RIP Mike Nessmithavenue from The Mankees

18 12 2021

Only a week late, we’re sad to report that another member of legendary local 60s band ‘The Mankees’ has passed on to the great gig in the sky (bizarrely, dying within minutes of his more famous cousin from The Monkees).

Mike Nessmithavenue was born in the posh part of Stornoway and grew up as an independently wealthy Townie dilettante. He didn’t have to work because his mother was the inventor of Dipp-Ex – the world’s top sheep whitening fluid.

After an unsuccessful early career as a folk musician (he kept getting thrown out of Stornoway Folk Club for not being from Away), Mike was recruited to be one of the famous Mankees, a group of trendy youngsters set up by local Stornoway businessmen to try and emulate the success of The Monkees. Although of course, any resemblance to The Monkees was purely coincidental.

Up the town in their 60s headquarters where the Golden Ocean is now, local TV tycoons M*civer and D*rt were developing a new show for their short-lived cable channel NBC(C) (Narrows Broadcasting Corporation (Continuing)). “The Mankees” was to be a sitcom centred around the life of a fab groovy beat combo who lived in a shed in Marybank and collected fuidheags in their spare time. Nessmithavenue got the job because he could provide a free supply of Dipp-Ex for correcting the band’s press releases.

The other Mankees were Mickey Domhlann’s, a former shoe salesman, Davey Blones, a former child actor and sheep jockey, and former Rubhach journalist Peter Torquilterrace (see our moving tribute from March 2019) 

The Mankees all lived together in a big house, drove about the town in The Mankee-mobile (an old Town Council ‘ash-cart’) and had wacky adventures every week. In between all those wacky goings on, each episode of the show would feature The Mankees performing catchy pop songs that you could soon hear Johnny Tee-Dee whistling as he did his milk rounds. 

Initial criticism of the band for being “manufactured” worked in their favour; when the Stornoway Gazette accused them of being the “Prefab Four”, their record sales in Plasterfield rocketed.

Massive success across the islands ensued, with top viewing figures for the TV series, several shillings’ worth of merchandising and a string of hit singles written (and allegedly played) by hard-bitten music industry veterans of the day such as C*l*m K*nn*dy, Al*sd*r G*ll*s and the M*cd*n*ld S*sters.

The hits kept coming and the TV show kept bringing in advertising revenue. Songs included:

  • Last Train to Cladh Shanndabhaig, 
  • Day Dream Tweed Weaver
  • I’m a Seceder
  • (I’m Not Your) Steading Blone
  • Unpleasant Newvalley Sunday
  • A Little Bit Mehh, A Little Bit Brue

It was only when the band started thinking they were capable of writing and playing their own material that it all went wrong. Maciver & Dart cancelled the TV series and the band went off and made “(Tiumpan) Head” a very strange film in which a porpoise was played by Stornoway Harbour’s Sammy the Seal and Jack Nicholson was played by somebody who had been to the Nicolson. Or maybe it was the Castle. Anyway, it was widely derided as “fleekeen ruppish” and soon afterwards the Mankees split up.

Nessmithavenue’s post-Mankees career as a songwriter and performer wasn’t quite as successful, but he did get around to writing “Different DruimLeathann” which became a hit for Linda Tolstatd. He also formed successful country rock/Gaelic poetry crossover group the First National Bard, and when the members of that combo fell out, he formed the equally successful but more hardline First National Bard (Continuing).

Nessmithavenue also founded audiovisual production company Pacific Cearcs in 1974 to cash in on the emerging Gaelic media bonanza, and pioneered the rock video format on shows like “Se Ur Beatha” and later “Brag”. 

In the 80s he directed the video for smoothie Niseach soul crooner Lional Macritchie’s big hit about salmon poaching “All Night Langabhat”, and was an executive producer on 1984 classic cult movie “Sheepo Man”.

He was invited to join the board of MTV (Maw Television) in 1980 but told them to fleek off because he was a Townie.

Nessmithavenue wasn’t dependent on his solo musical or business ventures anyway; Since it was first broadcast in 1966, “The Mankees” has never been off the telly, so he could quite happily have sat back and lived off the repeat fees (especially since BBC Alba started).

Nessmithavenue also maintained a keen interest in the dramatic and journalistic arts, and was never happier than when indulging in his favourite hobby of fomenting schisms in his local church congregation then writing to the Gazette to complain about them.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, Mankees fans. If there is one upside to Mike Nessmithavenue’s demise, it’s that we were able to knock up his obituary quite quickly by re-using the one we did for Peter Torquilterrace back in 2019. 

Co dhiù, Let’s leave you with one of the Mankees’ greatest hits, a fine piece of work that Nessmithavenue often mimed to despite having had fleek all to do with writing or recording it (it was actually written by popular Leurbost singer N**l Di*mond, who is said to have used the earnings from it to build the Caberfeidh):

I’m a Seceder

“I thought church was only good for scary tales 

Meant for someone else in the F.P.

Cuiream wasn’t out to get me

That’s the way it seemed

Predestination haunted all my dreams

I watched Songs of Praise, now I’m a Seceder

No more Feis, I doubt I’m allowed

I’m in church – oohhhh  (but I didn’t get the bus)  

cos I’m a Seceder

I couldn’t leave even if I died(*)

(*)Unless there was an ecclesiastical schism.


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