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.


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