Dame Vera Linshader & Sir Iain Holm RIP

27 06 2020

The recent passing of national treasures Dame Vera Lynn and Sir Ian Holm has sadly overshadowed the demise of their island cousins, 2 figures who were as famous in this far flung corner of the Empire as their mainland relatives were in the rest of it.

Dame Vera Linshader is fondly remembered by old SYs (and maws), particularly for her contribution to keeping up island morale during World War II.

Dame Vera was born in the Battery in 1917 and took up singing at an early age. By the mid 30s she was enjoying great success singing at the Okey-dokey Club with top bandleader Joe Lochs and His Orchestra. 

By day she worked on the cold meats in Hugh Matheson’s and, when the war came, she’d alway sneak an extra off-ration slice of spam under the counter if a soldier, sailor or airman came in. So it was that Dame Vera became known as the Forsyth’s Sweetheart.

Her mainland cousin Vera Lynn’s big hit “We’ll Meet Again” was a smash down South, but didn’t do that well on this side of the Minch. Knowing how vital the Outer Hebrides were to the war effort, the Ministry of Information hired the Leodhasach Dame Vera to re-record a version that would appeal more directly to islanders, whether they were away fighting Adolf or serving on the home front. 

In the end – to cater for the different tastes of Maws, sgorps and townies – Dame Vera recorded several versions, including:

‘Creel Peats Again’ (encouraging islanders to take their winter fuel home by traditional  methods instead of wasting vital wartime kerosene getting the tractor)

‘Weave Miteagan’ (persuading cailleachs on the home front to make gloves for the troops during the cold phoney war winter of 1939/40)

‘Fill Iteag-ans’ (exhorting children to increase tweed productivity)

‘Eel Meat Again’ (promoting the benefits of readily available local fish)

‘We’ll Eat A Hen (But not until the war has en…ded)’ which was a song of yearning for the post war years and the lifting of rationing.

She was also all set to record “Whale Meat Again” but was beaten to it by ex-TrafficWarden drummer and local priest Father Capaldi, who recorded a version with an all star cast of his top musician pals including Steve Winwool and Sheepbop Kwaku Baah 

Of course, Dame Vera’s repertoire wasn’t completely limited to versions of “We’ll Meet Again”.  There were numerous other wartime hits – often reminding homesick  SYs abroad about the great landmarks of home – including:

‘There’ll Always Be An Engie’s’

‘A Nightingale Sang In Barony Square’

And sometimes chust complaining about how small and ruppish said landmarks were…

‘The Sh*te Cliffs of Sober (Island)’

Within a few days of Dame Vera’s demise there also came the news that the great Stornoway thespian Sir Iain Holm had trodden his last board.

Often confused with his successful mainland relation, the actorrrr Sir Ian Holm (pronounced ‘Home’, for some reason), the Leodhasach Sir Iain Holm (pronounced Holl-imm) was actually from Holm, and knew how to say his own fleekeen name. 

Indeed, that was the only way most showbiz insiders could tell them apart. Well, that and the fact that the mainland Sir Ian had loads more money and a proper career.

Originally an acclaimed theatrical actor and a favourite of Rubhach playwright Harold Pointer, Holm switched to film and TV after suffering a major attack of stagefright during a prestigious production of ‘The Uicemetery-man Cometh’  in Knock school canteen.

Sir Iain endeared himself to Sci-Fi fans for ever, when he played the part of AshCart in Ridley Scottroad’s blockbuster ‘Aline’. At first, a helpful Science officer, AshCart was  then revealed to be an android, hidden in the crew of the Galacdonian Macbrayne space ferry ‘Loch Nesstromo’  by the dodgy Stornoweyland Corporation. 

He was also good as Parkend’s head gelly-building coach in Chariots of Tyres, which won him a BAFTA (Battery-Gang Academy For Tyre Arson).

For most modern audiences, however, he was best known as the well-shod Hearach halfling Bilbo Bachalls who receives one of the Pennies of Power in Peter Cacson’s Lord of the Wings trilogy (from the books by JRR Tolsta). Holm’s portrayal of the diminutive Obbe-it was one of many fine performances in the trilogy, which also featured veteran actor Christopher Leac-a-Lì as the evil wizard Sarumanky and Iain MawKellan as the good Niseach wizard Gannetdalf.

Glamb Rocker Steve Presbyterian RIP

13 06 2020

Fans of bacofoil flares, giant glittery platform boots and 70s glam rock in general are mourning the recent passing of Steve Priest, flamboyant bass guitarist of The Sweet.

Sadly the demise the same day of his Leodhasach cousin Steve Presbyterian went largely unreported, despite the latter’s major contribution to Stornoway’s own “Glamb Rock” scene in the early 70s.

Steve Presbyterian was a member of The Suet, who were one of the leading lights of Glamb Rock in the town. Along with his bandmates Braighe-Iain Connelly – vocals and precenting, Tick Mucker – drums and Antaidh Sgòthach – lead accordion, they were perhaps the very epitome of Stornowegian Glamb and had legions of fans (5 blones from Manor Park). 

Incidentally, Braighe-Iain Connelly  was the brother of well known actor Marag McManse, who was most famed for playing gritty Stornoway cop Blaggart, (“Thurrsh being a Murrr-do”).

After playing in all the village halls round Lewis in the late 60’s, The Suet took their first steps to megastardom when they met two local aspiring songwritrers, called Niccy Gym and Mike Crapman, in the Neptune Bar in 1971. The two songwriters told them that they had written loads of catchy tunes and just needed a band who could play their instruments to record them. Originally the idea was that all the songs would be about different cuts of lamb, as Gym and CrapMan were hoping to get sponsorship from local butchers.

Glamb Rock took over the Isle of Lewis. Everyone wanted to be part of it, and it was not uncommon to see local worthies staggering out of the Star Inn and the Opera House with glitter in their hair and star shaped tarasgiers under their arms. Even the local Ministers wanted in on the act and many a Church Service was taken by an androgynous figure in 2 foot platform Arnish Boots and flared dog collars.  

Local mainstream acts like The Lochies and Calum Kennedy also went through a Glamb phase –  The Lochies with spangly capes on their boilersuits and Calum with his flared kilt. 

The Suet had hit after hit during that period (3 copies sold in DD Morrisons).  The first songs to make an impression (in keeping with the lamb theme) were ‘Poppa Ewe’, ‘Little WillieJohnTheButcher’ and ‘Wig Wam Ram’. These were soon followed by their first Number One chart topper, ‘Flock Rustler’.

‘Hell Saver’ (an attempt to get sponsorship from the FP’s), ‘Co?Co?’ ‘Balallan Loom Blitz’ and ‘Teenage Ram Page’ continued their run of massive hits. 

Sadly, in-fighting and addiction issues began to appear amongst the band and the quality of the songs started to decline. They still had some chart success with ‘Cnocs on the Run’ and ‘Love is Like Naughty Sin’ (another ill fated attempt to get sponsorship from a local church, this time ‘the Continuing’) but they soon no longer had legions of fans (5 blones from Manor Park) chasing them round Bayhead Swing Park.

Despite their pop chart success and their teeny-bop fan base, Presbyterian and the rest of The Suet were talented musicians who could outplay “serious” bands like Sheep Purple.  They eventually got tired of being a singles act and went off to make a critically acclaimed album of proper hard rock – ‘Suet Fanky Amadans’. Nobody bought it at the time but it was highly influential on later bands such as Guns n Keoses and Maw-tallica.

Soon after their decline, the Suet split and went their separate ways, with all four members having their own version of the band at different times. 

Other Glamb Bands

  • Spade- ‘Curam Feel The Noise’, ‘Coz I Luv Ewez’, 
  • Murd – Also from the Niccy Gym/Mike Crapman stable, Murd had a string of hits including  ‘Tigh-fhaire Feet’, ‘ChirstyAlonelythisXmas, ‘Murdyna-mite’, ‘(Al) Crae-zy’ and  ‘The Cearc Crept In’
  • Alvdust StarInn- ‘My Cù ca Choo’
  • Cockle Ebb-ney Rebel – ‘Come Up and Shear Me (Make Me Textile)’
  • PilotWhale – ‘Oh oh oh it’s Marag’
  • Shawbostwaddywaddy – ‘Under the Moor Of Love’
  • Calan Bowie- ‘Aladdin Coulregrein’ 
  • Laxay Music – Fronted by suave lounge lizard MacBryayne Ferry (“more grease than the galley of the Suilven”), Laxay Music had big hits with ‘Levacur Is The Drug’ and ‘Vir-J&E’s Plain (Loaf)’ 
  • Molt the Strupag- ‘Roll Away Thon Ollac’
  • Kenny (Fags) with his big hits ‘The Dump’ and ‘Heart of Stoneyfield’
  • Spaircs – ‘This Town Ain’t Small Enough For A Bothan Nis’ / ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough for an M&S’, ‘Amadan Hour’.
  • Sailor(sLoft) -’Glass of Coulregrein’
  • Suzi Quatrionnach – ’48 Crans’, ‘Devil Skate (Portrona)drive’
  • Wizzaird -’Seceders My Baby Chive’  ‘I Wish It Could be Communions Everyday’
  • Marag Bolallan & T. Rubhax : ‘Telegram Psalm’ ‘Sheepster’, ‘Get it Tong’, ‘We Love To Bogie’

Of course, Glamb Rock didn’t have a complete monopoly of Stornoway’s pop charts at the time. Then as now, there were plenty manufactured teen idols peddling middle-of-the road ruppish, such as:

  • The Rubha Bets – ‘Shulishader Baby Love’
  • David Castlebay-’Flock Me Baby’
  • The Bayhead City Rollers – ‘Shank-a-Lamb’
  • The CailleochBossmonds – a clean-cut Seceder family from South Lochs, including Donny & Màiri (‘Pabbay Love’) and the dreaded Little Chimmy (‘Long Haired Lover from Ullapool’).

Flor Iain Shader RIP (And Some Other Stuff About Kroitrock)

6 06 2020

The recent demise of Kraftwerk founder Florian Schneider over in Germany had fans of electronic music in mourning. Kraftwerk, of course, emerged from Germany’s early 70s music scene alongside a host of other innovative bands, in a movement subsequently tagged by English-speaking music critics as “Krautrock”.

These same English-speaking music critics were even slower to catch on to the parallel developments in electronic music that were happening in the Outer Hebrides, pioneered among others by Schneider’s also-recently-deceased cousin Flor Iain Shader.

The “Kroitrock” movement was centred around 2 Lewis villages – Coll-logne and Balantrushaldörf. Due to an error in the 1815 crofting census, both villages had been allocated to Prussia after the Battle of Waterloo, and therefore found themselves on the Axis side during World War II.  The villages were industrial powerhouses, vital in the supply of peats and tweed to the Nazi war machine, and were therefore bombed remorselessly by the allies on a nightly basis. 

Indeed, old SYs will recall the regular 1000-bomber raids that took off on moonless nights from RAF Stornoway and returned many minutes later.  

By 1945 both Coll-logne and Balantrushaldörf were completely flattened (except, miraculously, Coll-logne’s famous mediaeval gothic FP Mission House). In the postwar years, with the aid of a big grant from the Maw-rshall Plan, the villages were reconstructed  as shining beacons of modernity with slated roofs, electricity, running water, a proper tarred road with really big passing places and a streetlamp outside the council houses.

It was in this environment of determinedly forward-looking futurism that Flor Iain Shader and his fellow Kroitrock pioneers grew up.

Most Leodhasachs nowadays will of course only remember the later incarnations of Kroftwerk, playing AC/DC covers in the Clachan and the Sea Angling. By that time of course the band’s sound had changed a bit and the original members had long since left. Scholars of Kroitrock, however, will know that the band was originally formed in 1970 by Flor Iain Shader and Calf Hutter after they met while studying compost-ition at Balantrushaldörf’s Ropach Schiarmann Hoochschule.  They were eventually  joined by two other like minded musicians – Woolgang Flüich and Karloway “Roddy” Bartos.

After a few experiments trying to come up with a band image, they decided to pretend to be robotic performers and to make every move on stage as mechanical as possible. However, it turned out that Shader’s cousin Florian had thought of this idea ten minutes before and so forbade him to copy the idea.

Instead, the Kroftwerk boys decided to do the next best thing and pick an image of somber-looking church elders standing with barely a movement for hours on end, as if enjoying a really, really, really lengthy prayer. And the idea, which reinforced this image, for the four band members to wear black church suits came from seeing a Gilbert and GeorgeStewartshop exhibition in An Lanntair. They were also hugely influenced by Hearach composer Karl-Heinz Stockinish.

The band first came to the attention of a wider audience (four people looking at a telly in Maciver and Dart’s window) when they appeared on “Tomorrow’s World” in 1974 – famously presented by Raebhat Bac-ster – and stunned viewers with the sound of the future.  

Shortly after this they broke big with their “Dòta-mahn” album and single (produced by Conny Planasker). Written as a tribute to the well known and loved kids’ Gaelic tv show, the English translation of the minimalist lyrics were a nod to the impact Donnie Dòtaman had on Gaelic medium education “We thrive,thrive,thrive on the Dòta-mahn”

Well Known Singles

  • “Dòta-mahn” – see above
  • “Trans-Eòropie Island Express” – About a legendary ‘Island Express’  tour around Ness in the early 70’s
  • “The Maw Machine” – a moving tribute to those from outwith the cattle grids
  • “Tour De Fanks” – the band were keen cyclists who would earn some extra cash by cycling round the neighbouring fanks to help out with the dipping.
  • “The Maw-Dell” – see below
  • “RadioRanol Activity” – about the playlists for the Hospital Radio show (which was always Calum Kennedy and Jimmy Shand and nobody else).
  • “Bucket Calculator” – about rationing out the guga at Port of Ness when the Guga Hunters return.

The Maw-Dell

“She’s a Maw from Dell und she’s cooking food

I like her marag dubh that’s understood

She prays hard to get, from Ness to Airidhantuim 

It only takes the Minister to change her mind.

She’s going out tonight drinking in bus shelters 

Und she’s been checking out nearly all the Elders 

I saw her on the cover of the Gazette

I vant to see her in just her hairnet”

Of course Kroftwerk were but one of many bands in the Kroitrock scene. One of these days we might get around to a more detailed look at some of their contemporaries who had even less success, such as: 

Can(Seo) – Featuring Holmger Czùgh-quay, Jaki Leverhulmedrivezeit, Irmin Schmidtavenue and Damo Suetzuki.

Neu!-ton – Formed in 1971 by mysteriously productive Seaview Terrace weavers and dawn squad regulars Klaus “Vier Kronen” Drinker and Michael Tödhar (who’d broken away from Kroftwerk in a dispute over a fence in Balallan). Neu!ton’s trademark was their hypnotic relentless beat, powered by Drinker’s ‘motorik’ loom. Unfortunately they had to break up in 1975, after it was confiscated by inspectors from the Harris Tweed Authority.

Amen Dòmhnall/Amen Dòmhnall II: Started as a radical political art movement at Lews Castle College’s Department of Theology in the 1960’s, at the very height of the global student protest movement (they were demanding the right to wear flares to college and church). Branched into free form accordion experimentation in the 70’s.  

Tarsgeir Dream – Produced a string of influential electronic albums in the 70’s and 80’s including ‘Force MajeureDuncanMorrison’ and ‘Phraedradhairs’

Cluer-ster: Formed in Harris in the early 70s by Hans-Joachim Rodel-ius and Dieter Mawbius, and well known for their collaborations with Brian Enoclete from glam rockers Laxay Music.

FaUist: This group from North Uist attempted to bring a new slant on electronic music, until they realised that North Uist didn’t have electricity.   

Ash Ranish Tempel/Ash Ranish Tempel (Continuing)/Associated Ash Ranish Tempel/Reformed Free High Ash Ranish Tempel etc etc etc: This notoriously fractious avante garde collective was first formed by Manuel GõttBayhëadschwingpärk in 1970 and splintered into several factions almost immediately over whether music was to be allowed at their concerts. They have continued to spawn new offshoots on a weekly basis up to the present day.

Einzsturzende Neuvalley: Formed in 1980 and noted for using custom built instruments (plus the odd drill and cement mixer). Famously started to break up the stage of the old An Lanntair with various diggers and cranes, whilst performing their “Concerto for Voices and Maw-chinery” and ended up accidentally building the new An Lanntair.

Long Forgotten TV Adverts (Part 1 of many, probably)

23 05 2020

For this entry in the MUHOS, we take a wee trip down memory lane with a look at some well loved Grampian TV adverts from the 1970’s and 1980’s. Although the ad breaks were a pain in the tòin when you were watching your favourite shows, some of the adverts grew on you and have passed into the ‘fondly remembered’ category of memory.

Here’s some we remember…

  • Sheep n Vac:  Inspired by the famous carpet cleaner and those iconic adverts, Lewis Crofters spotted an opportunity to sell their sheep dip products by ‘borrowing’ the format of the original advert. Their version featured a trendy crofter blone (red Arnish Chacket, beannag, and Smith’s Shoe Shop’s finest wellies) hard at work at the fank, trying to get her flock dipped, drenched and vaccinated. This advert was famed for its annoyingly catchy tune  “Do the sheep and vac to keep the fungus back”
  • ‘For Mass, Get Smashed’. In a controversial move to get more bums on pews, in the 1970’s the Vatican tested out a marketing campaign in South Uist to encourage church goers to partake in a wee tipple to help them through a particularly long and boring mass. Featured laughing robot priests who can’t understand why Free Church church-goers aren’t tanked up. “…and the Protestants sit through a sermon sober!!”
  • Cadbury’s Fleek- Cadbury’s thought it would be a smart move to try and diversify in the Outer Hebrides and come up with a chocolate purely for the choc hungry residents of the islands.   The advert featured a sexy cailleach (only wearing two Damart thermal vests) from Crowlista seductively trying to get the wrapper off a bar of chocolate, to a soundtrack of  “Only the crumbliest tastiest chocolate”.  Also tried marketing a special chocolate for funerals called ‘Cadbury’s Wake’. And the limited edition fish flavoured ‘Cadbury’s Hake’.
  • Cinzandwick Bianco- Sandwick’s Smiths Soft Drinks diversified into posh booze in the early 1970’s.  They hired a couple of well known Gaelic actors from Machair, Joan Coll(ins) and Leonard RossTerraceiter, and showed them leading the high life in the exotic Clachan lounge bar, on the plane to Glasgow, and in the Suilven bar spilling Cinzandwick Bianco on each other.
  • Old Pies- This advertising campaign was devised as a way to get rid of old stale pies. It featured a typical bodach finding and scoffing a 3 week old pie, which immediately conferred near superhero powers to him, and the next thing you know is he’s surfing on an old ironing board down at the Braighe. The advert featured the stirring classical piece “Carmina Buntata”.
  • Cadbury’s Milk Pray- Milk Pray chocolates were popular with church goers in the early 1970’s as they didn’t have noisey wrappers and could be scoffed surreptitiously during lengthy sermons.The advert featured a hunky, yet mysterious Minister, dressed all in black, jumping over a ditch, skillfully opening a gate without letting the cows out, climbing in a window and leaving a box of Milk Pray (and a tract) on a blone’s pillow.
  • The PG Tips Sheep The Plasterfield Grazings tried to diversify into growning tea in the early 1970’s.  However, they didn’t have the budget for chimps, so trained up a flock of sheep instead. But sheep were terrible for stewing the tea, so this ad didn’t last long. Nor did the tea plantation. 
  • Cap’n Boardstore – in the days of big croft housing grants, Cap’n Boardstore went around followed by his “crew” of enthusiastic maws keen for a taste of his subsidized plasterboard, breeze blocks and 4×2’s.  His rival Captain A*ngh*s a’ Bhàrdseye used to sell construction materials too.
  • Knorrman Soup- This advert showed two gamekeepers (or more likely poachers) returning from a hard day on the hills, talking about what their wives have on for their tea. Calum Archie expected leftover guga soup, but how wrong was he? Shonnagh his wife had discovered Knorrman Soup!   “Pea and ham?” says his buddy. “From a fleekin’ guga?”
  • Corncrake-o, a shady Tolmie Terrace company that bred the birds in the swamps between Springfield and Mossend, and rented them out to unscrupulous crofters looking to score a big grant. Their ad featured a gondolier sailing along the canal past Newhall’s nurseries singing “Just one corncrake-o, geev eet to mee / So I can claim a /  beeg sub-see-deee”). 
  • Hovansnahovano Bread- featured a wee cove pushing his delivery bike up Lagley’s Brae with Johnnie Òg’s pan loaves in the basket, to the strains of ‘The Newton World Symphony’.

Lighthill Richard RIP

16 05 2020

Hot on the leopardskin cuban heels of Little Richard’s sad demise in America, we regret to report the passing of his not-quite-as-successful cousin from Back.

Flamboyant rock ‘n’ roll wildman Lighthill Richard had a career almost as long as that of his American relative, with an uncannily similar set of twists and turns.

And while his more famous cousin was often called the Architect of Rock and Roll, Lighthill Richard was surely the YTS labourer of it.

Born Richard Wayne Fivepenniman (his old man was from Borve) in 1932, Richard took up the piano accordion at an early age and soon found himself playing in dives, fluke joints and honky-fanks up and down Interstate B895. 

Fivepenniman’s parents were very holy and belonged to one of the island’s smaller Presbtyerian splinter groups, the Free Associated Continuity Pentecostacoffeefromengiesbutnotonasunday Church of Scotland, which differed from other denominations in 2 key respects. 1. The brims of elder’s hats were ¼ inch wider, and 2. Cailleachs did the precenting instead of bodachs.

His main musical influences growing up were therefore precenting legends such as  Machreachsathanaiga Jackson and Sister Rosetta Scarp. 

Indeed, his big break came on a visit to Harris in 1947 when Sister Rosetta Scarp had a few too many in the public bar at the Rodel Hotel, and asked him to fill in for her on the Friday of the Leverburgh òrduighean. Due to the church’s strict rules against coves precenting, Richard had to dress up as a blone in order to get the gig, and having done so he discovered a lifelong predilection for colourful overalls, flowery beannags and massively ostentatious church hats.

In 1955 Richard befriended Isles AM  deechay and rock impresario Alan Freepresbyterian, and appeared in several of his locally-produced rock ‘n’ roll movies such as “The Girl Can’t Shelve It” (about a poor blone in the Co-op mobile shop trying to keep all the produce on the shelves as the driver scoffed a quarter bottle whilst negotiating the single track roads) and “Don’t Rock the Knock”. 

These classic films also featured many of the other early rock ‘n’ roll greats, including Chuck Ferry, Fats Dòmhnallach, Eddie Caoran, Bill TweedBaley & the Comhairles (“Gonna Rock Around The Croft Tonight”), Fankie Lymon, Gene Vimscent & the Bruecaps and many more.

Between 1955 and 1957 Richard had a phenomenal run of hit singles, some of them selling over 10 copies in Woolie’s and a couple more in MacIver & Dart’s. These included:

Tutti Freechurch (“Tutti Freechurch/ o hee church… a wop bop a leòbag, a wop baa moo” “Gotta girl called Sùgh, she’s making marag dubh” etc).

Tong Toll Salach – being a Bacach, Richard was never very complimentary about the nearby township of Tong, and wrote this scathing attack on his neighbouring village after a particularly badly received gig in the Recreation Centre.

Leodhas-ille – a much covered accordion standard

Good Collie Miss Maw-ly- a song he wrote for a shepherdess from beyond the town cattle grids, because he was so impressed at how quickly her dog rounded up his sheep. 

Ready Sked-dy

Rip it Tup

Slippin’ an’ a (Back)slidin’

A Sheep in Knock(in)

… and some others.

Richard’s golden era of chart success came to an abrupt end when he got the Cùiream on tour in Melbost in 1957. His conversion occurred when he saw a bright red light flashing across the sky above Broad Bay. Although it turned out to be the communist Rubhach satellite Spùt-nik 1 being launched from Bayblegrad, Richard was convinced it was a sign from above, and went in for the ministry.

In the late 50s Richard enjoyed a lower-key but successful career in the church, recording a number of well-received albums of Gaelic psalms. But he was lured back to secular music in 1962 by the prospect of a big money tour of Eòropie, (accompanied by the Peatles and their manager Brian Epsteinish). Richard and the Peatles also regularly shared a bill in the legendary Star(Inn) Club, just off Stornoway’s notorious Johnnygeeperbahn.

Richard’s early/mid 60s touring band the Upsettlers – Tarquin Ponsonby-Smythe on bodhran, Jeremy fFleekeen-fFiasag on digeridoo and Tamsin  Grant-Crahhftshoppe on Mongolian nose-flute and interpretive dance – was considered legendary (by 2 beardie coves from Away at the Stornoway Folk Club, but fleekeen terrible by everybody else). 

At one stage the line-up briefly included future guitar legend Jimi Henshed, but he was fired by Richard in 1964 for being good.

In later years, Lighthill continued to perform sporadically at òrduigheans, did a bit of relief preaching in Uist, and provided songs and soundtracks to various BBC Alba programmes and Holywood movies. He also acted, perhaps most famously as “Borve-is Guganight” in Paul Mangurstasky’s 1986 classic “Down and Out In Bennadrove Hills”.

Outer Hebridean Saints (Northern Part)

9 05 2020

A common misconception held by people from the wrong side of the Minch is that saints play no part in the religion of the islands North of Benbecula.

Yus, we’ve got all the well known saints of the old Celtic church – St Columba’s this and St Ronan’s that – but fleek all from the 8th century onwards. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Northern half of the Outer Hebrides has been out of the saint business since the Vikings arrived.

So, we’ve put together a handy (and free) cut out guide to all your favourite (Northernmost)  Outer Hebridean saints

In no particular order, here they are in all their ecclesiastical and/or hermetic glory.  

St Ornoway-The patron saint of townies. Originally from MacKenzie St, he took holy orders in 543AD with a Free Church (Considerablyearlierthanthought) Religious Order of Monks called The Fleekin Skint Brothers of Penury, who specialised in begging on Cromwell St. In an effort to make the town more upmarket and attract a better class of Viking, he was said to have driven the maws from the town and established the first cattle-grids.

St Ornoway was trampled to death in 657 AD while cursing a flock of Laxdale sheep that had jumped the grid and were eating his hydrangeas. 

He makes a miraculous re-appearance once a year, on St Ornoway’s Day, when he flies around the town with a big crozier and smites anybody heard to speak Gaelic within the city limits.

St Einish -This native of Tong was the Patron Saint of Quicksand, following his discovery of the notorious Steinish quicksands. And he was also the first person to disappear in the Steinish quicksands, following a disastrous ‘shortcut’ after a Ceilidh in Sandwick Hall.

St Rùpag – Patron Saint of tea and scones (and dodgy Mòd folk bands circa 1984). It was rumoured that a great Holy Relic, his actual teaspoon, ended up in the Coffee Pot cutlery drawer.

St EpwegaiIyonwego -The patron saint of Lewis wedding dances. It is said that Epwegailyonwego was a Viking dance tutor from Trondheim, who introduced the social convention of all the coves standing round the walls of the dance hall, until they had partaken in a sufficient quantity of mead to give them the courage to ask a blone for a dance. He was trampled to death after trying to teach 200 Icelandic berserkers the Vinland Barndance.

St Oneyfieldfarm – Patron saint of farmers on the outskirts of Stornoway. Like nearly all the Saints listed here, Oneyfieldfarm claimed to have a piece of the ‘One True Cross (Inn)’, after it was involuntarily demolished in 792AD  following a heated debate by its clientele over the best way to cross the Barvas Moor.  If every claimed piece was put together you could rebuild the Inn 100 times over.   

St Ockinish – Patron Saint of Lobster Creels. He lived in a hermitage made from discarded lobster creels. 

St Rond – Patron Saint of Nice Views Over The Sound Of Harris.

St Onecircle – Patron Saint of new age solstice hippies.

St Arinn – Patron Saint of excessive drinking.

St Armore – Patron Saint of posh knitting.

St Amper -The Patron Saint of Harris Tweed Inspectors. Said to have driven out the electric motor, thus condemning the islands to a peat and paraffin lamp existence until the electric came back in the 1950’s. 

And although not a northern Saint, we shouldn’t forget St Affa,  the Patron Saint of funny shaped rocks. Legend has it he drove the normal rocks away.

Bizarrely, all of the above Holy men were on the go around about the same time. They were all keen crofters and did much to sow the seed that grew to be the passion for small scale agricultural holdings that prevails throughout the islands to this day. Either that or they imparted the great love for subsidies which makes the crofting world go round today. 

The Saints even considered setting up a crofting collective (for Saints only, obviously) and even went as far as applying together for grants to build new agricultural buildings. However, the schism gene kicked in and they all fell out, but not before they managed to get hold of a template for a decent sized building to keep their cows. A popular song is rumoured to have been written about this – ‘When The Saints Got Matching Byres’

Forgotten (non)Leodhasach Explorers : Part 2 of Some – Marag-o Pollochar and the Silk-Cut Road to J&E’s.

25 04 2020

We don’t chust do celebrity obituaries at the Made Up History of Stornoway, although you could be forgiven for thinking that these days. So here’s some proper historical made-up history for a change – Number 2 in our series on Forgotten Leodhasach explorers.

This cove wasn’t actually a Leodhasach at all at all, but since Lewis was where he did most of his exploring (and seeing he wasn’t from very far away) we’ll count him in anyway.

Marag-o Pollochar was a merchant and explorer from South Uist, where his parents had a small inn. In the 13th century there was no decent bakery in the Uists, and so bread from Stornoway was highly prized and extremely rare, particularly the plain loaves produced by the legendary J&E Macleod on the corner of Church St and Kenneth St. The Uibhistich didn’t actually know how to get to J&E’s themselves; It was a long way away, back in them days, across the trackless wastes of Harris and Lochs. So they had to buy their bread via the Hearachs, who jealousy guarded the location of their source and charged a fleekeen huge markup.

Marag-o realised that if he could map out the mythical route to J&E’s himself, he’d be able to cut out the Hearachs and trade with the legendary Stornoway bakery directly.

After sailing across the Sound of Harris by night, Marag-o donned the garb of a Hearach tribesman (boiler suit, turned-down wellies, manky tweed chacket with a quarter bottle in the pocket, a bonaid chlò, and a rollup behind each ear). 

Confident in his ability to blend in, he set out on what was to be an epic series of peregrinations that took him to every corner of South Harris but, after 10 years, found him no nearer the fabled land of J&E. Eventually Marag-o decided it was time to stop trying to get to Stornoway by Mitchell’s bus, and set off from Rodel by foot instead.

After traversing the length of the Golden Road, hitching a ride on a camel train across the Govig Desert, and fighting off yetis on the high mountain passes of the Clisham, Marag-o finally crossed the border into Lewis. 

In the tale of his journey, dictated many years later to his cellmate in a Gerinish prison, Marag-o told of many wonders encountered along the route. These included giants, cyclopseses, and a race of strange half man/half sheep/half deer/half salmon creatures inhabiting the ruined city of Airidhbhruachstrakhan.

After leaving the fabled but lawless Silkcut Route city of Bukharalallan, Marag-o and his party were followed by a party of dastardly local brigands who ambushed them and stole all their supplies.

Nearly starved to death, the gallant adventurers staggered into the grand bazaar at Samarkameronterrace just in time to haggle for the last bridie on the shelf and get it heated up in the microwave. With this exotic sustenance onboard, Marag-o girded his loinchops and set out on the last few miles to the fabled East. 

Passing the city dump and navigating through a forest of early wind turbines (fenceposts with seagull feathers nailed onto a wooden circle), Marag-o at last came to the Great Cattle Grid. At first the fierce Easterner tribesmen looked upon Marag-o with suspicion, but when they found out he spoke Gaelic (albeit with a Uist accent) they relaxed their guard slightly and escorted him to Sandwick Road and the headquarters of the Great Kublai Khan-seo, the Emperor of J&E’s.   

Kublai Khan-seo was a grandson of Enghies Khan-seo, the fearsome leader of the Maw-ngol horde, a nomadic tribe from the Barvas steppes who invaded Stornoway in 1206 and established a yak-petrol station that opened on Sundays.  Kublai himself founded the Ewe-an Dynasty after seizing the throne of J&E from its previous owners, the GaelicSong Dynasty.

Kublai Khan-seo was also renowned for his Golden Bòrd. This should not be confused with his distant cousin Kublai Khan’s Golden Horde. Whereas the Golden Horde was an army of warriors fabled for distributing dread, the Golden Bòrd was a table for displaying bread.  The Golden Bòrd started out as a small trestle table, where Khan-seo used to display that day’s fresh, golden brown/not quite burnt baking. The original one was set up outside his bakery, but as his baking began to find fame (and become less burnt), he had to add more tables and eventually ended up having to open a shop at the junction of Church St and Kenneth St, the famed J&E’s.  

North Uist/Canadian prog rockers Rushigarry (consisting of Geddy Leacalee, Neal Puirt and Alec Dan Lifeboat)  later wrote a song in honour of Kublai Khan-seo’s Pleasure-Blackhouse, Xana-dubh, where his favourite bakers got to sleep in the beds that weren’t next to the cow.

Samuel Taylor Collbeacheridge, a famed Poet from Broadbay, also wrote a lengthy epic about Xana-dubh.

‘In Xanadubh did Kublai Khan-seo

A stately pleasure tigh dubh decree

Where Creed, the sacred river ran

Past poachers measureless to man.

(Our buns now are gluten free!!!’.

…so get yourself to J&E).

Tim Boke Sailor (and some other celebrities) RIP

16 04 2020

Hengoes. The recent rush of celebrities queuing up to get into the hereafter is keeping our obituary department here at the Made Up History of Stornoway busy as fleek.

No sooner had we done with Country and WestrenIsles star Kenny WrongChurch than news came of the passing of Soval soul singing sheep sensation Bill Wedders  (“Lìonal Me”, “Ain’t No Sunshine At All, Ever”, ”Lovely Daycon”). 

Then it was Honor Backman, famous for her role as kinky-Arnish-booted secret agent and licensed grocer Dr Cathy Ghall in BBC Alba’s classic swinging 60s series “The Àiridhvengers” (also starring Patrick MacNiseach as John Creed). To this day, fans of the series (well, Bodachs of a certain age) often debate the relative attractions of Backman versus her successor Diana Rigsroad, but the fact that Backman’s character had her own off-licence means she’s usually ahead in the polls. Backman was also famous for appearing opposite Sean Canneryroad’s Seamus Bonaid in “Gold(medal)singer”, as the legendary femme fatale Peatstack Gu-leòr. In later life she appeared in the inexplicably long-running ruppish RubhachTV sitcom “The Upper Bayble ” opposite woefully underutilised Sulasgeir thespian Steven McGannet.    

And chust the other day it was Sir Stirlingsquare Maws, champion tractor racing driver of the 50s. Maws was also a gifted Formula Vans driver and won many Ground Peats over the years. Sir Stirlingsquare’s name lives on, of course, in the famous Stornoway racing circuit at Mawssend.

But among the Grim Reaper’s latest crop, the celebrity who will probably be missed most is the late comic genius and lifelong seasickness sufferer Tim Boke-Sailor.

Born Murdo Angus Macaulay in 1941 in a blackhouse in Uig, near the site of the current petrol pump and community shop, Tim earned his stage name as a result of some spectacular projectile vomiting on his first ever boat trip. During a 5-minute row across to Great Bernera in the days before the bridge opened, one of his stunned shipmates christened Murdo Angus “The Timsgarry Boke Sailor”. and,  like the diced carrots on the paintwork, it stuck.

Having unwisely chosen to study Navigation at Lews Castle College, Boke-Sailor was a member of the college’s YM-bridge-based Footlights society, along with John Clisham et al (See Terry Jones obit) and of course the Rev Donny after whom the society was named.

Throughout the 60s Boke-Sailor refused to give in to seasickness, commuting across the Minch regularly to appear on Radio Raasay’s hilarious Gaelic poetry-based sketch show “I’m Sorley I’ll Read That Again” . “I’m Sorley…” also featured future Maw T Peatiron star John Clisham, diminutive musical genius and seagull watcher Bill Òrduighean, and Jo Kentangaval playing all the proper blones’ parts.

On Television, Boke-Sailor made his name on  “At Last the 19:48 Bus”, for which he wrote the “Four Eòropiemen” sketch later recycled more successfully on  “Maw T Peatiron”s Flying Cearc-house” (See our recent Terry Blones obit again). The sketch featured 4 Niseachs trying to outdo each other with reminiscences about the brutal poverty of their early years…..

”We’d have to swim back from Sulasgeir, dragging a wooden raft full of guga behind us, whilst having to light a fire on a wave in order to singe the feathers off…”

“That’s nothing! We had to jump across to Sulasgeir, carrying a fortnight’s supply of potatoes in a Woolies bag, whilst polishing the mirror on the Ness Lighthouse as we passed it…” 

With these connections, Boke-Sailor might well have ended up as a member of the Maw T Peatiron crew, but in true Leodhasach style he fell out with them in a theological dispute over whether Murdo Maclean’s or Nazir’s had the best communion hats. Resolving to assemble  his own breakaway comedy team, he formed The Coories after bumping into Graeme Gardenroad and former “I’m Sorley…” collaborator Bill Òrduighean at a Wednesday prayer meeting in Coulegrein. 

With its catchy theme song “The Coories! Coorie Coorie Psalm Psalm”, the show went on to massive success during the 70’s and early 80’s. The premise of the show was that The Coories would offer themselves as a congregation for hire to any Church short on members, with the tagline ‘We Do Any Pew, Anytime’. Usually the storyline involved The Coories finding themselves in bizarre situations, not least the famous Caora Kong episode, featuring a giant cheviot lamb climbing up a cardboard model of Martin’s Steeple.

Another well known episode featured The Coories becoming Masters of a marag-based martial art called “Heckaye Thump”, which parodied the popular Broadbay fighting discipline known as “Tong Fu”.

The Coories’ special three seater tractor also featured regularly, as they drove from church to church.

The Coories also achieved success in the pop charts, taking their moving tribute to a renowned school hostel,  “Manky GibsonHostel”, to Number 1 all over Stornoway and parts of South Lochs. 

“Poo, poo, poo the manky Gibson (manky Gibson)

We are here untilfleekingfourthyearatleast”

Right up till the present day, Boke-Sailor was a regular panellist on Radio Ranol’s “I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Guth”, hosted by the late Humphreechurch Eagleton. Boke-Sailor was a skilled player of “Goathill Crescent”, the show’s mythical game of strategy based on the stations in Stornoway’s underground railway system. 

Deceased trad chazz chanter player Eagleton payed a warm tribute to Boke-Sailor yesterday on hearing the news of his demise.  “I’m not too worried”, ars esan, “because Tim is very well practiced at this sort of thing; like all our panellists, he’s died on a regular basis throughout his comedy career”.


Kenny WrongChurch RIP

30 03 2020

Following hard on the heels of the death of Country megastar Kenny Rogers, news is just reaching us about the demise of local Country and WestrenIsles star Kenny WrongChurch.

Kenny was one of the leading lights in the world of Country & WestrenIsles music and had an impressive back catalogue of hit singles and albums. He was also a serial churchgoer, and enjoyed fomenting discord and schism in many local church denominations, as he was a deamhnaidh old bleigeard and could never make up his mind as to what church he should be attending. 

Kenny first found fame as a member of The New Christian Ministers, a band singing Country and Westren Psalms, but left due to a schism over whose turn it was to precent. 

His next band, formed with the crew of a Marvig herring drifter, was Kenny Wrongchurch and the Fish Edition. They had a big hit in 1967 with “I Just Dropped In (To See What Condition The Crit Was In)” which was based on a true story of a particularly boisterous session in the Criterion Bar. 

Wrongchurch and the Fish Edition were fleekeen hippies, and thus opposed to the long-running intervillage conflict over sheep grazing rights on the Arnish Moor known as the VietRam War. In 1969 they released a searing indictment of Point’s role in the conflict, told from the perspective of a Sheshader war veteran:  – “Rubha B (Don’t Take Your Love Duwn The Tuwn)”

In the early 70s, following another theological schism over the acceptable shade of black for elders’ hats on the Friday of the Tolsta òrduighean, Wrongchurch split with the Fish Edition and went solo. This turned out to be a good move, as the 1970’s were a very lucrative period for Kenny with hit after hit raising his profile all over some of Lewis. Meanwhile his former bandmates’ splinter group, “The Fish Edition (Continuing)” sank without trace.

In 1977 he wrote “Lewis Eel”, an appeal to the Stornoway Trust to do something about the increasing numbers of fresh water eels that were taking over the trout lochs and salmon rivers .

”You took a fine time to reel-in Lewis Eel 

With four angry ghillies keeping watch on the Creed

I had some tangled lines, caught up in a power line

But this time my hook’s needing freed

You took a fine time to reel-in Lewis Eel”

Perhaps his most well known song was his tribute to Stornoway’s only bookie’s shop, ”The Campbell-er”. This was a moving tribute about John Campbell’s betting shop on South Beach. WrongChurch would spend many happy hours there losing his shirt on the Newmarket nags. 

The B-side of “The Campbell-er” was “The Gambol-ler”, an alternate take of the same tune, but sponsored by the Board of Agriculture and intended to educate crofters in the basics of sheep management:

“Ewe got to know when to fleece ’em,

  Know when to freeze ’em,

  Know when to dose ’em,

  And when to get the ram,

  You never count your money,

  When the subsidy’s on the table,

  There’ll be time enough for countin’,

  When you get the cu-ram”

And of course in 1979 Wrongchurch finished off the 70s on a high note, with the international (Pairc and West Side) smash hit “Coward of the County (Public)” which went on to sell an unprecedented 4 copies in Maciver & Dart, 3 in DD Morrison’s and scored him 2 plays on Radio Ranol. 

At the start of the new decade, Wrongchurch had a successful writing partnership with Niseach precenting sensation Lional Macritchie, frontman of the Communiondores (“Easy Like Sunday Morning at the FP Òrduighean Isn’t”) which resulted in several hits including “Lady (Matheson)” and “Shear Your Love”.

Also in the early 1980’s The Highlands and Islands Development Board commissioned him to write a song promoting the new Parkend Industrial Estate. He enlisted local lass Dolly Parkend and together they had a smash hit which reached Number 1 all over Sandwick. This song was, of course ’Islands Industry’. 

WrongChurch also had huge success performing another duet in 1983 with the heartfelt ballad ‘We’ve Got The Sh*tes’,  with Sheena EastStreet. This was a cover version of a well known song by Bob Seceder and The Silver Pullet Band. 

(With thanks to Dunky, Roddy H and Innes for their help reminding us of Kenny’s many hits)

Terry Blones: A belated tribute

20 03 2020

Mainland comedy fans suffered another sad loss a few weeks back, with the passing of Monty Python’s Terry Jones. 

Unfortunately, the demise of Jones’ island cousin on the same day was largely ignored on the other side of the Minch. Which was a shame, because the comic legend’s late Leodhasach relation also had a long and varied (if slightly less successful) career in TV and film.

Terry Blones was a member of the influential comedy team Maw T Peatiron’s Flying Cearc-house (and acquired his surname because his colleagues were forever making him him dress up as a cailleach). Along with his 5 colleagues he produced some of BBC Alba’s finest comedy moments and left a legacy of groundbreaking sketches, with catch phrases that have become part of everyday conversation (for a certain species of truaghan bochd who can’t resist reciting them at every opportunity).

Blones didn’t actually appear in what is probably the most quoted piece in the team’s TV series. In “The Dead Guga Sketch” an irate Niseach played by John Clisham goes into Cross Stores to complain that his singed/dried/salted/packed gannet from Sulasgeir is a bit listless. (For more Southerly listeners, the piece was dubbed from Niseach into Lochie Gaelic and retransmitted as the “Dead Sgarbh Sketch”).

However Blones took the lead role as the waitress in the equally famous “Sgadan Sketch”, (Cove: “Dé a thagaibh?”  Waitress: “Tha buntàta, sgadan ‘s buntàta, buntàta ‘s sgadan, sgada ‘s buntàta ‘s sgadan, buntàta ‘s sgadan ‘s buntàta….”). 

Blones, Clisham and Chapman met while performing in the YMBridge amateur theatrical company “Footlights” (a group which spawned many comedy greats over the years, as well as a respected Free Church Minister.)

The Peatiron crew all went on to greater success. 

John Clisham wrote and starred in Fawlty Todhars (co-written by his then wife Connie Bùthsheumais) and A Fish Called Cnòdan. 

Michael Pale-ale became famed as a globe trotting documentary maker, including Around The Pubs In 80 Minutes, about a particularly memorable pub crawl round Stornoway during the 1979 Mod) and Dole to Dòmhnall (about his time spent working in Stornoway Job Centre when everyone was called Domhnall)

Terry Gili-amadan became a respected illustrator and director of fleekeen weird films including “Bragar-zil” and “Timsgarry Bandits”.

Eric Ayeayedòmhnall – Became a well known comedic actor but was perhaps best known for writing and singing Stornoway Sea-angling Club anthem ‘Always Hook on the Right Side for Lithe’.

Grazings Chapman – went on to write and star in the pirate film Yellowfleece. The film was originally conceived as a vehicle for hard-drinking and notoriously incontinent rock drummer Keith Mùn. However due to the fact that Mùn was long dead by the time Chapman got around to filming, he was replaced by an entire cast of Stornoway worthies including Peter SheepCrook, Marshy Fieldman, Spike MillRoadigan, Digg*m Da, Ch*rsty Al*ne and B*gie. Chapman also wrote the popular “A Lair’s Autobiography” – the life story of a burial plot in Aiginish cemetery, to which he retired in 1989.

Terry Blones found post Peatiron fame as a well respected director but found plenty of time to pursue his real passion as a medieval historian. His study of 13th-century Arnol poet Cheffrey Chau-siar was critically acclaimed. Meanwhile his BBC Alba documentaries such as “Terry Blones’ Mehhh-dieval Missionaries” and “Terry Blones’ Barra-barians” provided a refreshing reappraisal of peoples that history had previously judged to be ignorant uncultured maws from outside the cattle grid. Always keen to set the record straight, Blones did extensive research and arrived at the surprising conclusion that – yus, they were indeed as raw as a fleekeen peat, the whole fleekeen lot of them. 

The Peatiron gang made several films over the years including:

  • And Now For Souming Completely Different
  • The Meaning of Lithe
  • Maw T Peatiron and the Holy Creel – A take on the Arthurian Legend, where a bunch of inept Knights try to find the legendary and long lost Holy Creel. The film featured The Knights Of Niseach, Tolsta Witches, mysterious enchanters and The Knights of the Round Table (who were played by the various Peatirons) included Sir Galanhead, Sir Gawainabost and Sir Manse-alot,
  • The Life of Brendan – possibly the Peatirons’ best known film. This caused all sorts of controversy when it came out. The film was ostensibly about a young man called Brendan, who just by chance grew up at the same time as a well known MP. Terry Blones directed the film but also famously played Brendan’s mum with the classic line ‘He’s not the MP, he’s a very naughty boy’. The Life of Brendan also brought us ‘ What have the Rubhachs ever done for us?’ and ‘The Peoples Front of Judea (Continuing)’.