Maggie Thatcher: The Portvoller Years.

13 04 2013

In all the publicity surrounding the demise of Margaret Thatcher (as she was officially known), little has been said about the true beginnings of her political career, right here on the Isle of Lewis.

This isn’t surprising; Her rise up the ranks of the Conservative party in the 1970s, fuelled by a potent cocktail of free market economics and little Englanderism, would have stalled instantly if it had been revealed that she was no grocer’s daughter from Grantham at all – but was born a Rubhach and served throughout the 30s and 40s as the Portvoller councillor for the Point Socialist Liberation Front, a hard-left Trosgyist party.

Margaret Thatcher was born Magaidh Macsween in a leaky black house on the road to Tiumpan Head lighthouse. The custom in these days was to remove the sooty straw from the roof every year for compost and replace it anew, but Magaidh’s old man was a lazy bleigeard who never bothered. The house was usually several inches deep in rainwater, and the family and livestock were permanently stained black by sooty water running through what was left of the roof.

Thus did Magaidh’s father acquire the ironic nickname “Thatcher”, which was duly passed on to the rest of the family, along with a deep-seated hatred of all things wet.

Magaidh’s interest in politics began at an early age, and after studying chemistry at the window of Kenny Froggan’s she got elected to Ross & Cromarty County Council’s Portvoller seat in 1929. At that time the Point Socialist Liberation Front was led by music-loving bachelor sailor and non-churchgoer Tormod Heathen. Thatcher despised Heathen’s centrist politics and his decision to take Point into the Communion Market – a trans-village agreement that allowed the free movement of scones and caorans between districts during the orduighean, but gave all Portvoller’s fishing rights away to the Scalpachs.

Thatcher soon engineered Heathen’s overthrow and took over as Chairman of the Central Committee of the PSLF. Almost immediately she began to privatise Portvoller’s ailing state-run industries and make massive cuts in government spending. Inflation and interest rates rocketed, the economy nosedived, and she looked certain to lose the 1933 elections.

But then came the invasion of Bayble Island by forces from Achmore. The Achmoreteenians had always wanted a coastline like other villages, and had been making claims on various islets and bits of shore for years, which nobody ever took seriously. But now their economy was on the verge of collapse due to the failure of their fishing fleet and their shipbuilding industry, and the populace were discontented. The Achmoreteenian dictator General Leodhaspoldo Garynahinetieri decided to distract the people with an invasion, certain that the Rubhachs would back down and leave him looking tough as fleek.

But Thatcher wasn’t so easily intimidated. A task force of three fleekeen hard coves from Seaview Knock and an angry ram was assembled and dispatched from Bayble pier in a rowing boat, After several minutes of heavy fighting the Achmoreteenians surrendered and the Point flag was raised once more over the island. The war boosted Thatcher’s popularity immensely and the Point Socialist Liberation Front won the 1933 election against a divided and ineffectual Liberation Socialist Front of Point (Continuing) and its ageing duffel-coated leader D*nny Foot.

Thatcher’s next target was Portvoller’s powerful National Union of Peatcutters and their demagogic leader Arthur Suardail. In the face of Thatcher’s plans to close a large number of the village’s peat banks, Suardail called the union out on a strike that lasted for fleekin ages. Suardail hoped to bring Point to its knees and overthrow Magaidh by cutting off the supply of peat, the main source of power for the Lewisian economy (and in some parts of Point, the main currency).

Suardail organised gangs of peatcutters to stand in a line at the end of every peat-track to stop tractors taking the peats home. This strategy proved to be an effective tool, as many tractor drivers took one look at the line and thought ‘Fleek it’ it and went off to the Macs. This ‘Fleek it line’ eventually became a common sight in industrial disputes across the land.

Unfortunately for Suardail, Magaidh had arranged for cheap peats to be rowed across Broadbay from Tolsta, so the anticipated peat shortage never materialised. The strike slowly fizzled out and the Peatcutters returned to work. Sadly the Point peat industry never regained its share of the market and the union movement lost its best darts players.

Magaidh was also renowned for her strong opposition to a broader union of Maws. For many years, the various villages and districts of Lewis had been trying to co-operate more closely in order to produce better football players to compete against the Stornoway teams. Magaidh felt that Point had no need of closer links, especially with Lochs, and so always stated that she would never sign the Mawstrict Treaty. This stubborn position led to confrontation with many of her party colleagues and ultimately led to her downfall, as a whispering campaign started in the Crit.

Even her formerly staunch allies in the Common Grazings committee began to turn against her, especially after she vetoed their plans for an extension to the fank. The Committee had spent months coming up with a proposed a new layout that would save money on gates by routing the dipped sheep back out the way they’d come in. But Thatcher dismissed their idea out of hand. Ars ise : “There will be no ewe turns”.

The final nail in the coffin was seen to be Thatcher’s insistence on introducing a wildly unpopular system of local income tax. She set her sights on raising badly needed spondoolacs by introducing a tax on electricity. The ‘electric’ was just arriving in many of the rural parts of Lewis, carried from the Power Station on Ropework Rd in Stornoway, by hundreds of ‘hydro’ poles dotted across the countryside. Magaidh saw an opportunity to charge homeowners for getting power depending on how many hydro poles it took to reach their houses. This ‘Pole Tax’ resulted in riots, refusals to pay and widespread discontent.

Taking advantage of Magaidh’s low ratings in a Stornoway Gazette poll (Who had the nicest Church Hat), her Cabinet members contrived a Vote of No Confidence. Two prominent local teachers of the day – T*rz*n and M*j*r – stood for the leadership and eventually M*j*r won. Thatcher’s political career (on Lewis at any rate) was over.

Once out of elected office, everyone expected Thatcher to take the well-worn path trodden by many ex-councillors before and since – get the cuiream and take up a seat in the House of (the) Lord.

But Magaidh had other plans. Walking home from the party meeting where she’d been fired, she was passed by local slaughterer Domhnall as a’ Chiall in his bloodstained tractor, towing a trailer full of recently terminated livestock. Taking his attention off the road to point at Magaidh and laugh at her misfortune, Domnhall failed to spot a massive pothole (the result of cuts in the roads budget) and crashed. The contents of the trailer were catapulted in all directions, and Magaidh was knocked into a ditch by the flying carcass of a freshly slaughtered molt.

This was the last straw. “Savaged by a dead sheep!”, she said to herself, as she sat in the peaty ditchwater and brushed fragments of mutton off her beannag and overall. “Well, fleek the Party, fleek the Rubhachs, and fleek this island. I’m going somewhere civilised. Somewhere people will appreciate me. Somewhere where this kind of sh*te will neffer happen to me again!”

Magaidh Macsween was never seen in Portvoller from that day to this. But not long afterwards, much further South, an unknown “grocer’s daughter from Grantham” appeared as if from nowhere at a meeting of the Colchester Conservative Association.

The rest (unlike all this ruppish) is history.

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2 responses

19 04 2013
Willie Mould

You’ve surpassed yourself this time cove !! Fleeking brilliant !

25 04 2013
ghillie

Hear! Hear!

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