Stornoway Horror Writers

20 11 2019

Part 1 Of A Few.

Although we’ve spectacularly missed launching our Halloween Special on Halloween, we thought it was still worthwhile to bring this entry in the MUHOS to your attention. There is a long standing tradition of telling spooky tales around the peat fire flame, to scare your grannie and to put the fear of God into your children. This has no doubt influenced the many local authors who have entertained generations with their tales of mystery, the macabre and the occult.

We look at a batch of some of these coves and blones.

Mary Shellstreet

Written at the peak of the craze for Maw-thic horror in the late 18th and early 19th century, Mary Shelltreet’s “Fankinsteinish” was hugely influential on the writers who followed. The deranged Baron Fankinsteinish builds a monster out of bits of deceased livestock that he finds in the skip at the back of the old slaughterhouse on Westview Terrace. The monster learns quickly, takes an interest in philosophy and religion and joins the Free Church, which leads to a big rammy with the Baron, who’s a Seceder. The monster and the Baron pursue each other around the world (well, round the Lewis and Harris Orduighean circuit, to be precise) and the novel culminates in an epic battle at the North Pole (well, North Tolsta)

Mary Shellstreet was the daughter of early feminist author Mary Woolagiescroft (“A Vindication Of The Ruights Of Fleekeen Blones”), and wrote her masterpiece while holidaying on the shores of Lake Airidh na Lic with her future husband, the poet Percivalsquare Mitchellsbysse Shellstreet.

Edgar Aline Doe

Edgar Aline Doe was an infamous deer poacher and writer. His more famous cousin wrote ‘Tales of Mystery and the Macabre’ whilst Edgar Aline wrote ‘Tales of Misery in Mac’s Bar’. His works included:

The Fall of the House of Uibhisteachs – a terrifying tale set in a sinister mansion slowly sinking into the peat bog on which it was shoddily constructed, haunted by apparitions of mysterious builders, who keep coming back under different names and asking for more money. His other works included:

The Macs Of The Red Death

The Murders of the Rubhach Morgue

The Peat and the Pendulum

The RavensLane

Dram Stoker

In 1897, Finding his ocean-going career curtailed when the skipper caught him swapping the ship’s coal for a case of 4-Crown in Cathy Ghall’s, unemployed Brevig seaman Dram Stoker took to horror writing to pay his bar bills.

His most famous work was “Backula”, the spooky story of Count Backula the Vampire. Backula lives in his castle in ‘Ho-vans-sylvania’ (next to Vatisker) and steals blood from the local peasantry in order to make marags (known as marag duine). However, he hears about Stornoway Black Pudding and decides he wants to emigrate to Town to get a better marag recipe. But he doesn’t take vampire hunter Murdo Dan Helsing into account! In a climactic battle in the back shop of Macaskill’s Butcher’s, Backula gets a sirloin steak through his heart and crumbles to smùir.

Robert Lewisstreet Stevenshop

Moving swiftly on through the 19th century, we come to Robert Lewisstreet Stevenshop. Although not primarily a horror writer, Stevenshop deserves a mention here because he was the author of the terrifying “Dockers, Seagulls & Missed the Tide”.

HBP Glovecraft

HBP (Herring By-Products) Glovecraft (1890-1937) was brought up in the Gut Factory, where his old man was the live-in manager, and was consequently a bit smelly. This led to him spending a lot of time by himself and, being rather neonach anyway, dreaming up a whole universe run by ancient, omnipotent and indescribably horrific churchgoing aliens called The Elder Things. Strangely all Glovecraft’s monsters (although indescribable) looked and smelled a bit like sgadan who’d been dead for a few days. He also had a lucrative sideline as a knitter of gloves with scarily complicated (some would say indescribable) patterns which would fill white settlers with horror trying to follow the instructions. His works included:

The Coll of Cthuram

The Duneisdean Horror

The Shadow over Inacleteroad

At the Mountains of Maw-ness

Writers outside the genre who dipped an occasional toe in the Stornowegian horror pond included Gaston Lerubhach (Who can forget his chilling tale of a sinister figure haunting the old South Beach public toilets – “The Phantom of the Opera House”?), fish-obsessed Victorian hack Whelkie Calanneillies (“The Woman in Whiting”), and scary cailleach Daphne Dubh Maw-rier, who wrote “The Bards” (in which Stornoway is besieged by a malevolent flock of award-winning Gaelic poets).

Classic ghost stories emerged from the pen of dawn squad regular M.R. Jamiesondrive (“My Turn of the Screwtop”), while a never-ending stream of schlock about devil-worshipping and Blackface/Cheviot cross-headed demons was the speciality of the prolific Dennis Peatley (“The Devil Rides (to) Outend Coll”).

More recently there’s been a bunch of blones writing stories aimed at the younger goth market, such as Anne Rylock (“Interview with a Ram-pire”, made into a film starring tiny BBC Alba star Tom Fisherycruiser) and of course, Stephenie Meyerybank’s massively successful “Twilights” saga – a series of ruppish novels about a crowd of angst-ridden teenage vampires trying to get into the Seaforth Disco in the 1990s.

Steven Kingcole

Perhaps one of today’s most successful local horror writers is Steven Kingcole. Kingcole is a highly prolific author whose works include:

Carrie-shader- This was his first book to be published. It was all about a young Uibhisteach blone (on holiday in Uig) with latent teleQinetic powers.

Sailm’s Lot – the terrifying tale of a black-clad coven of APC precentors resorting to witchcraft and vampirism in a croft boundary dispute. BBC Alba made a ruppish TV miniseries of Sailm’s Lot in the 80s, starring David Soval.

The Shearing – film version of the best selling book (3 copies in the Loch Erisort Bookshop) starring well known Gaelic tv and film actors, Cac Nicolsonroad and Welly Duval. Cac played an author suffering from writer’s block who takes a job as the caretaker of the Overbooked Hotel in South Lochs and moves his family there. The film was famed for its enigmatic script, which produced a number of memorable and well used phrases including ‘All Work and No Pray Makes Cac A Dull Boy’’ and ‘Heeeeeere’s Shonnnny’ as Cac battered down a door with a rusty tairsgeir.

However, no list of Kingcole’s best known works would be complete without mentioning “The Strond”; a post-apocalyptic tale in which an outbreak of Super-Fluke (nicknamed Captain Tups) has wiped out 99.4% of the livestock in South Harris. The turmoil that follows leads to a massive fight between Good and Evil, (Evil in this case being personified by the sinister character of Rodel Flagg). The book is famed not for its quality, but for its length (clocking in at around 2000 pages) and its weight (roughly akin to the double wheel of a Massey Ferguson 135) making it the only book never to have been checked out of Stornoway Public Library, even by N*rrie MacGr*g*r.