Dame Vera Linshader & Sir Iain Holm RIP

27 06 2020

The recent passing of national treasures Dame Vera Lynn and Sir Ian Holm has sadly overshadowed the demise of their island cousins, 2 figures who were as famous in this far flung corner of the Empire as their mainland relatives were in the rest of it.

Dame Vera Linshader is fondly remembered by old SYs (and maws), particularly for her contribution to keeping up island morale during World War II.

Dame Vera was born in the Battery in 1917 and took up singing at an early age. By the mid 30s she was enjoying great success singing at the Okey-dokey Club with top bandleader Joe Lochs and His Orchestra. 

By day she worked on the cold meats in Hugh Matheson’s and, when the war came, she’d alway sneak an extra off-ration slice of spam under the counter if a soldier, sailor or airman came in. So it was that Dame Vera became known as the Forsyth’s Sweetheart.

Her mainland cousin Vera Lynn’s big hit “We’ll Meet Again” was a smash down South, but didn’t do that well on this side of the Minch. Knowing how vital the Outer Hebrides were to the war effort, the Ministry of Information hired the Leodhasach Dame Vera to re-record a version that would appeal more directly to islanders, whether they were away fighting Adolf or serving on the home front. 

In the end – to cater for the different tastes of Maws, sgorps and townies – Dame Vera recorded several versions, including:

‘Creel Peats Again’ (encouraging islanders to take their winter fuel home by traditional  methods instead of wasting vital wartime kerosene getting the tractor)

‘Weave Miteagan’ (persuading cailleachs on the home front to make gloves for the troops during the cold phoney war winter of 1939/40)

‘Fill Iteag-ans’ (exhorting children to increase tweed productivity)

‘Eel Meat Again’ (promoting the benefits of readily available local fish)

‘We’ll Eat A Hen (But not until the war has en…ded)’ which was a song of yearning for the post war years and the lifting of rationing.

She was also all set to record “Whale Meat Again” but was beaten to it by ex-TrafficWarden drummer and local priest Father Capaldi, who recorded a version with an all star cast of his top musician pals including Steve Winwool and Sheepbop Kwaku Baah 

Of course, Dame Vera’s repertoire wasn’t completely limited to versions of “We’ll Meet Again”.  There were numerous other wartime hits – often reminding homesick  SYs abroad about the great landmarks of home – including:

‘There’ll Always Be An Engie’s’

‘A Nightingale Sang In Barony Square’

And sometimes chust complaining about how small and ruppish said landmarks were…

‘The Sh*te Cliffs of Sober (Island)’

Within a few days of Dame Vera’s demise there also came the news that the great Stornoway thespian Sir Iain Holm had trodden his last board.

Often confused with his successful mainland relation, the actorrrr Sir Ian Holm (pronounced ‘Home’, for some reason), the Leodhasach Sir Iain Holm (pronounced Holl-imm) was actually from Holm, and knew how to say his own fleekeen name. 

Indeed, that was the only way most showbiz insiders could tell them apart. Well, that and the fact that the mainland Sir Ian had loads more money and a proper career.

Originally an acclaimed theatrical actor and a favourite of Rubhach playwright Harold Pointer, Holm switched to film and TV after suffering a major attack of stagefright during a prestigious production of ‘The Uicemetery-man Cometh’  in Knock school canteen.

Sir Iain endeared himself to Sci-Fi fans for ever, when he played the part of AshCart in Ridley Scottroad’s blockbuster ‘Aline’. At first, a helpful Science officer, AshCart was  then revealed to be an android, hidden in the crew of the Galacdonian Macbrayne space ferry ‘Loch Nesstromo’  by the dodgy Stornoweyland Corporation. 

He was also good as Parkend’s head gelly-building coach in Chariots of Tyres, which won him a BAFTA (Battery-Gang Academy For Tyre Arson).

For most modern audiences, however, he was best known as the well-shod Hearach halfling Bilbo Bachalls who receives one of the Pennies of Power in Peter Cacson’s Lord of the Wings trilogy (from the books by JRR Tolsta). Holm’s portrayal of the diminutive Obbe-it was one of many fine performances in the trilogy, which also featured veteran actor Christopher Leac-a-Lì as the evil wizard Sarumanky and Iain MawKellan as the good Niseach wizard Gannetdalf.

Glamb Rocker Steve Presbyterian RIP

13 06 2020

Fans of bacofoil flares, giant glittery platform boots and 70s glam rock in general are mourning the recent passing of Steve Priest, flamboyant bass guitarist of The Sweet.

Sadly the demise the same day of his Leodhasach cousin Steve Presbyterian went largely unreported, despite the latter’s major contribution to Stornoway’s own “Glamb Rock” scene in the early 70s.

Steve Presbyterian was a member of The Suet, who were one of the leading lights of Glamb Rock in the town. Along with his bandmates Braighe-Iain Connelly – vocals and precenting, Tick Mucker – drums and Antaidh Sgòthach – lead accordion, they were perhaps the very epitome of Stornowegian Glamb and had legions of fans (5 blones from Manor Park). 

Incidentally, Braighe-Iain Connelly  was the brother of well known actor Marag McManse, who was most famed for playing gritty Stornoway cop Blaggart, (“Thurrsh being a Murrr-do”).

After playing in all the village halls round Lewis in the late 60’s, The Suet took their first steps to megastardom when they met two local aspiring songwritrers, called Niccy Gym and Mike Crapman, in the Neptune Bar in 1971. The two songwriters told them that they had written loads of catchy tunes and just needed a band who could play their instruments to record them. Originally the idea was that all the songs would be about different cuts of lamb, as Gym and CrapMan were hoping to get sponsorship from local butchers.

Glamb Rock took over the Isle of Lewis. Everyone wanted to be part of it, and it was not uncommon to see local worthies staggering out of the Star Inn and the Opera House with glitter in their hair and star shaped tarasgiers under their arms. Even the local Ministers wanted in on the act and many a Church Service was taken by an androgynous figure in 2 foot platform Arnish Boots and flared dog collars.  

Local mainstream acts like The Lochies and Calum Kennedy also went through a Glamb phase –  The Lochies with spangly capes on their boilersuits and Calum with his flared kilt. 

The Suet had hit after hit during that period (3 copies sold in DD Morrisons).  The first songs to make an impression (in keeping with the lamb theme) were ‘Poppa Ewe’, ‘Little WillieJohnTheButcher’ and ‘Wig Wam Ram’. These were soon followed by their first Number One chart topper, ‘Flock Rustler’.

‘Hell Saver’ (an attempt to get sponsorship from the FP’s), ‘Co?Co?’ ‘Balallan Loom Blitz’ and ‘Teenage Ram Page’ continued their run of massive hits. 

Sadly, in-fighting and addiction issues began to appear amongst the band and the quality of the songs started to decline. They still had some chart success with ‘Cnocs on the Run’ and ‘Love is Like Naughty Sin’ (another ill fated attempt to get sponsorship from a local church, this time ‘the Continuing’) but they soon no longer had legions of fans (5 blones from Manor Park) chasing them round Bayhead Swing Park.

Despite their pop chart success and their teeny-bop fan base, Presbyterian and the rest of The Suet were talented musicians who could outplay “serious” bands like Sheep Purple.  They eventually got tired of being a singles act and went off to make a critically acclaimed album of proper hard rock – ‘Suet Fanky Amadans’. Nobody bought it at the time but it was highly influential on later bands such as Guns n Keoses and Maw-tallica.

Soon after their decline, the Suet split and went their separate ways, with all four members having their own version of the band at different times. 

Other Glamb Bands

  • Spade- ‘Curam Feel The Noise’, ‘Coz I Luv Ewez’, 
  • Murd – Also from the Niccy Gym/Mike Crapman stable, Murd had a string of hits including  ‘Tigh-fhaire Feet’, ‘ChirstyAlonelythisXmas, ‘Murdyna-mite’, ‘(Al) Crae-zy’ and  ‘The Cearc Crept In’
  • Alvdust StarInn- ‘My Cù ca Choo’
  • Cockle Ebb-ney Rebel – ‘Come Up and Shear Me (Make Me Textile)’
  • PilotWhale – ‘Oh oh oh it’s Marag’
  • Shawbostwaddywaddy – ‘Under the Moor Of Love’
  • Calan Bowie- ‘Aladdin Coulregrein’ 
  • Laxay Music – Fronted by suave lounge lizard MacBryayne Ferry (“more grease than the galley of the Suilven”), Laxay Music had big hits with ‘Levacur Is The Drug’ and ‘Vir-J&E’s Plain (Loaf)’ 
  • Molt the Strupag- ‘Roll Away Thon Ollac’
  • Kenny (Fags) with his big hits ‘The Dump’ and ‘Heart of Stoneyfield’
  • Spaircs – ‘This Town Ain’t Small Enough For A Bothan Nis’ / ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough for an M&S’, ‘Amadan Hour’.
  • Sailor(sLoft) -’Glass of Coulregrein’
  • Suzi Quatrionnach – ’48 Crans’, ‘Devil Skate (Portrona)drive’
  • Wizzaird -’Seceders My Baby Chive’  ‘I Wish It Could be Communions Everyday’
  • Marag Bolallan & T. Rubhax : ‘Telegram Psalm’ ‘Sheepster’, ‘Get it Tong’, ‘We Love To Bogie’

Of course, Glamb Rock didn’t have a complete monopoly of Stornoway’s pop charts at the time. Then as now, there were plenty manufactured teen idols peddling middle-of-the road ruppish, such as:

  • The Rubha Bets – ‘Shulishader Baby Love’
  • David Castlebay-’Flock Me Baby’
  • The Bayhead City Rollers – ‘Shank-a-Lamb’
  • The CailleochBossmonds – a clean-cut Seceder family from South Lochs, including Donny & Màiri (‘Pabbay Love’) and the dreaded Little Chimmy (‘Long Haired Lover from Ullapool’).

Flor Iain Shader RIP (And Some Other Stuff About Kroitrock)

6 06 2020

The recent demise of Kraftwerk founder Florian Schneider over in Germany had fans of electronic music in mourning. Kraftwerk, of course, emerged from Germany’s early 70s music scene alongside a host of other innovative bands, in a movement subsequently tagged by English-speaking music critics as “Krautrock”.

These same English-speaking music critics were even slower to catch on to the parallel developments in electronic music that were happening in the Outer Hebrides, pioneered among others by Schneider’s also-recently-deceased cousin Flor Iain Shader.

The “Kroitrock” movement was centred around 2 Lewis villages – Coll-logne and Balantrushaldörf. Due to an error in the 1815 crofting census, both villages had been allocated to Prussia after the Battle of Waterloo, and therefore found themselves on the Axis side during World War II.  The villages were industrial powerhouses, vital in the supply of peats and tweed to the Nazi war machine, and were therefore bombed remorselessly by the allies on a nightly basis. 

Indeed, old SYs will recall the regular 1000-bomber raids that took off on moonless nights from RAF Stornoway and returned many minutes later.  

By 1945 both Coll-logne and Balantrushaldörf were completely flattened (except, miraculously, Coll-logne’s famous mediaeval gothic FP Mission House). In the postwar years, with the aid of a big grant from the Maw-rshall Plan, the villages were reconstructed  as shining beacons of modernity with slated roofs, electricity, running water, a proper tarred road with really big passing places and a streetlamp outside the council houses.

It was in this environment of determinedly forward-looking futurism that Flor Iain Shader and his fellow Kroitrock pioneers grew up.

Most Leodhasachs nowadays will of course only remember the later incarnations of Kroftwerk, playing AC/DC covers in the Clachan and the Sea Angling. By that time of course the band’s sound had changed a bit and the original members had long since left. Scholars of Kroitrock, however, will know that the band was originally formed in 1970 by Flor Iain Shader and Calf Hutter after they met while studying compost-ition at Balantrushaldörf’s Ropach Schiarmann Hoochschule.  They were eventually  joined by two other like minded musicians – Woolgang Flüich and Karloway “Roddy” Bartos.

After a few experiments trying to come up with a band image, they decided to pretend to be robotic performers and to make every move on stage as mechanical as possible. However, it turned out that Shader’s cousin Florian had thought of this idea ten minutes before and so forbade him to copy the idea.

Instead, the Kroftwerk boys decided to do the next best thing and pick an image of somber-looking church elders standing with barely a movement for hours on end, as if enjoying a really, really, really lengthy prayer. And the idea, which reinforced this image, for the four band members to wear black church suits came from seeing a Gilbert and GeorgeStewartshop exhibition in An Lanntair. They were also hugely influenced by Hearach composer Karl-Heinz Stockinish.

The band first came to the attention of a wider audience (four people looking at a telly in Maciver and Dart’s window) when they appeared on “Tomorrow’s World” in 1974 – famously presented by Raebhat Bac-ster – and stunned viewers with the sound of the future.  

Shortly after this they broke big with their “Dòta-mahn” album and single (produced by Conny Planasker). Written as a tribute to the well known and loved kids’ Gaelic tv show, the English translation of the minimalist lyrics were a nod to the impact Donnie Dòtaman had on Gaelic medium education “We thrive,thrive,thrive on the Dòta-mahn”

Well Known Singles

  • “Dòta-mahn” – see above
  • “Trans-Eòropie Island Express” – About a legendary ‘Island Express’  tour around Ness in the early 70’s
  • “The Maw Machine” – a moving tribute to those from outwith the cattle grids
  • “Tour De Fanks” – the band were keen cyclists who would earn some extra cash by cycling round the neighbouring fanks to help out with the dipping.
  • “The Maw-Dell” – see below
  • “RadioRanol Activity” – about the playlists for the Hospital Radio show (which was always Calum Kennedy and Jimmy Shand and nobody else).
  • “Bucket Calculator” – about rationing out the guga at Port of Ness when the Guga Hunters return.

The Maw-Dell

“She’s a Maw from Dell und she’s cooking food

I like her marag dubh that’s understood

She prays hard to get, from Ness to Airidhantuim 

It only takes the Minister to change her mind.

She’s going out tonight drinking in bus shelters 

Und she’s been checking out nearly all the Elders 

I saw her on the cover of the Gazette

I vant to see her in just her hairnet”

Of course Kroftwerk were but one of many bands in the Kroitrock scene. One of these days we might get around to a more detailed look at some of their contemporaries who had even less success, such as: 

Can(Seo) – Featuring Holmger Czùgh-quay, Jaki Leverhulmedrivezeit, Irmin Schmidtavenue and Damo Suetzuki.

Neu!-ton – Formed in 1971 by mysteriously productive Seaview Terrace weavers and dawn squad regulars Klaus “Vier Kronen” Drinker and Michael Tödhar (who’d broken away from Kroftwerk in a dispute over a fence in Balallan). Neu!ton’s trademark was their hypnotic relentless beat, powered by Drinker’s ‘motorik’ loom. Unfortunately they had to break up in 1975, after it was confiscated by inspectors from the Harris Tweed Authority.

Amen Dòmhnall/Amen Dòmhnall II: Started as a radical political art movement at Lews Castle College’s Department of Theology in the 1960’s, at the very height of the global student protest movement (they were demanding the right to wear flares to college and church). Branched into free form accordion experimentation in the 70’s.  

Tarsgeir Dream – Produced a string of influential electronic albums in the 70’s and 80’s including ‘Force MajeureDuncanMorrison’ and ‘Phraedradhairs’

Cluer-ster: Formed in Harris in the early 70s by Hans-Joachim Rodel-ius and Dieter Mawbius, and well known for their collaborations with Brian Enoclete from glam rockers Laxay Music.

FaUist: This group from North Uist attempted to bring a new slant on electronic music, until they realised that North Uist didn’t have electricity.   

Ash Ranish Tempel/Ash Ranish Tempel (Continuing)/Associated Ash Ranish Tempel/Reformed Free High Ash Ranish Tempel etc etc etc: This notoriously fractious avante garde collective was first formed by Manuel GõttBayhëadschwingpärk in 1970 and splintered into several factions almost immediately over whether music was to be allowed at their concerts. They have continued to spawn new offshoots on a weekly basis up to the present day.

Einzsturzende Neuvalley: Formed in 1980 and noted for using custom built instruments (plus the odd drill and cement mixer). Famously started to break up the stage of the old An Lanntair with various diggers and cranes, whilst performing their “Concerto for Voices and Maw-chinery” and ended up accidentally building the new An Lanntair.