Mince Robach Nicolson RIP: My Name Is Mince and I Am Manky.
Hebridean fans of genre-defying music and poor quality meats were saddened yusterday by the passing of enigmatic rock star and disqualified Stornoway butcher Mince.
From obscure beginnings in 1970s Plasterfield (grinding up the leftover eyeballs and hooves in M*mb*sa’s shop) Mince went on to a career that encompassed megastardom, name changes, disputes with his record company and not a few run-ins with the Comhairle’s food safety inspectors.
Mince Robach Nicolson was born in Ministerapolis in 1958, and wrote his first tune “Fank Machine” on his father’s loom when he was seven. Apprenticed to a local butcher, Mince developed his talent for music by humming waulking songs in time to the rhythmic stirring of blood in a big pail. This kept the other apprentice butchers entertained in the backshop as they made the batches of marags.
Many of his early songs were influenced by his experiences as a butcher. This included his breakthrough hit and album ‘19 Garynahine’, a funky song about an illegal marag factory in Garynahine where Mince used to do homers.
‘I was steaming when I wrote this
And Fleek me I have gone astray
Cos when I sobered up this morning
Could have missed church in Stornoway
My face was all purple
I was looking for my bus fare
Trying to run from Uig junction
You know there’s fleeking Uigeachs there
Cause they say twelve zero zero
Church is over, Fleek out of time
So tonight I’m going to a prayer meeting at 19 Garynahine’
Mince really came into his own with the release in 1984 of Purple Reinidigale. This semi conceptual, and autobiographical album (and film soundtrack) was a scathing attack on the proposed Reinidigale road due to the vast tracts of heather which would be destroyed by the tarmac. The album included the hits ‘When Doves A’ Ghraidh’, Let’s Go (Common) Grazing and ‘Darling Niccy’ – (a homage to Mince’s old school, the Nicolson Institute). The latter caused a furore with its lyrical content, causing outspoken morality campaigner (and sister of Coinneach) Tipper Gobha to insist that “Parental Advisory: Ruppish Lyrics” stickers should be affixed to all of his future releases.
Mince released a number of less successful films over the years. The biggest box office flop was 1986’s “Under the Hearach Mùn” (in which he played a Tarbert sewage worker who falls in love with a posh dame staying at Amhuinnsuidhe Castle, played by “4 Funerals and a Tigh-aire” star Ciorstag SirEScott-Thomas) and 1990’s “Graffiti Bridgecottages” which was pretty ruppish as well.
Mince was approached by gothic movie maestro Tim Bur-Tòin in 1989 to contribute songs to his forthcoming comic book adaptation about tairsgeir-wielding superhero “FàdMan”. The biggest hit from the soundtrack was “FàdDance”; a celebration of the windmilling motions FàdMan would employ upon being attacked by midgies when lifting the peats.
1991 saw the release of Dia-maws & Pearls; a concept album decrying the deplorable trend of women in the country regions tarting themselves up too much for the òrduighean weekend, a topic he had previously explored on the 1985 single “Raspberry Beret”. The album also featured the song Ìm (Get on Top) which insisted that margarine was an unacceptable spread for application to the pancakes after the service on Di-haoine a’ Cheist.
In 1993, unhappy with his record company, Mince changed his name to an unpronounceable sheep mark (two red stripes and a splodge of green) and started releasing a series of 50 unlistenable albums of hard core Gaelic Psalms sung in the style of the Gregorian Chant in order to get himself out of his contract. Each album came with a free pail of offal which contributed to the lamentable sales.
Mince was a hard and capricious taskmaster, and highly selective in choosing his musicians. His band The Reverend-lution was mostly assembled from top class session ministers, many of whom went on to break away and start their own denominations – among them the Rev Dez Diggumda, Doctor Fank and Sheila Eepresbyterian.
In the 90s the Reverend-lution was replaced by a new backing band, Mince & The Wind Power Generation, featuring Murdo Weavingshed on melodeon and Tormod Barvasella on chanter.
Latterly, Mince’s touring band was 3rdEyePeninsulaGirl, consisting of 3 blones from Sheshader.
Beyond his own groups, Mince was also famous for his collaborations with other singers and musicians as long as they were blones. These included
Sheena Eaststreet, the wee blone from Bell’s Road who had won BBC Stoarnoway’s talent show “The Big Tuyme”. Mince duetted with Eaststreet on “Ewe Got The Fluke’.
Vanityofvanitiesallisvanity 6, the Seceder girl group that he formed in 1981.
Chanter virtuoso Candy Duff
Windy & Leodhasach
The Mangles- four hot Blones who sang Mawnic Monday
Mince was highly respected by his fellow musicians, and a number of his songs were covered by top artistes. Among the most successful Mince covers were “Nothing Compares Co-Dhiú” by Sìnead O. Cromwellstreet, and “Keose” by Tom Blones and the Ceards of Noise.
His output was somewhat diminished in recent years, but he had great success in 2004 with Lewscastlecology, a one-off release on Columcille Records.
With his royalties (£15.35) Mince bought an ex council house in Parkend and converted it into a recording studio & slaughterhouse. This was known as Paisley Parkend. It was here he was sadly found slumped over his mincing desk.
Rumours persist that Mince had a vault of material in Paisley Parkend sufficiently large that he could release an album a year for the next 100 years, and his family and the curators of his estate are threatening to do just that unless bags of unmarked banknotes are left down behind the County at regular intervals.