Enid Blyton: Clippie

31 07 2010

Many readers will recall that Enid Blyton lived in Stornoway for part of the 1950’s (she worked as a clippie on Mitchell’s Buses and lived on Bayhead St) where she got the inspiration to write her well loved ‘Fleekin’ Hardy Five’ series. This long running series of 10 books set in Lewis, took the idea of the Secret Seven and Famous Five and transposed the events and participants into a Stornowegian setting. Although very popular at the time of publishing, subsequent changes in the social order of the country saw the books and the author coming under fierce criticism for the books portrayal of the outdated class system.

Whilst in Stornoway Blyton also wrote a number of ‘Sacred Seven’ stories about the adventures of seven Free Church Elders. These included ‘Seven Go To The Communions’, ‘Seven Buy a New Funeral Hat’, ‘Seven Have a Differing View of The Interpretation of the Scriptures’, ‘Seven Have a Schism’ and, last in the series, ‘Four Go To The Continuing’.

In her Fleekin’ Hardy Five books Blyton portrayed the characters as upper-middle class, (the four Maclennan siblings and their collie dog, Lassie), when in reality, at that time everyone in Stornoway was as common as fleek.

In the books the MacLennan’s had well-off parents; in this case the father was a Manager in Sticky’s Mill, the Mother was a stay at home mum, who shopped in Murdo MacLeans but relied on Mrs Morrison, the cook, to hold the domestic life of the house together; and a range of supporting characters to provide adventure and excitement.

The supporting characters were undoubtedly all seen as either nasty ‘maws’ from ‘beyond the cattle grid’, who spent their time poaching, smuggling or sheep rustling. Other citizens of the town were seen as little more than working class supporting characters, purely in the story to drive it forward. Blyton portrayed areas of the town, such as the Battery, as dodgy no-go areas, with bullies, nasty chaps and unwashed fishwives aplenty.

The books were withdrawn from usage in the 1970’s and soon disappeared from memory, apart from a few copies turning up in Town Hall Sales of Work.

Enid herself left Stornoway in the late 1950’s, unhappy at being made to do the West Side Circle bus route.

We are fortunate to be able to bring you an extract from one of Blyton’s best loved books ‘Five Go Fleekin’ Mental At Arnish Point’.

Preamble

The Fleekin Hardy Five, whilst out for a trek to Manor Farm to collect some milk (lashings and lashings of it) for Mrs Morrison to enable her to make scones for a yummy afternoon snack, come upon some bad boys from the Battery who are up to no good. The leader of the gang, a nasty crewcut fellow with a scar and tackitty boots, calls them nasty names ( ‘You’re a fleekin’ fleeker!’ most likely).

Forced to run away, the Fleekin’ Hardy Five come upon a dead end on Sand Street. Just as the Battery Boys get closer to their hiding place in a gorse bush, Lassie chases a rabbit and finds a ventilation shaft for Stornoway’s underground railway (see previous entry). They decide to climb down.

Chapter Seven

‘Gosh’ said Calum Murdo, as he peered through the jaggy gorse bush, ‘that’s a simply splendid idea.’

‘Ohhh yes,’ added Kirsty Peigi, ‘you are awfully clever Angus. We’d never have thought of that!’

‘It wasn’t all me,’ blushed Angus, patting Lassie’s head. ‘If Lassie hadn’t sniffed out that rabbit, I’d never have spotted the secret entrance.’

‘Are you sure the tunnel will be safe?’ asked Chrissie Mairi, peering down the hatchway into the gloom. ‘I don’t like dark places.’

‘It will. Don’t you worry!’ said Calum Murdo. ‘If we stay here, those terrible children from the Battery will catch us.’

Kirsty Peigi nodded her head in agreement with Calum Murdo. ‘Yes, don’t you worry, Chrissie Mairi. As soon as we climb down into the tunnel, we’ll be safe from those nasty oiks.’

‘Well…. right then,’ said Chrissie Mairi, bravely trying her hardest not to let the side down by sobbing like a soppy girlie. ‘Oh I do wish Mummy was here.’

‘Shhhh, you silly sausage!’ said Calum Murdo. ‘They’ll hear us!’

At that very moment, the biggest of the Battery Boys turned and looked over in their direction. All four of Fleekin’ Hardy Five ducked for cover behind the bush and watched in horror as he pulled a large catapult from out of his torn and second hand Harris Tweed jacket. The boy bent to pick up a stone, and the children ducked lower, even Kirsty Peigi whimpering just a little bit. But just then Calum Murdo felt something under his hand. He looked down at it and a clever idea came to him.

‘Quickly now! Lets climb down the ladder!’ he yelled, as he threw the old potato, for that’s what it was, towards the villains.

As quick as a flash, the children raced to the hatch and climbed down the ladder. Angus looked back and saw the potato hit the bully square on the nose. The bully fell to the ground and his gang ran off, fearful for the terrible beating they would surely get once kindly PC Macpherson found about their nasty scheme.

Meanwhile, Chrissie Mairi had reached the bottom of the ladder. It was terribly dark in the tunnel, but she could make out faint shapes around her. Soon she was joined by the others.

‘Are all you chaps fine?’ asked Calum Murdo. ‘Just let me take a roll call to make sure!’

As the children lined up across the railway line, Kirsy Peigi said, ‘Gosh Calum Murdo! You were so brave up there. I bet that nasty bully regrets starting all that now!’

‘I say,’ said Angus, ‘lets have three cheers for Calum Murdo!!’

‘Oh, lets, do!’ said Chrissie Mairi. ‘Hip Hip!’ she yelled at the top of her voice.

Just then, the 3.15 from Goathill Farm to Manor Farm hit the Fleekin’ Hardy Five and splattered their remains across the side of the tunnel with lashings and lashings of blood.

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Fake Sandwicks of the Known World

17 07 2010

An eminent Professor of Viking and Maw Studies from the Sandwick campus of The University of The Highlands & Islands has submitted this paper to the (Made Up) Stornoway Historical Society.

North Street  AGOFR megastars The Guireans have recently become incensed by Facebook’s insistence on displaying their “Home City” as “Sandwick, Shetland”.

Sandwick (the real one, in Lewis, also known as Sanndabhaig) is well known as the Outer Hebrides’ most desirable and exclusive neighbourhood, so it’s not surprising that Shetland should try and hijack the brand. But a closer look at the atlas reveals that the Shelties’ inferior kid-on copy is but one of many, scattered across a huge area defined roughly by the mediaeval Norse sphere of influence.

So where the fleek did all these Sandwicks, Sandviks, Sanndabhaigs, Sandvikens, etc etc come from?

Scholars of thon stuff are in complete agreement that all the World’s “pretend” Sandwicks were  discovered and named between 864 and 879 AD, during the epic voyage of the Leodhasach Viking Murði The Directiønally Chållenged.

One Friday night in early 864, Murði had been out for a few pints in the Kårltøn in downtown Stjórnarvagr. Unable to find a taxi back to his home in what was then the only Sandvik in the world, he decided to walk. For a Viking, Murði’s navigational skills were exceptionally poor, and so what should have been a half hour’s stroll to North Street via the Steinish road end and Plasterfield turned into a 15 year odyssey taking in Greenland, Iceland, the Faroes, the Western and Northern Isles, all of Scandinavia, much of the Baltic – and even Uist.

Fortunately for posterity, Murði drew a map of his travels as he went, using a chip wrapper and a spare sachet of curry sauce acquired in Pronto Pizza on the way to the taxi rank.

This ancient chart, known as the “Mappa Murði”, shows all the places he went to thinking they’d turn out to be Sandwick. Optimistically, he’d write “Sandvik” beside each one before he got there, but then forget to score it out when it turned out not to be.

Thus, in later centuries, amadans who looked at the Mappa Murði came to believe that practically every settlement in the Old Norse world was called Sandwick.

Wrong! There’s only one and it’s fleekeen well here. All the rest are fakes.