Nicolsonroad Parsons

2 02 2020

It’s been a sad week for mainland comedy fans, with the passing of “Just a Minute” host and lechendary “Sale of the Century” quizmaster Nicholas Parsons.

Sadly this has meant that the demise of Parsons’ island cousin in the same week has been largely ignored on the other side of the Minch. At any other time there’d no doubt have been a big fuss, since the departed celebriy’s Leodhasach relation as himself a much loved fixture of BBC Alba, Radio Ranol and the Playhouse Cinema.

Known for his gentlemanly manners and immaculate attire – cravat, blazer, crisply pressed boiler suit and wellies polished to a dazzling shine, Nicolsonroad Parsons was born in 1853 to posh parents in Stornoway’s exclusive suburb of Goathill.

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At school Nicolsonroad was thick as fleek, so instead of becoming a doctor or a minister he was apprenticed as a trainee barnacle scraper at the Patent Slip. Strangely, this proved to be the genesis of his acting career. His refined Goathill enunciation marked him out for regular batterings from his proletarian colleagues, so Parsons quickly learned how to mimic his fellow workers by adopting an Inaclete Road accent.

He was ruppish at it, however, and the batterings continued – with increased intensity because everybody now thought he was taking the p*** with his: “Ei say, old cove, shaw deich tessden. Fawlaw shee-yas gooh Cath-ay Yee-ha-wool’s an get one a quarter bottle ow Trawler Raahm awhhgawss ten Woodbine, theah’s a good chep”. This proved fortuitous as, wandering along Newton one day with a black eye, several missing front teeth and numerous splints and bandages, he was spotted by a producer and offered a part in the Stornoway Thespians’ critically-acclaimed 1887 production of “Emergency Ward Hen”.

A busy career on stage, film, radio and TV followed, including a starring stage role in Arse and Old Lice, voiceover roles in Gerry Andersonroad’s puppet “Westren” series Four Heather Falls, The Bennydrove Hill Show, and a long-running role as straight man to egomaniac comedy diva Arthur “Mise ‘s Mi” Fheins. On the verge of breaking big in America, Fheins became paranoid that Parsons was becoming more popular than he was, and gave Parsons the big bròg after an appearance on the Ed Suilven show.

In 1967 Parsons was hired by Radio Ranol to present “Church a Minute”, a panel show in which contestants had to improvise a 60 second prayer without hesitation, repetition, or deviation into the doctrines of Presbyterian splinter groups other than their own. Following audience complaints after the pilot episode, the show was soon relaunched as “Church an Hour (And a Half at Least)” and has run in this form until the present day.

Regular guests in the early years included the Rev Kennethstreet Williams (FP, Cari-onshader), Rev Hensly Nimmo (Backsliding Easy-osy Church of Sasanaich, Stornoway), Rev Stclements Freud (Rodel) and the Rev Peat-er Jones, who was also the voice of the Book in BBC Alba’s “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Disco”.

As the old contestants expired, they were replaced with younger ministers from the world of “alternative communion-dy” such as South Harris’s Rev Graham Northton and happy-clappy townie the Rev Paul Mertonsmemorial, but Parsons himself remained a constant of the show for over 52 years.

Of course, if you’re not a Radio Ranol listener, you may remember Parsons best for his legendary Aiginish TV quiz show “Sale of the Cemetery” ‘And now, from Knock(wich), it’s the quiz of the week’, boomed the familiar intro at the top of the show, as contestants competed for a series of increasingly expensive and prestigious lairs in the nearby graveyard.


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