Skeddie Van Eilean

11 10 2020

Fans of classic rawk and good quality fresh herring are in mourning today, with the passing of Tong’s well known door-to-door fish salesman and occasional legendary rock guitar god Skeddie Van Eilean. Named after the Stornowegian slang for a herring, Skeddie was a musical prodigy who realised at an early age that he wanted to be in a rock band. 

Thus the legendary Van Eilean began. 

Bursting on to the local music scene in 1978 with the release of their first tape (simply called ‘Van Eilean’),  Skeddie and his band mates made an instant impression, partly for his groundbreaking  musical skills (he knew nearly 4 chords) and partly for the free herring that were thrown to the audience at every gig.   

Van Eilean consisted of Skeddie on lead guitar and fillet knife, Dave Rubha Rothairnis on vocals and posing about,  Alec Dan Van Eilean on drums and herring barrels and Michael An-Tòin-y on bass guitar. 

Their eponymous first tape released in 1978 was full of songs that became rock classics including:

Ain‘t Waulking Without Gloves: In the last 1970’s the Health and Safety Executive said heavy duty rubber gloves should be worn when waulking the cloth to prevent injury. 

Disruption: an instrumental showing off Skeddie’s prowess with the guitar, heavily influenced by the Church Of Scotland schism of 1843 and the formation of the Free Church. Still performed in Free Churches to this day. (Without instruments obviously)

You Really Cod Me: a rocked up cover of the famous Minks song about the Icelandic Cod Wars. 

A string of successful albums followed, featuring classic songs such as ‘Hot For Preacher’ and ‘Dannsa The Night Away’.

Skeddie also strayed into dance and dees-co territory when he was asked to lay down some searing lead banjo on Michael Cacson’s ‘Peat It’, from the mega selling ‘Trawler’ album.

But it was in 1984 that Van Eilean reached their peak with the release of the single ’Dump’, a moving tribute to the Bennadrove Tip.  Famous (and instantly recognisable) for Skeddies piano accordion intro, the song conquered the charts of nearly all three record shops in Stornoway.  

‘Can’t you see me standing here

I got my back against an old washing machine

Ain’t the mankiest bins you’ve seen

Ah fleek they could do with a clean

Ah, might as well go to the Dump (Dump), 

Bennadrove Dump.’

Unfortunately the rock and roll lifestyle took its toll and In the mid 1980’s Rothairnis left acrimoniously to go solo. He was replaced by Sammy Hay-Geàrr (who also drove the band’s tractor and did their silage bales). Hay-Geàrr had been in the rock band ‘Fortrose(Lodge)’ with guitarist Ronnie Fortrose(Lodge) and also had a successful solo career. 

This line up of the band hit gold with ’Y(M Bridge) Can’t This be Love‘ and added to the band’s longevity. 

Skeddie’s son Woolgang Van Eilean left a promising career as CEO of a successful fuidheag recycling business to join the band on bass in 2006.

During their long career Van Eilean had a string of hit albums including:

Van Eilean Aon

Van Eilean Dha

Blones and Meppans First

19.84 Bus To Lemreway

LeverhulmeDrive Her Down

For Unlawful Carloway Knowledge -a concept album about Skeddie breaking the ‘Fish Van Code’ and venturing into another fish van’s territory. 

Skeddie will be greatly missed.