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.

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.

Lax Vegas: Gambling Capital of the Outer Hebrides

26 09 2020

In a change from our recent run of celebrity obituaries, here’s a bit of proper (made up) history.

In the 1930s, when the Stornoway Waterworks were being constructed and the town itself was in the grip of prohibition, unscrupulous Laxdale  ‘businessmen’ Alasdair Capon, Bugsy Seagull and Meyerybank Lansky decided to cash in on the workers’ appetite for drink, gambling and other vices.

Fortunately for the conniving maw-bsters, everything West of Bridge Cottages and East of Barvas lay in the desert state of Nev-àiridh, outside the jurisdiction of Stornoway Town Council. Nev-àiridh had very lax licensing laws and civic leaders were not opposed to the odd backhander (often in the form of a snèap or two, since the Governor and many members of the State Senate were sheep).

And so, shortly after a large brown envelope stuffed with pound notes mysteriously appeared in the inside pocket of a certain village elder’s church suit, a small casino appeared just past the track to the Waterworks. This first casino was called the ‘El Crofto Vegas’ and within days of opening had attracted clientele from as far away as the Tong junction.  

Very soon, the maw-bsters had taken a stretch of the main Sy-Barvas road (at this time a twisty single track with passing places) and turned it into a Leodhasach version of Nevada’s ‘Las Vegas Strip’, known locally as the Lax Vegas Staran. Dress code was strictly black bow ties and evening boiler suits.

Inspired by the huge ‘Welcome To Las Vegas’ neon sign over in the States, an equally impressive ‘Welcome to Lax Vegas’ sign was erected on a fence just past the Waterboard Houses. This sign was paraffin powered and only worked if it wasn’t raining. And unfortunately the letters kept falling off and being rearranged ‘Fawlty Towers’ style by wee bleigards. The sign said ‘All Ex Maw Goes, Cove’ for many years and ironically it was mostly ex country folk, now living in suburbia who frequented the casinos.

Over the years many Casinos appeared on the Strip, all making a lucrative return on the pack of playing cards purchased from Paddy Reid’s. The Casinos included: 

  • D*nnie Caesar’s Palace
  • The Lochmóranstàirr-dust
  • The Desert Sin
  • El Crofto Vegas
  • The Moorage
  • ExCalanBow
  • The Dounes
  • The TongSands
  • Planet Holy-Mood

The Casinos were run along similar lines to the nearby fanks on the Barvas moor. According to Bugsy Seagull this made a great deal of sense because “Them  suckers dat comes in here is just like a flock of mehhhags, see? They likes ‘gambolling’ and we likes to fleece ’em”.

To this end the Casinos of Lax Vegas  provided a variety of games designed to part the punters from their hard earned cash:

  • Rubha-lette – The big prize in this game was a fortnight’s holiday in Portnaguran (nobody ever admitted to winning this)
  • Stud Broker – Another game where all you could win was a trip to Point
  • 5 Cearc Brag (see how many hens you could explode in 5 minutes)
  • Backjack and Blackhousejack
  • The Gu-Sealladh-Ni-Math-Orm Bandits (Holy slot machines, where 3 pictures of a minister of the same denomination resulted in a cash prize big enough to form a splinter group and build your own church). 
  • A Craps Table was also provided but this was removed very swiftly when it became apparent that patrons didn’t fully understand its purpose

To keep the punters coming, the maw-bsters laid on cheap food, drink and spectacular entertainment. Many great showbiz figures who had grown tired of life on the road (the endless 3am drives from the YM to Shawbost hall to Ness and back, the cramped confines of the tour tractor) were tempted to play long-term  residencies in Lax Vegas so that their public could come to them. And those who displayed reluctance when asked were usually ‘persuaded’ by the mysterious appearance of a sheep’s head under their pillow (and a nice plate of brot ceann caorach for breakfast to help them get over the shock).

These showbiz legends included:

  • Fank Sinatra
  • Tomair Jones, (the boy from the Balallan Valleys)
  • Barbara Steinishquicksand
  • Leóbag-Archie (the flamboyant Tong fish salesman and piano accordionist, who always played with an elaborate silver cruisgean on top of his box)
  • Psalmmy Davis Jr
  • Dean MartinsMemorial
  • Elvis Presbyterian (following on from the success of his legendary ‘Communion Back Special’, Elvis became a regular performer on ‘the Strip’) 
  • Celine Geehonk (Famed for her hit ‘My Cearc Will Go On’)
  • Calum Kennedy
  • Costello

For reasons we can’t be bothered making up, Lax Vegas was also popular with several recently deceased celebrities who we haven’t got round to writing obituaries for. These included reggae pioneer Toots Habost from Toots and the Maw-tals, and multi-instrumental genius Ronald Bellsroad from chazz fank megastars Kool and the Grein. And of course the late Dame Diana Rigsroad, whose theatre work in the West Side meant she was often on the Barvas road, never went past the Lax Vegas road end without nipping into the Moor-age casino for a quick game of 2s and 8s.

Lax Vegas’s fortunes began to wane when the Turf Accountant’s premises opened in downtown Stornoway, and the city fell into disuse entirely in the early 1980s when the wagon wheel that had been the centrepiece of the roulette table in The Dounes was requisitioned for the Church Bus. 

But not to worry, ‘having a flutter’ was still catered for by the other well known, albeit slightly posher, home of casinos, Monty Carloway/Mawnaco. But that’s for another story. 

Today, nothing remains of Lax Vegas but a bit of old railway out on the moor. This is mistakenly thought to have been something or other to do with the Waterworks, or even Lord Leverhulme, but actually it’s all that’s left of one of Lax Vegas’s premier thrill rides. With steep drops, loop-the-loops and a double corkscrew, the world-famous death-defying Caoran Blaster was in its day, one of the most exciting combined roller coaster and peat transport systems on the planet.

Peater Grianan RIP

11 08 2020

Fans of classic rock and the British blues boom of the 60s are in mourning (again), this time following the death of guitar legend Peter Green, founder of Fleetwood Mac. 

Sadly the passing of his only slightly less famous Stornoway cousin the same day went largely unremarked by the world’s music press, and we feel it is our duty to set the record straight.

Peat-er Grianan was born Peat-er Arnol Grianandaycarecentre in 1946 in one of the last blackhouses in Manor Park, next to the old Poor House.

Grianan’s first bands in the early 60s were inspired by his West Side instrumental heroes The Shaders, fronted by bespectacled Stratocaster twang merchant (and plumbing contractor) Fank Marvin.  

Like so many would-be guitarists in the early 1960’s, Grianan saw the Shaders performing (with or without Clibhe Richards) many times at village dances, orduigheans and wakes, and he wanted to get a taste of this fame and fortune. But although he was originally tempted by the pop tunes such as “Apartshareinthegrazings”, “Wonderfuel Lamp”, and “Orduigh-On” (and with “Livin’ Dolina”, and “Souming Holiday” with Clibhe), he was soon smitten by the sound of Rhythm and Brues.

Brues artists such as Howlin’ Wool, John Lee Guga, Dalmore James and Murdy Waters were never off his turntable, and B.B. KingCole became his major guitar  influence.

Despite his talents, Grianan had little success as he worked his way through a series of mid 60s peat groups (The Mawrats, The Tridenseasfleeks,  Peter Squeek’s Looners,  Shotgun Kitchenpress). This was all to change in 1966, when he was approached by John Mayallabost’s Bruesbreakers. The Bruesbreakers were looking for a replacement for Eric “God” Clachan, who’d got the cuiream and left to go in for the ministry.

The Bruesbreakers provided an excellent showcase for Grianan’s talents, and in 1967 he got big-headed and fleeked off to form his own band, poaching Bruesbreakers drummer Mick Fleekwood. Fleekwood and Grianan were joined by a new island resident, recently arrived from England, whose Highland Board-funded vegan alpaca-dung pottery in Breasclete had gone bust the day after it opened – slide guitarist Jeremy Settler.

It wasn’t long before “Peter Griannan’s Fleetwood Bac featuring Jeremy Settler” decided their name was a bit of a mouthful and they’d better shorten it. This began a series of name changes that continues to the present day, including:

Fleetwood Cac

Fleetwood MacsImperialbar

Fleetwood Bac

Fleetwood Cal-Mac

Fleetwood Trawlerpoachinginbroadbaythatranagroundin Back

Whatever their name was on a given day, the band enjoyed great success between 1967 and 1970 with Grianan’s songwriting and guitar playing to the fore. Grianan’s period with the band resulted in several critically acclaimed albums including “Minister Wonderfulpreacher” and “Then Pray On”, and a host of classic songs including:

(BBC) Alba-tross

Back Magic Woman

Oh Dell

I Coinneach Gobha Blind

The Green Maraglishi (With the two Four Crowns)

Maw of the World

In 1970, after several years of heavy LDOS ingestion and increasingly holy behaviour, Grianan visited a communion service in Guershader, got the cuiream and left the band to form the Peter Grianan Splinter Group (Continuing).

He was just in time to miss out on the massive run of success that Fleekwood Cac experienced in the 70s and 80s, when they moved to the palm-fringed boulevards of the West Side and reinvented themselves as soft rock superstars in Callanishfornia. Members of the later lineups such as Stevie Nickolsonroad,  John McFree, Lindsay Buckiefishvanne and Christine McFree (formerly Christine Presbyterian) made vast amounts of money with albums such as “Rubha-mursht”, “Trosg” and “Tong-go In The Night” selling up to teens and even twenties of copies. 

The post-Grianan band also made loads of money when their songs were used as the theme music for BBC Alba’s long running tractor-racing show “Grand Peats” (“The ChainedupswingsonSunday”, usually half drowned out by the sound of Murdy Waulker shouting and hundreds of  Fordsons and Masseys revving up at the Grimshader road end) and in Angus Clinton’s 1992 Presidential Campaign (“Don’t An T’Ob Thinking About Taobh Tuath”).

But on the upside, Grianan didn’t have to put up with the constant breakups, line-up changes, power struggles, divorces, court cases and arguments about croft boundaries that characterised Fleekwood Cac in these later years.

When he wasn’t hiding in his àiridh out the Pentland Road or relief preaching in Raasay, Grianan kept busy with various musical projects up to the end. Cameo appearances on later Fleekwood Cac albums, the occasional gig with the Splinter Group, trips to Craig Dunain and guest appearances on Caithris na h-Oidche, Brag and Rapal meant he was never at a loose end.

Engie-o Morrisone RIP (and the 35th Anniversary of Back To The Future).

25 07 2020

We’re sad to report the recent passing of the well regarded local composer (and Mòd Conductor) Engie-o Morrisone. News of his demise came just moments after we heard that his slightly more famous distant cousin Ennio Morricione had also died. 

Engie-o Morrisone,was of Ness-Italian descent and spent much of his early life working in the local Italian Cafe, ‘The Coffee Butt’,  where he used to sing as he washed the dishes and served guga lasagna . He was a naturally gifted musician and could knock up a good tune on the box in a couple of minutes. He first came to fame when his old school friend, the Niseach auteur Sergio Liònal, asked him to do the soundtrack for a few films he’d been commissioned to make.  

These films became hugely popular and defined a whole genre, called:  Sgadanghetti Westrens:

They all stared Clint Eaststreet, (who’d learned to play a cowboy as Raodan-y Gates in BBC Alba’s long-running TV Westren  “Mawhide”). And they were all supposedly set in the desert badlands of the Mexican/American border, which meant that filming them on the moor between Skigersta and Tolsta was ideal.

As well as Eaststreet’s iconic lead character, the thing that made the movies stand out was Morrisone’s haunting score. Who can forget the chanter and accordion call and response of ‘The Guga, The Baaah and the Eaglais’?

This film was followed up by ‘A Ciste Full of Dollags’ and ‘For a Few Dollags More’. Hot on the heels of Liònal’s success, a plethora of other Leodhasach directors started cashing in by making a whole pile of hastily assembled rip-offs. The trademark violence, unconvincing cowboy props, and the shoddy overdubbing of the original Gaelic dialogue into Stoarnowegian for the Townies, all led critics of the day to dismiss this genre as  ‘Sgadanghetti Westrens.’ 

But by this time Morrisone had moved on to non Westrens, including: 

  • Cinema Para(galaxy)disco
  • The Unchurchables
  • The Mission(house)
  • Mission to Marabhaig
  • In the Lithe of Fire
  • Once Upon A Time On The West Side
  • Thon Thing

Morrisone won an Ossian in 2015 for the soundtrack of Quentin Todharantino’s “Hateful Eightsomereel”.

Morrisone also collaborated with the Peat Shop Boys on 1987’s “It Couldn’t Habba Here”.

Baah to the Fuidheags:

It’s an unbelievable 35 years since the groundbreaking time travel romp ‘Back to the Future’ hit cinemas. The film has gone on to be hailed as one of the classic films of the 1980’s, and has brought a collection of quotes, memes and fond reminiscence into popular culture. 

However, it is a little known fact that the original film was actually made in Gaelic by BBC Alba.

The BBC Alba version of the film, ‘Baah to the Fuidheags’, directed by Robert ShellMekis, starred Michael J Flocks as teenager Auctionmarty MacSteinish, a typical Stornoway teen (and part time crofter/weaver) living in 1985 Lewis. 

Auctionmarty inadvertently finds himself transported from his mid-eighties life, back 30 years to 1955, where in a bizarre coincidence he meets his future ma and da (Seoras and CoulregLorraine) and has to ensure that they fall in love or he won’t exist in the future. Or something like that.

Auctionmarty has to find a way ‘Back To the Fuidheags’ so he doesn’t miss the next pick up from Sticky’s Mill. And he can’t do anything that might alter the stream of time.

So how the fleek did he get transported back in time? Well, Christopher Leodhas plays the part of Doc-an Brown, a lecturer/mad scientist at Lews Castle College, and friend of Auctionmarty’s, who invents a time traveling ‘Dé làraidh a th’ann’ (with gull winged tipper) powered by Peatonium he stole from Luerbostyan terrorists. 

Doc-an was planning on doing all the timetravelling, but instead Auctionmarty finds himself getting a first hand taste of Stornoway in 1955 (which was basically exactly the same as Stornoway in 1985 apart from Woolies having a different sign).

He searches out the 1955 Doc-an Brown and together they concoct a complicated and convoluted plan to get Auctionmarty back home, involving a bolt of lightning, the Town Hall clock, speeding along South Beach, getting his parents to fall in love and saving 1985 Doc-an’s life. Pretty much your average episode of Machair. 

Auctionmarty still has time to deal with the school bully, do a bit of plasterboarding (which was replaced by skateboarding in the English-language version) and play lead accordion at the Niccy School dance (stunning the audience by introducing them to what will become ‘deoch n roll’). 

The Gaelic original version featured a memorable theme song (whose name we forget) played by ‘Holy Leodhas and the Pews’.

Dame Vera Linshader & Sir Iain Holm RIP

27 06 2020

The recent passing of national treasures Dame Vera Lynn and Sir Ian Holm has sadly overshadowed the demise of their island cousins, 2 figures who were as famous in this far flung corner of the Empire as their mainland relatives were in the rest of it.

Dame Vera Linshader is fondly remembered by old SYs (and maws), particularly for her contribution to keeping up island morale during World War II.

Dame Vera was born in the Battery in 1917 and took up singing at an early age. By the mid 30s she was enjoying great success singing at the Okey-dokey Club with top bandleader Joe Lochs and His Orchestra. 

By day she worked on the cold meats in Hugh Matheson’s and, when the war came, she’d alway sneak an extra off-ration slice of spam under the counter if a soldier, sailor or airman came in. So it was that Dame Vera became known as the Forsyth’s Sweetheart.

Her mainland cousin Vera Lynn’s big hit “We’ll Meet Again” was a smash down South, but didn’t do that well on this side of the Minch. Knowing how vital the Outer Hebrides were to the war effort, the Ministry of Information hired the Leodhasach Dame Vera to re-record a version that would appeal more directly to islanders, whether they were away fighting Adolf or serving on the home front. 

In the end – to cater for the different tastes of Maws, sgorps and townies – Dame Vera recorded several versions, including:

‘Creel Peats Again’ (encouraging islanders to take their winter fuel home by traditional  methods instead of wasting vital wartime kerosene getting the tractor)

‘Weave Miteagan’ (persuading cailleachs on the home front to make gloves for the troops during the cold phoney war winter of 1939/40)

‘Fill Iteag-ans’ (exhorting children to increase tweed productivity)

‘Eel Meat Again’ (promoting the benefits of readily available local fish)

‘We’ll Eat A Hen (But not until the war has en…ded)’ which was a song of yearning for the post war years and the lifting of rationing.

She was also all set to record “Whale Meat Again” but was beaten to it by ex-TrafficWarden drummer and local priest Father Capaldi, who recorded a version with an all star cast of his top musician pals including Steve Winwool and Sheepbop Kwaku Baah 

Of course, Dame Vera’s repertoire wasn’t completely limited to versions of “We’ll Meet Again”.  There were numerous other wartime hits – often reminding homesick  SYs abroad about the great landmarks of home – including:

‘There’ll Always Be An Engie’s’

‘A Nightingale Sang In Barony Square’

And sometimes chust complaining about how small and ruppish said landmarks were…

‘The Sh*te Cliffs of Sober (Island)’

Within a few days of Dame Vera’s demise there also came the news that the great Stornoway thespian Sir Iain Holm had trodden his last board.

Often confused with his successful mainland relation, the actorrrr Sir Ian Holm (pronounced ‘Home’, for some reason), the Leodhasach Sir Iain Holm (pronounced Holl-imm) was actually from Holm, and knew how to say his own fleekeen name. 

Indeed, that was the only way most showbiz insiders could tell them apart. Well, that and the fact that the mainland Sir Ian had loads more money and a proper career.

Originally an acclaimed theatrical actor and a favourite of Rubhach playwright Harold Pointer, Holm switched to film and TV after suffering a major attack of stagefright during a prestigious production of ‘The Uicemetery-man Cometh’  in Knock school canteen.

Sir Iain endeared himself to Sci-Fi fans for ever, when he played the part of AshCart in Ridley Scottroad’s blockbuster ‘Aline’. At first, a helpful Science officer, AshCart was  then revealed to be an android, hidden in the crew of the Galacdonian Macbrayne space ferry ‘Loch Nesstromo’  by the dodgy Stornoweyland Corporation. 

He was also good as Parkend’s head gelly-building coach in Chariots of Tyres, which won him a BAFTA (Battery-Gang Academy For Tyre Arson).

For most modern audiences, however, he was best known as the well-shod Hearach halfling Bilbo Bachalls who receives one of the Pennies of Power in Peter Cacson’s Lord of the Wings trilogy (from the books by JRR Tolsta). Holm’s portrayal of the diminutive Obbe-it was one of many fine performances in the trilogy, which also featured veteran actor Christopher Leac-a-Lì as the evil wizard Sarumanky and Iain MawKellan as the good Niseach wizard Gannetdalf.

Glamb Rocker Steve Presbyterian RIP

13 06 2020

Fans of bacofoil flares, giant glittery platform boots and 70s glam rock in general are mourning the recent passing of Steve Priest, flamboyant bass guitarist of The Sweet.

Sadly the demise the same day of his Leodhasach cousin Steve Presbyterian went largely unreported, despite the latter’s major contribution to Stornoway’s own “Glamb Rock” scene in the early 70s.

Steve Presbyterian was a member of The Suet, who were one of the leading lights of Glamb Rock in the town. Along with his bandmates Braighe-Iain Connelly – vocals and precenting, Tick Mucker – drums and Antaidh Sgòthach – lead accordion, they were perhaps the very epitome of Stornowegian Glamb and had legions of fans (5 blones from Manor Park). 

Incidentally, Braighe-Iain Connelly  was the brother of well known actor Marag McManse, who was most famed for playing gritty Stornoway cop Blaggart, (“Thurrsh being a Murrr-do”).

After playing in all the village halls round Lewis in the late 60’s, The Suet took their first steps to megastardom when they met two local aspiring songwritrers, called Niccy Gym and Mike Crapman, in the Neptune Bar in 1971. The two songwriters told them that they had written loads of catchy tunes and just needed a band who could play their instruments to record them. Originally the idea was that all the songs would be about different cuts of lamb, as Gym and CrapMan were hoping to get sponsorship from local butchers.

Glamb Rock took over the Isle of Lewis. Everyone wanted to be part of it, and it was not uncommon to see local worthies staggering out of the Star Inn and the Opera House with glitter in their hair and star shaped tarasgiers under their arms. Even the local Ministers wanted in on the act and many a Church Service was taken by an androgynous figure in 2 foot platform Arnish Boots and flared dog collars.  

Local mainstream acts like The Lochies and Calum Kennedy also went through a Glamb phase –  The Lochies with spangly capes on their boilersuits and Calum with his flared kilt. 

The Suet had hit after hit during that period (3 copies sold in DD Morrisons).  The first songs to make an impression (in keeping with the lamb theme) were ‘Poppa Ewe’, ‘Little WillieJohnTheButcher’ and ‘Wig Wam Ram’. These were soon followed by their first Number One chart topper, ‘Flock Rustler’.

‘Hell Saver’ (an attempt to get sponsorship from the FP’s), ‘Co?Co?’ ‘Balallan Loom Blitz’ and ‘Teenage Ram Page’ continued their run of massive hits. 

Sadly, in-fighting and addiction issues began to appear amongst the band and the quality of the songs started to decline. They still had some chart success with ‘Cnocs on the Run’ and ‘Love is Like Naughty Sin’ (another ill fated attempt to get sponsorship from a local church, this time ‘the Continuing’) but they soon no longer had legions of fans (5 blones from Manor Park) chasing them round Bayhead Swing Park.

Despite their pop chart success and their teeny-bop fan base, Presbyterian and the rest of The Suet were talented musicians who could outplay “serious” bands like Sheep Purple.  They eventually got tired of being a singles act and went off to make a critically acclaimed album of proper hard rock – ‘Suet Fanky Amadans’. Nobody bought it at the time but it was highly influential on later bands such as Guns n Keoses and Maw-tallica.

Soon after their decline, the Suet split and went their separate ways, with all four members having their own version of the band at different times. 

Other Glamb Bands

  • Spade- ‘Curam Feel The Noise’, ‘Coz I Luv Ewez’, 
  • Murd – Also from the Niccy Gym/Mike Crapman stable, Murd had a string of hits including  ‘Tigh-fhaire Feet’, ‘ChirstyAlonelythisXmas, ‘Murdyna-mite’, ‘(Al) Crae-zy’ and  ‘The Cearc Crept In’
  • Alvdust StarInn- ‘My Cù ca Choo’
  • Cockle Ebb-ney Rebel – ‘Come Up and Shear Me (Make Me Textile)’
  • PilotWhale – ‘Oh oh oh it’s Marag’
  • Shawbostwaddywaddy – ‘Under the Moor Of Love’
  • Calan Bowie- ‘Aladdin Coulregrein’ 
  • Laxay Music – Fronted by suave lounge lizard MacBryayne Ferry (“more grease than the galley of the Suilven”), Laxay Music had big hits with ‘Levacur Is The Drug’ and ‘Vir-J&E’s Plain (Loaf)’ 
  • Molt the Strupag- ‘Roll Away Thon Ollac’
  • Kenny (Fags) with his big hits ‘The Dump’ and ‘Heart of Stoneyfield’
  • Spaircs – ‘This Town Ain’t Small Enough For A Bothan Nis’ / ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough for an M&S’, ‘Amadan Hour’.
  • Sailor(sLoft) -’Glass of Coulregrein’
  • Suzi Quatrionnach – ’48 Crans’, ‘Devil Skate (Portrona)drive’
  • Wizzaird -’Seceders My Baby Chive’  ‘I Wish It Could be Communions Everyday’
  • Marag Bolallan & T. Rubhax : ‘Telegram Psalm’ ‘Sheepster’, ‘Get it Tong’, ‘We Love To Bogie’

Of course, Glamb Rock didn’t have a complete monopoly of Stornoway’s pop charts at the time. Then as now, there were plenty manufactured teen idols peddling middle-of-the road ruppish, such as:

  • The Rubha Bets – ‘Shulishader Baby Love’
  • David Castlebay-’Flock Me Baby’
  • The Bayhead City Rollers – ‘Shank-a-Lamb’
  • The CailleochBossmonds – a clean-cut Seceder family from South Lochs, including Donny & Màiri (‘Pabbay Love’) and the dreaded Little Chimmy (‘Long Haired Lover from Ullapool’).

Flor Iain Shader RIP (And Some Other Stuff About Kroitrock)

6 06 2020

The recent demise of Kraftwerk founder Florian Schneider over in Germany had fans of electronic music in mourning. Kraftwerk, of course, emerged from Germany’s early 70s music scene alongside a host of other innovative bands, in a movement subsequently tagged by English-speaking music critics as “Krautrock”.

These same English-speaking music critics were even slower to catch on to the parallel developments in electronic music that were happening in the Outer Hebrides, pioneered among others by Schneider’s also-recently-deceased cousin Flor Iain Shader.

The “Kroitrock” movement was centred around 2 Lewis villages – Coll-logne and Balantrushaldörf. Due to an error in the 1815 crofting census, both villages had been allocated to Prussia after the Battle of Waterloo, and therefore found themselves on the Axis side during World War II.  The villages were industrial powerhouses, vital in the supply of peats and tweed to the Nazi war machine, and were therefore bombed remorselessly by the allies on a nightly basis. 

Indeed, old SYs will recall the regular 1000-bomber raids that took off on moonless nights from RAF Stornoway and returned many minutes later.  

By 1945 both Coll-logne and Balantrushaldörf were completely flattened (except, miraculously, Coll-logne’s famous mediaeval gothic FP Mission House). In the postwar years, with the aid of a big grant from the Maw-rshall Plan, the villages were reconstructed  as shining beacons of modernity with slated roofs, electricity, running water, a proper tarred road with really big passing places and a streetlamp outside the council houses.

It was in this environment of determinedly forward-looking futurism that Flor Iain Shader and his fellow Kroitrock pioneers grew up.

Most Leodhasachs nowadays will of course only remember the later incarnations of Kroftwerk, playing AC/DC covers in the Clachan and the Sea Angling. By that time of course the band’s sound had changed a bit and the original members had long since left. Scholars of Kroitrock, however, will know that the band was originally formed in 1970 by Flor Iain Shader and Calf Hutter after they met while studying compost-ition at Balantrushaldörf’s Ropach Schiarmann Hoochschule.  They were eventually  joined by two other like minded musicians – Woolgang Flüich and Karloway “Roddy” Bartos.

After a few experiments trying to come up with a band image, they decided to pretend to be robotic performers and to make every move on stage as mechanical as possible. However, it turned out that Shader’s cousin Florian had thought of this idea ten minutes before and so forbade him to copy the idea.

Instead, the Kroftwerk boys decided to do the next best thing and pick an image of somber-looking church elders standing with barely a movement for hours on end, as if enjoying a really, really, really lengthy prayer. And the idea, which reinforced this image, for the four band members to wear black church suits came from seeing a Gilbert and GeorgeStewartshop exhibition in An Lanntair. They were also hugely influenced by Hearach composer Karl-Heinz Stockinish.

The band first came to the attention of a wider audience (four people looking at a telly in Maciver and Dart’s window) when they appeared on “Tomorrow’s World” in 1974 – famously presented by Raebhat Bac-ster – and stunned viewers with the sound of the future.  

Shortly after this they broke big with their “Dòta-mahn” album and single (produced by Conny Planasker). Written as a tribute to the well known and loved kids’ Gaelic tv show, the English translation of the minimalist lyrics were a nod to the impact Donnie Dòtaman had on Gaelic medium education “We thrive,thrive,thrive on the Dòta-mahn”

Well Known Singles

  • “Dòta-mahn” – see above
  • “Trans-Eòropie Island Express” – About a legendary ‘Island Express’  tour around Ness in the early 70’s
  • “The Maw Machine” – a moving tribute to those from outwith the cattle grids
  • “Tour De Fanks” – the band were keen cyclists who would earn some extra cash by cycling round the neighbouring fanks to help out with the dipping.
  • “The Maw-Dell” – see below
  • “RadioRanol Activity” – about the playlists for the Hospital Radio show (which was always Calum Kennedy and Jimmy Shand and nobody else).
  • “Bucket Calculator” – about rationing out the guga at Port of Ness when the Guga Hunters return.

The Maw-Dell

“She’s a Maw from Dell und she’s cooking food

I like her marag dubh that’s understood

She prays hard to get, from Ness to Airidhantuim 

It only takes the Minister to change her mind.

She’s going out tonight drinking in bus shelters 

Und she’s been checking out nearly all the Elders 

I saw her on the cover of the Gazette

I vant to see her in just her hairnet”

Of course Kroftwerk were but one of many bands in the Kroitrock scene. One of these days we might get around to a more detailed look at some of their contemporaries who had even less success, such as: 

Can(Seo) – Featuring Holmger Czùgh-quay, Jaki Leverhulmedrivezeit, Irmin Schmidtavenue and Damo Suetzuki.

Neu!-ton – Formed in 1971 by mysteriously productive Seaview Terrace weavers and dawn squad regulars Klaus “Vier Kronen” Drinker and Michael Tödhar (who’d broken away from Kroftwerk in a dispute over a fence in Balallan). Neu!ton’s trademark was their hypnotic relentless beat, powered by Drinker’s ‘motorik’ loom. Unfortunately they had to break up in 1975, after it was confiscated by inspectors from the Harris Tweed Authority.

Amen Dòmhnall/Amen Dòmhnall II: Started as a radical political art movement at Lews Castle College’s Department of Theology in the 1960’s, at the very height of the global student protest movement (they were demanding the right to wear flares to college and church). Branched into free form accordion experimentation in the 70’s.  

Tarsgeir Dream – Produced a string of influential electronic albums in the 70’s and 80’s including ‘Force MajeureDuncanMorrison’ and ‘Phraedradhairs’

Cluer-ster: Formed in Harris in the early 70s by Hans-Joachim Rodel-ius and Dieter Mawbius, and well known for their collaborations with Brian Enoclete from glam rockers Laxay Music.

FaUist: This group from North Uist attempted to bring a new slant on electronic music, until they realised that North Uist didn’t have electricity.   

Ash Ranish Tempel/Ash Ranish Tempel (Continuing)/Associated Ash Ranish Tempel/Reformed Free High Ash Ranish Tempel etc etc etc: This notoriously fractious avante garde collective was first formed by Manuel GõttBayhëadschwingpärk in 1970 and splintered into several factions almost immediately over whether music was to be allowed at their concerts. They have continued to spawn new offshoots on a weekly basis up to the present day.

Einzsturzende Neuvalley: Formed in 1980 and noted for using custom built instruments (plus the odd drill and cement mixer). Famously started to break up the stage of the old An Lanntair with various diggers and cranes, whilst performing their “Concerto for Voices and Maw-chinery” and ended up accidentally building the new An Lanntair.

Long Forgotten TV Adverts (Part 1 of many, probably)

23 05 2020

For this entry in the MUHOS, we take a wee trip down memory lane with a look at some well loved Grampian TV adverts from the 1970’s and 1980’s. Although the ad breaks were a pain in the tòin when you were watching your favourite shows, some of the adverts grew on you and have passed into the ‘fondly remembered’ category of memory.

Here’s some we remember…

  • Sheep n Vac:  Inspired by the famous carpet cleaner and those iconic adverts, Lewis Crofters spotted an opportunity to sell their sheep dip products by ‘borrowing’ the format of the original advert. Their version featured a trendy crofter blone (red Arnish Chacket, beannag, and Smith’s Shoe Shop’s finest wellies) hard at work at the fank, trying to get her flock dipped, drenched and vaccinated. This advert was famed for its annoyingly catchy tune  “Do the sheep and vac to keep the fungus back”
  • ‘For Mass, Get Smashed’. In a controversial move to get more bums on pews, in the 1970’s the Vatican tested out a marketing campaign in South Uist to encourage church goers to partake in a wee tipple to help them through a particularly long and boring mass. Featured laughing robot priests who can’t understand why Free Church church-goers aren’t tanked up. “…and the Protestants sit through a sermon sober!!”
  • Cadbury’s Fleek- Cadbury’s thought it would be a smart move to try and diversify in the Outer Hebrides and come up with a chocolate purely for the choc hungry residents of the islands.   The advert featured a sexy cailleach (only wearing two Damart thermal vests) from Crowlista seductively trying to get the wrapper off a bar of chocolate, to a soundtrack of  “Only the crumbliest tastiest chocolate”.  Also tried marketing a special chocolate for funerals called ‘Cadbury’s Wake’. And the limited edition fish flavoured ‘Cadbury’s Hake’.
  • Cinzandwick Bianco- Sandwick’s Smiths Soft Drinks diversified into posh booze in the early 1970’s.  They hired a couple of well known Gaelic actors from Machair, Joan Coll(ins) and Leonard RossTerraceiter, and showed them leading the high life in the exotic Clachan lounge bar, on the plane to Glasgow, and in the Suilven bar spilling Cinzandwick Bianco on each other.
  • Old Pies- This advertising campaign was devised as a way to get rid of old stale pies. It featured a typical bodach finding and scoffing a 3 week old pie, which immediately conferred near superhero powers to him, and the next thing you know is he’s surfing on an old ironing board down at the Braighe. The advert featured the stirring classical piece “Carmina Buntata”.
  • Cadbury’s Milk Pray- Milk Pray chocolates were popular with church goers in the early 1970’s as they didn’t have noisey wrappers and could be scoffed surreptitiously during lengthy sermons.The advert featured a hunky, yet mysterious Minister, dressed all in black, jumping over a ditch, skillfully opening a gate without letting the cows out, climbing in a window and leaving a box of Milk Pray (and a tract) on a blone’s pillow.
  • The PG Tips Sheep The Plasterfield Grazings tried to diversify into growning tea in the early 1970’s.  However, they didn’t have the budget for chimps, so trained up a flock of sheep instead. But sheep were terrible for stewing the tea, so this ad didn’t last long. Nor did the tea plantation. 
  • Cap’n Boardstore – in the days of big croft housing grants, Cap’n Boardstore went around followed by his “crew” of enthusiastic maws keen for a taste of his subsidized plasterboard, breeze blocks and 4×2’s.  His rival Captain A*ngh*s a’ Bhàrdseye used to sell construction materials too.
  • Knorrman Soup- This advert showed two gamekeepers (or more likely poachers) returning from a hard day on the hills, talking about what their wives have on for their tea. Calum Archie expected leftover guga soup, but how wrong was he? Shonnagh his wife had discovered Knorrman Soup!   “Pea and ham?” says his buddy. “From a fleekin’ guga?”
  • Corncrake-o, a shady Tolmie Terrace company that bred the birds in the swamps between Springfield and Mossend, and rented them out to unscrupulous crofters looking to score a big grant. Their ad featured a gondolier sailing along the canal past Newhall’s nurseries singing “Just one corncrake-o, geev eet to mee / So I can claim a /  beeg sub-see-deee”). 
  • Hovansnahovano Bread- featured a wee cove pushing his delivery bike up Lagley’s Brae with Johnnie Òg’s pan loaves in the basket, to the strains of ‘The Newton World Symphony’.

Lighthill Richard RIP

16 05 2020

Hot on the leopardskin cuban heels of Little Richard’s sad demise in America, we regret to report the passing of his not-quite-as-successful cousin from Back.

Flamboyant rock ‘n’ roll wildman Lighthill Richard had a career almost as long as that of his American relative, with an uncannily similar set of twists and turns.

And while his more famous cousin was often called the Architect of Rock and Roll, Lighthill Richard was surely the YTS labourer of it.

Born Richard Wayne Fivepenniman (his old man was from Borve) in 1932, Richard took up the piano accordion at an early age and soon found himself playing in dives, fluke joints and honky-fanks up and down Interstate B895. 

Fivepenniman’s parents were very holy and belonged to one of the island’s smaller Presbtyerian splinter groups, the Free Associated Continuity Pentecostacoffeefromengiesbutnotonasunday Church of Scotland, which differed from other denominations in 2 key respects. 1. The brims of elder’s hats were ¼ inch wider, and 2. Cailleachs did the precenting instead of bodachs.

His main musical influences growing up were therefore precenting legends such as  Machreachsathanaiga Jackson and Sister Rosetta Scarp. 

Indeed, his big break came on a visit to Harris in 1947 when Sister Rosetta Scarp had a few too many in the public bar at the Rodel Hotel, and asked him to fill in for her on the Friday of the Leverburgh òrduighean. Due to the church’s strict rules against coves precenting, Richard had to dress up as a blone in order to get the gig, and having done so he discovered a lifelong predilection for colourful overalls, flowery beannags and massively ostentatious church hats.

In 1955 Richard befriended Isles AM  deechay and rock impresario Alan Freepresbyterian, and appeared in several of his locally-produced rock ‘n’ roll movies such as “The Girl Can’t Shelve It” (about a poor blone in the Co-op mobile shop trying to keep all the produce on the shelves as the driver scoffed a quarter bottle whilst negotiating the single track roads) and “Don’t Rock the Knock”. 

These classic films also featured many of the other early rock ‘n’ roll greats, including Chuck Ferry, Fats Dòmhnallach, Eddie Caoran, Bill TweedBaley & the Comhairles (“Gonna Rock Around The Croft Tonight”), Fankie Lymon, Gene Vimscent & the Bruecaps and many more.

Between 1955 and 1957 Richard had a phenomenal run of hit singles, some of them selling over 10 copies in Woolie’s and a couple more in MacIver & Dart’s. These included:

Tutti Freechurch (“Tutti Freechurch/ o hee church… a wop bop a leòbag, a wop baa moo” “Gotta girl called Sùgh, she’s making marag dubh” etc).

Tong Toll Salach – being a Bacach, Richard was never very complimentary about the nearby township of Tong, and wrote this scathing attack on his neighbouring village after a particularly badly received gig in the Recreation Centre.

Leodhas-ille – a much covered accordion standard

Good Collie Miss Maw-ly- a song he wrote for a shepherdess from beyond the town cattle grids, because he was so impressed at how quickly her dog rounded up his sheep. 

Ready Sked-dy

Rip it Tup

Slippin’ an’ a (Back)slidin’

A Sheep in Knock(in)

… and some others.

Richard’s golden era of chart success came to an abrupt end when he got the Cùiream on tour in Melbost in 1957. His conversion occurred when he saw a bright red light flashing across the sky above Broad Bay. Although it turned out to be the communist Rubhach satellite Spùt-nik 1 being launched from Bayblegrad, Richard was convinced it was a sign from above, and went in for the ministry.

In the late 50s Richard enjoyed a lower-key but successful career in the church, recording a number of well-received albums of Gaelic psalms. But he was lured back to secular music in 1962 by the prospect of a big money tour of Eòropie, (accompanied by the Peatles and their manager Brian Epsteinish). Richard and the Peatles also regularly shared a bill in the legendary Star(Inn) Club, just off Stornoway’s notorious Johnnygeeperbahn.

Richard’s early/mid 60s touring band the Upsettlers – Tarquin Ponsonby-Smythe on bodhran, Jeremy fFleekeen-fFiasag on digeridoo and Tamsin  Grant-Crahhftshoppe on Mongolian nose-flute and interpretive dance – was considered legendary (by 2 beardie coves from Away at the Stornoway Folk Club, but fleekeen terrible by everybody else). 

At one stage the line-up briefly included future guitar legend Jimi Henshed, but he was fired by Richard in 1964 for being good.

In later years, Lighthill continued to perform sporadically at òrduigheans, did a bit of relief preaching in Uist, and provided songs and soundtracks to various BBC Alba programmes and Holywood movies. He also acted, perhaps most famously as “Borve-is Guganight” in Paul Mangurstasky’s 1986 classic “Down and Out In Bennadrove Hills”.