Election Fever

31 03 2010

As General Election fever sweeps over the town of Stornoway it is perhaps timely to have a look back at one of the great Stornowegian General Election Campaigns of the past.

The one that springs most readily to mind is that of 1825, when an unlikely local character was returned to Westminster with a sweeping majority.

Back in these dark days, the island was troubled by the infamous outlaw Mac An t-Stronaich. This character carried out a campaign of terror across moor and mountain, robbing travellers, murdering tourists, refusing to pay his Council Tax and stealing sheep. No one was safe from Mac An t-Stronaich and his reign of terror began to impact on the local economy.

The local populous tried all sorts of ways of getting rid of him, but no matter what cunning schemes were put in place, the wily outlaw always managed to avoid the long arm of the law and keep the hangman at bay. Mac An t-Stronaich always seemed to be one step ahead of the local constabulary, free to continue his evil ways from his top secret hide-out at the mouth of the River Creed.

The people of Stornoway were at their wits end. With their economy falling down around their ears and with Mac An t-Stronaich growing bolder by the day, there seemed to be no easy way out.

However, as all hope of a solution was fading, an emergency meeting of the Town Council came up with a wild idea.  It was tentatively suggested that the forthcoming General Election might offer a suitable way out of the problem. What if Mac An t-Stronaich was selected as a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate? What if everyone on Lewis was encouraged to vote for him? What if he won?

The Town Councillors immediately saw a glimmer of hope with this suggestion. If Mac An t-Stronaich was somehow elected to Westminster, the lure of MP’s expenses would mean he may never trouble the Isle of Lewis again.

And perversely, the Constituency had a vacancy for an Member of Parliament as Mac An t-Stronaich had recently murdered the previous incumbent.

Unbeknownst to Mac An t-Stronaich, his cross was cunningly forged on the Nomination Papers and sent off to Dingwall for processing. He was registered as standing as a candidate for the SNP (“Stronich, Not Politicians”) Party. After a few weeks it was confirmed that he was accepted as a Candidate. A very worried Town Councillor was dispatched to Mac An t-Stronaich’s secret River Creed hideout to tell the outlaw the news. The outlaw listened intently to the Councillor as he explained the potential gains to be made as an MP and after only a few moments of contemplation agreed to stand.

The wheels of the Campaign Machine went into action right away. Mac An t-Stronaich Campaign Coach spent the next few weeks criss-crossing the island, stopping off at Village and Church Halls to hold meetings and rob people. Posters appeared all over the town (“Fleekeen Well Vote For Me and I Wont Kill Ya”) and whole page adverts were taken out in the Stornoway Gazette (“Vote Mac An t-Stronaich and You Might Get Your Fleekeen Sheep Back”).

The campaign also featured many other memorable campaign slogans, such as the one used in the Ness District “Never Had It So Guga”.  Anti Mac Ant-Stronaich campaigners had their own memorable sloggan “Macy Macy Macy, Out Out Out”.

On Election Night a huge crowd turned out at the Town House on Cromwell Street to hear the result. The Returning Officer took the platform and to rapturous applause announced that Mac An t-Stronaich had won the seat with a thumping 95% of the vote. Mac An t-Stronaich them proceeded to thump the Returning Officer.

The next day, the same crowd turned out to see the new MP off on his journey to Westminster. Thousands of people lined the pier as the mail boat sailed away, all waving and cheering.

Mac An t-Stronaich took politics in his stride and although he only served one term, was a surprisingly effective MP. He reached the lofty position of Secretary of State for Rural Affairs (due to all of the previous post-holders meeting unexplained and untimely ends) and campaigned tirelessly to abolish Capital Punishment. However, following an unfortunate incident involving an overly sharp tarasgeir and the Speaker of The House, Parliament had enough of him and he was pensioned off with an Ambassadorship to a minor European Principality called Ferrero Rocher. Unfortunately Mac An t-Stronaich was allergic to chocolate and he soon returned to Lewis to resume his banditry.

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An Incredulous Eye On The Isles Through The Ages- Part One

8 03 2010

Many people will be familiar with the Outer Hebridean blog called ‘An Incredulous Eye On The Isles’. This blog has become essential reading for islanders and exiles over the last few years- a sort of ‘Private Eye’ for Hebridean happenings. It has drawn attention to a wide variety of local (and national) issues involving public authorities, politicians and men of the cloth.

Unbeknownst to most readers, this blog can trace its roots back several hundred years, to the time when the Hebrides were part of the Viking sphere of influence. The first recorded instance of AIEOTI was known as ‘An Incredulous Eye-socket On The Isles’ (remember, this was Viking times when things were of a more violent nature). Back then, as now, it was at the forefront of raising awareness of foul deeds, exposing alleged corruption & incompetence in high places and forthcoming orgies of destruction (although there’s not so much about orgies in it nowadays).

Of course, it appeared in a much different format back then, in the days before books.The first version of AIEOTI used the medium of Viking Runes, intricately carved on rock to tell the story of how the local Thingvellir (the local parliament) planned to fill in a large section of the Bayhead River with large ollacs to make a 24 hour ‘sail -through’ Viking Funeral Pyre. The runes telling the full scandalous story were carved on a large rock near the top of Gallows Hill. However, it took 2 years to complete the carving and by then the town had lost interest in the in-fill proposals.

Some years later, towards the end of the Viking influence on Lewis, AIEOTI was tried out in the format of the Norse Saga. These saga’s soon became as well known as the Icelandic Saga’s, with a particularly famous one relating to proposals for Viking raiding parties to leave Stornoway on Odin’s Day. The local tradition had long been in favour of no Odin’s Day activity of any kind. However, there was a growing support for long ship owner Carl Magnus (or Carl-Mag, as he was known) to introduce an Odin’s Day sailing to allow for mainland plundering.

“Those that follow Odin’s way, would never sail ‘pon Odin’s Day,

To cross the Minch for work or play, but on the Ljodahus (Leodhas) they’d rather stay.

But those liberal-minded warrior bands, who would rather follow Thor’s demands

Have long campaigned for a show of hands, to let them pillage far flung lands.

But the Thingvellir is split asunder, ‘tween days of rest ‘gainst days of plunder

Some say the long ship must surely founder, and all aboard get wet as a flounder

Odins Day Observance Society, strongly protests with great piety

That they surely tell no lie-ity, that Holy Day breakers must surely fry-ity

Carl Magnus is keen to sail, across the Minch (even midst gale)

Protestors at the pier dost wail, whilst supporters slake with strong ale”

The Odin’s Day sailings did eventually start and proved very popular (apart from the people getting plundered obviously) and didn’t result in Ragnarok.