Vangelis’s Leodhasach Cousin RIP

4 06 2022

Sad times for devotees of the synthesizer recently, what with the demise not only of of Depeche Mode’s Andy Fletcher, but also his island cousin Angaidh Flesherin, MIDI accordion maestro from Eye Peninsula synthpop megastars Depeche Mòd.

Fletcher’s passing (though possibly not Flesherin’s) came as  a great blow to fans of electronic music across the globe, who were already in mourning following the passing of the great composer and synth pioneer Vangelis. Born Evangelos Odyssyas Papathanassiou in Greece in 1943, Vangelis was responsible for the music on “Chariots of Fire” and “Blade Runner”, had numerous chart hits with Jon Anderson from Yes, and earlier in his career played in successful Greek prog rock band Aphrodite’s Child with Demis Roussos.

Sadly, in the rush to pay tribute to Vangelis, the passing the same day of his lesser known Outer Hebridean cousin went largely unremarked.

Born Fishvangelos Orinsaydysseas Paiblethamicomacodhioù in Gress in 1943, Vangelis’s cousin took up the melodeon as a small child. Since his early gigs were all at sheep gathering events and Guy Fawkes bonfires in his native village, he soon adopted the stage name “Fank-Gellies”.(*)

It was at a round-up in Gress in 1966, while playing “Haoidh o Haoidh Ram” to keep the mehhhags moving through the pens, that Fankgellies heard corpulent Tong Highland Games 1963 sheep shearing champion Deamhais Rùsg-os warbling along in his inimitable high-pitched tones (and frightening the dogs) as he worked. 

Fankgellies and Rùsg-os formed progressive rock combo Achmoreditie’s Child. The band left for Harris in 1967, forced to flee Gress after the democratically elected  common grazings committee was toppled by a military cow.

From their Harris base on the bohemian Left Bank of East Loch Tarbert, Achmoreditie’s Child scored a number of hits, inspired as they were by the ideas circulating among the radical academics at La SirEScottbonne, and by the 1968 student riots on the Champs E-leverburgh. 

Achmoreditie’s Child broke up in 1971, when Fankgellies got the cuiream, turned his back on singles chart success and insisted on recording “66”, a concept album about his favourite back issue of the Free Church Monthly Record.

In the 70s, after going solo, the real Vangelis got a lot of TV theme work. For example, if you were a wee blone who liked ponies you’ll no doubt have fond memories of his galloping tune “Pulstar”, which was used as the theme for popular BBC1 kids’ TV show “Horses Galore”.  

Meanwhile Fankgellies was commissioned to record the more sedately paced  “(No)Pulsecar”, the signature  tune for a BBC Alba schools programme aimed at children studying to join Al Cr*e’s popular Junior Funeral Director apprenticeship scheme – “Hearses Gu Leòr”.

Even though he had a sizable cult following, it wasn’t until 1981 that  Fankgellies became a household name and that was all thanks to his moving soundtrack to the film ‘Carryouts Of Fire’.

Who could forget the moving tale of two Niccy pupils who decided to take a wee detour from the cross country race that K*nny N*rd had sent them on, and nipping into Hendy’s Off-License to buy a bottle of unexpectedly-hot Jamaican Spiced Rum. 

The famous scene of them running in slow motion along the Braighe, in their white Nazir vests and Winfield shorts, whilst swigging from the bottle, with a gang of cops in hot pursuit, was made even more memorable by Fankgellies’ inspiring melodeon and chanter playing.     

Fankgellies also received critical acclaim for the dark and atmospheric soundtrack he composed for ‘Prayed Runner’, Ridley Scottsroad’s dystopian sci-fi movie about android Ministers (based on Phillip K. Diggumda’s novel “Do Sheep Dream of Electric Arnoldroids”). The premise of the movie is that in the (not too distant) future, there are so many presbyterian Church schisms, that android, replicant, Ministers had to be introduced to keep up with demand for Communions and Sunday School Picnics. The android Ministers all had a limited shelf life and would expire after a few years after they were all ‘prayed out’. Occasionally, an Android Minister would go rogue, and so agents known as Prayed Runners would be dispatched to remove their dog collars and switch them off.

In the film a group of advanced replicant Ministers escaped from the Barvas Òrduighean and made their way to Stornoway, in an effort to escape to Ullapool on the ferry and become Episcopalian vicars on the Mainland  instead. 

Top BBC Alba actor Harrison Fordterrace played Deckhand, a disillusioned Prayed Runner, who is tasked with stopping the rogue Ministers. Rutger Hauergabost played the role of Roy Battery, the leader of the breakaway android Ministers, who delivered the memorable lines:

“I’ve seen things about you believers from your steeple. Calmac ships on time off the shoulder of Orinsay. I watched Communion Tokens glitter in the dark near the Townhall Gate. All these moments will be lost in tiuyim… like tears in rain… Time to dye that wool”. 

The film went on to become a sci-fi cult, leaving fans wondering if Deckhand was actually a Minister himself! Fankgellies’ soundtrack perfectly captured the dystopian nature of a church schism in rainy Stornoway and he even got nominated for a BAFTA (Broadbay Academy of Fillum and Television Amadans).   

In 1979, Fankgellies started a long and lucrative partnership with Chon Andersonroad, the lead singer of progceilidh band ‘Tha’.  Their first album ‘Shorn Stories’ was a concept album about fanks. The follow up album ‘Friends of Mr Caiora’ resulted in the massive selling (6 copies in Woolies ‘10 for 50p’ Boxing Day Sale box) ‘I’ll Find My Way, Blone’.

Fankgellies also recorded a classical music album about renowned house painter El Gresscove.

(*) Thanks to Roddy Maclean for his meticulously researched contributions to this article.


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