was sedate

When seeing the town would generate

An increase in your eyes lubricate

(You also plied across Cook Straight

That YouTube clip made us nauseate)





Stornoway and Liners

8 11 2015

Younger readers looking at the increasing number of cruise liners visiting Stornoway will no doubt think this is a great new thing, with the undoubted benefits it brings the harbour, the town, the Callanish stones and fans of thon Chudge Chudy cailleach off the telly.
And yet… Old SYs will allow themselves a quiet chuckle, knowing that the town has a long and illustrious connection with top-end ocean-going travel.
In the 1830s, Marybank metal recycling mogul Samuel Coo-ard was the first to spot the coming demand for a fast, reliable and luxurious steamship service across the Atlantic. Coo-ard established a shipyard on the banks of the Bayhead River, round about where the Bowling Club is today, and set about constructing a great vessel, the 207-ft long paddle steamer SS Branahuietania. In the days of wooden-hulled ships, the Branahuietania’s construction was both technologically daring and cost-saving; Coo-ard ordered that it be built entirely from the scrap metal of dubious provenance that he already had stashed round the back of his house. Unfortunately most of this was lead, nicked off the roof of Seaforth Lodge, so the SS Branahuietania sank without trace as soon as it was launched. 
Many years before the coveted Blue Riband transatlantic prize of making the crossing in the fastest time came into being, the Isle of Lewis was famous for having its own challenge called the Brue Ribbons prize. The many local passenger liners sailing out of Stornoway would compete to see who could make the lucrative Brue Communion weekend in the quickest time, and thus get the most trade for the next Communions. The liners would carry Communicants, Ministers and Elders (and enough home baking to keep the west side in scones for the better part of a year) over to the wee village of Brue on the Atlantic coast. The liner that completed the voyage in the fastest time would be bedecked in multicoloured tweed ribbons and would sail around Stornoway harbour showing off. Brue was also famous for being the home of shipping engineer and rubbish Gaelic songwriter I-is-a-Bard Kingcole Brue-neil, who built the ill-fated ships Great Eaststreet and Great Westview.
Stornoway’s connections to the doomed liner Titanic have been much explored by proper historians; a few years ago there was great debate in the Gazette about whether the Captain and/or 1st Officer and/or entire crew were from Laxdale or somewhere. Strangely none of the eminent historians participating in that discussion seemed to be aware that Port of Ness had been the Titanic’s last stop en route to its watery grave. Oh yus. Although not advertised on the vessel’s itinerary, she quietly drew up at the Port on a dark night in 1912 to pick up an illegal consignment of guga destined for the tables of top Niseach exiles in America, including John Wayne’s old man and Jim Morrison’s granny. Also taken aboard were three stowaways trying to get to Hollywood: failed local mod contestant Ceceder Dion from Skigersta, and 3rd rate Machair rejects Lionelmurdo DiCaprio and Ceit Winslet from Swainbost. Some say that it wasn’t the iceberg that did for the Titanic at all; the much more plausible theory is that Ceceder Dion got up to sing with the ship’s orchestra one evening, and her rendition of “My Barts Will Go On” drove so many passengers to the opposite side of the ship that she began to list. The cargo of guga in the hold shifted, causing the vessel to capsize, and as soon as the guga came into contact with water a massive explosion occurred, sending Titanic to the bottom, probably.
In the early 1970’s, Stornoway Town Council briefly acquired the Queen Elizabeth (the QE1) to use as their new HQ but had to sell it on to Hong Kong (where it caught fire and capsized) because the berth was needed for the new roll-on/roll-off ramp.
Other well known Stornowegian Shipping Lines
Another well known local shipping Line was Pee and O-hee (P&O). Originally established in 1855 as a cargo service in order to transport much needed buckets of urine from Stornoway (with its metropolis-like population) to the less densely populated rural districts (with fewer bladders), so that the vital fluid could be used in the tweed waulking process by cailleachs. This Line was prone to accidents hence the phrase ‘O-hee’ occurring in its name.
Mawrsk: A Stornowegian/Norwegian partnership set up to transport fish farm salmon from Lewis to Norway and bring chessmen back on the return voyage. Helped revolutionise shipping by using containers, although foolishly went for the wooden fishbox sized ones instead of the now better known ‘container’ sized ones seen across the world.

Shite Star: Set up to transport top grade todhar across the world, but sadly thought the idea of giving names like Shitanic to their vessels would endear them to all. 





Cilla Back and Val(tos) Donnicanneryroad RIP

9 08 2015

The world of Gaelic light entertainment has suffered a major blow in the last few weeks with the passing of two BBC Alba stalwarts, first Val(tos) Donnicanneryroad and Cilla Back.
Both stars had long running Saturday night entertainment shows on BBC Alba during the 60’s and 70’s. Theses types of show were very popular throughout the Gaeltacht and as well as showcasing Val and Cilla singing talents, also had a range of popular light entertainers on as guests. On a typical Saturday night on BBC Alba you could expect to see an accordion player, a Gaelic choir singing (miming) on a Lewis beach, a comedian telling jokes about whatever church denomination he wasn’t in, another accordion player and of course the trendy young dance act, The Young Congregation. 

Holding these shows together were Val and Cilla. Both had a powerful TV presence, coupled with a cove/blone next door vibe, and each show brought viewers in the droves. Both became big stars and couldn’t even walk along Cromwell St without fans asking them to come and help take their peats home.

Val(tos) came from Harris, so many people mistook his Hearroch lilt as been an Irish accent. He was famed for wearing bobban chumpers that his grannie knitted for him, and normally sat crooning on a rocking chair. 
His hits included Waulk Tall, Paddy McReids Shop, The Special Years (all about a massive carry out of Tennants Special which Val and his classmates scoffed whilst on a Gallows Hill bushwalk), 
Cilla rose to fame after been discovered singing in the Caverstadh Club (a seedy dive in Stornoways Docklands). She was discovered by Brian Epsteinish, who also manger The Peatles.
Cilla also wrote the fashion column for “Mushy Peat” magazine and hung out with all the hip and happening beat combos on the scene: Gerryvard and the Prayermakers, The Swinging Blue Boilersuits, The Big Free, The Wee Free, The Wee Free (Continuing), The Fourmaw-st and Farron’s Flafaoileags.
Cilla also chalked up a range of hits in the Maciver and Darts Top 10, including ‘Anyone Who Had A Cearc’, ‘Step Outside Cove’, and ‘Heb Alfie’
Cilla also hit the big time during the 80’s with a number of very popular BBC Alba show. These included;
“Blind Skate” – Cilla’s guests were presented with 3 fishboxes behind a screen at Cailean Neillie’s. Based on a few cheeky scripted questions and answers, they had to decide which one they’d take home and boil for the dinner. “Blind Skate” was immensely successful, with prime time Saturday night ratings in double figures, and spawned a number of lesser imitators on rival TV channels, such as “Deaf Sked” on Grampian.
“Blight Date” – A less successful spinoff from “Blind Skate”, in which the guests had to choose which bucket of potatoes they’d take home to have with their fish.  
 Surpraise Surpraise -Cilla takes a blindfolded guest to an Church and then surprises them when they realise they’ve been tricked into going to a denomination they left the previous year following a painful and antagonistic schism. 
Both Val(tos) and Cilla will be sadly missed.








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