Quo Legend Balallan Làn-cac-ster RIP

23 10 2021

Fans of rock legends Status Quo were saddened recently by the passing in Australia of original bass player Alan Lancaster, who propelled the band from their 60s psychedelic years into their “heads-down-no-nonsense-mindless boogie” 70s heyday before falling out with bandmates Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt in the mid 80s.

Sadly Lancaster’s demise eclipsed the passing the same day of his lesser-known Leodhasach cousin. Had it not been for this unfortunate coincidence, there would probably have been a lot more in the music press that day about Balallan Làn-cac-ster, bass player with popular island “heads-down-no-nonsense-mindless-Bogie” merchants Steinish Quo.

Làn-cac-ster was born Murdo Macleod in 1949 in Bennadrove, to parents who were exiles from the Kinloch area and filled his head with fanciful notions about the imagined perfection of their homeland – the majestic palaces of Laxay, the golden temples of Balallan and the dreaming spires of Airidhbhruach. They could neffer be bothered taking him over there for a look though, so he came to believe their tales wholeheartedly and parroted them relentlessly to his sceptical pals in Laxdale school. 

This soon earned him the nickname “Balallan Làn-cac-ster”, and when he became a professional musician he was obliged to stick with it, in order to avoid getting mixed up with all the other Murdo Macleods in the world of showbiz.

Làn-cac-ster first met Francis Rossiesshop in 1962 whilst both were still in the Niccy. They formed a band called ‘The Sgorp Iains’ and played a couple of times in the YM. They soon found like-minded drummer/knitting enthusiast John Cnocan (famed for using his needles as drumsticks) and changed the band name to ‘The Hectares’. Several other name changes swiftly followed including ‘Traffic Cham’ and ‘The Steinish Quo’ (their late 60’s ‘psychedelic’ phase), until they finally settled on ‘Steinish Quo’.

Along with the name changes, several other musicians came and went, but the classic “Fanktic Four” line-up of  Làn-cac-ster, Francis Rossiesshop, Rick Paircfitt and John Cnocan soon hit the right note (B very flat) and before they knew it they were filling venues (on occasion playing to up to 4 people in Mac’s Imperial Bar who were waiting for the Plasterfield bus) and selling loads of records (sometimes up to 3 copies in DD Morrison’s).

In their 60s psychedelic incarnation as “The Steinish Quo” the band were often seen, resplendent in “mòd” fashions from the hip boutiques of Ceann-a-Bhaigh Street, scouring the golf course for mushrooms to inspire their work.

Inspired by the prevailing groovy climate, “The Steinish Quo” enjoyed a number of far-out hits including ‘Pictures of Marvig Men’ and ‘Back Veils of Melbost-collie’

But as the 60s came to an end the band ditched their psychedelic sound in favour of a more basic 3-chord ‘Bogie’ style (with occasional 2-chord Deetan and 1-chord Snooley variations) that went back to their rock ‘n’ roll beginnings. At the same time, they discarded their fab 60s threads and  kitted themselves out in more workaday attire – Wrangler chackets and flares from Nazir’s and Smith’s, and boiler suits from Mackenzie & Macsween.

Quo’s classic  “Bogie” albums from this period included:

Maw Cailleach’s Greasy Spoon 

Dog of Toe Head

Peel’sdriver

Brue For You

And their decades-long run of hit singles included: 

Rodelhouse Blues

Down The Dustcart

(Sunday) Paper Plane

Calum-ine-a

Down Town (a moving tribute to Bogie’s attempts to buy a ‘hen supper’ from the Church St Chippie)

Whatever Ewes Want

Living on an Island

Somethin’ Bout Ewes Baby I Like

Marag-uerita Time

You’re in the Army (Cadets) Nuw

(b/w “You’re in the Gu-sealladh-nì-màth-orm-y Now”)

But by the end of the 70s cracks were appearing in the band, and in 1982 John Cnocan surprised everyone by fleeking off just after their 20th anniversary, in a huff because Francis Rossiesshop wouldn’t wear the pink bobban waistcoat Cnocan had knitted for him specially.  

A new drummer and melodeon player were added and the Quo continued through the 1980’s. 

Highlights of the 80’s for the band must surely include being the opening act at Livener Aid in Goathill Stadium, kicking the whole show off with ‘Crofting All Over The World’

Shortly after Livener Aid however, Làn-cac-ster announced he was leaving and fleeked off ‘down under’ to Harris. He continued in the music business, playing in several ceilidh bands including a supergroup with former Rosestreet Tattoo frontman Angry Andersonroad.

In 2013 the classic ‘Fanktic Four’ Quo line up resolved their differences and reunited for a lucrative tour of Sunday School picnics, which was well received by the fans. 

In appreciation of Lan-cac-ster’s contribution to Stornoway culture let’s all sing along to one of their greatest hits…..1, 2, 3, 4……….

Down Town

Get down, Deetan, down town

Down town, Deetan down town

Down town, Deetan down town

Get down Deetan down town

I want all the hens you see

Cooked in batter in the Church St chippie

I can get a supper for you

A hen, a hen, a hen, a hen

A hen, a hen, a hen, a hen supper downtown

Get down, Deetan, down town

Down town, Deetan, down town

Down town, Deetan, down town

Get down Deetan down town

I want all the hens you see

At the chippie for my brother Bogie

I can get a supper for you

A hen, a hen, a hen, a hen

A hen, a hen, a hen, a hen supper downtown





Sir Glaoic Zinclayer RIP

25 09 2021

The recent demise of famous inventor Sir Clive Sinclair (The pocket calculator, ZX80 and Spectrum computers, C5 electric vehicle, and miniature TV)  left middle-aged nerds across the globe in mourning. 

Less well known was the innovator’s island cousin, who came up with a few pretty smart ideas of his own and sadly passed away the same day.

Sir Glaoic Zinclayer was best known for claiming to have invented corrugated iron, and made his original fortune in the early 1960s selling 2-room àiridh kits to readers of Practical Tairsgear magazine for 10 shillings and sixpence a shot.

As peatcutting declined in the early 1970s, Zinclayer sensed that the bottom was rusting out of the àiridh market and decided to diversify into consumer electronics. In 1973, spotting the success of his cousin Clive’s “pocket calculator” on the mainland, Zinclayer began developing several similar devices that were aimed more specifically at the Hebridean market. 

First came the Pocket Cac-u-lator, a device for determining how many trailerloads of todhar were required to fertilise a feannag.

Then the Pocket Cala-culator, for working out how many fishing boats could fit in alongside the pier.

The Pocket Coll-culator could instantly compute how many Stornoway Sunday School outings could be accommodated on the beach at a time, based on tidal conditions.

And finally the Pocket Cull-culator, used every year to count the number of Guga clubbed on Sulasgeir. Unfortunately the Pocket Cull-culator could only count to 2000 (according to the Niseachs) and became the first ever computer to fall victim to the Maw-llenium bug.

In the late 70s, anticipating the emerging trend towards personal computers, Zinclayer designed some of the earliest and cheapest machines on the market –  the iconic ‘ZXochdad’, and the snappily named ‘ZXCeithir fichead sa h-aon’ and finally the legendary ‘ZX Bogha-froise’, which came with colour graphics and a state-of-the-art 16K of Rams.

While Zinclayer’s machines were innovative and cheap, competition in the emerging home computer field was intense, with big international players like Comhairle-dore, Abair and Tawse-tarry muscling in. But trouble came too from within Zinclayer’s organisation, when treacherous employee Chris Cuiream broke away and designed the BBC Alba Pinecone microcomputer. The BBC Alba became the standard in island schools, doing Zinclayer out of the lucrative council contracts he’d hoped for.

To make matters worse, Zinclayer had no sooner finished building a hi-tech factory at Parkend Industrial Estate to produce the ZX series, when the HIDB realized that there was no “Z” or “X” in the Gaelic alphabet and demanded their grant money back.

Despite Zinclayer’s woes, computer gamers of a certain age remember the ZX series fondly, especially for its classic games such as: 

Maw-nic miner

3D Minister Maze

3D Minister (Continuing) Maze

Maw-Zogs

Tha-Tic Attack

Chet Set Uilly

Chuckie Eigg

Jet Pairc

As his fortunes in the computer business faded, Zinclayer took a bold, and ultimately disastrous, step into the world of electric vehicles. Spotting a gap in the commuting market, he came up with the idea of a sleek, low cost vehicle designed to nip in between all the fleekeen school buses clogging up the Manor roundabout and the Matheson Rd crossroads. 

Named the “Zinclayer CFifeAdventurers” in an attempt to get on the good side of the Stornoway Historical Society, this innovative vehicle came to naught as it didn’t have a roof, couldn’t get up Anderson Road, tended to come off worst in encounters with sheep, and got stuck whenever it came to a cattle grid.

Sir Clive also tried out a number of other models of his vehicle including:

The Zinclayer C5Pennyborve electric tractor, targeted at the rural market. The C5Pennyborve failed simply because it was so far ahead of its time (the maws didn’t have electricity).

The Zinclayer APC5 electric church bus – the promising APC5 ultimately proved unsuccessful because, in a misguided  attempt to capture the Free Presbyterian market, it was programmed not to work on Sundays.

In his spare time – despite his nerdy appearance – Sir Glaoic was a bit of a playboy, and was frequently spotted in top-end nightclubs like the Galaxy Disco, or wuining and duining blones at his usual table in the Coffee Pot. 

An accomplished high-stakes gambler, he was often seen in the Turf Accountant’s, placing bets of 50p or more, and was the winner of Grampian TV’s “Celebrity 2s and 8s Challenge” in the early 2000s.

Famed for having an impressive IQ of over 59, Zinclayer also served for many years as chairman of the Airidhbhruach branch of Mehhh-nsa.

On the news of Zinclayer’s death the Made Up History spoke to some of his fellow tech tycoons and asked them for their thoughts:

“A cove ahead of his time” – Nessla’s Elon Morsgail, ” 

“A true inspiration” – Amadan’s Jeff Broadbayzos.

“Oh yus, thon cove. I nicked all my ideas off him” – Microcroft founder Bill ‘Galvanised’ Gates.

“We need to get out of Eoropie! Make Breasclete Great Again! Sir Glaoic who?” – Offshore Hoover magnate Sir Jameson Dryveson, speaking from somewhere abroad.

“What the fleek are you asking me for? I’m dead” – Abair boss Steve JobsblowforArnishworkers (deceased)





Charlie SirEScotts RIP

27 08 2021

The music world has lost another of its all-time greats with the recent passing of the lechendary (and very spaideil) Rolling Stones tub-thumper Charlie Watts. Closer to home, another lesser known but no less-respected drummer also shuffled off (get it?) this mortal coil; Charlie SirEScotts, who for nearly sixty years occupied the drum stool of the Rodel Stones, foremost band in the Harris R&B scene (Roghadal and Borrisdale). 

The Rodel Stones’ origin story takes us back to 1950 where Charlie’s future bandmate Keithstreet Richards was attending Bragar School with his pal Mick MacAskill. Mick (short for Murchadh) was a very common name in 1950s Lewis, and so MacAskill was always known as Mick Bragar in order to differentiate himself from all the other Micks, which became very confusing when his family then upped and moved to Brue. Separated by insurmountable distance, the boys lost touch, but years later Keithstreet met Mick waiting for the 6 o’ clock bus back home and noticed that he was carrying a Flair LP. They bonded over this and quickly began making their very own ruppish music under the name “Brue’s Boys”.

Meanwhile, Charlie had started playing drums with Alex Dan LazyKorner in his band ‘Brues Incorporated’ alongside melodeon player Ian Stewartscreamofthebarley and slide guitarist (and early Trans pioneer) Brian Blones. Brues-style music became very popular around Roghadal and Borrisdale and it was in 1962, whilst playing around the South Harris R&B scene, that Charlie first met Mick Bragar and Keithstreet Richards and soon formed a new band with them.  Brian Blones phoned up “Events” to have their first gig advertised and was asked what the band’s name was. He glanced out of the phonebox, saw the wall around St Clements’ Church and replied that they were called “the Rodel Stones”.

The line-up of the Rodel Stones changed several times. Stewartscreamofthebarley was kicked out for being too ugly, but became their road manager instead and Bill Aidhaidhman soon joined the line-up on bass. In later years (After the sad demise of Brian Blones), a young trendy FP melodeon player called Mick Secaaay-der  joined the band but he only stayed for five years as he got a better job as a piping instructor in Mangersta School. He in turn was replaced by the lead accordionist in ‘The Fèises’, Ronnie WoodlandsCentre, who along with Keithstreet Richards, formed what is probably the best known accordion partnership ever seen in R&B and Ceilidh circles.

The band quickly gained popularity, but true success didn’t come their way until their manager Giorgio Gormeliasky was replaced by former Peatles manager and respected deacon Andrew Loog Orduighean. 

Orduighean (a staunch FP) was responsible for the band’s look and initially tried to get them wearing good serge suits and homburg hats, but, realising that a raunchier, more dangerous image would make the band more desirable to the cailleachs, he allowed them to take off the homburgs. 

They soon secured themselves a three album deal with Ness-based label DeccaStation Records and released their first single; a cover of a Church Berry song. However, Orduighean wanted them to get their own songwriting royalties instead of giving them up to “middle aged Bacachs”, hence the title of what became their first self-penned hit “(I Can’t Get No) Sustentation”.

Their next single “Get off, MacLeod” also went to number one in DD Morrison’s chart and they soon released their first album of very good originals “Aftermathdharìreabh” which featured the hit song “Paint it Back”.

“Between the ButtonKeyAccordions” came out in 1967, tackling diverse subjects such as the difficulty of finding romance while still needing to finish essential tasks on the croft (“Let’s Spend The Night Togatherthepeats”) and the shortage of buses to Point (“Rubha by Tuesday”).

Their material took on a darker tone after Orduighean left to go in for the ministry. Particularly controversial were the album “Their Satanic Marvigs Request” and subsequent single “Sympathy for the Deamhais”. Even their album covers caused a stir. “Bleigeard’s Banquet” was criticised for its photograph of a seagull eating chips outside Perceval Square public toilets but this paled in comparison to the fuss made about the sleeve of “KennyStickysMill Fingers” which depicted a weaver struggling to operate a hattersley loom while wearing trousers that were too tight.

The band played some of the biggest and best known concerts in island history, although these appearances often hit the headlines for the wrong reasons. While on tour on the West Side in 1969, Mick Bragar blurted out to a Gazette reporter their plan to hold a free concert in the yard at Denis Autos. Fearing that Bragar would be inundated, the organisers were forced to move the show to Arnol. However, “Arnoltamont” was to become infamous after the Barvas Grazings Committee were hired to do security and the Stones’ set was cut short when an audience member was clubbed with a marag.

Their free concert at Haoidh Park in 1969 didn’t fare much better. As a tribute to Brian Blones, who died just a couple of days before, the Stones planned to release 100,000,000,000 midges which would form a sombre black cloud. After a lengthy prayer and a eulogy where Blones was never once mentioned by name, the midges were set loose and the entire audience of between 25 and 27 people fled home flailing their arms.

Success brought with it romance, and the other members of the band were often seen in the narrows after closing time with beautiful and glamorous women holding them upright. Both Brian Blones and Keithstreet Richards were involved with Lochie actress Anita Balallanberg, while Bragar was paired with Mairi-Anna Faithful (who had the cùram), married to Niseachcaraguan heiress Bianca Perez-Morag Maragas, and later partnered with Texel supermaw-del Jerry Laxdalehall (who allegedly cheated on him and ended up marrying wealthy newspaper mogul Rubha-poirt Murdoch). 

There was none of that carry-on for Charlie, though, who remained happily married until his death to the blone he met at the 1964 Carloway Show – Siabost Siarach Shearing champion Shearly-Annag Sheepherd. Charlie’s exemplary behaviour compared to the rest of the band, and the fact that Shearly-Annag was a world-renowned expert with the deamhais, were entirely coincidental, propaply.

Over their lengthy career, the Rodel Stones released a seemingly endless string of records including “Exile on Mainland”, “Sheep’s Head Soup”, “Tattoo Ewe”, “Let It Bleat”, “Bridges to Bayble” and “Soum Girls” –  and a raft of classic singles such as “Jumpin’ Cac Flush”,

“Honky Tong Woman”, “It’s Only Deoch an Dole”, “Angie”, “Gimmer Shelter” and “Start Me Tup”.

Despite his success in the world of rock and blues, Charlie was at heart a chazz fan, his early taste in music having been formed by the likes of Jelly Roll Maw-ton and Charlie Parkend. When he wasn’t playing with the Stones he could often be found jamming away with one of his side-projects at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz and Fish Club.

But we’ll leave you here with fond memories of Charlie SirEScotts and the words of one of the Rodel Stones’ best known songs, that well known warning against sheep rustling “Get Off, MacLeod”:

I live in an apartment on the ninety-ninth croft in Garyvard

And I sit at home looking out the window waiting just to catch thon ceard

Then in flies the guy next door all dressed up in a peephole boiler suit

He jumps the fence and sets about molesting my prize mehags at their food

I said Hey! Macleod! Get offa my Ewe!

Hey Macleod! Get offa my Ewe!   

Hey Macleod! Get offa my Ewe!  

Don’t hang around or I’ll have the law on you

On Macleod, baby 

The telephone is ringing 

I say, “Hi, it’s me. Who is it there – on the phone?” 

A voice says, “Oh a’thighearna flossie tha gaol mor agam ort – you fleecy blone”

He says “it’s three am so I’ll come over and I’ll meet you at the fank”

I don’t care about the cove that owns you – 

he can go and jump into his septic tank 

I said Hey! Macleod! Get offa my Ewe!

Hey Macleod! Get offa my Ewe!   

Hey Macleod! Get offa my Ewe!  

Don’t hang around or I’ll have the law on you

On Macleod, baby

I was sick and tired fed up with this

And decided I was gonna call the law

No dice the cops was all off at a riot in a mission house in Keose

But then I saw the vet returning from a prayer meeting in Cromore

He’ll git the guy next door fixed like a molt so he won’t bother me no more 

And I said  Hey Macleod! Get offa my Ewe!   

Hey Macleod! Get offa my Ewe!  

Don’t hang around or I’ll have the law on you

On Macleod, baby





Ewe-na Stubbs RIP

21 08 2021

Ewe-na Stubbs RIP. 

The recent passing of TV institution Una Stubbs marked the end of an era for entertainment across the nation. The versatile but sometimes underrated actress was a fixture of our big and small screens, having appeared in everything from ‘Summer Holiday’ to ‘Til Death Us Do Part’ to ‘Sherlock’.

But island audiences are also in mourning for the legendary actress’s Leodhasach cousin who passed away the same day, herself a mainstay of the BBC Alba TV  schedules since before anybody had a telly or electricity.

Local star of stage and screen, (and seasonal sheep shearer) Ewe-na Stubbs hit the boards at a young age and trained as a dancer, graduating on to parts in TV commercials on Grampian – most noticeably as the face of TeeDeesDairy Milk Chocolate.

Ewe-na’s first big break came in the hit Clibhe RichAird film ‘Summer Holydays’, where Clibhe, Ewe-na and the gang all went off to the Orduighean in Uig on a church bus, and to do a bit of Missionary work for the heathen parts of the district (mostly in Carishader). Readers will recall the catchy theme song, with memorable lines such as “We’re going where the sins shine brightly”.

Ewe-na became a household name after she starred in popular BBC Alba sit-com  ‘Till Death Us Do Pairc’, with Dandy Nicolsonroad, Tony Bùthsheumais, and of course Warren Mitchellsbus as her bigoted Eastender (from the Battery) dad Alf Garenin.

Alf Garenin’s racist diatribes against Hearachs, Rubhachs, Siarachs, Niseachs, Sgiathanachs, Lochies, Uibhisteachs, Barrachs, Uigeachs, Townies (except those from the Battery), Townies (from the Battery but not from Bulnacraig Street) and Townies (from Bulnacraig Street but not from Garenin’s house) were intended by scriptwriter Seonaidh Splaoid to be ironic, but this subtlety was lost on many viewers who thought the character of Garenin was talking a lot of sense and – despite his being fictional – tried to get him voted in as MP for the Western Isles in 1966, 1970 and 1974. The show also coined a popular phrase ‘You Silly Maw’. In today’s more sensitive times, ‘Till Death Us Do Pairc; is rarely repeated (Unlike nearly everything else on BBC Alba)..

In the Garenin household, Stubb’s character Rita (short for Rhoda Ishbal Tormodina Ann-Christina) was usually the voice of reason while all the other characters shouted at each other like deaf Siarachs at the Arnol fank in a force 10.

Ewe-na was also a regular on the original series of “Give us a Brue” with herself and Lionel Blarbuidhe leading the opposing teams. This popular show was based around the party game ‘CharAiridhs’ where contestants had to mime the name of a summer pasture. Who can forget the time Ewe-na was doubled up with laughter while, with the clock ticking, an over-excited Christopher Biggins repeatedly failed to grasp Lionel’s ‘Airidh Dhomhaill Chaim’? 

Stubbs was much loved by young viewers in the late 70s and 80s because of her role as Aunt Salainn in that program about the scarecrow built from wood they found in a cave; “Worzel Geò-Maide”… or was it as Aunt Salach in thon programme about the cove who looked like a scarecrow and was forever being thrown out of the Clachan – “Worzel Go-Mach”?  Co dhiù, whichever one it was, the scarecrow was played by Jon Piort-wee, or Jon Puirt-a-beul, or Jon Peat-wee, or somebody.

In parallel with her film and TV appearances Stubbs enjoyed a successful theatrical career. She was forever onstage with the Stornoway Thespians or with the Royal (Hotel) Shakes Pier Company. Notable appearances over the years included a critically acclaimed two-hander with Penelope Keithstreet in Noël Eadie’s “Star (Inn) Quality”, a show-stealing Nurse in the Point-based tragedy “Rubha-meo and Shulishader”, “Don Carlosway” with Derek Bac-obi and of course the role of Mrs Alexandersgarage in “The Curious Incident of the Dogfish on the Handline”.

Ewe-na kept working well into her 80’s, and in ‘Siarach’ she played the role of Mrs Hiortson, housekeeper to the great detective Siarach Holm at his famous residence, 221b Bakers Road. Holm and Watson were, of course, played by Bennadrove Cumberbatch and Martin WeeFreeman.





ZZ TUP: Every Blone’s Crazy ‘bout a Sharp Dressed Maw

11 08 2021

There are many heartfelt tributes on the go just now to Dusty Hill, the bearded, Stetson wearing bass player from fun lovin’ Texans ZZ Top, who recently passed away. ZZ Top were hugely popular in the mid 1980’s following the release of their ‘Eliminator’ album and the entertaining videos they made to promote the tunes on it, like ‘Legs’ and ‘Sharp Dressed Man’

Local music fans have also been full of praise for Dusty’s second cousin Sandy(wick) Hill who has also sadly passed away. Sandy was the bass accordionist in local ceilidh ‘n’ blues band ZZ Tup, who were said to have been a huge influence on their Texan cousins.

Sandy came from a large family of Hills; Gallows, Goat, Napier and Light, but none of them shared his skill on the box. 

Sandy was joined in ZZ Tup by Uilly Gibbsonhostel (lead accordion) and Fank Beard ( on the snare drum). They formed in 1971 and the line up remained unchanged for 50 years.  All three were mediocre weavers by day in order to supplement their meagre income from the music business. Many of ZZ Top’s songs were about the State of Texas, and in a similar way many of ZZ Tup’s songs were complaints against the Harris Tweed Authority for regularly withdrawing their Weaving Licence due to the State of their Textiles. 

Originally hailing from the dusty plains of South Lochs, ZZ Tup played a style of music heavily influenced by the closeness of the border with Harris and the Rio Gravir River. This blues-driven ceilidh music won them nearly several admirers as they toured the village halls of the island. Songs such as ’La (Coule) Greinge’ and ‘Duis’ became crowd pleasers, and set them on the road to becoming international rock megastars with fans across the globe from Eishken to Cromore.  

Eventually ZZ Tup cultivated an unforgettable stage image which saw Sandy and Uilly grow long beards (influenced by the fiasags on the coves in old photos of the St Kilda Parliament – which also led to their song ‘Beard Drinkers and Hiort Raisers’). Sandy and Uilly also wore sunglasses (to hide their bloodshot eyes) and topped this off with stylish church Elder hats from Mackenzie & Macsween on their ceanns.(which was where they got the name for their ‘Tres Homburgs’ album).

After many years doing no bad as a hard-working rock band, ZZ Tup suddenly became pop stars in 1983/84 after they decided to bring a bit of electro synth magic into the recording studio. This new-found love for modren day musical styles resulted in the huge selling (4 copies sold in DD Morrisons) album ‘WeeFree-liminator’. Boosted by the still new ‘Maw TV’ video channel, the band’s cine footage of their new songs opened their music up to a whole new audience (4 coves watching the telly in the Lewis Lounge whilst waiting for the football to come on). Soon the band were hobnobbing with the big names of glossy 80s pop like Madonnald, Duran Guirean, The Eoropierhythmics and Island Express.

These songs and cine footage included ’Sharp Dressed Maw’, ‘Cleggs’ and ‘Gimmer All Your Loving’. Who can forget the iconic image of Sandy and Uilly spinning their accordions around and the souped up red and chrome tractor with the large ‘z’ painted on each side?

ZZ Tup’s popular albums included: 

Rio Gravir Mud

Tres Homburgs

Fan-dangit-all

El Leodhas-cove

WeeFree-liminator 

To finish this tribute to Sandy, we leave you with the lyrics to one of their greatest hits. All together now!!!

Sharp Dressed Maw

Cleaned dirt, new Arnish Boots

And I don’t know where I am goin’ to

Boilersuit, church tie (church tie)

I don’t need a reason why

They come runnin’ cos they like what they saw

‘Cause every blone crazy ’bout a sharp-dressed maw

Old watch, bobban bling

I ain’t missin’ not a single thing

No Cufflinks, so a safety pin

When I step out I’m gonna look like a bin

They come runnin’ cos they like what they saw

‘Cause every blone crazy ’bout a sharp-dressed maw





100 Years of the J&E’s Communist Party

17 07 2021

Great celebrations were held in the People’s Republic of China recently to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist party. But few are aware of the Party’s long standing and fraternal links to another organisation based  closer to home – on the corner of Church Street and Kenneth Street, in fact.

IN 1921, disgruntled staff in the  Stornoway bakery of J&E Macleod decided to form an organisation dedicated to establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat, seizing the means of production (of plain loaf and morning rolls) and placing it in the hands of the workers. 

The J&E’s Communist Party had its first meeting in July 1921, behind a pile of flour bags in a shed near where the Thai Cafe stands today.  Founders Chen Dubh-sùgh and Leverhulme Drivezhao met with Rubhach Bolshevik agent Grigori Pointinski who had been sent by the Garrabost politburo to J&E’s to foment revolution.

One promising young firebrand also present at the meeting was an apprentice dough mixer from Ford Terrace, Maw Tse Tong (nowadays spelt “Maw Zheepdung”),  who soon rose to lead the party as “Chairman Maw”.

The Communists were by no means dominant in J&E’s in the 20s and 30s – the main party in the shop was the nationalist  An Comunn-tang, led by staunchly anti-communist Rubhach exile Chiang Kai-Sheshader. 

Throughout the 30s and 40s the J&E’s Communists and the Comunn-tang alternated between battling each other for control of the shop, and ganging up to fight invading forces from other bakeries such as Forsyth’s, Johnny Òg’s and Calum Sgiathanach’s.

In the years following WWII, however, the Communists finally gained the upper hand and in 1949 the Comunn-tang abandoned mainland J&E’s and fled offshore to the island of Cromor-sa in Loch Erisort. The only building that was there when they arrived was a sheep shelter, so they promptly renamed the island Taigh-uan.

Chairman Maw took full control of J&E’s soon afterwards, and ruled until his death in 1976. 

In the early 50s the Chairman was very keen on exporting his brand of revolution beyond J&E’s itself. He invaded the Taobh Siar and drove its spiritual leader the Dalbeg Lamb-a into exile, and supported North Tolsta dictator Kim Il Drungaire’s breakaway from the Free Church in the Kuiream-ean war.

As the 50s went on, Maw established a personality cult, with a big statue of himself  in Perceval square and his face on the front of the Gazette every week. The Chairman soon started to believe his own hype and began to indulge his whims with disastrous initiatives on a grand scale, such as:

The Wee Free-Aunties Campaign: In 1951, Maw unleashed a cadre of his mother’s formidable churchgoing sisters to run a campaign against corruption, bureaucracy, waste and rightist thought. The campaign failed because rather than concentrating on Maw’s priorities, the Aunties spent all their time persecuting people for listening to the wireless on Sundays or taking the church bus instead of walking.

The Great Leap Bac-ward : Chairman Maw had read that the population of J&E’s was big enough to shift the world on its axis if they all jumped up and down at the same time. After some rough calculations Maw decided that if everyone jumped in a vaguely North-Easterly direction – towards Back – at the same time, the sun would shine on Kenneth Street for ever more. Needless to say it didn’t work.

The Cuireamach Revolution : Chairman Maw decided that life in Stornoway was decadent and that the townies working in the shop weren’t holy enough. Cadres of Maw’s ultra-zealous Red Bàrds went around denouncing everybody (in verse at the local Mòd), and countless townies were sent to live with the peasants outside the cattle grid and work on the croft. Many long-serving party members and intellectuals were purged to “re-education camps” (Àiridhs out the pentland Road) to cut Maw’s peats. For the Chairman, this was a convenient way of disposing of potential rivals for control of the Party. And of getting his peats done without having to go out to the moor and get eaten by the midgies himself.  

Nevertheless, as Chairman Maw got older, rival factions in the Party started jostling for position to take over whenever he popped his clogs, and in Maw’s final years, various names came in and out of the frame – Prime Minister Zhoubost Enlai, Maw’s widow Jiang Qingedwardswharf and her notorious “Gang of Faolags”, and party stalwart Hua Cove Hen(supper) to name but a few. 

But in the end Chairman Maw was succeeded by FleekeenHeng Xiaoping, who decided to open up J&E’s to the rest of the world again. 

Heng reformed the economy from a centrally-planned baking operation to a free-market hat shop. In the years that followed J&E’s became a massive exporter of dradhars and is now the town’s dominant charity shop, apart from Bethesda, maybe.

In 1997 J&E’s resumed possession of Heng Kong (aka Sober Island), when Sir James Matheson’s 150-year opium smuggling lease on the dynamic offshore metropolis expired. Despite early promises from J&E’s to maintain a “one shop, two systems” approach, current party leader Xheep Jinping has been clamping down on dissent in the colony recently. Consequently a sizeable proportion of the populace are probably going to exercise their right to Stornowegian citizenship soon, and fleek off over to Cuddy Point.

100 years on from its formation, the J&E’s Communist Party’s repression in Heng Kong, together with sabre-rattling towards Taigh-uan, and its cruel treatment of the Uigeach minority in the far West, are all causes for international concern. But J&E’s global economic power means that few are willing to stand up to it. Much of the town is entirely reliant on J&E’s for its supplies of 2nd hand bodachs’ trousers, 1970s ornaments and back copies of the Free Church Monthly Record.





Caraidean-I’ll Be There, Co Dhuibh

12 06 2021

There has been an impressive amount of media interest in the recent ‘reunion’ show of the hugely successful US sitcom ‘Friends’. The six main cast members got back together to reminisce about the show with chat show host James Cordon and to relive some of the most memorable moments. 

Not to be outdone, BBC Alba quickly gathered together the cast of their long running ‘Caraidean’ sitcom and plonked them in a studio on Seaforth Rd to reminisce with chat show host James GordonDiesel. It has always been rumoured that the BBC Alba version influenced the US version and that the pilot of Friends was actually done totally in Gaelic.   

The BBC Alba show revolved around 6 friends living in adjacent apartments in New Valley who seemingly spent more time in a coffee shop than they ever did working (much like any Leodhasach frequenting the Coffee Pot in the 1980’s). The coffee shop in question was called Central Perkend (and all the scenes were actually filmed in the Coffee Pot).

The six Caraidean were:

Soay Tribbiani:- A struggling actor of Hiortach/Italian descent, Soay had an occasional part in Machair as Dr Drake Ramworrier. He was played by Matt Le Fank. His famous catch phrase was ‘How ewe doin’?’

JimmyShandler Bingo:-  He works ‘in data analysis’ for the Comhairle but no one knows what the fleek he exactly does. In the US version Chandler was a master of sarcasm.In the BBC Alba version he was a master of the Catechism. Played by Ma-shiar Ferry

Ross Geilear:- A Professor of Plantology at the Lews Castle College (ie teaching Crofting), and frequently married. His first wife became a Stornoway Thespian. Played by David Gimmer.

WeeFreeBe Buffay:-  The eccentric one of the group. She sings terrible songs and is a professional Mawsuese. Played by Lisa Kuddypointrow.

Mawnica Geilear:- Brother of Ross and a cook in the Niccy school canteen. Had a long secret romance with Jimmyshandler.  Played by Courstney Lochs.

Rachael Coulegrèin:- Rachael works in high fashion as a buyer for The Fishermen’s Co-op. Had an on/off relationship with Ross. Played by Jennifer Arnol-ston.

Each episode was named after the events that took place in the show,  such as ‘The One With Marcel The Pet Guga’, ‘The One With The Church Schism’, ‘The One Where They Were On A Breakwater’ and ‘The One With The Other Church Schism’.

Crazy situations arose, lovers came and went, jobs changed and births and marriages took place, but throughout it all the six characters stayed the best of friends, bizarrely avoiding the local ‘curse of the falling out’ inherent in all aspects of Hebridean life. 

Who can forget WeeFreeBe’s ‘Smelly Cac’ song being entered in the Mod (and winning); Chanice with the annoying laugh; Ross getting stuck in his leather boiler suit; and Soay and his many. many sexual conquests (who were all played by the same actress wearing a different wig each time due to BBC Alba budget constraints). 

Very occasionally, when those BBC Alba budgets allowed, the storylines took the cast off to some exotic locations. When Ross was married to posh white settler blone Emily Woolham (played by Hellish Laxendale), a whole episode was filmed in the old RAF camp at Aird Uig, where her WIE-funded goat-hair dreamcatcher weaving business was based.

The well known theme song to the series, ‘I’ll be There Co Dhuibh’, was performed by the Rambrants with lead vocals by Bogie (who coincidentally played the occasional part of Dr Rich-cearc Burp, Mawnica’s suave and sophisticated older boyfriend).

I’ll Be There Co Dhuibh

So no one told you life was gonna be stuck in Stornoway

Your job’s a joke, you boke

You’re chust like B-O-gie

It’s like you’re always dressed in Wrangler gear

When it hasn’t been your dram, your shout, your round

For many’s a year, but

I’ll be there co dhuibh

(When the dram starts to pour)

I’ll be there co dhuibh

(Like I’ve been drunk before)

I’ll be there co dhuibh 

(‘Cause you’re there when me spew)





Minister Men

29 05 2021

We’re sure there are many readers out there who will have fond memories of the Mr Men series of children’s books, written (and drawn) by Roger Hargreaves. The Mr Men have just reached their 50th anniversary and have come a long way since Mr Tickle first appeared in print in 1971.

Mr Grumpy, Mr Happy and all the other colourful characters, brought hours of entertainment to generations of kids, so it is very pleasing to see all this anniversary praise being directed towards Mr Hargreaves. 

But in all the fuss of the Mr Men celebrations, it’s been easy to overlook another slightly less high profile  50th anniversary – that of the locally produced ‘Minister Men’ books, written by Roger Harristweed. 

Harristweed was a third cousin of Roger Hargreaves on his great granny’s Cromore side. Amateur genealogists from Comunn Eachdraidh Phàircend have also worked out that both men were the maternal grandmother of the other famous Mr H*rgre*ves – thon R*ver*nd from L*nd*n who produced all them gay disco records and tried to be our MP a few years back – but they propaply weren’t.

Roger Harristweed first got the idea for his Minister Men books when his young son asked him to tell him who all the local Ministers were. Harristweed Jr, like many other folk in Lewis, had a hard time distinguishing the different men of the cloth, as they all looked and dressed the same. 

Grey hair, (fashioned by Johnny Geeper), Sunday hat from Mackenzie and MacSween’s and a black suit from Murdo MacLean’s was the in-look amongst the island’s fashionable Ministers, but if you saw one proceeding along Cromwell St on a Thursday morning, you’d be hard pushed to put a name to him, let alone a Denomination.  

Harristweed took the same approach to writing all his books. He would draw one of his, now iconic, Minister Men figures and come up with a short story telling a humorous aspect of a Minister’s day. The figures were colourfully illustrated using a wide pallet of greys and blacks.

The first Minister Men book, Minister Gloomy, was published in 1971 by the Gaelic publishing company Machair. 

Some of the most well known books in the series are:

Minister Trendy: A young, newly ordained Minister tries out mainland approaches to religion. He nips downtown to get new strings for his guitar from Fonn, but he goes out without his dog collar. He tries to get back into his Church for the Praise Band rehearsal but the Elder on the door doesn’t recognise him without the dog collar and won’t let him in. The praise band start playing AC/DC songs instead. 

Minister Gloomy: He inadvertently laughs at a joke from a Xmas Cracker and so has to leave the Church in disgrace.

Minister Strict: So strict he doesn’t approve of walking up stairs on a Sunday, so can’t get into his pulpit.

Minister Schism: Has to barricade himself into the Manse to stop the ‘stay behinds’ from reclaiming it, following the latest church fall out over a spelling mistake found in the 1751 Parish Records. 

Minister Longprayer: Goes for the World Record for Praying on a whim, but has to contend with the congregation trying to sneak out after an hour so they don’t miss ‘Call The Midwife’.

Minister Òrduigheantourist: Invites himself to guest preach at all the other ministers’ communions so that he can score a slap-up dinner at their manses afterwards, but lays on stale scones, cold tea and out-of-date sgadan when it’s his turn. Spontaneously combusts in an act of divine retribution after a surfeit of guga in Cross.

Harristweed had huge problems keeping up with demand for new Minister Men books every time there was a church schism and breakaway. In all he produced 2,598 Minister Men books. 

The author expired from exhaustion in 1988 when his publisher faxed him to demand another 300 new titles, because they’d heard that the FP/APC split was brewing. 

Plans for a series of ‘Little Ms Minister’ books (to reflect the success of the Little Miss books) did not make it through the planning stage due to the amount of tutting that took place in pulpits across the islands.





Les McKeowncropaig RIP

15 05 2021

While Bay City Rollers fans across the globe mourn the passing of tartan-flared pop icon Les McKeown, Stornoway’s ageing 70s teenyboppers were saddened to hear of the death the same day of his Leodhasach cousin. 

Like his better known mainland relation, Les McKeowncropaig was a man who experienced a rollercoaster 70s teen pop career of dizzying highs and crashing lows, except for the high bits.

Born in a Vatisker black house in 1955, McKeowncropaig displayed a singular lack of musical talent from an early age. This made him an ideal candidate to be in a boy band, and in 1973 he was recruited into Outend Coll no-hopers the Broadbay City Rollers, replacing founding singer Gordon “Commongrazings” Clerk.

The other band members were Stuart “Woody” Expressparcels, Balallan Lochsmoor and Eric Waulkner. After Ballalan Lochsmoor left, he was replaced briefly by Ian Mitchellsgarage

The band were managed by dodgy Airidhbhruach businessman and frequently convicted  sheep-molester Tormod “Tam” Pay-tòin.

Among his many business interests, Pay-tòin ran a textile recycling company that collected tweed scraps from local mills and weavers, and so he decided to use the band to promote his company by sticking bits of fuidheags onto their flared boiler suits and platform wellies.

The band’s initial brown drab herringbone look failed to capture the public imagination. It was only after Pay-tòin scavenged a reject batch of radioactive glow-in-the-dark Macleod Dress Modren from the bins round the back of Kenny Sticky’s that the Rollers’ outfits really caught on.

As Rollermania gripped Stornoway (and surrounding area), a string of chart-topping hits followed, including:

Shang-A-Langabhat

Byre Byre, Baby

Summerlove Sustentation

Bennadrove Sensation

Gisla Little Love

Remember (Sha-la-Laxdale)

All of Mehhh Loves All of Ewes

Not content with local success, the band went on to break America with help from part time lobster fisherman (and head of A-Rizla Records) Cliabh Davis

However, the pressures of non-stop touring, the screaming fans and the 24/6 hounding by relentless paparazzi (the Gazette AND the Oban Times) eventually became too much for McKeowncropaig. After a particularly arduous tour of North Uist in 1978, he left the band and went into a spiral of drink and herring addiction.

When the money earned in the Rollers’ good years ran out, McKeowncropaig took to the road again to fund his lifestyle, playing under a series of names designed to cash in on the Rollers’ name while avoiding lawsuits from Tam Pay-tòin. These included:

 “Les McKeowncropaig’s Original Broadbay City Rollers”, 

“Les McKeowncropaig’s Genuine Bayhead City Rollers – Honest, Cove”

and 

“Les Mckeowncropaig’s Reformed Bayview City Rollers (Continuing)”.

Most of McKeowncropaig’s old bandmates were up to similar dodges; it is said that there are as many Broadbay City Rollers splinter groups out there as there are grains of sand on the Bràighe.

As well as the many factions featuring one or two members of the 70s lineups, there have been quite a few Rollers offshoots over the years with no original members at all. This is particularly prevalent in parts of the world where the band’s popularity has lasted well beyond their heyday, notably in the Far East (of Harris) where well known fakes include:

The Finsbay City Rollers

The Grosebay City Rollers 

The Flodabay City Rollers

And the Lingerabay City Rodels.

McKeowncropaig got back together with the original band in 2015 for a series of reunion shows, and famously sold out Barrowlands nearly as fast as Peat and Diesel.





Jim Steinishman: Rock Producer

8 05 2021

Fans of bombastic power ballads and ridiculously over-produced pomp rock epics are in mourning, following the recent passing of larger-than-life songwriter, record producer and pop impresario Jim Steinman (Meat Loaf, Celine Dion, Bonnie Tyler, Isl*nd Expr*ss and many more)

Sadly Steinman’s death overshadowed the demise the very same day of his slightly less successful island cousin, local operatic rock mogul Jim Steinishman.

Like his American relative, Jim Steinishman was stagestruck from an early age, taking a degree in avante garde theatre studies (with weaving and navigation) at Lews Castle College in the late 60s. During this time he produced several stage shows including Bertolt Breasclete’s “A Maw’s A Maw” and went on to write for a number of unsuccessful Broadbay musicals in the early 1970s. 

It was while working on one of these flops (“More than Ewe Deserve”, set on a front line fank in the Viet-Ram war) that Steinishman met legendary big fat shouty cove Marvig Lee Adabroc –  aka Peat Loaf. 

Steinishman’s operatic pretensions and Peat Loaf’s thunderous bovine bellow went together like sgadan and buntata, and the pair soon went on to develop the massively successful  “Bat Out of Dell” which became one of Stornoway’s biggest selling albums of all time (8 copies), and has been in the Maciver and Darts’ album chart continuously since 1977. The enigmatic cover artwork (a painting of a crofter bursting out of a grave at Habost Cemetery, whilst driving a Massey Ferguson tractor and towing a trailer full of peats) caused some controversy at first, but has gone on to be recognised as a great work of art and is now used by the Dail bho Dheas Tourist Board.

.

‘Bat Out of Dell’ was filled with epic hits including the title track, ‘You Hooked The Fish Right Out at the Creed Mouth’ and ‘Paradise By The Arnish Light’,  a duet with Eilean Foley. 

Steinishman and Peat Loaf continued to collaborate intermittently over the subsequent years, but they were cursed by bad timing. When Steinishman had songs handy, Peat Loaf would have lost his voice, or got the cuiream and be refusing to sing anything but psalms; When Peat Loaf was ready to work, Steinishman would be short of material because he’d just flogged his least ruppish  songs to one of his other artists. While several very successful albums emerged, including “Deaf Singer”, and of course “Bat Out of Dell 2 : Back Into Dell”, none of them attained the dizzy heights of the original.  Although come to think of it,  BOOD2:BID did have one outstanding track… ‘I Would Do Anything for Lochs (But I won’t do Pairc)’

As well as Peat Loaf, Steinishman wrote and produced for a wide range of other artistes over the years, with varying degrees of success. These included:  

Celine Geehonk: Steinishman gave Geehonk an island-wide hit with a song complaining about the noise all the animals on her croft were constantly making: ‘It’s All Coming Baahh To Meow’ 

Donnie Tyler – Steinishman worked with gravel-voiced Skigersta power ballad diva (and bathroom renovation specialist) Tyler in the early 80s, producing Tyler’s platinum-selling 1983 album ‘Plaster(field) than the Speed of Night’ in exchange for getting his downstairs toilet done in classy Pilkington Pink Watersplash. This partnership is best remembered for a  mega power ballad about trying to beat the record for attending every church in South Lochs over a Communion weekend: ‘Total Eaglais of the Pairc’.

The Dun Ringles (all their albums)

Aird Supply: The Rubach soft rockers had a hit with the knitwear themed  ‘Making Gloves Out of Nothing At All, At All, At All’

Def Leóbag : Steinishman was hired briefly to work on Leóbag’s 1985 ‘Hiort-steria’ album, but got the bròg for doing fleek all except ordering the entire menu in the Island Star for his tea every night and charging it to the band. He was replaced by the band’s preferred producer, Mutt Langabhat.

Barry Manorpark: Reached high in the charts with a cover of ‘Feed ‘Em and Sheep’ from the Deaf Singer album.

Despite the time he spent in the studio, Steinishman’s true passions were opera and musical theatre rather than rock ‘n’ roll, and he continued to write and produce musicals and stage shows throughout his career.

At one point West Side musical lechend  Arnol Leòid Weaver approached Steinishman to write the lyrics for ‘Phantom of the Opera House’ (which became a smash hit for the Stornoway Thespians – starring Michael Crawford as Bogie, Sarah Brightman as Ch*rsty Al*ne and a young John Barrowman as 3rd Urinal On The Left). Sadly Steinishman had to decline – he was busy producing “Holding Out For A Hearach” for Donnie Tyler, in exchange for getting his kitchen splashbacks done as a homer.

However Steinishman and Leòid Weaver did subsequently collaborate on “Gristle Down The Bone” which became a hit on Broadbay. The show provided a hit single for ageing teen popsters Bodachzone, who topped the local Seceder charts in 1998 with ‘No Matter What I Do (I’m Predestined for Eternal Damnation Anyway)’

Steinishman will be sadly missed, but let’s finish by all singing along to ‘Total Eaglais of the Pairc’. All together now!!!!

‘Once upon a time I was going to Kinloch

But now I’m only communing in Pairc

There’s none that I can’t do

The total eaglais of the Pairc

Once upon a time there was Laxay in my life

But now there’s only Cromore in the dark

Now that I can pray

At the total eaglais of the Pairc’