Amadan Westview (Backman) RIP

23 06 2017


It’s been a busy few weeks for the MUHOS coves, what with all those icons of the golden age of Stornowegian telly going to the great Studio Alba in the sky. Hot on the heels of Roger Smùir and Peter Salach, we’re sad to announce the demise of Amadan Westview, the star of Grampian TV’s classic 60s series ‘Backman’.

‘Backman’ ran for two seasons on Grampian, the first big-budget production for the Gaelic Department of the Aberdeen broadcaster. 
(Although filmed in Gaelic in order to qualify for a grant, pennypinching Grampian bosses also tried to squeeze a few mair bawbees oot o’ it by dubbing it into Doric very cheaply and recycling it for their East Coast viewers. ‘Flichtermooseloon’, wi’ a’ the voices spak by yon J*mmy Spankie mannie aff ‘Top Club’, was apparently a big hit in the Rothienorman area, ye ken). 
‘Backman’ revolved around the exploits of billionaire businessman Bru Swainbost, and his alter ego, Backman, fighting crime in the fictional metropolis of Gothill City. The show was famed for its camp production values, shaky sets, and the famous fight scenes in which comic-book sound effects like “SGLOG!!”, “OBH!!”, “FLEEK!!”, “BRAG!!!”, “HENGOES!!” and “MO CHREACH ‘S A THANAIG!!” would appear on screen. It was also infamous for the “quality” of the acting – which contained more ham than the fleekeen cold meat counter in Hugh Matheson’s.
The story was that Backman had become a secret crimefighter because of a traumatic experience he’d had as a child in the lawless and gangster-ridden 1930s, when somebody nicked a whole bucket of peats out of his parents’ cruach. 
Swearing revenge on criminals everywhere (especially peat thieves) Backman created a secret base beneath his mansion, Swainbost Manorpark. Together with his trusty butler Alexdanfred, Backman developed an array of crime-busting vehicles, gizmos and gadgets – from the Backmobile to the Backbike, the Backtairsgear, the Backcroman, the Backtractor and the Backmitchellsbus.

    

Backman was ably assisted by his ageing, forgetful and occasionally incontinent assistant Tick Gress-son, aka “Ropach, the Bodach Wanderer”. Many viewers were rather suspicious of the pair’s domestic arrangements and the age difference between them, but for the purposes of the series this was all explained away by the premise that Backman was Ropach’s “carer”. 

The back-story was supposedly that one-time Coulegrein House resident Ropach had wandered out of the day room one afternoon and joined a queue of sheep at the old slaughterhouse, convinced that it was 1928 and the mehhhags were his old drinking pals lining up to catch the last bus home to Tolsta. Backman happened to be passing when Ropach reached the front of the queue, and rescued him just as he was about to be dispatched by the slaughterman. A grateful Ropach decided to run away from Coulegrein, move into Backman’s mansion, and join the Caped Cruach-saver’s crime-fighting enterprise full time.
Every episode, one of Gothill City’s regular supervillains would get up to some sort of bleigeardry that was beyond the wit of the Gothill City Police Department to handle, so Commissioner Gordond**sel and Chief O’Heeyarrrna would get on the Backphone to summon assistance from our hero. However, the Backphone would usually be fleeked due to faults in the area, so they’d fire up the Backsignal instead – a powerful searchlight emitting a beam visible for miles around (unless it was daytime). Surprising though it may seem, few Bacachs today are aware that this is how the village’s Lighthill district got its name. 
Among the criminal masterminds of Gothill city were:
The Smoker – A villainous grinning master-crook with his secret hideout in a kippering shed on Newton. Fortunately for Backman, the Smoker was dead easy to catch because of the distinctive kipper-y smell that he left everywhere. The Smoker was played with relish by the great actor DonnieCesar Rubhamero.
The Puffin (played by Barvas Murdoditch) – A fat bleigeard with a big beak, a secret base on the Shiants and a taste for sand eels that usually lead to his downfall.
The Riddler – Played by Fank Gartan (a cousin of Tick Gress-son), The Riddler was a notorious Gothill City worthy who terrorised the populace by drinking in the municipal toilets but never using them for the purpose intended. Instead, the Riddler preferred to answer the call of nature in ‘unusual’ locations then send cryptic clues to the Gothill City Cleansing Department as to where he might have done his business. (It was almost invariably the same phone box in Perceval Square).
Hatwoman (Played initially by Julie Newmarket, then by husky Hearach chanteuse Urgha Kitt) was the terror of Gothill City’s churches on Sabbaths and Òrduighean days, swooping in, stealing hats off the cailleachs’ heads, and disappearing back to her fictional secret base under Tiumpan Head before anybody realised what had happened. During the week Hatwoman’s alter-ego, Selina Kylescalpay, operated an exclusive milliner’s shop from the fictional lighthouse buildings, flogging all the hats she’d nicked on Sunday back to the cailleachs again. 
Due to persistent misprints of her ads in the Gazette, however, people kept turning up to leave their moggies at the ‘Tiumpan Head Hattery’ while they went on holiday. Initially this led to a roaring trade in Davy-Crockett-style winter chapeaux, but eventually suspicions were aroused by a host of complaints from returning holidaymakers who’d been told that their beloved Tiddles or Fraochan had ‘run away’, only to spot them on some cailleach’s head the next time they went out to the prayer meeting. Feeling the pressure but also spotting a legitimate business opportunity, Hatwoman eventually went straight, winding up the headgear-related side of her empire to concentrate on pet care full time.
And who can forget the Backman theme music which went on to gain cult status?
All together now! -”Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun, Dun Berisay!!”

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Peter Salach RIP

11 06 2017

Sad to see that yet another stalwart of the BBC Alba schedules has passed away: the great veteran actor Peter Salach.
Although best known for playing the character Tormod Glaoic in the long running sitcom ‘Last of the Communion Wuyne’, Salach also had a second stab of fame and fortune in his later years through his voice-over prowess in the popular animated series ‘Wellies and Bonnet’.
‘Last of the Communion Wuyne’ was originally aired in the 1970’s and went on (and on and on and on) for a further 249 series until it was voluntarily euthanized in 2010. 

The series was about the twilight years of a trio of old coves, Froggy, Compost and Glaoic, living in the village of Holm and wandering about the scenic Lax Dales, entertaining themselves between Pension days with a series of ‘youthful’ misadventures.
Salach played the part of Tormod ‘Norman’ Glaoic, the most sensible one of the trio. The second of the band was scruffy trusdar and dawn squad regular Compost Simesclockite (played by Bill Ossian). The job of third bodach carried with it a high mortality rate, like being the drummer in Spinal Tap or the cove in the red shirt in Star Trek, and so it was occupied by a number of different actors over the years. 
Longest serving was Brianahuie Wuilde, who played retired St Kilda French teacher Froggy DeHiort. Wuilde was preceded by the P*rk*nd Scr*be, who played original third man Coinneach Blarbuidhemire. The Scr*be left the show due in 1975 due to his commitments starring as bearer Ram G Macleod in “It Ain’t Half Hiort Mum”, Jimmy Ferry and David Crofter’s popular series about a wartime Ceilidh Party sent to St Kilda to entertain the troops. (In non-PC 70s fashion, the Scr*be played this role in full Hiortach make-up, including a giant plastic middle toe). 
In later years the third man role was filled by the late Fank Thornton. Thornton was of course most famous for his role as pompous floorwalker Captain Sheepcac in “Are Ewe Being Serviced”, the long-running sitcom set in the upmarket fashion (and livestock mineral supplements) department of Lewis Crofters.
Co dhiu – Back on ‘Last of the Communion Wuyne’, Glaoic, Compost and the other cove were ably supported by an ensemble cast of entertaining characters including the formidable Norah Battery (played by Sgiathanach actress Kathy Staffin), her henpecked husband Welly, and, in later years, deluded SY-worthy-cum-secret-agent Zebo (played by thon amadan Rust Habost). Other top names to feature in the show included Jean Alexandersgarage, June Plasterfield, Dame Todhar-a Herd, and many of BBC Alba’s other great comic actors.
Plot was secondary to characterisation in ‘Last of the Communion Wuyne’. Just about every storyline was devised to ensure the episode culminated with Compost careering downhill out of control in a home-made vehicle of some kind – usually adapted from a sheep trough, a “Return to Lochinver” fishbox or a septic tank. Salach’s main job in the role of Tormod Glaoic was to put his hands over his eyes and make a worried noise whenever this happened. Over the 72-year span of the show he became an internationally recognised authority on it, and in fact taught masterclasses on the subject to generations of German drama students at Sabhal Mór. 
The other long-running thread in Peter Salach’s career was his work on the massively successful “Wellies and Bonnet” cartoons. In 1983, under the watchful eye of his parole officer, notorious Stornoway biker Nick Parkend formed a company (Fleekeen Hardman Animations) and set out to make his first stop-motion cartoon. Parkend approached Salach and suggested that he’d be just the cove to provide an unpaid voiceover the film.
Initially reluctant to work for no fee, Salach accepted the job once it was explained to him that it came with an excellent dental plan; “Nick said that if I did it, I might get to keep my fleekeen teeth”, Glaoic explained in an interview on the Michael Paircinson show many years later.   
The first in the series was the ground-breaking ‘A Crofting-Grant Day Out’, featuring Salach as clothing inventor Wellies and his pet collie Bonnet (the actual brains of the outfit), who spend all their days inventing new crofter wear. In this episode Wellies invents a new tractor and himself and Bonnet go to the moine for the peats, with hilarious consequences.
But it was the second in the series ‘The Wrong Briogais’, that cemented the shows success. Wellies invented a pair of automatic dungarees to aid Crofters, but the prototype was nicked by lodger Fingal McMaw to steal a case of Diamond Heavy from Hendy’s Off-Licence with hilarious consequences. 
The third in the series, ‘A Cove’s Shave’, was a bigger budget affair (£25.56) and was about Wellies and Bonnet diversifying into window ‘cleaning-up’ by causing fights in the Narrows after chucking out time on Friday’s and Saturdays, in the hope that shop windows would get smashed, so they could offer to fix them. It also featured an android Johhny Geeper cutting hair and beards off to within an inch of a cove’s life. With hilarious consequences.  
The final episode in the series was actually a fully-fledged BBC Alba film called ‘The Curse of the Were-sgadan’, in which Wellies is transformed into a giant herring due to a mishap with his latest invention, the Clann-Nighean-a-Sgadan-o-Matic fish packing machine. Hilarious adventures ensue, at the end of which Wellies is transformed back into himself, revived by Bonnet with the aid of some ripe sornan gort, and gets off with Lady Tootingtòin (voiced by posh actress Helenìnag Bunabhainneadar Caversta), who turns the Gut Factory into a sanctuary for homeless mogs and skeds, or something.
Salach was also well regarded for his theatre work, appearing on the West Side and on Broadbay. Perhaps his greatest theatrical success was as Dr Galson, opposite Fraochz Weaver as the great detective Siarach Holms, in the Stornoway Thespians’ 1964 musical “Baker’s Road” (based on the works of Sir Arthur Croman Dhomhnuill).





John (E) Noakes:RIP

2 06 2017

Children of the 60s and 70s are coming to terms with the loss of one of their childhood heroes; TV daredevil John E Noakes. 

Born Seonaidh Bottomley in Shader Barvas in 1934, fledgling actor Noakes adopted his stage name after growing concerned that the Stornoway Thespians wouldn’t let him in with a parochial name like ‘Seonaidh’. 
After several months performing in the Harbour Commission-sponsored touring production of “Ships With Everything”, Noakes finally got his big TV break when Biddy Backster (editor of BBC Alba’s hit children’s show Brù Peter) spotted his potential after seeing him playing the part of Willie Mossend in a Thespians performance of “Tobson’s Choice” in the Laxdale hall. 
In 1965, Noakes joined established Brù Peter hosts; church deacon Christopher Grace and local weaver Valtossy Singlewidth onscreen for the first time. The classic Brù Peter line-up was completed the following year when Grace left to pursue a career in praying and local piping instructor Pìobaire Purves joined the crew, which remained unchanged until 1972 when Leth-bhotal Judd came on board.
Noakes, however, was seldom on-screen without his faithful collie Shep by his side. Noakes trained Shep from a puppy and he was frequently employed by the various Common Grazings committees to scare away troublesome Greylag Geese, giving rise to Noakes’ famous catchphrase, “Get down, Shep!”
Noakes’ hilarious antics and mawish accent made him a breath of fresh air in the stiflingly buttoned-up world of 60s Gaelic broadcasting; a level of popularity which even spawned a spin-off show where he teamed up with a local Stornoway character for 1976’s “Gobha With Noakes”.
His adventurous nature and fearlessness led to many memorable stunts including climbing Lady Matheson’s statue with only a stepladder and riding a fertiliser bag down the most notorious sledging hill in the Broadbay area; the Gress-ta Run. He even entered the record books when he was kicked off BEA flight 317 on a filming trip to Inverness with the army cadets after getting hammered on complimentary miniatures before the plane had so much as started its engines, and thus conducting the world’s shortest ever freefall jump by a civilian, a record he held for many years. 
He was frequently found in the Brù Peter garden (which only contained potatoes, the shell of a 1943 N-series Fordson tractor and a Vauxhall Cresta up on blocks) alongside gardener Percivalroad Thrower, who along with his skills with a hoe was famed for his two birdsong imitations; a herring gull and a gog-gàc (both indistinguishable from each other). Years later, Brù Peter viewers were outraged when vandals broke into the Brù Peter garden, planted four hydrangeas and dug a pond.
Notoriously grumpy, Noakes had an ongoing spat with editor Backster and eventually left the show after 12 years. Although he refused to appear on any special anniversary episodes of Brù Peter, he was eventually coaxed back in the year 2000 when he and his former colleagues dug up the decaying remains of a duis they had buried in the Brù Peter garden back in 1971.
After retiring from television he and his wife attempted to sail around the world in a 14 foot clinker boat but were shipwrecked in a stiff breeze passing Scalpay where they were forced to remain until the bridge was opened in 1997.
Editor’s note – We were going to say more about John E Noakes’ work reforming the 16th-century Scottish church, and the popular baker’s shop that he used to run in Bayhead, but, surprisingly, scholarly opinion is divided on whether or not that was really him.   





Roger Smuir

29 05 2017

Roger Smùir
There was much sadness recently amongst the Gaelic film world when it was announced that actor Roger Smùir had died. This much loved actor was a regular of the BBC Alba schedules for many decades, but was perhaps best known for his role as flat-capped crofting secret agent Seumas Bonnaid. 
The early years:
Smùir first came to fame when still a young man in the popular 1950’s BBC Alba series about a medieval knight – ‘Hovanoe’ – based loosely around the story by Sir Walter Scottroad. Newly returned from the Crusades in the Holy Lands (Ness), Hovanoe had to battle evil knights, dastardly Earls and unscrupulous Barons through the medium of Gaelic song.
In the late 50s Smùir was hired to appear in the popular South Lochs Westren series “Marvig”. He replaced James Garyvardner, who as gambler-with-a-heart-of-gold Bret Marvig had made the show immensely popular in its first 3 seasons. (Garyvardner had fallen out with the producers and fleeked off to Point, where he enjoyed great success in the 70s starring in “The Rubhachford Files”). Smùir played Bret’s cousin Bó Marvig, and his ruppish Pairc accent was explained in the plot by mentioning that he’d “spent some time at the òrduighean in Crossbost”. 

Smuir enjoyed the role, whether he was swanning about the deserts and saloons of South Lochs or beating card sharps at their own game on an Abhainn Glen Odhairn paddle steamer. However, when BBC Alba ran out of money and insisted on recycling the same script for every episode he eventually left. 
The Saintronansdrive. Posing as a clueless international playboy, undercover elder Simon Teampulleòropaidh was sent round different Niseach churches every week solving crimes- who stole the collection? Which precentors were nipping off to the bothan after church? Who was stirring up the congregation for yet another ecclesiastical schism? And who was secretly going back to worshipping Seonaidh the sea god?
The Seceders: Following on from the success of The Saintronansdrive, Smùir co-starred alongside Tony Cuirst-is and Laurence Naismithshoeshop in “The Seceders”. “The Seceders” was another high-gloss production in which the scripts called for flash cars, dolly blones, yachts and upmarket international locations. Due to tight budgetary controls by BBC Alba supremo Lew(is) Grade, however, some geographical adjustments were made, and so each week Smùir and Cuirst -is would swank into such chet-setting destinations as “The Boulevard in Nis”, “An exclusive beach club in The Balallanahamas”, or “The Casino in Monte Carloway”.
The Bonnaid Years

After Sean Canneryroad announced his retirement, larger-than-life Niseach producer Cubby Adabroccoli went looking for a new actor to play the iconic role of Agent Obhobh7, Seumas Bonnaid – Licence to (Stickys) Mill – an industrial spy trying to safeguard the latest tweed patterns whilst finding out what the other Mills were getting up to. 
Smuir performed the role in seven Bonnaid films, bringing a tongue in cheek approach to the series, whilst retaining the deadly glamour of a chet-setting life of espionage (in so much as the BBC Alba budget of £250.46 per film would allow).
His films included:
Live & Let Dye: Set in the voodoo-riven island of Scalpay, “Live and Let Dye” saw Bonnaid battling the island’s evil dictator Dr Kunninghamanga and his international herring-smuggling alter-ego Mr Beag. The theme song was by Paul McAshcart-ney, who’d recently left the Peatles.
The Maw With The Golden Bobban: this time Bonnaid is up against supervillain freelance weaver Fankcisco Scaramanky (played by Christopher Lacklee), who only weaves with a golden bobban and charges ‘a million a shuttle’, helped by his miniature assistant ‘Fleek-Sake’ . Who can forget the iconic moment when Scaramanky’s Vauxhall Victor transformed into a Loganair Islander and headed off into the skies towards his secret Sober Island lair? This film’s theme song was performed by well known local singer Lewslews. 
The Spy Who Loved Mehhh: Seumas Bonnaid teams up with glamourous Rubhach spy Angusina Amadanova (played by Barbara Back) to find out who’s been nicking Russian factory ships from the pier while the crews were ashore buying massive carry-outs in Templeton’s and looking for Lada spares. Turns out it’s evil tycoon Karl Stornoberg, with a fiendish plan to dominate the global supply of tinned mackerel, destroy the world, then make a fortune flogging canned mogs to the survivors. “The Spy Who Loved Mehhh” was famous for the iconic scene in which Bonnaid skis off Gallows Hill and then parachutes onto Number 1 pier with a giant ‘chute made from Harris Tweed and sporting the Comhairle Nan Eilean logo. The theme song was sung by Carloway Simon.
Mùn Raker: Cashing in on the success of sci-fi and Siar Wars, Bonnaid takes to space to defeat this film’s supervillain, Hugo Dradhars, who plans to monopolise the Harris Tweed industry by stealing all the shuttles, hiding them in his space station, destroying humanity with a poisonous nerve gas developed from a rare 150-year-old bucket of urine found in a loomshed in Arnol, then returning to Earth to take over the Shawbost Mill. The theme song for Mùn Raker was sung by Shearley Baaahssey.
For Your Aoidh Church Only: – Bonnaid doing more of the same, but this time in the Aignisagean Sea with smuggler Gresstatos as the supervillan hiding out in his cliff top church, resulting in Bonnaid having to climb up the Braighe Wall to 

catch him. Theme by Sheena Eaststreet
Octoberpotatopickingholiday- With a plot involving ornamental Faber-guga eggs, Tong Highland Games, a train and a nuclear warhead, Bonnaid saves the world once more.
A View to Baile Na Cille-Saving Silicon Ditch from baddies, featuring Grazings Jones as the baddie (who famously escapes at the beginning of the film by falling off the scaffolding round the Town Hall clock and landing on a bale of wool) and with a theme song by Fiona and Dolan-Dolan.  
Bonnaid Cars:

Smùir drove some classic Bonnaid cars in his movies: Everyone remembers the lechendary Aston Martinsmemorial DB5 with machine guns, ejector seat and hidden manure spreader in the boot. 

And of course the famous white Lót-us Eilean in which Bonnaid drove off the Suilven, sank beneath the murky waters of Stornoway harbour and re-emerged driving up Steinish beach (flogging mogs and skeds to passing dog walkers out the window as he went).  
Beyond Bonnaid:

Smùir also found time to star in other BBC Alba blockbusters including ‘The Wild Guga’ co-starring Rich-Herd Burr-Toin and various other old has-beens, as mercenaries collecting the annual guga on Sulasgeir but trying to sneak more birds on to the quota.
Outside his acting career, Smùir was a popular autobiographer, raconteur and philanthropist, serving for many years as an intervillage ambassador for livestock welfare organisation EWENICEF.





The 1966 England World Cup Squad Come to Lewis to Train

29 04 2017

Inspired by a recent article (in a proper local history publication) about the Lewis connections of a famous England rugby player, the Made Up History of Stornoway have decided to look into some of the other little-known Leodhasach links to Sassenach sport. Part One (of a few) looks at the world of football.
While we’ve never heard the end of England’s victory in the 1966 World Cup, few are aware that in the months before the tournament, the England squad were sent up to Lewis to undertake intensive training with their cousins, before they faced the greatest footballing nations in the world.
England Manager Alf Ramsales had Island connections (as did many other members of the team) and felt that a few months of character-building training on the machairs of Lewis would toughen up the squad.
On their arrival on the Loch Seaforth, Ramsales arranged a number of fixtures with local teams to acclimatise his players to the Lewis weather. A Mitchell’s bus was hired and customised as the Team Coach and this took the squad round all the local football pitches over the period of a few weeks. However, despite having such a range of talent to hand, the England squad suffered a number of crushing defeats at the hands of Ness, Point, Carloway, Tolsta, Back, Tong, Stornoway United, Stornoway Aths, Stornoway Rovers, Uig, Lochs, Harris, Point again, West Side, Lochganvich (who didn’t even have a football team), Stornoway Bowling Club, St Columba’s Women’s Guild, 2nd Stornoway Scouts and a Coulegrein House Under-101 Select.
Ramsales realised that a lot more work was required if his team were to have any hope in the World Cup. After consultation with his cousin Murdo Alec Ramsales, on how the Lewis teams trained and prepared themselves psychologically, he decided to adopt a more Lewisian way of playing football. A carry-out was therefore consumed on the bus on the way to every match, fags were made compulsory at half-time (roll ups – none of your fancy Embassy filters), and at least two fights were introduced in every match (usually between members of the same team). 
The England squad soon began to match the Lewis teams (in terms of drinking prowess at least) and started to scrape draws and eventually a few scrappy wins. Many football fans will remember the famous Isles AM broadcast of a particular drunken Aths vs England match at Goathill Park, where the commentator Coinneach Wool-steinish-holm came out with the famous phrase ‘Some people are on the pish’
But eventually, the hard yet skilful tactics of the Lewis teams rubbed off on the England Squad. They finally managed to find their rhythm and went on to win that year’s Eilean an Fhraoich Cup (also known as the ‘Wools Remains Trophy’ donated by a local tweed entrepreneur and fuidheag contractor). 
As everyone fleekeen well knows (and is never permitted to forget) England also went on to win the World Cup that year. But it’s high time that the plaudits heaped upon the England squad were shared with the Island relatives who served as their role models and taught them everything they knew – including Gordon Peatbanks, Bobby and Jack Carlton, Bobban Moor (the Captain), Geoff Hiort, Nobby Stilepark, Balallan Ball and Jimmy Griais (later on the telly as Saints and Griasach).
As an interesting aside, whilst on the island the England Squad managed to get sponsorship with a local butcher’s and proudly displayed that firms logo (a number of chops) on their shirts. This symbol was later immortalised in the 1990’s through the popular song ‘Three Loins On The Chest’ by The Lightning&Electrical Seceeeders.





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