Forgotten (non)Leodhasach Explorers : Part 2 of Some – Marag-o Pollochar and the Silk-Cut Road to J&E’s.

25 04 2020

We don’t chust do celebrity obituaries at the Made Up History of Stornoway, although you could be forgiven for thinking that these days. So here’s some proper historical made-up history for a change – Number 2 in our series on Forgotten Leodhasach explorers.

This cove wasn’t actually a Leodhasach at all at all, but since Lewis was where he did most of his exploring (and seeing he wasn’t from very far away) we’ll count him in anyway.

Marag-o Pollochar was a merchant and explorer from South Uist, where his parents had a small inn. In the 13th century there was no decent bakery in the Uists, and so bread from Stornoway was highly prized and extremely rare, particularly the plain loaves produced by the legendary J&E Macleod on the corner of Church St and Kenneth St. The Uibhistich didn’t actually know how to get to J&E’s themselves; It was a long way away, back in them days, across the trackless wastes of Harris and Lochs. So they had to buy their bread via the Hearachs, who jealousy guarded the location of their source and charged a fleekeen huge markup.

Marag-o realised that if he could map out the mythical route to J&E’s himself, he’d be able to cut out the Hearachs and trade with the legendary Stornoway bakery directly.

After sailing across the Sound of Harris by night, Marag-o donned the garb of a Hearach tribesman (boiler suit, turned-down wellies, manky tweed chacket with a quarter bottle in the pocket, a bonaid chlò, and a rollup behind each ear). 

Confident in his ability to blend in, he set out on what was to be an epic series of peregrinations that took him to every corner of South Harris but, after 10 years, found him no nearer the fabled land of J&E. Eventually Marag-o decided it was time to stop trying to get to Stornoway by Mitchell’s bus, and set off from Rodel by foot instead.

After traversing the length of the Golden Road, hitching a ride on a camel train across the Govig Desert, and fighting off yetis on the high mountain passes of the Clisham, Marag-o finally crossed the border into Lewis. 

In the tale of his journey, dictated many years later to his cellmate in a Gerinish prison, Marag-o told of many wonders encountered along the route. These included giants, cyclopseses, and a race of strange half man/half sheep/half deer/half salmon creatures inhabiting the ruined city of Airidhbhruachstrakhan.

After leaving the fabled but lawless Silkcut Route city of Bukharalallan, Marag-o and his party were followed by a party of dastardly local brigands who ambushed them and stole all their supplies.

Nearly starved to death, the gallant adventurers staggered into the grand bazaar at Samarkameronterrace just in time to haggle for the last bridie on the shelf and get it heated up in the microwave. With this exotic sustenance onboard, Marag-o girded his loinchops and set out on the last few miles to the fabled East. 

Passing the city dump and navigating through a forest of early wind turbines (fenceposts with seagull feathers nailed onto a wooden circle), Marag-o at last came to the Great Cattle Grid. At first the fierce Easterner tribesmen looked upon Marag-o with suspicion, but when they found out he spoke Gaelic (albeit with a Uist accent) they relaxed their guard slightly and escorted him to Sandwick Road and the headquarters of the Great Kublai Khan-seo, the Emperor of J&E’s.   

Kublai Khan-seo was a grandson of Enghies Khan-seo, the fearsome leader of the Maw-ngol horde, a nomadic tribe from the Barvas steppes who invaded Stornoway in 1206 and established a yak-petrol station that opened on Sundays.  Kublai himself founded the Ewe-an Dynasty after seizing the throne of J&E from its previous owners, the GaelicSong Dynasty.

Kublai Khan-seo was also renowned for his Golden Bòrd. This should not be confused with his distant cousin Kublai Khan’s Golden Horde. Whereas the Golden Horde was an army of warriors fabled for distributing dread, the Golden Bòrd was a table for displaying bread.  The Golden Bòrd started out as a small trestle table, where Khan-seo used to display that day’s fresh, golden brown/not quite burnt baking. The original one was set up outside his bakery, but as his baking began to find fame (and become less burnt), he had to add more tables and eventually ended up having to open a shop at the junction of Church St and Kenneth St, the famed J&E’s.  

North Uist/Canadian prog rockers Rushigarry (consisting of Geddy Leacalee, Neal Puirt and Alec Dan Lifeboat)  later wrote a song in honour of Kublai Khan-seo’s Pleasure-Blackhouse, Xana-dubh, where his favourite bakers got to sleep in the beds that weren’t next to the cow.

Samuel Taylor Collbeacheridge, a famed Poet from Broadbay, also wrote a lengthy epic about Xana-dubh.

‘In Xanadubh did Kublai Khan-seo

A stately pleasure tigh dubh decree

Where Creed, the sacred river ran

Past poachers measureless to man.

(Our buns now are gluten free!!!’.

…so get yourself to J&E).


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