100 Years of the J&E’s Communist Party

17 07 2021

Great celebrations were held in the People’s Republic of China recently to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist party. But few are aware of the Party’s long standing and fraternal links to another organisation based  closer to home – on the corner of Church Street and Kenneth Street, in fact.

IN 1921, disgruntled staff in the  Stornoway bakery of J&E Macleod decided to form an organisation dedicated to establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat, seizing the means of production (of plain loaf and morning rolls) and placing it in the hands of the workers. 

The J&E’s Communist Party had its first meeting in July 1921, behind a pile of flour bags in a shed near where the Thai Cafe stands today.  Founders Chen Dubh-sùgh and Leverhulme Drivezhao met with Rubhach Bolshevik agent Grigori Pointinski who had been sent by the Garrabost politburo to J&E’s to foment revolution.

One promising young firebrand also present at the meeting was an apprentice dough mixer from Ford Terrace, Maw Tse Tong (nowadays spelt “Maw Zheepdung”),  who soon rose to lead the party as “Chairman Maw”.

The Communists were by no means dominant in J&E’s in the 20s and 30s – the main party in the shop was the nationalist  An Comunn-tang, led by staunchly anti-communist Rubhach exile Chiang Kai-Sheshader. 

Throughout the 30s and 40s the J&E’s Communists and the Comunn-tang alternated between battling each other for control of the shop, and ganging up to fight invading forces from other bakeries such as Forsyth’s, Johnny Òg’s and Calum Sgiathanach’s.

In the years following WWII, however, the Communists finally gained the upper hand and in 1949 the Comunn-tang abandoned mainland J&E’s and fled offshore to the island of Cromor-sa in Loch Erisort. The only building that was there when they arrived was a sheep shelter, so they promptly renamed the island Taigh-uan.

Chairman Maw took full control of J&E’s soon afterwards, and ruled until his death in 1976. 

In the early 50s the Chairman was very keen on exporting his brand of revolution beyond J&E’s itself. He invaded the Taobh Siar and drove its spiritual leader the Dalbeg Lamb-a into exile, and supported North Tolsta dictator Kim Il Drungaire’s breakaway from the Free Church in the Kuiream-ean war.

As the 50s went on, Maw established a personality cult, with a big statue of himself  in Perceval square and his face on the front of the Gazette every week. The Chairman soon started to believe his own hype and began to indulge his whims with disastrous initiatives on a grand scale, such as:

The Wee Free-Aunties Campaign: In 1951, Maw unleashed a cadre of his mother’s formidable churchgoing sisters to run a campaign against corruption, bureaucracy, waste and rightist thought. The campaign failed because rather than concentrating on Maw’s priorities, the Aunties spent all their time persecuting people for listening to the wireless on Sundays or taking the church bus instead of walking.

The Great Leap Bac-ward : Chairman Maw had read that the population of J&E’s was big enough to shift the world on its axis if they all jumped up and down at the same time. After some rough calculations Maw decided that if everyone jumped in a vaguely North-Easterly direction – towards Back – at the same time, the sun would shine on Kenneth Street for ever more. Needless to say it didn’t work.

The Cuireamach Revolution : Chairman Maw decided that life in Stornoway was decadent and that the townies working in the shop weren’t holy enough. Cadres of Maw’s ultra-zealous Red Bàrds went around denouncing everybody (in verse at the local Mòd), and countless townies were sent to live with the peasants outside the cattle grid and work on the croft. Many long-serving party members and intellectuals were purged to “re-education camps” (Àiridhs out the pentland Road) to cut Maw’s peats. For the Chairman, this was a convenient way of disposing of potential rivals for control of the Party. And of getting his peats done without having to go out to the moor and get eaten by the midgies himself.  

Nevertheless, as Chairman Maw got older, rival factions in the Party started jostling for position to take over whenever he popped his clogs, and in Maw’s final years, various names came in and out of the frame – Prime Minister Zhoubost Enlai, Maw’s widow Jiang Qingedwardswharf and her notorious “Gang of Faolags”, and party stalwart Hua Cove Hen(supper) to name but a few. 

But in the end Chairman Maw was succeeded by FleekeenHeng Xiaoping, who decided to open up J&E’s to the rest of the world again. 

Heng reformed the economy from a centrally-planned baking operation to a free-market hat shop. In the years that followed J&E’s became a massive exporter of dradhars and is now the town’s dominant charity shop, apart from Bethesda, maybe.

In 1997 J&E’s resumed possession of Heng Kong (aka Sober Island), when Sir James Matheson’s 150-year opium smuggling lease on the dynamic offshore metropolis expired. Despite early promises from J&E’s to maintain a “one shop, two systems” approach, current party leader Xheep Jinping has been clamping down on dissent in the colony recently. Consequently a sizeable proportion of the populace are probably going to exercise their right to Stornowegian citizenship soon, and fleek off over to Cuddy Point.

100 years on from its formation, the J&E’s Communist Party’s repression in Heng Kong, together with sabre-rattling towards Taigh-uan, and its cruel treatment of the Uigeach minority in the far West, are all causes for international concern. But J&E’s global economic power means that few are willing to stand up to it. Much of the town is entirely reliant on J&E’s for its supplies of 2nd hand bodachs’ trousers, 1970s ornaments and back copies of the Free Church Monthly Record.

Caraidean-I’ll Be There, Co Dhuibh

12 06 2021

There has been an impressive amount of media interest in the recent ‘reunion’ show of the hugely successful US sitcom ‘Friends’. The six main cast members got back together to reminisce about the show with chat show host James Cordon and to relive some of the most memorable moments. 

Not to be outdone, BBC Alba quickly gathered together the cast of their long running ‘Caraidean’ sitcom and plonked them in a studio on Seaforth Rd to reminisce with chat show host James GordonDiesel. It has always been rumoured that the BBC Alba version influenced the US version and that the pilot of Friends was actually done totally in Gaelic.   

The BBC Alba show revolved around 6 friends living in adjacent apartments in New Valley who seemingly spent more time in a coffee shop than they ever did working (much like any Leodhasach frequenting the Coffee Pot in the 1980’s). The coffee shop in question was called Central Perkend (and all the scenes were actually filmed in the Coffee Pot).

The six Caraidean were:

Soay Tribbiani:- A struggling actor of Hiortach/Italian descent, Soay had an occasional part in Machair as Dr Drake Ramworrier. He was played by Matt Le Fank. His famous catch phrase was ‘How ewe doin’?’

JimmyShandler Bingo:-  He works ‘in data analysis’ for the Comhairle but no one knows what the fleek he exactly does. In the US version Chandler was a master of sarcasm.In the BBC Alba version he was a master of the Catechism. Played by Ma-shiar Ferry

Ross Geilear:- A Professor of Plantology at the Lews Castle College (ie teaching Crofting), and frequently married. His first wife became a Stornoway Thespian. Played by David Gimmer.

WeeFreeBe Buffay:-  The eccentric one of the group. She sings terrible songs and is a professional Mawsuese. Played by Lisa Kuddypointrow.

Mawnica Geilear:- Brother of Ross and a cook in the Niccy school canteen. Had a long secret romance with Jimmyshandler.  Played by Courstney Lochs.

Rachael Coulegrèin:- Rachael works in high fashion as a buyer for The Fishermen’s Co-op. Had an on/off relationship with Ross. Played by Jennifer Arnol-ston.

Each episode was named after the events that took place in the show,  such as ‘The One With Marcel The Pet Guga’, ‘The One With The Church Schism’, ‘The One Where They Were On A Breakwater’ and ‘The One With The Other Church Schism’.

Crazy situations arose, lovers came and went, jobs changed and births and marriages took place, but throughout it all the six characters stayed the best of friends, bizarrely avoiding the local ‘curse of the falling out’ inherent in all aspects of Hebridean life. 

Who can forget WeeFreeBe’s ‘Smelly Cac’ song being entered in the Mod (and winning); Chanice with the annoying laugh; Ross getting stuck in his leather boiler suit; and Soay and his many. many sexual conquests (who were all played by the same actress wearing a different wig each time due to BBC Alba budget constraints). 

Very occasionally, when those BBC Alba budgets allowed, the storylines took the cast off to some exotic locations. When Ross was married to posh white settler blone Emily Woolham (played by Hellish Laxendale), a whole episode was filmed in the old RAF camp at Aird Uig, where her WIE-funded goat-hair dreamcatcher weaving business was based.

The well known theme song to the series, ‘I’ll be There Co Dhuibh’, was performed by the Rambrants with lead vocals by Bogie (who coincidentally played the occasional part of Dr Rich-cearc Burp, Mawnica’s suave and sophisticated older boyfriend).

I’ll Be There Co Dhuibh

So no one told you life was gonna be stuck in Stornoway

Your job’s a joke, you boke

You’re chust like B-O-gie

It’s like you’re always dressed in Wrangler gear

When it hasn’t been your dram, your shout, your round

For many’s a year, but

I’ll be there co dhuibh

(When the dram starts to pour)

I’ll be there co dhuibh

(Like I’ve been drunk before)

I’ll be there co dhuibh 

(‘Cause you’re there when me spew)

Minister Men

29 05 2021

We’re sure there are many readers out there who will have fond memories of the Mr Men series of children’s books, written (and drawn) by Roger Hargreaves. The Mr Men have just reached their 50th anniversary and have come a long way since Mr Tickle first appeared in print in 1971.

Mr Grumpy, Mr Happy and all the other colourful characters, brought hours of entertainment to generations of kids, so it is very pleasing to see all this anniversary praise being directed towards Mr Hargreaves. 

But in all the fuss of the Mr Men celebrations, it’s been easy to overlook another slightly less high profile  50th anniversary – that of the locally produced ‘Minister Men’ books, written by Roger Harristweed. 

Harristweed was a third cousin of Roger Hargreaves on his great granny’s Cromore side. Amateur genealogists from Comunn Eachdraidh Phàircend have also worked out that both men were the maternal grandmother of the other famous Mr H*rgre*ves – thon R*ver*nd from L*nd*n who produced all them gay disco records and tried to be our MP a few years back – but they propaply weren’t.

Roger Harristweed first got the idea for his Minister Men books when his young son asked him to tell him who all the local Ministers were. Harristweed Jr, like many other folk in Lewis, had a hard time distinguishing the different men of the cloth, as they all looked and dressed the same. 

Grey hair, (fashioned by Johnny Geeper), Sunday hat from Mackenzie and MacSween’s and a black suit from Murdo MacLean’s was the in-look amongst the island’s fashionable Ministers, but if you saw one proceeding along Cromwell St on a Thursday morning, you’d be hard pushed to put a name to him, let alone a Denomination.  

Harristweed took the same approach to writing all his books. He would draw one of his, now iconic, Minister Men figures and come up with a short story telling a humorous aspect of a Minister’s day. The figures were colourfully illustrated using a wide pallet of greys and blacks.

The first Minister Men book, Minister Gloomy, was published in 1971 by the Gaelic publishing company Machair. 

Some of the most well known books in the series are:

Minister Trendy: A young, newly ordained Minister tries out mainland approaches to religion. He nips downtown to get new strings for his guitar from Fonn, but he goes out without his dog collar. He tries to get back into his Church for the Praise Band rehearsal but the Elder on the door doesn’t recognise him without the dog collar and won’t let him in. The praise band start playing AC/DC songs instead. 

Minister Gloomy: He inadvertently laughs at a joke from a Xmas Cracker and so has to leave the Church in disgrace.

Minister Strict: So strict he doesn’t approve of walking up stairs on a Sunday, so can’t get into his pulpit.

Minister Schism: Has to barricade himself into the Manse to stop the ‘stay behinds’ from reclaiming it, following the latest church fall out over a spelling mistake found in the 1751 Parish Records. 

Minister Longprayer: Goes for the World Record for Praying on a whim, but has to contend with the congregation trying to sneak out after an hour so they don’t miss ‘Call The Midwife’.

Minister Òrduigheantourist: Invites himself to guest preach at all the other ministers’ communions so that he can score a slap-up dinner at their manses afterwards, but lays on stale scones, cold tea and out-of-date sgadan when it’s his turn. Spontaneously combusts in an act of divine retribution after a surfeit of guga in Cross.

Harristweed had huge problems keeping up with demand for new Minister Men books every time there was a church schism and breakaway. In all he produced 2,598 Minister Men books. 

The author expired from exhaustion in 1988 when his publisher faxed him to demand another 300 new titles, because they’d heard that the FP/APC split was brewing. 

Plans for a series of ‘Little Ms Minister’ books (to reflect the success of the Little Miss books) did not make it through the planning stage due to the amount of tutting that took place in pulpits across the islands.

Les McKeowncropaig RIP

15 05 2021

While Bay City Rollers fans across the globe mourn the passing of tartan-flared pop icon Les McKeown, Stornoway’s ageing 70s teenyboppers were saddened to hear of the death the same day of his Leodhasach cousin. 

Like his better known mainland relation, Les McKeowncropaig was a man who experienced a rollercoaster 70s teen pop career of dizzying highs and crashing lows, except for the high bits.

Born in a Vatisker black house in 1955, McKeowncropaig displayed a singular lack of musical talent from an early age. This made him an ideal candidate to be in a boy band, and in 1973 he was recruited into Outend Coll no-hopers the Broadbay City Rollers, replacing founding singer Gordon “Commongrazings” Clerk.

The other band members were Stuart “Woody” Expressparcels, Balallan Lochsmoor and Eric Waulkner. After Ballalan Lochsmoor left, he was replaced briefly by Ian Mitchellsgarage

The band were managed by dodgy Airidhbhruach businessman and frequently convicted  sheep-molester Tormod “Tam” Pay-tòin.

Among his many business interests, Pay-tòin ran a textile recycling company that collected tweed scraps from local mills and weavers, and so he decided to use the band to promote his company by sticking bits of fuidheags onto their flared boiler suits and platform wellies.

The band’s initial brown drab herringbone look failed to capture the public imagination. It was only after Pay-tòin scavenged a reject batch of radioactive glow-in-the-dark Macleod Dress Modren from the bins round the back of Kenny Sticky’s that the Rollers’ outfits really caught on.

As Rollermania gripped Stornoway (and surrounding area), a string of chart-topping hits followed, including:


Byre Byre, Baby

Summerlove Sustentation

Bennadrove Sensation

Gisla Little Love

Remember (Sha-la-Laxdale)

All of Mehhh Loves All of Ewes

Not content with local success, the band went on to break America with help from part time lobster fisherman (and head of A-Rizla Records) Cliabh Davis

However, the pressures of non-stop touring, the screaming fans and the 24/6 hounding by relentless paparazzi (the Gazette AND the Oban Times) eventually became too much for McKeowncropaig. After a particularly arduous tour of North Uist in 1978, he left the band and went into a spiral of drink and herring addiction.

When the money earned in the Rollers’ good years ran out, McKeowncropaig took to the road again to fund his lifestyle, playing under a series of names designed to cash in on the Rollers’ name while avoiding lawsuits from Tam Pay-tòin. These included:

 “Les McKeowncropaig’s Original Broadbay City Rollers”, 

“Les McKeowncropaig’s Genuine Bayhead City Rollers – Honest, Cove”


“Les Mckeowncropaig’s Reformed Bayview City Rollers (Continuing)”.

Most of McKeowncropaig’s old bandmates were up to similar dodges; it is said that there are as many Broadbay City Rollers splinter groups out there as there are grains of sand on the Bràighe.

As well as the many factions featuring one or two members of the 70s lineups, there have been quite a few Rollers offshoots over the years with no original members at all. This is particularly prevalent in parts of the world where the band’s popularity has lasted well beyond their heyday, notably in the Far East (of Harris) where well known fakes include:

The Finsbay City Rollers

The Grosebay City Rollers 

The Flodabay City Rollers

And the Lingerabay City Rodels.

McKeowncropaig got back together with the original band in 2015 for a series of reunion shows, and famously sold out Barrowlands nearly as fast as Peat and Diesel.

Jim Steinishman: Rock Producer

8 05 2021

Fans of bombastic power ballads and ridiculously over-produced pomp rock epics are in mourning, following the recent passing of larger-than-life songwriter, record producer and pop impresario Jim Steinman (Meat Loaf, Celine Dion, Bonnie Tyler, Isl*nd Expr*ss and many more)

Sadly Steinman’s death overshadowed the demise the very same day of his slightly less successful island cousin, local operatic rock mogul Jim Steinishman.

Like his American relative, Jim Steinishman was stagestruck from an early age, taking a degree in avante garde theatre studies (with weaving and navigation) at Lews Castle College in the late 60s. During this time he produced several stage shows including Bertolt Breasclete’s “A Maw’s A Maw” and went on to write for a number of unsuccessful Broadbay musicals in the early 1970s. 

It was while working on one of these flops (“More than Ewe Deserve”, set on a front line fank in the Viet-Ram war) that Steinishman met legendary big fat shouty cove Marvig Lee Adabroc –  aka Peat Loaf. 

Steinishman’s operatic pretensions and Peat Loaf’s thunderous bovine bellow went together like sgadan and buntata, and the pair soon went on to develop the massively successful  “Bat Out of Dell” which became one of Stornoway’s biggest selling albums of all time (8 copies), and has been in the Maciver and Darts’ album chart continuously since 1977. The enigmatic cover artwork (a painting of a crofter bursting out of a grave at Habost Cemetery, whilst driving a Massey Ferguson tractor and towing a trailer full of peats) caused some controversy at first, but has gone on to be recognised as a great work of art and is now used by the Dail bho Dheas Tourist Board.


‘Bat Out of Dell’ was filled with epic hits including the title track, ‘You Hooked The Fish Right Out at the Creed Mouth’ and ‘Paradise By The Arnish Light’,  a duet with Eilean Foley. 

Steinishman and Peat Loaf continued to collaborate intermittently over the subsequent years, but they were cursed by bad timing. When Steinishman had songs handy, Peat Loaf would have lost his voice, or got the cuiream and be refusing to sing anything but psalms; When Peat Loaf was ready to work, Steinishman would be short of material because he’d just flogged his least ruppish  songs to one of his other artists. While several very successful albums emerged, including “Deaf Singer”, and of course “Bat Out of Dell 2 : Back Into Dell”, none of them attained the dizzy heights of the original.  Although come to think of it,  BOOD2:BID did have one outstanding track… ‘I Would Do Anything for Lochs (But I won’t do Pairc)’

As well as Peat Loaf, Steinishman wrote and produced for a wide range of other artistes over the years, with varying degrees of success. These included:  

Celine Geehonk: Steinishman gave Geehonk an island-wide hit with a song complaining about the noise all the animals on her croft were constantly making: ‘It’s All Coming Baahh To Meow’ 

Donnie Tyler – Steinishman worked with gravel-voiced Skigersta power ballad diva (and bathroom renovation specialist) Tyler in the early 80s, producing Tyler’s platinum-selling 1983 album ‘Plaster(field) than the Speed of Night’ in exchange for getting his downstairs toilet done in classy Pilkington Pink Watersplash. This partnership is best remembered for a  mega power ballad about trying to beat the record for attending every church in South Lochs over a Communion weekend: ‘Total Eaglais of the Pairc’.

The Dun Ringles (all their albums)

Aird Supply: The Rubach soft rockers had a hit with the knitwear themed  ‘Making Gloves Out of Nothing At All, At All, At All’

Def Leóbag : Steinishman was hired briefly to work on Leóbag’s 1985 ‘Hiort-steria’ album, but got the bròg for doing fleek all except ordering the entire menu in the Island Star for his tea every night and charging it to the band. He was replaced by the band’s preferred producer, Mutt Langabhat.

Barry Manorpark: Reached high in the charts with a cover of ‘Feed ‘Em and Sheep’ from the Deaf Singer album.

Despite the time he spent in the studio, Steinishman’s true passions were opera and musical theatre rather than rock ‘n’ roll, and he continued to write and produce musicals and stage shows throughout his career.

At one point West Side musical lechend  Arnol Leòid Weaver approached Steinishman to write the lyrics for ‘Phantom of the Opera House’ (which became a smash hit for the Stornoway Thespians – starring Michael Crawford as Bogie, Sarah Brightman as Ch*rsty Al*ne and a young John Barrowman as 3rd Urinal On The Left). Sadly Steinishman had to decline – he was busy producing “Holding Out For A Hearach” for Donnie Tyler, in exchange for getting his kitchen splashbacks done as a homer.

However Steinishman and Leòid Weaver did subsequently collaborate on “Gristle Down The Bone” which became a hit on Broadbay. The show provided a hit single for ageing teen popsters Bodachzone, who topped the local Seceder charts in 1998 with ‘No Matter What I Do (I’m Predestined for Eternal Damnation Anyway)’

Steinishman will be sadly missed, but let’s finish by all singing along to ‘Total Eaglais of the Pairc’. All together now!!!!

‘Once upon a time I was going to Kinloch

But now I’m only communing in Pairc

There’s none that I can’t do

The total eaglais of the Pairc

Once upon a time there was Laxay in my life

But now there’s only Cromore in the dark

Now that I can pray

At the total eaglais of the Pairc’

Leodhas Grazingsclark RIP (One of the coves from Electric Loom Orchestra in case you were wondering)

24 04 2021

Fans of 1970s classical/pop crossover music were saddened recently by the passing of Louis Clark, sometime keyboard player with Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) and also the man who arranged the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s lucrative and not-at-all-tacky-or-ruppish “Hooked on Classics” release in the early 80s.

Sadly and by a strange coincidence, his less successful island cousin, Leodhas Grazingsclark, passed away the same day. Leodhas was a member of the Electric Loom Orchestra, a popular local band whose career trajectory mirrored that of the Electric Light Orchestra in all respects apart from the fame, fortune and talent. 

Leodhas was a latecomer as a full member of the ELO, but played a pivotal role in creating the band’s distinctive style  by making every song sound like a Fiddlers’ Rally on drugs.

ELO sprang from the ashes of successful 60s band The Moor, after Trevor Burtonsshop and Carl”O”Wayne left. The Moor had had a string of hit singles  including ‘Goodbye Cacberry Way’, ‘Flowers In The Coulregrain’ and ‘I Can Hear The Cliasgro’. However, as the 60s came to an end, the band tired of pop stardom and decided they wanted to sound more avant garde and ‘left bank’, in line with the emerging prog rock scene.

Inspired by the string arrangements on Peatles songs like “Eleanor Rigsroad”, the remaining Moor members – Jeff Linshader, Roy Woodlandscentre and Bev Bothan – thought that it would be a good gimmick to bring the sound of a Fiddlers’ Rally to the band. Peatles producer George Martinsmemorial was known to be handy with a string quartet, but ELO couldn’t afford him, so they sought out the classically trained (and cheap) Leodhas Grazingsclerk instead, for his ideas on adding fiddles to the mix. The resulting sessions led to the idea of forming a new group all together, and so the Electric Loom Orchestra was born.

After the first ELO album Roy Woodlandscentre applied a whole tin of sheep marking paint to his face and jumped on the glam rock bandwagon. Leaving ELO, Woodlandcentre moved to Point and formed Wizz-Aird, enjoying a run of hit singles that included  ‘See My Bayble Jive’ and ‘I Wish It Could Be The Garrabost Communions Everyday’.

But despite Woodlancentre’s departure, ELO went from strength to strength through the 70s with classic hits such as:

10538 Bó Manure,

Mr Bru Sky,

Sweet Waulkin’ Woman,

Don’t Bring Me Down Town,

Xanadubh (with Olivia Newton Street),

Wild West Siarach,

Telegraph Pole,

Roll over Beethovansnahovanohh and

Hold On Tight (to your drams). 

Their hit albums included:

Galaxy Disco(very)

Feis The Music

A New World Free Church Monthly Record

Out of the Bru


After over a decade of success, ELO came to a halt in the late 1980’s as Linshader became tired of constant touring and the friction amongst the band members. 

Ever the diplomat, Leodhas Grazingsclark trod a fine line between the warring factions of ELO that emerged in the 90s and beyond. He worked with a number of the ELO splinter groups that started to do the rounds of the village halls, all featuring one or two (or a sometimes no) former members. These included: 

Free-lectric Loom Orchestra

Weefree-lectric Loom Orchestra

Free-lectric Loom Orchestra (Continuing)

High Free-lectric Loom Orchestra 

Associated Reformed Free-lectric Loom  Orchestra

Away from ELO and their various denominational schisms, Grazingsclark had a busy career in the world of classical music. In addition to being a highly respected orchestral arranger, he held for many years the prestigious post of Conductor of the Portnaguran bus.

While working with the elite but near penniless Rubhach Philharmonic Orchestra in the late 70s, Grazingsclark came up with a crafty scheme to save the  RPO from bankruptcy by releasing a  bunch of well known classical tunes over the driving beat of a waulking song. The album was called ‘Thug (am bàta hai-ù) on Classics’ and included tracks by the great composers such as:

  • Braighekovsky : Swannies Lake and The Nutclachan Suite.
  • Timsgarry-Korsakov : Flight of the BumbleBEA
  • Maw-zart : Aline Klein Nochdmusik
  • Greig : Pier Squint

Grazingsclark was also called in by Jeff Linshader to work on his highly successful supergroup project the Travelling Mayburys (featuring Bob Dòmhlannshop, George Harrishouse, Roy Orbmark and Tom Peat-y).

Bunabhainneader ‘Bunny’ Whaler

6 03 2021

While reggae fans across the globe mourn the passing of the legendary Bunny Wailer, we’re sad to report the recent demise of his Hearach cousin Bunabhainneadar ‘Bunny’ Whaler, a leading light in the Hebridean music and whaling scenes, and the last surviving member of Bob Marvig and the Whalers. 

Bunny Whaler was one of the first people to bring reggae music to the Outer Hebrides, and along with Bob Marvig and Peter Tawsesquarry, brought it to the attention of a wider audience (four people in the Neptune Public).

Bunny was first and foremost a whaler, sailing out of his native Bunabhainneadar to hunt for the great sea beasts in the waters off South Georgia, and to bring them back to the Whaling Station at the bottom of his croft in Harris.

It was a hard life shooting defenceless whales with a giant harpoon, and an equally hard journey getting to and from South Georgia. The successful Whalers used to look forward to stopping off in Jamaica on the way home in order to stock up on the different varieties of rum the island had to offer. It had come to a shock to these hardy seamen that there were more brands of rum than the Watson’s Trawler variety out there, and so on each trip they partook in lengthy pub crawls round Kingston to taste and try the different blends.

It was in these pubs that Bunny first discovered reggae music. The laid back beats and rhythmic pulse of the songs reminded him of a very slow Hattersley Loom, but also of psalms sung by a really bad precentor at an FP wake. He was immediately smitten and started writing reggae music. He cancelled his subscription with John the Barber and started to grow his hair long, into what became known as ‘dreadlochs’.

As well as reggae, several other local variants of Jamaican music took off in the Outer Hebrides in the 60s and 70s, including Rubhachsteady, Dannsarathaidhall, Dannsalaxdalehall and (Marag) Dub. 

There was also Organophosphate Dup, and numerous very local flavours of Ska: Ska(rista), Ska(liscro), Ska(lpay), Ska(ladale) and Ska(dan). (We’ll be covering the island’s late 70’s/early 80’s Ska and 2-Tòin revival in a future paper).

Along with Bunny and the legendary Bob Marvig, the other founder member of the Whalers was Peter Tawsesquarry.  Tawsesquarry sometimes went by the handle “Peat R Tosh”, in the hope that people might confuse him with a certain  more successful local musician and give him a solo gig in the Carlton.

In the late 60s Whaler and the rest of the band became devout followers of a local church that had been established in 1937, when the exiled Emperor Haile Selassie of Abyssinia visited Lewis for the carnival (and to see his auntie on Seaforth Road). 

While the Emperor was on the island, he was also invited by Stornoway Town Council to turn the first turf on the construction of their new housing scheme at Plasterfield, and the spot where the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah  performed the ceremony (just next to the bins at the side of the Blackhouse Bakery) soon became the holy centre of the new religion of Plastafarianism.

Whaler, Marvig and Tawsesquarry became Plastas in the hope of bringing love, peace and unity to the world, but sadly Peter Tawsesquarry broke away and joined the Free Plastafarians (Continuing) after an argument about the right length of funny cigarette that elders had to smoke on the Friday of the Tolsta òrduighean.

Bunny also eventually left Bob in the early 70’s (although his name lived on in the band name), but not before building the foundations of a successful genre of music. Bob Marvig capitalised on this and had huge success (6 copies sold in DD Morrison’s) with hits such as:

  • Stir It Tup
  • Three Little Bàrds
  • No Woman, No Bràighe
  • I Shot The Siarach
  • Duffalo Soldier
  • (No) Redemption Song
  • We’re Lambing (Hope you like lambing too)
  • Churchy Reggae Party
  • Could Ewe be Loved?

… and a string of international smash albums (3 copies sold in MacIver & Dart and 1 in Woolie’s) including:

  • Bayble By Bus
  • Exoduff
  • Catch a Byre 
  • Tattie Dread

Although he missed out on some of the Whalers’ later success, Bunny made up for it in his solo career, releasing critically acclaimed solo debut “Bleigeard Man” in 1976, and recording loads of lucrative Bob Marvig tribute albums after his former bandmate had died. 

Bunny also made a show-stealing appearance in the film “Bayble On Fire”, a documentary about the world-beating Point peat cutting team of the 1970s. 

In a long and varied musical career Bunny worked with most of the big names on the Outer Hebridean reggae scene, including Maroots & the Maw-tals, Uisteach-Roy, Lee ‘Sgrathail’ Ferry and the great Sly Dunberisay and Robbie Sulasgeir.

Mairi Woolson & Goathilton Valtostine RIP

20 02 2021

Fans of 60s soul and beat music across the world mourned the passing recently of Supremes vocalist Mary Wilson (the blone who didn’t have quite as many fights with Diana Ross as the other one) and Animals guitarist Hilton Valentine – whose much-copied intro to  “House of The Rising Sun” is said to have inspired Bob Dylan to go electric. 

By a strange coincidence both Wilson and Valentine had Stornoway cousins who passed away at around the same time, and who were also involved in the music industry (albeit on a slightly more local level). To ensure they’re not forgotten in the rush to pay tribute to their relatives from Away, we have prepared this small celebration of their lives and careers.

Màiri Woolson

Màiri Woolson was one of the founding members of The Sùgh-premes along with Diana RossandCromartyCountyCouncil and Florence Balallan. The trio originally came together to take part in the 1962 National Mod in Kinlochbervie, as the ‘Nicolson Institute Girls’ Choir (Continuing)’ after having been thrown out of the Nicolson Institutes Girls’ Choir for ‘inappropriate and suggestive harmonies, not becoming of a young lady’. 

Their Gaelic cover version of Bludy Holy’s ‘Peigi Sùgh’’ created a stir with the judges,  but they were sadly disqualified due to wearing provocative tartan miniskirts (only 4 inches below the knee). Incidentally, their choice of song at the Mod also gave them the idea for their name.

Normally, disqualification from the National Mod meant you had to emigrate to Glasgow and change your name. But for the three blones all was not lost. Their performance had been noted by Berisay Gordy, the owner of ‘Tormod Mawtown Records’, and he was quick to sign the girls up to a multi song deal. 

Backed by Mawtown’s regular c(r)ack session musicians The Fank Brothers, the girls recorded hit after hit and eventually became the most successful blone group of all time until Bunavonanarama.

There was always tension within the group and a big rivalry with all the other 60s blone groups like Martha and the Fishvandellas, the Velvetcrabettes, The Rubha-nets, the Siarachelles, The Marviglettes, The WeeFree Degrees…. But the Sùgh-premes beat them all with a string of hits like:

  • You Sheep Mehhh Hanging On
  • You Can’t Hearach Leodhas
  • Where Did Our Cove Go
  • Stop! In the Name of Liòbags
  • Stoneyfield Love

Despite their success, life in the band was difficult, with constant feuding between demanding diva RossandCromartyCountyCouncil and inveterate poacher Ballallan, and Woolson was usually caught in the middle. Balallan would often miss a gig if the moon wasn’t out and she’d got word that the watchers were in town on a bender, while RossAndCromaryCountyCouncil insisted on top billing, the biggest dressing room and first swig of the band bottle of 4 Crown every night. 

Luckily Diana RossandCromartyCountyCouncil left the band in the early 1970s due to local government reorganisation, so things calmed down a bit after that.

After leaving the Sùgh-premes herself in the late 70s, Woolson maintained a successful solo career, with numerous residencies in the swish casinos and resorts of Lax Vegas, and on the luxury cruise liner circuit (she was often found singing in the bar on the Suilven). When not working, Woolson indulged in her favourite hobby of suing her former management, record company and bandmates. 

You Sheep Mehhh Hanging On

‘Shear my fleece why don’t you babe

Get out your deamhais why don’t you babe

Cos you don’t really shear me

You just keep some hanging on

Why are your sheep a-running round

Praying at the Auction Mart

Why don’t you get me out and save my life

And let my wool knit a brand new sgiort

Let me get udder ewe

The way you’ve gotten over mehhh’ 

Goathilton Valtostine

Goathilton Valtostine was the lead guitarist in the Arnolmals, a popular West Side peat combo who formed in the early 60s, and made their name as the house band at legendary  Skigersta nightspot the Club A Guga. 

Valtostine was joined in the band by Eric Brudonniemurdo (on precenting), Ballan “Truiseal” Price (on Tha Mòd Accordion), notoriously incontinent drummer John Steall, and the great Chas “Morrison&sons” Chandler (on bass). 

Chandler, of course, went on to manage Jimi Hendrix, Slade and the ironmongery department on Bank Street.

The Arnolmals had gained a loyal fanbase on the Taobh Siar, but leapt to island-wide fame (and the top of the charts) with their soulful version of an old D**gl*s Leadbelly song, ‘MissionHouse of the Rising Sun(day)’. The famously egotistical Price later claimed that the group’s unique arrangement of the song was all his work, but the rest of the band have always been unanimous in maintaining that: 

  1. Price was a geehonk that they only ever let into the band because he had his own accordion.
  2. He was talking fleekeen ruppish, and 
  3. It was Valtostine’s much-imitated guitar intro that really made the song.

The band allegedly got their name because they were a bunch of ugly bleigeards, so it came as a shock to Eric Brudonniemurdo when – one night during a tour of Point in 1963 – it was announced that he had won first prize in a local beauty contest because nobody else had  had turned up. A mortified Brudonniemurdo told the organising committee to fleek off, the band fled the venue and, on the way back across the Barvas Moor, Burdonniemurdo and Valtostine wrote their next hit: “Dont Let Me Be Miss Ionad Stoodie”.

Another big success was ‘We Gotta Get Outta Assaye Place’ (about Stornoway’s first cul-de-sac confusing lost maws). This song’s popularity was boosted when it became an unofficial anthem for conscripts drafted to fight in the Viet Ram war between North and South Lochs. 

One day in July 1964, famous Hearach folk singer Robert Zimmermanish (aka Bob Dòmhnallan) was listening to Isles AM and was awestruck by Valtostine’s guitar on “MissionHouse of the Rising Sun(day)’. It is said that Bob vowed there and then to go electric. But unfortunately there was no electricity for him to go electric with, and he had to wait another year or two before the Hydro poles reached his house. Luckily he was able to pass the time by writing ‘Blowing On The Wind Turbine’.

Suilven Suilven RIP

24 01 2021

Only a week after the 5th anniversary of David Bowie’s demise, fans of 70s glam rock were saddened by the passing of Sylvain Sylvain, guitarist in the massively influential New York Dolls, the band who scandalised the Big Apple in the early 1970s and bridged the gap between glam and punk.

More locally, island glamb rock fans were also in mourning, following the death the same day of Sylvain’s cousin from Tong… 

Suilven Suilven made his name in the early 70s as rhythm guitarist with the New York Dollags, a band of notorious rock ‘n’ roll degenerates who regularly played the Drill Hall and the YM dressed unapologetically in ladies’ clothes – beannags, flowery aprons and glittery nylon overalls. 

The band were originally called the “New York Dòmhnalls” and were secretly sponsored by Tong property developer Donald Chon Trump, who wanted to make sure nobody back home forgot about him. 

Donald Chon promised the band he’d broker a promotional deal with exclusive Stornoway gentlemen’s outfitters Mackenzie & Macsween, so that they could kit themselves out for free with cool stage threads from proprietor Ailig Mhurchadh Nèill’s cutting edge collection. Due to an administrative error at Trump Tower, however, the deal was struck with the Cailleachswear Department at Nazir Bros’ Church Street boutique instead. 

Determined to make the most of any  freebie that came their way, the band ran riot in Nazir’s, loading up on communion hats, support tights, goot solid tweed skyurts of a modest length and plenty of these wee boots with the zip up the front and the fake fur round the top. Next, they went round to Kenny Froggan’s to get lipstick, but got told to fleek off because they were coves. Undeterred, their next stop was the Crofters’, where they got round the lipstick embargo by purchasing a reasonably priced tin of red sheep marker. From that day on, the “Dòmhnalls” were the “Dollags” and there was no going back.

In the late 60s, before forming the band, Suilven himself had been in the fashion business, running a clothing business with former school pals Billy Ma-shiar and Shonny Thundertakers. Their company made tweed chackets specially tailored for fashion conscious drinkers and poachers in the Keose, Laxay and Balallan area. With extra big pockets for concealing bottles of Cream o’ the Barley or a Salmon or two, “Drouth & Soval’s” fab gear was hugely popular with the stylish 60s mod-about-the-moor. 

But music won out over fashion and the three friends formed the Dollags in 1971. With Suilven on guitar and attitude, Thundertakers on lead guitar and spaced out wistfulness and the exotic “Colombian”(*) Ma-shiar on drums and loom pedal, they were soon joined by David JoeBlacksen on vocals and Arthur ‘Killer’ Kraigdunane on the bass. Jerry Dolansshop later replaced original drummer Billy Ma-shiar, who sadly died of a herring overdose in 1972.

(*) “Born and bred in ‘Colombia’ Place, cove”

The Dollags didn’t get on the telly much due to their being highly controversial (and ruppish), but there was one legendary appearance on BBC Alba’s flagship “serious” rock programme “‘Se Ur Beatha” in 1972. After the Dollags blow everyone away with a scorching performance of “Chet Cove”, uncomprehending soft rock hippie presenter Whispering Bobban Harristweed, turns to camera and from behind his dodgy 70s biology teacher beard, sneers: “Maw-k rock”.

The Dollag’s 1st album ‘New York Dollags’ was produced by Toddsmill Rundgren and packed with classics such as:

  • Percevalsquaretoilet Crisis
  • Freepresbyterianese Baby
  • Fankensteinish
  • Lookin’ For a Keose
  • Lonely Planasker Boy

Despite critical acclaim (someone in the queue for the Ness bus said it was ‘No bad’), it hardly dented the Isles FM album charts.

Their second album, ‘Too Mulch Too Soon’ came out in 1974 and was produced by Shadow Northton. It fared marginally better in the charts, but went on to become a cult classic, beloved by hardcore SY punk bands like The Rong, The Subjects, BWB and Addo.

However, by the mid 70s the Dollags were being overtaken by the aforementioned SY Punk scene which was centred on low-life nightclub APCBFPGB’s, and went into a downward spiral due to their enormous drink and drug intake. In a last-ditch attempt to revive their career, they let themselves be managed by Malcolm Mawclaren. As he would later do with the Seggs Pistols, Mawclaren  sought to boost the band’s profile by stirring up as much controversy as possible, dressing them up in red boiler suits, holding press conferences where they swore allegiance to the communist regime of Point, and having them play before a giant red hammer and tairsgear flag. (While it may have been mere posturing, it was allegedly all done with their sponsor Domhall-Iain’s blessing, so it might have been for real…)

Despite never hitting the big time themselves, the Dollags influenced countless rock groups that followed, such as Alice Crùbag, the Seggs Pistols, Ciste, the Rawblones, Guns ‘N’ Keoses, Hanoi Rubhachs, Motley Crüach, The Damped, and especially 80’s indie legends The RoddySmiths, whose frontman Mawrissey was boss of their fanclub before becoming a world famous geehonk. Indeed it was Mawrissey who organized a reunion show for the band’s’ surviving members in 2004.

This prompted a comeback album in 2005 called ‘One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even The Lewis (Public)’ and a number of appearances at festivals (Sandwick Fank, Carloway Communions and one night down at the pier waiting for the ferry to come in).

Suilven and his bandmates might not have been commercially successful, but they undoubtedly help shaped popular Leodhasach culture (even it was inadvertently just cailleachs’ fashions).

Sean CanneryRoad and Des O’Canneryroad

5 12 2020

Coves and blones from the Battery area of Stornoway have been in mourning recently following the deaths of two of their favourite sons. The film world lost Sir Sean Canneryroad, one of the icons of modren day Gaelic cinema. And the world of light entertainment (or at least sh*te entertainment) lost the great Des O’Canneryroad, veteran BBC Alba presenter and ruppish singer. 


Sean had a rag to riches story, starting out as a humble milkman for the Teedees, delivering milk, cream and crowdie around the streets of Newton. He gained a love of acting whilst playing third tree from the left in the Stornoway Thespians’ 1949 Christmas Pantomime (“Put’s In Boots” – sponsored by Sm*th’s Shoe Shop). This led to a number of minor and supporting roles in the Gaelic film world until he had his big break in the role of a suave special agent of the Harris Tweed Authority – Seumas Bonnaid – code name Obhobh7 .   

Bond Films

Dr Obh:  The first appearance of Canneryroad on screen as Seumas Bonnaid was him sitting in a bothan playing five hand brag, whilst smoking a roll-up. A glamorous blone loses all her money, but, gallantly, Bonnaid offers to cover her loss. She asks who he is, and he says one of the most memorable lines in film history ‘Is mise Bonnaid, Seumas Bonnaid’.

Dr Obh set the template for all Bonnaid films. Basically they all consisted of Bonnaid trying to foil a dodgy super-villain in a variety of exotic locations, whilst getting lots of snogs with blones (which was considered a bit racy in the early 1960’s Gaelic TV world)

From Russia With Liù:  Bonnaid foils a Russian plot for a fleet of klondykers to take over the Minch fisheries.

Goldfanker: In the third film of the series, Bonnaid foils Auric Goldfanker. This super-villain particularly loves the gold hues seen in Harris Tweed outfits, and tries to contaminate all the gold dye in the Harris Tweed Authority’s yard at Fort Knocks by exploding an atom bomb.  Goldfanker, so that the HTA has to use his dye instead.  Goldfanker also featured the iconic Aston-Massey tractor with the ejector seat. Honor Backman played Bonnaid’s memorable leading lady Piseag Gu Leòr, who saw the error of her ways and helped Bonnaid put an end to Goldfanker’s nefarious plans.


Kinloch-based international crime syndicate SPECTRE (Salmon Poaching in Erisort, Creed, Tolsta, Ranish and Everywhere Else) steal 2 atom bombs from a visiting RAF Vulcan at Stornoway airport and plan to detonate them in the Laxay river at the height of the bradan season to get a fleekeen massive haul of fish. Seumas Bonnaid has to go undercover to the glamorous tropical paradise of the Balallanahamas to foil their evil scheme.

You Only Loom Twice: The mysterious disappearance of an American loom is closely followed by a Russian Hatersleyski going missing. Could this lead to all out war? Only Bonnaid is man enough to foil the evil Ernst Stavros Blonefelt (?) by blowing up his secret lair in a handy volcanic island in the Sound of Harris.

Diamonds are For Heather: This was meant to be Canneryroad’s last Bonnaid film. He foils Blonefeld yet again by blowing up his Drillmaster oil rig at Arnish.

Never Say Nabher Again: Years later, Canneryroad was lured back to do one last Bonnaid film. This was basically a rerun of Thunderballallan, featuring a slightly older and fatter Bonnaid.  

Other Memorable Films

The Unchurchables: Academy Award for worst fake Irish accent

Haoidhlander: Canneryroad played an immortal Spanish Man with a Stornowegian accent. ‘There can be only aon’

The Longest Dé: The BBC Alba version of the famous war film. Due to the limitations of budget it was filmed at the Braighe.

Zardars: Bizarre sci-fi about a future dystopia largely set in a Cromwell St shop.

Murder on the Orinsay Express: 

The Man Who Would be King Cole:

A Bridge Cottages Too Far:

Tigh Bandits:

The Name of the RossTerrace:

Ina Jones and the last Crew Change:

The Hunt for Rubhach October:


Light Entertainment on BBC Alba was big business from the 1950’s to the mid 80’s. The tv schedule was full of entertainers who could do a few Gaelic songs, dance a few reels around the studio and tell a handful of mildly smutty jokes (usually dressed in full Highland rig out). 

Most of these showbiz types had worked their way up, either from the village hall circuit, or doing a stint as a ‘Redcoat’ at one of the many post war Holiday Camps. 

Des O’Canneryroad got his first big break as a Redcoat in Butt(ofNess)lin’s Holiday Camp on Sulasgeir. Despite only having guests staying at the camp for two weeks each year, Des made a big impression and was soon performing across Lewis. His family friendly persona endeared him to tens of people and he was soon approached by BBC Alba to host his own show.  

Des had several song and dance shows over the years, and when light entertainment started to lose its appeal, he turned to being a chat show host. ‘Des O’Canneryroad Tonight’ ran for 40 years and he managed to have everyone from Lewis on as a guest at one time or another. The episode with Bogey and his Hen Supper was particularly memorable. 

Des is also well remembered for his appearances on the ‘Achmorecamb and Nowuise Show’ where he was the butt of comedians Eric and Ernie’s many jokes. Despite the on-screen tensions, in reality they hated each other’s guts even more, due to a dispute over a boundary fence.. 

Des was also briefly a host on he popular afternoon ‘anagram and sums’ tv show ‘CountyPublicdown’. Contestants had to watch a Kenneth Street CCTV recording from the previous Sunday Night and see how many church elders they could spot ducking in the slightly ajar side door of the County Hotel for a wee post-sermon nyoggan. Bonus points were awarded for being able to work out the elders’ nicknames from the anagrams supplied by Des and his lovely co-host Carol Vòrduighean.