US Presidential Elections- Lewismen cast your vote!

20 10 2008

We’ve been hearing about these bleedin’ US elections for what seems like years and years (if not decades). It’s hard to believe that in just a few more days our American cousins will soon have a new President and we can go back to looking across the Atlantic for the important things in life, like tv programmes, films and music without been bored to tears by all this election carry on (was there something about a moose getting shot by a hockey stick?)

Many people will be unaware that the residents of the Isle of Lewis are all entitled to vote in the forthcoming US Presidential Elections. This has been the case since 1944, but so few people know about it that voting turnout is spectacularly low. So low in fact that the Presidential candidates have not actively campaigned on Lewis since the 1960’s (when Lyndon B Johnson held a rally in the Town Hall which unfortunately clashed with the Stornoway Communions and so no one turned up). Back in the fifties, Dwight D ‘Ike’ Eisenhower hired a Mitchells bus to tour round the island and many people remember him standing in the bus doorway with a megaphone, as the bus made its winding way through rural Lewis. However, most people thought he was just a local drunk on his way home with a carry-out and so didn’t pay much attention.

And the Lewis Primaries haven’t been called for many years either due to there not been enough balloons on Lewis. This used to be held on ‘Fleeking Hardy Tuesday’ , the week before Super Tuesday.

So how did this voting (and possibly citizenship) issue arise?

It goes back to the days of the Second World War, when several hundred US Airmen were stationed at RAF Stornoway. Stornoway was used, (amongst other things), as a transatlantic staging post, acting as the first landfall for thousands of aircraft heading to Europe to help with the Allied build up for D-Day. It is widely acknowledged that Lewis was chosen as this staging post, not because of its geographic location and suitable runways, but due to a minor map reading slip up, when a USAF Strategy Team mistakenly located Eoropie (in Ness) on an old map and thought it said Europe.

The many US servicemen posted to Stornoway were afforded as many of the ‘home comforts’ as possible to make then feel at home on the bleak and barren rock that was Lewis. US Servicemen’s cinema’s, clubs and sporting facilities (including a baseball park in Willow Glen) started to appear around Stornoway. Regular mail drops and imported ‘moms apple pie’ all helped make the Americans feel at home. The servicemen were also kept on the various lists maintained by the Government, including the Voters Roll, to provide a reassuring sense of American life.

This meant that the Post Office in Stornoway had to be allocated a zipcode to ensure that the mail got through. After the war, a slight slip of the finger on a typewriter meant that Stornoway, Lewis, was then added to the list of new towns springing up across America to house the returning servicemen. And quite simply, no-one noticed.

The first time an inhabitant of Stornoway realised something strange was going on was some time after the last serviceman had gone, when the Nicolson Institute was sent an application form for its ‘football’ team to enter the East Coast World Series All Schools Football Play-Off Finals in Boston. Shortly afterwards a lorry load of marching band uniforms turned up in the Rectors office (which rumour has it, he then promptly flogged to a passing Bulgarian klondyker in order to raise funds for a new piano).

So, come that important date in November, remember to use your vote wisely.

Me? I’m going to vote for that Barvas Obama cove.

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