Terry Blones: A belated tribute

20 03 2020

Mainland comedy fans suffered another sad loss a few weeks back, with the passing of Monty Python’s Terry Jones. 

Unfortunately, the demise of Jones’ island cousin on the same day was largely ignored on the other side of the Minch. Which was a shame, because the comic legend’s late Leodhasach relation also had a long and varied (if slightly less successful) career in TV and film.

Terry Blones was a member of the influential comedy team Maw T Peatiron’s Flying Cearc-house (and acquired his surname because his colleagues were forever making him him dress up as a cailleach). Along with his 5 colleagues he produced some of BBC Alba’s finest comedy moments and left a legacy of groundbreaking sketches, with catch phrases that have become part of everyday conversation (for a certain species of truaghan bochd who can’t resist reciting them at every opportunity).

Blones didn’t actually appear in what is probably the most quoted piece in the team’s TV series. In “The Dead Guga Sketch” an irate Niseach played by John Clisham goes into Cross Stores to complain that his singed/dried/salted/packed gannet from Sulasgeir is a bit listless. (For more Southerly listeners, the piece was dubbed from Niseach into Lochie Gaelic and retransmitted as the “Dead Sgarbh Sketch”).

However Blones took the lead role as the waitress in the equally famous “Sgadan Sketch”, (Cove: “Dé a thagaibh?”  Waitress: “Tha buntàta, sgadan ‘s buntàta, buntàta ‘s sgadan, sgada ‘s buntàta ‘s sgadan, buntàta ‘s sgadan ‘s buntàta….”). 

Blones, Clisham and Chapman met while performing in the YMBridge amateur theatrical company “Footlights” (a group which spawned many comedy greats over the years, as well as a respected Free Church Minister.)

The Peatiron crew all went on to greater success. 

John Clisham wrote and starred in Fawlty Todhars (co-written by his then wife Connie Bùthsheumais) and A Fish Called Cnòdan. 

Michael Pale-ale became famed as a globe trotting documentary maker, including Around The Pubs In 80 Minutes, about a particularly memorable pub crawl round Stornoway during the 1979 Mod) and Dole to Dòmhnall (about his time spent working in Stornoway Job Centre when everyone was called Domhnall)

Terry Gili-amadan became a respected illustrator and director of fleekeen weird films including “Bragar-zil” and “Timsgarry Bandits”.

Eric Ayeayedòmhnall – Became a well known comedic actor but was perhaps best known for writing and singing Stornoway Sea-angling Club anthem ‘Always Hook on the Right Side for Lithe’.

Grazings Chapman – went on to write and star in the pirate film Yellowfleece. The film was originally conceived as a vehicle for hard-drinking and notoriously incontinent rock drummer Keith Mùn. However due to the fact that Mùn was long dead by the time Chapman got around to filming, he was replaced by an entire cast of Stornoway worthies including Peter SheepCrook, Marshy Fieldman, Spike MillRoadigan, Digg*m Da, Ch*rsty Al*ne and B*gie. Chapman also wrote the popular “A Lair’s Autobiography” – the life story of a burial plot in Aiginish cemetery, to which he retired in 1989.

Terry Blones found post Peatiron fame as a well respected director but found plenty of time to pursue his real passion as a medieval historian. His study of 13th-century Arnol poet Cheffrey Chau-siar was critically acclaimed. Meanwhile his BBC Alba documentaries such as “Terry Blones’ Mehhh-dieval Missionaries” and “Terry Blones’ Barra-barians” provided a refreshing reappraisal of peoples that history had previously judged to be ignorant uncultured maws from outside the cattle grid. Always keen to set the record straight, Blones did extensive research and arrived at the surprising conclusion that – yus, they were indeed as raw as a fleekeen peat, the whole fleekeen lot of them. 

The Peatiron gang made several films over the years including:

  • And Now For Souming Completely Different
  • The Meaning of Lithe
  • Maw T Peatiron and the Holy Creel – A take on the Arthurian Legend, where a bunch of inept Knights try to find the legendary and long lost Holy Creel. The film featured The Knights Of Niseach, Tolsta Witches, mysterious enchanters and The Knights of the Round Table (who were played by the various Peatirons) included Sir Galanhead, Sir Gawainabost and Sir Manse-alot,
  • The Life of Brendan – possibly the Peatirons’ best known film. This caused all sorts of controversy when it came out. The film was ostensibly about a young man called Brendan, who just by chance grew up at the same time as a well known MP. Terry Blones directed the film but also famously played Brendan’s mum with the classic line ‘He’s not the MP, he’s a very naughty boy’. The Life of Brendan also brought us ‘ What have the Rubhachs ever done for us?’ and ‘The Peoples Front of Judea (Continuing)’.