Some Stornoway Rhyming Slang

18 08 2010

Many years ago, the residents of the East End of Stornoway (commonly known as ‘the Battery’ after the former Royal Naval Reserve base located there) started using a type of rhyming slang to communicate with each other. The ‘secret’ language was thought to have been developed to enable the Battery Gang to discuss where their Bonfire Night tyres were hidden without the Manor Gang finding out. The slang became popular throughout Stornoway and was eventually adopted by the workers in the many Tweed Mills down the Battery and became known as ‘Clothney’ Rhyming Slang.

As an aside, a person was called an Eastender if they were born within earshot of ‘The Bow Bells’ (which was the noise of C*lan Bow’s clinking bottle of Bells Whiskey as he staggered along Inaclete Road from Cathy Dhall’s Shop).
The slang gradually died out as it became very confusing for the poor townies what with having to cope with English and Gaelic as well.
Some of the last remaining examples of Clothney Rhyming Slang are shown below.
Arnish Welder= Church Elder (as in ‘My old man’s an Arnish Welder.’ : ‘Oh, he must be very holy’)
Church Elder=Arnish Welder (As in ‘My old man’s a Church Elder.’ ‘Oh he must be off and on the Dole-y’. This particular use of slang led to much confusion as on several occasions actual Welders ended up officiating at Funerals in Arnish Boots and orange boiler suits.
Dawn Squad=local Mod (As in ‘Will you look at that, there’s the Local Mod outside the Porters Lodge again.’)- The use of slang here led to some small amount of confusion which saw the Dawn Squad winning the ‘Best Waulking Song’ category at the 1972 Local Mod.
Callanish Stone=cheeky blone (As in ‘That nurse is a right Callanish.’)
Marag Dubh=poo (As in ‘I’m bursting for a marag but there’s no bog roll left in Perceval Square Toilet’)
Barvas Show=Cheerio (As in ‘ Do you know where the funeral is tomorrow?’ ‘It’s in Tolsta. Barvas.’  ‘Eh??’)
Tarbert Ferry=pint of sherry (As in two ladies just in from Church asking what they’d like to drink before dinner- ‘Would you like a Cream Soda dear?’ ‘No thanks, that sermon was a bit on the long side so I think I’ll need a Tarbert.’
Mitchells Bus=Al Crae’s Hearse (as in ‘I’m waiting for Al Crae’s Hearse to take me to Sandwick’)
Arnish Light=Load of Sh*te (As in ‘Good morning Minister, you were right, yon new Elder talks a lot of Arnish’)
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3 responses

19 08 2010
the guireans

Gor bliyamathighearna guvnor a’bhalaich, you forgot to mention the phenomenon of Mothney, the fake version of Clothney Rhyming Slang affected by members of the middle and upper classes in order to acquire street cred.

Mothney has become especially noticable in recent years due to the rise of the Gaelic media. Poncy artistic types (Oliver’s Braes and No. 1 Piers the lot of them, if you ask us) are obliged to commute every day from their bijoux residences on Matheson Road and Goathill down to Studio na h-Alba. In a vain attempt to blend in and avoid getting a kicking, they adopt what they believe to be authentic Battery speech patterns.

This usually makes things worse when they encounter the uncomprehending locals, who accuse them of “talking a load of Tong and Bac” and “taking the Tele Fios”. At this point violence normally ensues; An uppercut to the Star Inn, a headbutt to the Gliob Cheos or an Arnish boot in the Mairi Dhollags usually leaves the Mothney speaker on the ground seeing Mac’s Bars.

20 08 2010
m latrfod

And then, course, there’s Maw-ckney, the pretend Battery-speak adopted by those from outside the cattle grid. Maw-ckney was originally devised by South Lochs weavers who wished to disguise their rural origins when dealing with the thieving townie bleigeards in the mills – the theory being that if they didn’t know you were a thick sgorp from the back of beyond they wouldn’t try and rip you off.

Maw-ckney was entirely unsuccessful in this respect, due to the fact that all the slanging rhymes were in good Gaelic.

10 10 2010
Ian

I grew up in SY in the 50’s and I wonder whether any of the slang we used then is still current. Does anyone remember any others? (Some of it is obviously Gaelic, or common English, but I’d be interested to know the more obscure etymologies.)

Penny: wing
Stone: ollack
Bonfire: gelly
Cap: kadie
Harbour: hoil
Girl: blone
Boy: cove

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