Our intermittent series on bygone BBC Alba children’s programmes continues with a look at “Trumptong”.
Filmed in 1967, “Trumptong” depicted the events in the imaginary village of the same name, a mile or 2 from the equally imaginary village of Sanderwick Green, as the imaginary crow flies across the imaginary quicksands at the head of the imaginary “Grod Bay”. (BBC Alba’s writers in the 1960s never used to work very hard to disguise names, because they didn’t think anyone would be watching).
Like its stablemates, Trumptong featured the stop motion animation of Bob Barra, John Airduig and Pasquale Fear-àiridh.
Each episode began with a shot of the fondly remembered Trumptong Community Centre Clock.
At that point the script called for a shiny brass clockwork fishwife to come out of the clock and produce a series of chimes by striking a clockwork bodach over the head with a brass sgadan.
Unfortunately scrap metal prices were high in 1967 and the internal workings of the Trumptong Clock – along with the clockwork fishwife, the bodach, and the sgadan – disappeared shortly before filming commenced. (Reports that they had been sighted in a yard somewhere near the Bl*ckw*ter were never substantiated).
Fortunately narrator Brian Cantseo saved the situation by making a few quick changes to the opening rhyme:
“Here is the the clock, the Trumptong Clock,
Telling the time – oh no it’s not,
Some fleekeen bleigeard’s fleeked off with the lot,
So it’s always the same time in Trumptong”
After the opening titles the programme would show the various characters of the village going about their business, including:
The Mayor – with his 3-cornered bonnet, ermine-trimmed boiler suit and elaborate chain of office, the unflappable Mayor presided over the local grazings committee from his office in the Trumptong Community Centre.
The Mayor was ably assisted by the slightly seedy Mr Trusdar the Township Clerk, (except in those episodes where Mr Trusdar had been taken away by PC MacGarrybeach to assist with yet another sheep worrying enquiry)
The Mayor’s job was coveted by Mr Domhnall-Iain The Property Speculator. Every week, alongside the main storyline, Mr Domhnall-Iain The Property Speculator would come up with a dastardly scheme to install himself as mayor, build a wall to keep the Bacachs out, turn the Airport back into a golf course, convert the mission house into a casino, start a fake university in the old battery hensheds, turn Ford Terrace into a 60-storey luxury hotel, or generally incite the Trumptongachs to fall out with their neighbours – and every week his plans would come to grief.
The village handyman was ChurchStChippy Mintong, a time served carpenter who had done his apprenticeship with J*mmy B*ll*rs. He was always ably assisted by his apprentice son Nips (except when Nips had taken the van to town “to the Board Store for… err… more nails” and had ended up in the Neptune for the day). ChurchStChippy could always be relied upon to botch things up and cut corners, particularly if he was employed on one of Mr Domhnall-Iain the Property Speculator’s dodgy projects.
Miss Lovelazybed the Church Hat milliner was seen in most episodes, walking her trio of Collie dogs (Misty, Dampflu and Loobreak) who dragged her through fences, bogs and the sinking sands each week, as she gallantly tried to hang on to her latest hat for the Communions.
Mrs Cropaig the Florist had her pitch in the square outside the Trumptong Community Centre. “I’ve never missed a day there for 40 years – only Sundays” she would often say, as she pinned a buttonhole on the Mayor or offered Miss Lovelazybed some of her wares to decorate her hats. Naturally, this being Trumptong, Mrs Cropaig had never realised in all that time that a florist is supposed to sell flowers, not fleekeen flounders. Luckily nobody else in the village knew either, so Mrs Cropaig did a roaring trade selling bouquets of leòbags, buttonholes of sgadan and, for funerals, tasteful wreaths of sornan gort.
The best remembered characters were of course the Trumptong Fire Brigade, led by extravagantly mustachioed lifelong bachelor Captain Fliuch. Every week, whatever problem had developed at the start of the episode, the Fire Brigade would be called out to resolve it. Following Captain Fliuch’s famous roll-call of “Macleod, Macleod, Macleod and Macleod, Macleod, Macleod, Macleod”, the brigade would speed off to the rescue.
Much to Captain Fliuch’s frustration the brigade never got to fight an actual fire, due to the impossibility of animating flames, smoke or water. However, they did get to save the day in a variety of sticky situations, such as pulling ChurchStChippy Mintong out of the quicksands after he’d taken a short cut home from the Macs via Coulegrein, or rescuing Mr Domhnall-Iain The Property Developer’s wig from the village’s only tree (where it had taken refuge after being chased by Misty, Dampflu and Loobreak).
Only 13 episodes of Trumptong were ever made – all of them in 1967 – but like most shows on BBC Alba it’s been repeated non-stop ever since, and has thus secured a place in the affections of Maws of all ages. Its unprecedented popularity led the BBC to produce a less successful English-based imitation – “Trumpton” – later the same year, but “Trumpton” never took off to the same extent as the original, and was soon forgotten.
“Trumptong”, however, remains as relevant now as it did back in the day, and is often referenced in popular culture. And so it is that we leave youse with the words of ruppish Tong indie band Half Maw Half Biorach, from their 1986 “Trumptong Riots” EP…
Ecclesiastical dissent is rising in the Aird Tong end of town/
And it’s spreading like a dose of orf
Doesn’t look like going down/
There’s trouble at the mission house someone’s joined the APCs/
And the coves are going to launch a scheme to get rid of the Wee Frees/