Church Ferry RIP

25 03 2017

Ageing teddy boys and greasers in the Laxdale and Stornoway area were saddened recently to hear of the passing of the cove who many credit with inventing Rock ‘n’ Roll as we know it.

Charles Edward Andersonroad (“Church”) Ferry was born in 1926 in St Leodhas, Missionhouseouri, to respectable middle class parents, but soon grew up to be a wee bleigeard. In 1943 he was sentenced to 2 years on a joinery course at the Castle for a botched peat bank robbery. While incarcerated, he formed a successful dubh-wop psalmody group made up entirely of fellow convicts – the Precentaires.
After his release in 1947, he began to play guitar in Stornoway’s honky tonks, truckstops and fluke joints. Big bands and easy listening were the order of the day, and initially Church was influenced by chazz guitar players like Charlie Cuireamach and by suave Silk Cut-voiced crooners like King Cole and D*gg*m Da, who could often be heard at the town’s Opera House. Soon, however he began to move toward a bluesier sound, under the influence of the legendary guitarist Herringbone Waulker. 
During this period Church held down a number of day jobs, including a successful stint as a beautician in the Point Street salon of inconsistently spelt high class coiffeur Johnny a’ Chìobar / Ghìobar / Dhìobar / Dhìobuirt.
Although said to be a bit shaky with the razor and clippers, Johnny himself was no mean piano player, and quickly recruited Church into his band – the Johnny’s Dosan Trio. The Trio were popular around the town with their sophisticated mix of blues standards, ballads and chazz, but Church also kept an ear on developments outside the cattle grid too, listening to maw radio stations and picking up licks from country artists such as Fank Williams and Chet Adags. 
The late 50’s were very successful for Church. His pal and fellow musician, Murdy Waters, pointed him in the direction of Lionel Ness, of Ness Records fame, and in 1955 Chuck had his first major hit with “Marybankellene’. “Marybankellene” was said to have been nicked from “Ida Redsquare” a 1951 hit in the Bragar area for westside swing legend Bobban Woolls & his Texel Prayboys. Featuring Johnny on the Piano and Bò Teedeely’s percussionist Jerome Grianandaycarecentre on the marags, “Marybankellene” sold over five copies and made the DD Morrison’s Chart. 
Later that year, Church had another hit with ‘Roll Over Broadbayfishvan’, which went on to become a rock staple covered by many other artists including the Electric Loom Orchestra. 
Other hits of the period included “No Particular Coinneach Gobha”, “Brown Eyed Handsome Ram”, “Melbost, Tennessee” and “You Never Can Dell”. 
Church’s most famous song was originally going to be titled “Donny B Goode”, in a blatant attempt to cash in on the rapid rise to stardom of Stornoway’s leading TV personality. But when Donny heard about it and demanded a slice of the royalties, Church hastily rewrote it as a tribute to his former employer – ‘Johnny G. Pur’. (Church wasn’t sure how to spell Johnny’s name either).
In the live arena, Church also became known for his on-stage antics. His trademark stage move was the Duck Waulk; while he played his guitar, he’d duck under an onstage table lined by cailleachs and try to get through without getting tangled in the tweed.
At the height of his fame Church toured with other rock ‘n’ roll greats such as Lighthill Richard, Jerry Lee Leodhasach, Carl Parkends and bespectacled singing elder Buddy Holy. He also appeared in a number of early rock ‘n’ roll movies, and his groundbreaking 1958 appearance at the Newton Chazz Festival, (captured in “Chazz on a Fleekeen Ruppish Day) converted a whole generation of pointy-bearded beret-wearing peatniks to the cause of rock ‘n’ roll.

      

Although the new hits had begun to dry up by the end of the 50s, Church’s career was revived in the early 60s when a host of moptop combos such as the Peatles and the Rodel Stones covered his songs and cited him as an influence. This led to many lucrative tours across the globe from the 60s to the present day – even as far as Barvas.
In the 1970s Church had a surprise international hit with a live version of ‘My Dinner (of) Ling’, a song full of double, treble and indeed quadruple entendres about line fishing in Broadbay.
Church also had a wee homage paid to him in the 1985 film ‘Bac To The Future’, when time travelling Marty McSkye supposedly influenced his guitar style at the Niccy 6th year Dinner Dance.
Church had a reputation for being keen on money – demanding full payment in advance for every gig, never playing more than his contracted hour, using backup bands of starstruck local musos who’d play for nothing, and being less than forthcoming with the taxman. “Everything I know about this business I learned from watching “C*l*m K*nn*d*’s Commando Course”, he famously said in 1957. Church was also rumoured to have nicked a lot of his tunes from his old band leader Johnny and paid him fleek all. Indeed Johnny sued Church in 2000 for non-payment of royalties, but the case was dismissed when the Judge had a flashback to a traumatic haircut he’d had in 1948, and ejected Johnny from the court.
Church’s music spawned generations of rock guitar players, and in later years he was much in demand to appear with top guitarists who’d been influenced by him – Keithstreet Richards, Eric Carlton, Stovie Ray Burn, Costello and many more. With so many big egos involved these appearances didn’t always go to plan, though. It’s well known that Church and Keithstreet Richards came to blows backstage over the rights and wrongs of the Free Presbyterian/APC schism. And in 1973, during a guest appearance with the Dun Ringles at Isles FM’s old studio, Church famously threw Jason into the Newton Basin for telling him he was playing “Calum B Sounde” wrong.        
We could go on and on about Church Ferry, his incalculable influence on popular music, and the twists and turns of his career, but we’ve done our contracted hour so we’re going to do like the cove himself and fleek off. Let us leave you with a verse or two of the song for which Church Ferry is most remembered. No, not “My Dinner (of) Ling”, but the other one. His tribute to his old employer, the demon barber of Point Street – “Johnny G. Pur”:

 

“Deep down in Stornoway, just off Point Street

Way back behind the Lewis amongst the smell of peat

There stood a barber’s shop where clippings occur

Where worked a country boy named Johnny G Pur

Who never ever learned to read or write besides

But he could cut your hair, (just short back and sides)
Well nobody down town knew how to spell his name

But they all knew that scalpin’ was ole Johnny’s game

He wasn’t all that careful when he’d had a nyoggan

Which was good for sales of bandages in Kenny Froggan’s

People going round town just like Vince Van Gogh

Sayin’ “Johnny took my ear off cos he’s on the deoch”

  





Stornoway’s Gaming Industry

21 02 2017

Computer games are big business. You’ve probably all played a game or two, whether Angry Birds or something more blood thirsty like Call of Duty. The video games industry has grown to be a multi-billion dollar industry, close to eclipsing even Holywood. And you’ve all heard of California’s Silicon Valley and even Scotland’s Silicon Glen.

But what about Stornoway’s little known Silicon Ditch (a row of old sheds along the ‘canal’ at the bottom of Anderson Rd) – the nerve centre of Stornoway’s gaming industry?
The late 70’s and early 80’s had seen a dramatic growth in arcade machines in Stornoway’s pubs, clubs and funfairs, and Silicon Ditch was at the forefront of developing new local games to meet this demand. By far the most popular game was ‘Feis Invaders’, where the player had to shoot rows of drunken Celtic musicians as they tried to storm the stage at the Feis. If the musicians managed to reach the stage and grab your instruments it was ‘Game Over’. Also popular was ‘CacMan’, where the player had to navigate a maze of fences without standing on cowpats, whilst being chased by angry crofters.
Another early game was ‘Pong’, which was immensely popular, despite being very simplistic. In this game the players threw piles of fresh todhar at each other, scoring points if a shovelful hit their opponent. 
In the early 1980’s local entrepreneur Clive Sinner developed a cheap home computer in order to help him do his sheep subsidy applications. This was known as the ZX Spectram. Other crofters realised how useful this new computer was and soon Clive was inundated with requests for him to build new Spectrams. It wasn’t long after this that the younger generation noticed that the Spectram was also good for developing cheap and cheerful games, and soon Clive was making a small fortune thanks to the popularity of games such as ‘Manic Manorpark’, ‘Chet Set Uilleam’ and ‘KennyFroggans-er’.
The local Churches began to notice a decline in teenagers attending Sunday services and put this down to the video game craze. To counteract this they developed their own gaming platforms with the intention of ensuring wholesome, family friendly games with a strong moral message. But of course, none of the different denominations could agree on a standardised platform and so each developed their own.
These included the Praystation, the Wii-free and the Excommunication Box. Not surprisingly, the majority of the games produced for these games consuls had a religious background including, ‘Plants vs Wee-Frees’ and ‘The Elder Scrolls’. For backsliding liberal denominations there was ‘The Hymns’ (the big selling simulation game where players take on the role of a member of a church choir). Most of the local churches considered ‘The Hymns’ unscriptural, however, and launched a similar game, ‘The Psalms’, in which players lost points, lives and after-lives for being in tune with each other, finishing a line at the same time as any of their opponents, or repeating any of the actual words sung by the game’s virtual precentor (and following on from the success of mainstream GuitarHero game, this eventually became a local hit as ‘PrecentorHeehoro’)
Other popular consoles included the Commatodhar 64 and the Tha-miga, each bringing their own games to the mix. 
We’re off to have a game of Coll of Duty now, so we’ll leave you with a list of the most popular games; 
Countrystrike

Minecroft

Mortal KomBack, (and all its sequels, Mortal Kommongrazingsclerk, Mortal Kommunions, Mortal Komhairle, Mortal KomunngaidhealachAGM, Mortal Karryout, Mortal Krofter, Mortal Klachancustomers)

Missislesfm Command

DoomBraes

Galaxysuiteian 

Seonaidh the Hedgehog

Command and Comhairle 

Prince of Perceval Rd

Cromwell St Fighter

Halfbottle 

Portals Lodge

World of Todharcraft

Assassins Creed

Land Raider/Loom Raider with Lara Crofter

Super Nazir Bros

Quaich

Angie Birds

Tet a’ reisd

Grand Theft Mawto





Presidential Inaugurations in Tong

19 01 2017

As America prepares to celebrate the inauguration of its next President, Let’s look at how similar ceremonies are carried out in the President-elect’s home village of Tong, and review some of the great Tong inaugurations of years gone by.

The President of Tong’s role is similar to that of his opposite number in the United States, with overall responsibility for domestic and foreign policy. He is also Chief Executive of the Common Grazings Committee and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, which means he has ultimate responsibility for defence. And degate, deditch and defank.

The President’s Inauguration Ceremony takes place on the East Portico of the Tong Community Centre, and the oaths of office are administered by the Chief Chustice of the Tong Recreation Association, using ten slightly different versions of the Bible to ensure all of the different Presbyterian church denominations in the village are catered for without offending any.  
The President’s deputy is sworn in first. The Chief Chustice waits till he’s not looking, then jabs him in the tòn with the Deamhais of The Republic, eliciting the traditional Vice-Presidential Oath: “Oww! Fleekeen Heng!”
After the Vice-President’s oath, the Brevig Marina Band blow their chanters four times and play “Hail, Columbia Place”.
The President is then sworn in. This year the words of the Presidential Oath are expected to be slightly different from the usual. It’ll probably go something like : “Fleek the fleekeen lot o’ youse! Youse are fake news! Especially the fleekeen Gazette!”
After the President’s oath, the Brevig Marina Band blow their chanters again and play “Hail to the Cheviots”, then everybody fleeks off for a big p***-up and a ceilidh in the Community Centre, where they’re entertained by the top performers of the day.
Famous Presidents of Tong who’ve been through the inauguration ceremony in the past have included:

– George Washingtong (1789)

– John Quicksand Adags (1825)

– Marag Van Burach (1837) (born the day a speeding Charlie Barley wagon full of black puddings overturned at the bend near Tong school). 

– Milkinghillaird Fillmore (1850)

– Abraham Ling-con (1861) (assassinated at the Fordterrace Theatre in 1865 by John Whelks Buthchailleanneillidh for his alleged part in a fish-selling scam)

– Useless CHGS Grant (1869)

– Grover Clachanbiorach (1885 and 1893)

– Calvinist Cuireamidge (1923)

– Fanklin D Ruisgapelt (1933) (Sheep shearing champion at the Tong Highland Games 1910) 

– Airidh S Truaghan (1945)

– Calum F Kennedy (1961)

– Richard Quicksand (1969)

– Gerald Fordterrace (1974)former 
This year Tong will see President Elect Donald Turnip and Vice President Mike Sheep-Pense sworn in, despite ongoing controversy over the 2016 election process, and suspicions that they’ve been compromised by past dealings with the Rubhach secret services. 
Turnip has consistently denied being in the pocket of Rubhach leader Vladimir Spùt-in, despite Turnip having had his sights on lucrative business opportunities behind the Peat-Iron Curtain.

Claims that Spùt-in’s shadowy intelligence network the FSB (or “Fleekeen Spying Bleigeards”) are blackmailing Turnip with a dossier of embarrassing material have also been strenuously denied. But rumours persist of fraudulent fencing grant applications, illegal peatcutting deals, and debauched parties with high-class mehhhags at a 5-star Garrabostograd hotel.  
Entertainment at the Inauguration:

Traditionally, the island’s top entertainers have considered it a great honour to be asked to play the President of Tong’s Inauguration. Previous ceremonies have seen classic performances from the likes of King Cole, Barbara Steinishsands, James Bran-ahuie (performing “Seggs Machine”), Chuck Dunberisay and Lighthill Richard, Ricky Martinsmemorial, Michael JacksonoftheManse, Brue Springfieldroad, Jon Beni Drovi, Beyonceafoods and N**l E*die. 
This year is different, however; due to the controversy and bad feeling surrounding Donald Turnip’s election victory, few of the island’s showbiz elite are keen to play. Initially a few big names were mentioned, but the likes of flamboyant accordionist Eltong John-Murdo and rapper/producer Coinneach West have nixed reports that they might be playing. Meanwhile, fading 80s glam peatstacker Vince Neilliedubh of Motley Cruäch has had his services declined.

Few of the current crop of top entertainers are Turnip supporters, so there’s no danger of – say – A. Dell, Grianan Day, Ceilidh Cyrus, Katy Ferry or Justin Timberloch turning up. 
So far, it looks like the only confirmed act on the bill is The Rubhach Army Choir, whose services were kindly offered by Vladimir Spùt-in and who will present a popular selection of classic 1930s Stalinist anthems about tractor production in Lower Bayble. However, showbiz insiders also predict that several top Avante Gaelic Obscurist Folk Rock acts such as the Dun Ringles & the Guireans appear as well. “It’s the best deal” said Turnip yesterday. “Nobody will give these losers a gig, and nobody wants to play my inauguration. A lot of people tell me the Guireans and the Dun Ringles are the worst, and that’s the best because it means they’re not over-rated like thon Meryl Sheep blone (she can fleek off, by the way). Oh yus, and they’re cheap as fleek an’ all, so we’re gonna do this.” 
At the end of the ceremony everybody will join in with the Tong National Anthem:
“Oh hee, can you see the dawn squad bumming a light

Who so proudly by Twilights last orders were steaming

Those Broadbay coves in the Star Inn had a perilous fight

O’er the harbour we watched as the vomit was streaming

And the whisky red label, jagerbombs bursting in air

Gave 100% proof vodka in a crate that was still there

Haoidh say, does that Star Inn still have booze for sale

O’er the nips that were free and the foam of the ale”.  





Comunn Dubh Comics

24 11 2016





The Stornoway Zodiac 

27 10 2016

The Stornoway Mod is all over and done with. All the choirs are away back home. The hopes and dreams of hundreds of competitors are on hold for another year. Meanwhile, Conductors and Choirmasters will be hard at work preparing for next year’s competition and digging out the musical manuscripts to look for suitable songs to learn, whilst the Mod organisers will be looking for ever more fiendishly difficult songs to prescribe (like ones originally sung in Flannan Isles Gaelic which nobody now remembers). 
But it wasn’t all that long ago that Gaelic Choirs would look to the stars for advice and guidance before choosing a particular song or arrangement. 
It’s a well known fact that the Callanish Stones were originally built by An Comunn Gaidhealach to help predict the outcomes of the Lovat & Tullibardine at Mod nan Eilean 3516BC. Fleeking mainland choirs had just had a huge run of wins and the prehistoric equivalent of the local Gaelic Mafia weren’t happy with that state of affairs. So they turned to the local Druids for help and commissioned a state of the art observatory consisting of the best quality Uig ollacks carefully lined up with the local constellations. 
The entrails of the worst soprano in a choir would be cast upon the altar stone and the stars would speak to the Druids, telling them who was likely to win, what songs were going to find favour and what hotels would offer the best rate (including breakfast). This way of predicting the future was also very handy for the various lucrative Betting Syndicates that sprung up around about the Mod.
It was only in the early 1960’s when human sacrifices became frowned upon that the Gazette came up with the idea of including a weekly ‘HeeHoro-Scope’ column. The ‘12 Signs of the Seo-diac’ all related to prominent constellations commonly found in Hebridean skies. By chance they had a passing resemblance to the other ‘Signs of the Zodiac’ but were of course much better.  
A Choir, yus: The sign of An Comunn Gaidhealach

Pie-Seas: The sign of the Fisherman making a huge fish pie from Minch herring for his tea

Airidhs: The sign of the ram out on the summer grazing

Todhar-Us: The sign of the Manure Spreader

Gemini: The sign of the tanning bed

Can Seo: The sign of the Gaelic Learner

Leo-dhas: The sign of the King of the Lewis Chessmen

Vir-Gobha: The sign of Steallag’s anvil

Leac a’ Lìbra: The sign of the Harris Tweed brassiere 

Sgorpio: The sign of the Maw

Sagittairsgeir: The sign of the peatcutter – A man with a peat iron waving his hands while being attacked by midgies

Capricomhairle: The sign of the local Council

Over the years, a number of columnists took turns at writing the HeeHoro-Scopes, including ‘Mission-house Meg’ and Russell Grantsquare (who broke away to form his own Gazette column called HeeHoro-Scope Continuing).
However, in the Middle Ages the darker side of HeeHoro-Scopes was brought to the fore by the seer Nesstradamnus and his infamous book ‘Prof-he-sees’ (co-written by D***** F**t). In its pages, Nesstradamnus supposedly predicted the winners of all the Mods from 1540 to 1878 with varying degrees of accuracy depending on one’s gullibility levels.
His quatrains were often confusing and open to all sorts of interpretation as folk tried to ponder their meaning, not helped by the fact that they were all written in Gaelic Latin. A typical example follows;
‘When the Mod to Stornoway comes 

In the year of a wet summer

A choir from the mainland

Might win a competition. Maybe’
Nesstradamnus was said to have been a great uncle of Coinneach Odhar, the Brahan Seer. Coinneach was very modren for his time, however, and scoffed at “all thon superstitious Astrology ruppish”, relying instead on his state-of-the-art oileag with a hole through it. And much good did it do him.
How the Hebridean Constellations Came About.
A Choir, yus: The sign of An Comunn Gaidhealach

The story behind this Constellation is that Lochs Choir were heading off to Dunoon in 1628 but got stormbound in Tiree. They had never won a competition and were always pipped to the post by other less talented choirs. This particular year they had learned a song called “Airidhbhruach” and were sure it would see them becoming the stars of the Mod. In order not to miss the competition they tried to build a bridge across to the mainland using sheet music, but due to a few snifters too many they kept going up the way instead of across the way and ended up in the heavens where the choir members finally became stars.
Pie-seas: The sign of the Fisherman making a huge fish pie from Minch herring for his tea.

 A Stornoway fisherman did battle with a huge whale called Maw-by Fleek for many a long year. Finally he managed to harpoon the great seabeast but at the last minute Maw-by thwacked him with his tale, sending the fisherman shooting up into the skies where he became a constellation. 
Airidhs: The sign of the ram out on the summer grazing.

It is said that this constellation precisely maps out the location of all the Airidhs on the Pentland Road. Or the location of the Star Inn – no one is quite sure.
Todhar-Us The sign of the Manure Spreader.

A manure spreader was employed on Tee-Dees Farm but one day his Massey Ferguson Chariot went faulty -unfortunately on the same day the Stornoway Town Council were visiting the farm to see the new milk sheds -and so all the dignitaries got sprayed in that day’s crop of manure. Todhar-Us was banished from Lewis forever and went to live in the stars where he became a constellation.
Gemini: The sign of the tanning bed.

According to Gaelic mythology, the ancient Gods of the Mod would meet every year to agree on the location for the Mod. One year they met at a posh Health Spa on Mount Ollacklypmus but had a huge falling out over who got to use the tanning beds. A fight ensued causing much damage to the Spa leaving the Mod Committee having to pay for it. In a rage, Zeboeus, the King of the Mod Gods, threw the tanning bed away up into the skies where it became a constellation.
Can-Seo : The sign of the Gaelic Learner.

Legend has it that in 1678, a German student came to Scotland to learn Gaelic (having seen Runrig on one of their early tours) and ended up on Lewis. He traveled the length and breadth of the island , getting more and more confused by the different village dialects and pronunciations of Gaelic, never being sure which version was correct. He attempted to learn all 350 regional variations but his brain exploded into a hundred pieces and became the stars of the constellation. Can Seo indeed.
Leo-Dhas: The sign of the King of the Lewis Chessmen.

King Leodhas Chestmane was the King of the Lewis Chessmen and ruled over his subjects at Ardroil Beach. A kind and goodly ruler who ascended up to Valhalla on his death, but because he was carrying too many marags and half bottles he only reached as far as the night skies when he became a constellation. 
Vir-gobha:The sign of Steallag’s anvil.

In Ancient Times the Mod Gods used to get their chariots and horseshoes mended at Steallag’s smithy. This constellation is said to represent the sparks that flew off the anvil as he thumped a horseshoe into shape.
Leac a Libra: The sign of the Harris Tweed brassiere.

Venusina, the Mod Goddess of Love was given a Harris Tweed bra by Zeboeus as a token of his love. She wore it on a date with him but it was so scratchy it drove her up the wall. She didn’t like to tell Zeboeus that she didn’t like it and so put up with it all evening (dinner in the Clachan, disco in the Galaxy). When she got home she took it off and flung it as far away as possible. A passing wind caught it and carried it up to the heavens where it became a constellation.
Sgorpio: The Sign of the Maw. This constellation symbolises a maw trying to get his sheep across one of the town cattle grids so they can “accidentally” get in and scoff the Matheson Road people’s flowers.
Sagittarasgeir: The sign of the peatcutter.

A cove went out to the peats one day and got bothered by midges. He made a foolish deal with Marsh the Roman god of Peat to let him ignore the midges, but Marsh took his soul in return and sent him up to the skies where he became the constellation constantly being bothered by millions of midges who became meteorites.
Capricomhairle:The sign of the local Council.

A constellation thought to signify the seafaring prowess of the Outer Hebrideans in sailing round the world (either that or going round and round in circles). 
The Stornoway Zodiac is not to be confused with more primitive astrological methods used outside the Cattle Grid, such as the Steinish Zephyr or the Calbost Cortina.





Watch With Mathair (Part 2)- Trumptong

17 09 2016

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/ 

 





Folk Heroes of Lewis. Part 1 of a few (probably)

26 07 2016

The British Isles have a rich heritage of folklore (in which most of the best bits are poor copies of earlier stories that originate on the Isle of Lewis). For thousands of years, amadans and the gullible have been enthralled by tales of folk heroes, mythical beasts, fantastically ornate landscapes and half believable tales of danger and adventure. 

On Lewis one of the best loved folk heroes is Bobban Hood. As with all good folklore, no one quite knows if he really existed, and, if he was actually a real person, no one quite knows what era he existed in. But that’s the way with all good folklore, it all becomes a bit blurry. 
The story goes that Bobban Hood was the son of a weaver and was originally known as Ropach of Lochseaforth. Like most male offspring of the time, he took himself off to the Cuireamsades in the Holy Land (Tolsta). 
Whilst he was away, the evil Sheriff of Mawtingham (a local tweed mill magnate) stole his father’s loom and gave it to Sir Cove of Gislabourne. Mawtingham was a nasty piece of work and enforced a strict regime on the local weavers, only giving the best tweeds to his henchmen and paying pathetic rates to the remaining weavers. 
On Bobban Hood’s return to Stornoway, he was shocked to find that his old man’s loom had been stolen, effectively leaving him dispossessed and without a livelihood. He remonstrated with Mawtingham and Sir Cove but they framed him for using an electric motor and he was forced to go into hiding.
Bobban Hood took refuge in an area of woodland on the edge of Stornoway; the coniferous plantation at the bottom of Smith Avenue. This forest was known locally as the Masheer-wood Forest, as it consisted of planted woods as opposed to the natural woodlands covering the island in the Middle Ages. (Before the Vikings went on the rampage and burned down all the trees). 
(Ironically, this particular plantation was planted on the site of a church, a decision which caused no end of consternation and debate as many folk felt there was more than enough wood on the island and not enough Churches).
As Bobban made his way into the depths of Masheerwood Forest, skilfully managing to keep one step ahead of the Sheriff’s men, he discovered that many other weavers had taken up residence there. These poor souls had been forced to move from the weaving colonies at Kennedy Terrace and Seaforth Road and take refuge in the depths of Masheerwood. This band of Outmaws was leaderless but soon came to respect Bobban’s natural skills with the tweeds to (and his adept handling of his barrow) and soon offered him the top job. 
The outlaws included Shonnie Beag, Allan a’Dell, Elder Tuck and Will Scarista. Bobban also had a blone called Maid Mawrion who did all the cooking. 
Under Bobban’s leadership, the outlaw weavers were able to set up illegal looms beneath the boughs of the trees. And under cover of darkness they would waylay carts full of wool, bobbans and fuidheags that were bound for Mawtingham’s Mills, and make off with the cargoes. 
Bobban Hood and his Mawry Men would then distribute the tweeds to the poor weavers of Stornoway, thus creating the legend of the cunning outmaw. 
The story of Bobban Hood has as many strands as a double width tweed. One of the best know involves the Golden Barrow contest, set up by Mawtingham to try and capture Bobban.
Mawtingham knew that Bobban wouldn’t be able to resist getting his hands on a barrow made of gold. His henchmen put up signs about the Contest all over the town (and full page spreads in ‘Ye Stornoway Gazette’ and ‘Ye Eventes’). The signs proclaimed that whosoever could move a pile of fuidheags the fastest (with extra points for artistic merit) from one end of Willowglen to the other would win the coveted Golden Barrow. 
Unbeknownst to Bobban, the Sheriff had hidden his men all over Willowglen with instructions to capture him and chuck him in the dungeon. But cunningly, Bobban went in disguise (wearing a bobban hat pulled down really tight) and was able to compete. Naturally Bobban won the contest, made off with the Golden Barrow, rescued Maid Mawrion from having to do all the dishes and disappeared into the dusk, leaving the Sheriff’s men scratching their heads (the midges had come out by then).
It is said that on his deathbed, Bobban told his men to bury him wherever his barrow landed. The dying Bobban took one last heave and flung his Golden Barrow as far as he could and was promptly buried three feet away. 
It is also said that Bobban Hood will return once again when the Tweed Industry needs him most. (He had to come back in 1650, 1749, 1825,1898,1925,1954,1975, 1992,1999, 2005, 2010 and 2012).
Many folk will no doubt remember the long running BBC Alba series ‘The Adventures of Bobban Hood’ which ran for several years in the 1950’s. 
“Bobban Hood, Bobban Hood

Riding through Willow Glen

Bobban Hood, Bobban Hood

He’s off to steal a hen

Cheered by the Bard

Loved by the good

Bobban Hood, Bobban Hood”
This was but one of many screen adaptations of the Bobban Hood story. Readers of a different vintage will recall the cheap ‘n’ nasty 80s adaptation on MacIver & Dart TV, starring Michael Prayed, who left to go in for the ministry and was replaced by Jason Canneryroad. In the 1970s, Jason’s old man, Shir Shorn Canneryroad, played an ageing Bobban opposite Mawdrey Hepburn’s Maid Mawrion.
Kevin Croftner’s big screen adaptation ”Bobban Hood : Prince of Weaves” was a huge hit in the 90s due mostly to Alan Fleekman’s portrayal of the dastardly Sheriff, and Bryan Adag’s schmaltzy power ballad of a theme song. “Everything I Do (I Do for Marag Dubh)” sat at the top of the Isles FM top 100 for 22 years. 
Croftner’s adaptation was famous for playing fast and loose with local geography. Returning from the wars, Bobban gets off the ferry in Tarbert and walks back to Stornoway in 10 minutes via the White Cliffs of Soval, Port of Ness, Castlebay, the Callanish Stones and Ardroil beach.
A more recent big screen version featuring Russell Cromore attracted widespread ridicule, due to Cromore’s ruppish attempts at a Stornowegian accent – described by critics as “an unconvincing impersonation of a Welsh Pakistani Geordie from Transylvania, who’s been on his holidays in Belfast with D*ck V*n Dyke, Private Fraser and the Swedish Chef”.