Cilla Back and Val(tos) Donnicanneryroad RIP

9 08 2015

The world of Gaelic light entertainment has suffered a major blow in the last few weeks with the passing of two BBC Alba stalwarts, first Val(tos) Donnicanneryroad and Cilla Back.
Both stars had long running Saturday night entertainment shows on BBC Alba during the 60’s and 70’s. Theses types of show were very popular throughout the Gaeltacht and as well as showcasing Val and Cilla singing talents, also had a range of popular light entertainers on as guests. On a typical Saturday night on BBC Alba you could expect to see an accordion player, a Gaelic choir singing (miming) on a Lewis beach, a comedian telling jokes about whatever church denomination he wasn’t in, another accordion player and of course the trendy young dance act, The Young Congregation. 

Holding these shows together were Val and Cilla. Both had a powerful TV presence, coupled with a cove/blone next door vibe, and each show brought viewers in the droves. Both became big stars and couldn’t even walk along Cromwell St without fans asking them to come and help take their peats home.

Val(tos) came from Harris, so many people mistook his Hearroch lilt as been an Irish accent. He was famed for wearing bobban chumpers that his grannie knitted for him, and normally sat crooning on a rocking chair. 
His hits included Waulk Tall, Paddy McReids Shop, The Special Years (all about a massive carry out of Tennants Special which Val and his classmates scoffed whilst on a Gallows Hill bushwalk), 
Cilla rose to fame after been discovered singing in the Caverstadh Club (a seedy dive in Stornoways Docklands). She was discovered by Brian Epsteinish, who also manger The Peatles.
Cilla also wrote the fashion column for “Mushy Peat” magazine and hung out with all the hip and happening beat combos on the scene: Gerryvard and the Prayermakers, The Swinging Blue Boilersuits, The Big Free, The Wee Free, The Wee Free (Continuing), The Fourmaw-st and Farron’s Flafaoileags.
Cilla also chalked up a range of hits in the Maciver and Darts Top 10, including ‘Anyone Who Had A Cearc’, ‘Step Outside Cove’, and ‘Heb Alfie’
Cilla also hit the big time during the 80’s with a number of very popular BBC Alba show. These included;
“Blind Skate” – Cilla’s guests were presented with 3 fishboxes behind a screen at Cailean Neillie’s. Based on a few cheeky scripted questions and answers, they had to decide which one they’d take home and boil for the dinner. “Blind Skate” was immensely successful, with prime time Saturday night ratings in double figures, and spawned a number of lesser imitators on rival TV channels, such as “Deaf Sked” on Grampian.
“Blight Date” – A less successful spinoff from “Blind Skate”, in which the guests had to choose which bucket of potatoes they’d take home to have with their fish.  
 Surpraise Surpraise -Cilla takes a blindfolded guest to an Church and then surprises them when they realise they’ve been tricked into going to a denomination they left the previous year following a painful and antagonistic schism. 
Both Val(tos) and Cilla will be sadly missed.

U.S. Presidents: The SY Connection. (Part 1 of Some)

4 08 2015

Leodhasaich around the world are doubtless full of pride that Tong’s very own D*n*ld Tr*mp has thrown his hat (or at least his toupee) into the 2016 US Presidential race. But should Trump succeed, he won’t be the first incumbent of the White House with island connections. Detailed research by the Made Up History of Stornoway coves has recently shown that:
108.3% of US presidents since 17Oatcake have been of Outer Hebridean extraction.
This has not been common knowledge to date because 112.9% of them took great pains to conceal it.
The only one who didn’t was Orinsay man John F “A Better Singer Than His Brother, But He Neffer Let On” Kennedy, and look where it got him.
Indeed, if Trump secures the Republican nomination it’ll be a Lewis vs Lewis contest; Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton met her husband, former President Bill, when they were both in the islands in the 70s working in their relatives’ businesses.
Older SYs may remember Bill, the be-suited young American from Arkinsawmillband with the gift of the gab who used to come round the villages on a pushbike in the early 70s flogging Critall aluminium window frames. Unfortunately we don’t have the time to dwell upon the Mawnica Lewisinsky scandal). 
Meanwhile the young Hillary Bobban, fresh out of Yale Law School, had been lured across the pond by a relative’s promise of a big job in the Harris Tweed industry. Assuming this would involve loads of high-powered lawyering in a business famous for its court cases, Hillary bought a one-way ticket to Stornoway, only to find herself spending the summer filling iteagans in her uncle Murdo’s loomshed on Bulnacraig Street. Had a despondent Hillary not nipped out to Cathy Ghall’s for a quarter bottle of Trawler Rum one Friday affa, she’d never have bumped into Bill (himself was in to get a bottle of 4 Crown, 10 Woodbines and 6 Piper Export) and the rest wouldn’t have been history.
Whoever wins, the man they’ll be succeeding has his own Lewis connections. Back in the 1940s, Barack Obama’s old man ran a failing dockside offal butcher’s shop in the Kenyan port of Mombasa. To supplement the paltry income from the business, he kept an illegal gambling den round the back, which was popular with sailors from the many cargo ships that stopped off en route to the Far East. One day, a passing Stornoway seaman dropped in for a game of 2s and 8s, and before long had lost all his money. Desperate to stay in the game, he staked his granny’s recipe for Stornoway black pudding on the next hand, lost and fleeked off back to Plasterfield penniless.
Next day, despite his initial horror on reading the sailor’s ingredients list, Obama senior put on his WWII surplus gas mask and cautiously cooked up a batch. To his great surprise, they sold out instantly; before long Obama senior had made his fortune and retired to Hawaii on the proceeds. To celebrate, he named his first son after the product that had made his family rich., and thus was born Marag Ossian Obama Jr. As is often the case, however, American registrars couldn’t cope with exotic foreign monickers, so when he went to school poor Marag Ossian’s name was anglicised to the much more all-American Barack Hussain.