Peter Salach RIP

11 06 2017

Sad to see that yet another stalwart of the BBC Alba schedules has passed away: the great veteran actor Peter Salach.
Although best known for playing the character Tormod Glaoic in the long running sitcom ‘Last of the Communion Wuyne’, Salach also had a second stab of fame and fortune in his later years through his voice-over prowess in the popular animated series ‘Wellies and Bonnet’.
‘Last of the Communion Wuyne’ was originally aired in the 1970’s and went on (and on and on and on) for a further 249 series until it was voluntarily euthanized in 2010. 

The series was about the twilight years of a trio of old coves, Froggy, Compost and Glaoic, living in the village of Holm and wandering about the scenic Lax Dales, entertaining themselves between Pension days with a series of ‘youthful’ misadventures.
Salach played the part of Tormod ‘Norman’ Glaoic, the most sensible one of the trio. The second of the band was scruffy trusdar and dawn squad regular Compost Simesclockite (played by Bill Ossian). The job of third bodach carried with it a high mortality rate, like being the drummer in Spinal Tap or the cove in the red shirt in Star Trek, and so it was occupied by a number of different actors over the years. 
Longest serving was Brianahuie Wuilde, who played retired St Kilda French teacher Froggy DeHiort. Wuilde was preceded by the P*rk*nd Scr*be, who played original third man Coinneach Blarbuidhemire. The Scr*be left the show due in 1975 due to his commitments starring as bearer Ram G Macleod in “It Ain’t Half Hiort Mum”, Jimmy Ferry and David Crofter’s popular series about a wartime Ceilidh Party sent to St Kilda to entertain the troops. (In non-PC 70s fashion, the Scr*be played this role in full Hiortach make-up, including a giant plastic middle toe). 
In later years the third man role was filled by the late Fank Thornton. Thornton was of course most famous for his role as pompous floorwalker Captain Sheepcac in “Are Ewe Being Serviced”, the long-running sitcom set in the upmarket fashion (and livestock mineral supplements) department of Lewis Crofters.
Co dhiu – Back on ‘Last of the Communion Wuyne’, Glaoic, Compost and the other cove were ably supported by an ensemble cast of entertaining characters including the formidable Norah Battery (played by Sgiathanach actress Kathy Staffin), her henpecked husband Welly, and, in later years, deluded SY-worthy-cum-secret-agent Zebo (played by thon amadan Rust Habost). Other top names to feature in the show included Jean Alexandersgarage, June Plasterfield, Dame Todhar-a Herd, and many of BBC Alba’s other great comic actors.
Plot was secondary to characterisation in ‘Last of the Communion Wuyne’. Just about every storyline was devised to ensure the episode culminated with Compost careering downhill out of control in a home-made vehicle of some kind – usually adapted from a sheep trough, a “Return to Lochinver” fishbox or a septic tank. Salach’s main job in the role of Tormod Glaoic was to put his hands over his eyes and make a worried noise whenever this happened. Over the 72-year span of the show he became an internationally recognised authority on it, and in fact taught masterclasses on the subject to generations of German drama students at Sabhal Mór. 
The other long-running thread in Peter Salach’s career was his work on the massively successful “Wellies and Bonnet” cartoons. In 1983, under the watchful eye of his parole officer, notorious Stornoway biker Nick Parkend formed a company (Fleekeen Hardman Animations) and set out to make his first stop-motion cartoon. Parkend approached Salach and suggested that he’d be just the cove to provide an unpaid voiceover the film.
Initially reluctant to work for no fee, Salach accepted the job once it was explained to him that it came with an excellent dental plan; “Nick said that if I did it, I might get to keep my fleekeen teeth”, Glaoic explained in an interview on the Michael Paircinson show many years later.   
The first in the series was the ground-breaking ‘A Crofting-Grant Day Out’, featuring Salach as clothing inventor Wellies and his pet collie Bonnet (the actual brains of the outfit), who spend all their days inventing new crofter wear. In this episode Wellies invents a new tractor and himself and Bonnet go to the moine for the peats, with hilarious consequences.
But it was the second in the series ‘The Wrong Briogais’, that cemented the shows success. Wellies invented a pair of automatic dungarees to aid Crofters, but the prototype was nicked by lodger Fingal McMaw to steal a case of Diamond Heavy from Hendy’s Off-Licence with hilarious consequences. 
The third in the series, ‘A Cove’s Shave’, was a bigger budget affair (£25.56) and was about Wellies and Bonnet diversifying into window ‘cleaning-up’ by causing fights in the Narrows after chucking out time on Friday’s and Saturdays, in the hope that shop windows would get smashed, so they could offer to fix them. It also featured an android Johhny Geeper cutting hair and beards off to within an inch of a cove’s life. With hilarious consequences.  
The final episode in the series was actually a fully-fledged BBC Alba film called ‘The Curse of the Were-sgadan’, in which Wellies is transformed into a giant herring due to a mishap with his latest invention, the Clann-Nighean-a-Sgadan-o-Matic fish packing machine. Hilarious adventures ensue, at the end of which Wellies is transformed back into himself, revived by Bonnet with the aid of some ripe sornan gort, and gets off with Lady Tootingtòin (voiced by posh actress Helenìnag Bunabhainneadar Caversta), who turns the Gut Factory into a sanctuary for homeless mogs and skeds, or something.
Salach was also well regarded for his theatre work, appearing on the West Side and on Broadbay. Perhaps his greatest theatrical success was as Dr Galson, opposite Fraochz Weaver as the great detective Siarach Holms, in the Stornoway Thespians’ 1964 musical “Baker’s Road” (based on the works of Sir Arthur Croman Dhomhnuill).

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