Roger Smuir

29 05 2017

Roger Smùir
There was much sadness recently amongst the Gaelic film world when it was announced that actor Roger Smùir had died. This much loved actor was a regular of the BBC Alba schedules for many decades, but was perhaps best known for his role as flat-capped crofting secret agent Seumas Bonnaid. 
The early years:
Smùir first came to fame when still a young man in the popular 1950’s BBC Alba series about a medieval knight – ‘Hovanoe’ – based loosely around the story by Sir Walter Scottroad. Newly returned from the Crusades in the Holy Lands (Ness), Hovanoe had to battle evil knights, dastardly Earls and unscrupulous Barons through the medium of Gaelic song.
In the late 50s Smùir was hired to appear in the popular South Lochs Westren series “Marvig”. He replaced James Garyvardner, who as gambler-with-a-heart-of-gold Bret Marvig had made the show immensely popular in its first 3 seasons. (Garyvardner had fallen out with the producers and fleeked off to Point, where he enjoyed great success in the 70s starring in “The Rubhachford Files”). Smùir played Bret’s cousin Bó Marvig, and his ruppish Pairc accent was explained in the plot by mentioning that he’d “spent some time at the òrduighean in Crossbost”. 

Smuir enjoyed the role, whether he was swanning about the deserts and saloons of South Lochs or beating card sharps at their own game on an Abhainn Glen Odhairn paddle steamer. However, when BBC Alba ran out of money and insisted on recycling the same script for every episode he eventually left. 
The Saintronansdrive. Posing as a clueless international playboy, undercover elder Simon Teampulleòropaidh was sent round different Niseach churches every week solving crimes- who stole the collection? Which precentors were nipping off to the bothan after church? Who was stirring up the congregation for yet another ecclesiastical schism? And who was secretly going back to worshipping Seonaidh the sea god?
The Seceders: Following on from the success of The Saintronansdrive, Smùir co-starred alongside Tony Cuirst-is and Laurence Naismithshoeshop in “The Seceders”. “The Seceders” was another high-gloss production in which the scripts called for flash cars, dolly blones, yachts and upmarket international locations. Due to tight budgetary controls by BBC Alba supremo Lew(is) Grade, however, some geographical adjustments were made, and so each week Smùir and Cuirst -is would swank into such chet-setting destinations as “The Boulevard in Nis”, “An exclusive beach club in The Balallanahamas”, or “The Casino in Monte Carloway”.
The Bonnaid Years

After Sean Canneryroad announced his retirement, larger-than-life Niseach producer Cubby Adabroccoli went looking for a new actor to play the iconic role of Agent Obhobh7, Seumas Bonnaid – Licence to (Stickys) Mill – an industrial spy trying to safeguard the latest tweed patterns whilst finding out what the other Mills were getting up to. 
Smuir performed the role in seven Bonnaid films, bringing a tongue in cheek approach to the series, whilst retaining the deadly glamour of a chet-setting life of espionage (in so much as the BBC Alba budget of £250.46 per film would allow).
His films included:
Live & Let Dye: Set in the voodoo-riven island of Scalpay, “Live and Let Dye” saw Bonnaid battling the island’s evil dictator Dr Kunninghamanga and his international herring-smuggling alter-ego Mr Beag. The theme song was by Paul McAshcart-ney, who’d recently left the Peatles.
The Maw With The Golden Bobban: this time Bonnaid is up against supervillain freelance weaver Fankcisco Scaramanky (played by Christopher Lacklee), who only weaves with a golden bobban and charges ‘a million a shuttle’, helped by his miniature assistant ‘Fleek-Sake’ . Who can forget the iconic moment when Scaramanky’s Vauxhall Victor transformed into a Loganair Islander and headed off into the skies towards his secret Sober Island lair? This film’s theme song was performed by well known local singer Lewslews. 
The Spy Who Loved Mehhh: Seumas Bonnaid teams up with glamourous Rubhach spy Angusina Amadanova (played by Barbara Back) to find out who’s been nicking Russian factory ships from the pier while the crews were ashore buying massive carry-outs in Templeton’s and looking for Lada spares. Turns out it’s evil tycoon Karl Stornoberg, with a fiendish plan to dominate the global supply of tinned mackerel, destroy the world, then make a fortune flogging canned mogs to the survivors. “The Spy Who Loved Mehhh” was famous for the iconic scene in which Bonnaid skis off Gallows Hill and then parachutes onto Number 1 pier with a giant ‘chute made from Harris Tweed and sporting the Comhairle Nan Eilean logo. The theme song was sung by Carloway Simon.
Mùn Raker: Cashing in on the success of sci-fi and Siar Wars, Bonnaid takes to space to defeat this film’s supervillain, Hugo Dradhars, who plans to monopolise the Harris Tweed industry by stealing all the shuttles, hiding them in his space station, destroying humanity with a poisonous nerve gas developed from a rare 150-year-old bucket of urine found in a loomshed in Arnol, then returning to Earth to take over the Shawbost Mill. The theme song for Mùn Raker was sung by Shearley Baaahssey.
For Your Aoidh Church Only: – Bonnaid doing more of the same, but this time in the Aignisagean Sea with smuggler Gresstatos as the supervillan hiding out in his cliff top church, resulting in Bonnaid having to climb up the Braighe Wall to 

catch him. Theme by Sheena Eaststreet
Octoberpotatopickingholiday- With a plot involving ornamental Faber-guga eggs, Tong Highland Games, a train and a nuclear warhead, Bonnaid saves the world once more.
A View to Baile Na Cille-Saving Silicon Ditch from baddies, featuring Grazings Jones as the baddie (who famously escapes at the beginning of the film by falling off the scaffolding round the Town Hall clock and landing on a bale of wool) and with a theme song by Fiona and Dolan-Dolan.  
Bonnaid Cars:

Smùir drove some classic Bonnaid cars in his movies: Everyone remembers the lechendary Aston Martinsmemorial DB5 with machine guns, ejector seat and hidden manure spreader in the boot. 

And of course the famous white Lót-us Eilean in which Bonnaid drove off the Suilven, sank beneath the murky waters of Stornoway harbour and re-emerged driving up Steinish beach (flogging mogs and skeds to passing dog walkers out the window as he went).  
Beyond Bonnaid:

Smùir also found time to star in other BBC Alba blockbusters including ‘The Wild Guga’ co-starring Rich-Herd Burr-Toin and various other old has-beens, as mercenaries collecting the annual guga on Sulasgeir but trying to sneak more birds on to the quota.
Outside his acting career, Smùir was a popular autobiographer, raconteur and philanthropist, serving for many years as an intervillage ambassador for livestock welfare organisation EWENICEF.