Burt Rhenigadale RIP

22 09 2018

Fleek sakes! Yet another icon of the big screen (and wee screen too) has passed away. Yus indeed, Holywood cove Burt Reynolds has gone to the big Cannonball Run in the sky.

Burt was a regular visitor to the Outer Hebrides as he had cousins on his mother’s side living in Harris, and he used to enjoy coming home to help with the peats and the shearing. It is rumoured that he sought inspiration for many of his films from his cousin (also called Burt) who was a pretty big star himself on BBC Alba. And in a bizarre coincidence, both cousins passed away on the same day.

Reynold’s cousin Burt MacSween was born in a remote Hearach village accessible only by a winding footpath over the hills from Tarbert. Fiercely proud of his birthplace, he chose it for his stagename when he took up acting at an early age – thus was born Burt Rhenigadale.

In his early career Rhenigadale was an active member of the Stornoway Thespians and took lead roles in many Christmas Pantomimes and regional drama festivals, as well as featuring in many Grampian TV adverts from around that time.

But the lure of BBC Alba in the 1950’s was too tempting. Burt was able to get guest roles in many tv shows, impressing viewers with his exotic Harris Gaelic. His first big break came in the late 1950’s in the “Westren” series ‘LaxdaleRiverboat’. He continued to have tv roles throughout the 60’s including “Ferry Mason”, “The Twilight Disco” and “Route A859”.

His big BBC Alba break came with the hugely popular ‘Peatsmoke’, another “Westren”, where he replaced Denis Weavingshed. Playing the half breed (half Hearach, half Leodhasach, half sheep) blacksmith Squint Tairsgeir, the show was your standard Westren of the day, featuring miners looking to strike black gold (peat), sheep rustlers, bandidos from South of the Border (Ardhasaig), no-good railroad barons and marauding tribes of APC-che and Comhairlemanche braves.

After his taste of BBC Alba stardom, Burt turned his attentions to the big screen. Very soon he was picking up major parts in popular movies and soon began to make a name for himself (‘Thon hearrach cove who’s no bad at acting’).

But it was one particular film that shot Burt to superstardom – “Delivervans”, which was a huge commercial and critical success on BBC Alba in 1972. Set in the deep south (of Lochs), the film centred on a mobile shop’s ill-fated journey to Calbost where a horde of hillbilly cailleachs seek vengeance on the driver and crew because they have run out of Craggan’s biscuits. As well as Rhenigadale, the film also starred Jon Poit(mhùin) and Shed Peatty.

“Delivervans” was famous for its soundtrack, including of course the legendary “Dueling Beannags.“

Burt also turned down a role in the film version of M.A.W.S, the Korean War comedy about the Lewis ‘Mobile Airidh Whiskey Still’ platoon sent to keep the troops happy by supplying them with drams. Famous for its theme song ‘Westy-side is Painless’.

Throughout the 70’s and 80’s the blockbusters kept coming. Burt starred in;

The Best Little Meeting House In Tolsta (with Dolly Partronadrive)

Bogie Nights- a docudrama depicting day in the life of a well known Stornoway character

The Dukes of Habost – a film remake of the popular late 70’s Grampian TV series, in which Burt’s portrayal of the evil Bosta Hogg will be long remembered

Everything You Wanted to Know About Seggs (But were afraid to ask)

Smokehouse and the Bànag

The Longest Ceard

The Cànannangaidheal Run. A no-holds barred outlaw tractor race from An Comunn Gaidhealach HQ in Perceval Square, cross-country to Melbost, where the first competitor to reach the gate of the Bard’s old house wins a years subscription to the Free Church Monthly Record. Featuring a cast of thousands (just about every BBC Alba actor on the go at the time), Burt played the lead character JJ Manure. The film had a memorable soundtrack by Na h-Òganaich.

After a bit of a slump in the 80s, a battle with prescription Flukanide addiction, rumours that he was suffering from a variety of exotic diseases (including orfe, swayback and hydatid), and a famously troubled marriage to actress Bloni Andersonroad, Rhenigadale made a comeback in the critically acclaimed TV series Evening Shader.

At the time of his death, Rhenigadale had returned to his Hearach roots, and was about to start filming “Once Upon a Time in Horgabost” with cult director Quentin Tarbertino.

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