Freekirk Douglas RIP

12 02 2020

We’re sad to report the passing of movie legend Freekirk Douglas, who has died at the age of 103. A veteran of Holywood ( Stornoway’s famous religious film-making industry), Douglas was still acting and doing his own stunts up until last Tuesday afternoon.

Freekirk was a cousin of the late Kirk Douglas, who also died recently in America. Sadly Kirk and Freekirk hadn’t been on speaking terms since 1843, when a discussion on lairds appointing ministers or something degenerated into what the sheriff court column of the Gazette described as a “disruption” outside the Star Inn.

Born Ist-thu Domhnalliainovitch, the son of impoverished fuidheag-dealer immigrants from pre-revolutionary Tsarist Sheshader, Douglas was fascinated by acting from an early age. At the Amarybank Academy of Dramatic Arts (and Livestock Management) in Newvalley, Douglas studied the Mehhh-thod acting techniques of Charles Tolstanislavski, and after graduating, soon began to make his name on stage and screen.

Let’s take a brief look back at some of Freekirk’s masterpieces from the golden age of Holywood:

Spàganagus- Based loosely on the popular Gaelic children’s books, but with content slightly less suitable for its usual aged 6-8 readership, this historical epic sees the friendly purple monster Spàgan (Douglas) discovering to his surprise that he’s a slave during the Roman occupation of Stordinium (see previous MUHOS entry) and has been sent to Gladiator training school at the Coll-oseum. Spàgan soon leads a slave revolt and almost defeats the Roman Empire, but ends up getting caught and crucified on Dan Dougal’s Brae. Standout scenes from the film include the bit where the slaves were asked who hasn’t paid for a Spar Take Away Coffee Cup and they all pointed to Freekirk ( admittedly it didn’t have the same impact as his cousin’s “Spartacus”). Spàganagus was perhaps Douglas’s most famous film, co-starred Lawrence Oliversbrae, Peter Uistinov, Jean Simonsroad and Tony Cearc-is as Antandecus, and was directed by Stanley Cù-brick.

The Strange Loves of Martha Ivorhill (1946) with Barbara Sandwyck.

Young Ram with 2 Horns (1950) with Dùinandoris Dé and Lauren Bac-coll, in which Douglas plays legendary jazz chanterist Bix BrevigBacke.

Gunfight at the OK Communions with Cearc Douglas as Wyatt Earshader and Freekirk as cuireamach gunslinger Doc Holyday

The Heroes of Texel Mark- Stornowegian resistance fighters in WW2 blow up the paint factory that produced the paint used for marking sheep, as the Nazis were trying to develop Heavy Paint and New Clear Wool.

Lust for Lithe – biopic about the tragic life of local fish salesman and p*ss-artist Vincent Fishvan Gogh

The Baaah and the Beautiful – with Lamb-a Turner

The Marvik-ings-pillaging down the coast of Lochs

The Todhar Wagon (1967) – John Wayne returns to Ness after 3 years in jail and enlists safecracker Douglas’s help to steal a valuable cargo of manure being transported to Sweeney’s potato feannag in a heavily-armed trailer.

Is Harris Burning? – moor burning goes wrong in North Harris. Freekirk played the role of General Tweedpattern.

Stornoway Aths of Glory- three wrongly convicted Aths players have to go up before the Lewis and Harris Football Association to get their red cards annulled.

20000 Leaks under the Seaforth -an on call plumbers story. All the beer pumps start leaking under the Seaforth Public Bar putting the Galaxy Disco and An Evening With Philomena Begley in jeopardy. Based on the book by Jewsons Verne and featuring the notable Captain Zebo character.

On the news of Douglas’s death, tributes poured in from his family, friends and showbusiness colleagues. But the end of an era represented by the screen legend’s demise is probably best summed up by the headline in respected Holywood trade magazine the Fr** Ch*rch M*nthly R*cord: “Freekirk Douglas is No Longer (Continuing)”.

Nicolsonroad Parsons

2 02 2020

It’s been a sad week for mainland comedy fans, with the passing of “Just a Minute” host and lechendary “Sale of the Century” quizmaster Nicholas Parsons.

Sadly this has meant that the demise of Parsons’ island cousin in the same week has been largely ignored on the other side of the Minch. At any other time there’d no doubt have been a big fuss, since the departed celebriy’s Leodhasach relation as himself a much loved fixture of BBC Alba, Radio Ranol and the Playhouse Cinema.

Known for his gentlemanly manners and immaculate attire – cravat, blazer, crisply pressed boiler suit and wellies polished to a dazzling shine, Nicolsonroad Parsons was born in 1853 to posh parents in Stornoway’s exclusive suburb of Goathill.


At school Nicolsonroad was thick as fleek, so instead of becoming a doctor or a minister he was apprenticed as a trainee barnacle scraper at the Patent Slip. Strangely, this proved to be the genesis of his acting career. His refined Goathill enunciation marked him out for regular batterings from his proletarian colleagues, so Parsons quickly learned how to mimic his fellow workers by adopting an Inaclete Road accent.

He was ruppish at it, however, and the batterings continued – with increased intensity because everybody now thought he was taking the p*** with his: “Ei say, old cove, shaw deich tessden. Fawlaw shee-yas gooh Cath-ay Yee-ha-wool’s an get one a quarter bottle ow Trawler Raahm awhhgawss ten Woodbine, theah’s a good chep”. This proved fortuitous as, wandering along Newton one day with a black eye, several missing front teeth and numerous splints and bandages, he was spotted by a producer and offered a part in the Stornoway Thespians’ critically-acclaimed 1887 production of “Emergency Ward Hen”.

A busy career on stage, film, radio and TV followed, including a starring stage role in Arse and Old Lice, voiceover roles in Gerry Andersonroad’s puppet “Westren” series Four Heather Falls, The Bennydrove Hill Show, and a long-running role as straight man to egomaniac comedy diva Arthur “Mise ‘s Mi” Fheins. On the verge of breaking big in America, Fheins became paranoid that Parsons was becoming more popular than he was, and gave Parsons the big bròg after an appearance on the Ed Suilven show.

In 1967 Parsons was hired by Radio Ranol to present “Church a Minute”, a panel show in which contestants had to improvise a 60 second prayer without hesitation, repetition, or deviation into the doctrines of Presbyterian splinter groups other than their own. Following audience complaints after the pilot episode, the show was soon relaunched as “Church an Hour (And a Half at Least)” and has run in this form until the present day.

Regular guests in the early years included the Rev Kennethstreet Williams (FP, Cari-onshader), Rev Hensly Nimmo (Backsliding Easy-osy Church of Sasanaich, Stornoway), Rev Stclements Freud (Rodel) and the Rev Peat-er Jones, who was also the voice of the Book in BBC Alba’s “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Disco”.

As the old contestants expired, they were replaced with younger ministers from the world of “alternative communion-dy” such as South Harris’s Rev Graham Northton and happy-clappy townie the Rev Paul Mertonsmemorial, but Parsons himself remained a constant of the show for over 52 years.

Of course, if you’re not a Radio Ranol listener, you may remember Parsons best for his legendary Aiginish TV quiz show “Sale of the Cemetery” ‘And now, from Knock(wich), it’s the quiz of the week’, boomed the familiar intro at the top of the show, as contestants competed for a series of increasingly expensive and prestigious lairs in the nearby graveyard.

The (Very) Late June Plasterfield RIP

11 01 2020

We must apologise for being a bit slow catching up on our obituaries recently, as at this time of year it’s hard to keep up with all the famous celebrities popping their clogs.

Recently we’ve lost a great TV medium, famous for his ability to commune with the spirits of dead sheep (Derek Acaora), the puppeteer blone who played Big Bàrd in BBC Point’s cryptomarxist educational kids’ programme “Sheshader Street”, popular TV intellectuals Clive Jamesmackenziesshop and Jonathan Kennystickysmiller, and top musical satirist Niall-Aonghas (famous for his spoof documentary of a top 60s beat combo from Point – “The Rubha-tles”)

But worst of all it’s taken us over a year to get around to reporting the demise of one of the grande dames of Stoarnowaywegian comedy…

At the end of 2018, the nation mourned the passing of Dame June Whitfield. Dame June’s contribution to film, radio and TV from the post-war years to the present day – from the early Carry-on films to “Absolutely Fabulous”, was unmatched.

Well, nearly. Whitfield’s passing unfortunately eclipsed that of her Leodhasach cousin who passed away the same day, and who enjoyed an equally long (if less successful) career as a comic mainstay of BBC Alba and its predecessors.

Like her relative down South, the late June Plasterfield was also recognised as a Dame (except sometimes if she was at the fank in her dungarees and bobban hat).

Dame June was born in Plasterfield when it WAS still a field, approximately where the skip outside the Blackhouse Bakery stands today. She graduated from RHADA (the Royal Hotel Academy of Dram and Antique Ceards) in 1944, and it wasn’t long before she was appearing in a smash hit West Side musical about a nurse stationed in Lemreway and a crowd of singing sailors on shore leave from the fishery cruiser – Rodgers and Hamnaway’s wonderful “South Pairc-cific”. Who can forget Plasterfield’s spirited version of ‘I’m Going To Wash That Ram Right Out In The Rain’ and ‘There’s Nothing Like a DM(boot)’?

Plasterfield’s big break into radio came in 1953 when she got the part of Eff, fiancée of permanently redundant Arnish cove Ron, in “The Glumaigs”.

Many BBC Alba and Grampian TV appearances through the 50s and 60s followed, including Tony Hancock’s “Blood Pudding” episode, Dixon of Dock Grianandaycarecentre, The Arthur Askernish Show, Stepwegailyonewegoe & Son, and the Dick Lemreway Show. Plasterfield was also a regular collaborator with Uist sheep magnate/comedian Fankie Howbeg.

Like many actors of her generation, June appeared in the long running Carry-Out films – on four occasions in her case. The premise of each Carry-Out film was the trials and tribulations of either a group of underagers trying to buy a carry out, or the Dawn Squad trying to get their supplies for the day sorted in the Crit. Alongside a talented cast including Sid Jamesondrive, Kenneth JDWilliamscatalogue, Joan Symesclock, Communionhattie Jacques and Charles Maw-tree, Plasterfield appeared in

Carry-Out Cathy Ghall’s

Carry-Out Up The Castle Grounds

Carry-Out Up the Alley Behind The Acres Hotel, and of course…

Carry-Out Up the Cabar- the antics of the Stornoway Army Cadets trying to sneak in to a wedding dance in the Cabar Hotel through the north-west entrance.

In the early seventies June began a long and successful period working with the actor Sir E Scott, first in the sitcom ‘Cha Bhi Ever After’ and followed by ‘Ferry and June’. Both sitcoms showed the hilarious antics of a middle class family living in the posh commuter belt suburbs of Stornoway (Barony Square). Plasterfield played the dutiful housewife, whilst Sir E played the Captain of the Loch Seaforth.

In more recent times, Plasterfield achieved massive popularity by returning to her home turf, with a role in long running sitcom Absolutely Pre-fabulous (or Ab-Prefab, as it was commonly known). Plasterfield played the mother of eccentric growing-old-disgracefully PR agent Murdina Mawsoon (played by Jennifer Sandstreet). Murdina’s partner in crime, hard-drinking chain-smoking fashionista Patsy Stoneyfield, was played by Joanna Chirstyalumley. Her hopeless Rubhach assistant Baybble was played by Jane Horgabost, and her long-suffering ashcart-driver daughter, Scaffy, by Lochie actress Julia Soval-tha.

Stornoway Horror Writers

20 11 2019

Part 1 Of A Few.

Although we’ve spectacularly missed launching our Halloween Special on Halloween, we thought it was still worthwhile to bring this entry in the MUHOS to your attention. There is a long standing tradition of telling spooky tales around the peat fire flame, to scare your grannie and to put the fear of God into your children. This has no doubt influenced the many local authors who have entertained generations with their tales of mystery, the macabre and the occult.

We look at a batch of some of these coves and blones.

Mary Shellstreet

Written at the peak of the craze for Maw-thic horror in the late 18th and early 19th century, Mary Shelltreet’s “Fankinsteinish” was hugely influential on the writers who followed. The deranged Baron Fankinsteinish builds a monster out of bits of deceased livestock that he finds in the skip at the back of the old slaughterhouse on Westview Terrace. The monster learns quickly, takes an interest in philosophy and religion and joins the Free Church, which leads to a big rammy with the Baron, who’s a Seceder. The monster and the Baron pursue each other around the world (well, round the Lewis and Harris Orduighean circuit, to be precise) and the novel culminates in an epic battle at the North Pole (well, North Tolsta)

Mary Shellstreet was the daughter of early feminist author Mary Woolagiescroft (“A Vindication Of The Ruights Of Fleekeen Blones”), and wrote her masterpiece while holidaying on the shores of Lake Airidh na Lic with her future husband, the poet Percivalsquare Mitchellsbysse Shellstreet.

Edgar Aline Doe

Edgar Aline Doe was an infamous deer poacher and writer. His more famous cousin wrote ‘Tales of Mystery and the Macabre’ whilst Edgar Aline wrote ‘Tales of Misery in Mac’s Bar’. His works included:

The Fall of the House of Uibhisteachs – a terrifying tale set in a sinister mansion slowly sinking into the peat bog on which it was shoddily constructed, haunted by apparitions of mysterious builders, who keep coming back under different names and asking for more money. His other works included:

The Macs Of The Red Death

The Murders of the Rubhach Morgue

The Peat and the Pendulum

The RavensLane

Dram Stoker

In 1897, Finding his ocean-going career curtailed when the skipper caught him swapping the ship’s coal for a case of 4-Crown in Cathy Ghall’s, unemployed Brevig seaman Dram Stoker took to horror writing to pay his bar bills.

His most famous work was “Backula”, the spooky story of Count Backula the Vampire. Backula lives in his castle in ‘Ho-vans-sylvania’ (next to Vatisker) and steals blood from the local peasantry in order to make marags (known as marag duine). However, he hears about Stornoway Black Pudding and decides he wants to emigrate to Town to get a better marag recipe. But he doesn’t take vampire hunter Murdo Dan Helsing into account! In a climactic battle in the back shop of Macaskill’s Butcher’s, Backula gets a sirloin steak through his heart and crumbles to smùir.

Robert Lewisstreet Stevenshop

Moving swiftly on through the 19th century, we come to Robert Lewisstreet Stevenshop. Although not primarily a horror writer, Stevenshop deserves a mention here because he was the author of the terrifying “Dockers, Seagulls & Missed the Tide”.

HBP Glovecraft

HBP (Herring By-Products) Glovecraft (1890-1937) was brought up in the Gut Factory, where his old man was the live-in manager, and was consequently a bit smelly. This led to him spending a lot of time by himself and, being rather neonach anyway, dreaming up a whole universe run by ancient, omnipotent and indescribably horrific churchgoing aliens called The Elder Things. Strangely all Glovecraft’s monsters (although indescribable) looked and smelled a bit like sgadan who’d been dead for a few days. He also had a lucrative sideline as a knitter of gloves with scarily complicated (some would say indescribable) patterns which would fill white settlers with horror trying to follow the instructions. His works included:

The Coll of Cthuram

The Duneisdean Horror

The Shadow over Inacleteroad

At the Mountains of Maw-ness

Writers outside the genre who dipped an occasional toe in the Stornowegian horror pond included Gaston Lerubhach (Who can forget his chilling tale of a sinister figure haunting the old South Beach public toilets – “The Phantom of the Opera House”?), fish-obsessed Victorian hack Whelkie Calanneillies (“The Woman in Whiting”), and scary cailleach Daphne Dubh Maw-rier, who wrote “The Bards” (in which Stornoway is besieged by a malevolent flock of award-winning Gaelic poets).

Classic ghost stories emerged from the pen of dawn squad regular M.R. Jamiesondrive (“My Turn of the Screwtop”), while a never-ending stream of schlock about devil-worshipping and Blackface/Cheviot cross-headed demons was the speciality of the prolific Dennis Peatley (“The Devil Rides (to) Outend Coll”).

More recently there’s been a bunch of blones writing stories aimed at the younger goth market, such as Anne Rylock (“Interview with a Ram-pire”, made into a film starring tiny BBC Alba star Tom Fisherycruiser) and of course, Stephenie Meyerybank’s massively successful “Twilights” saga – a series of ruppish novels about a crowd of angst-ridden teenage vampires trying to get into the Seaforth Disco in the 1990s.

Steven Kingcole

Perhaps one of today’s most successful local horror writers is Steven Kingcole. Kingcole is a highly prolific author whose works include:

Carrie-shader- This was his first book to be published. It was all about a young Uibhisteach blone (on holiday in Uig) with latent teleQinetic powers.

Sailm’s Lot – the terrifying tale of a black-clad coven of APC precentors resorting to witchcraft and vampirism in a croft boundary dispute. BBC Alba made a ruppish TV miniseries of Sailm’s Lot in the 80s, starring David Soval.

The Shearing – film version of the best selling book (3 copies in the Loch Erisort Bookshop) starring well known Gaelic tv and film actors, Cac Nicolsonroad and Welly Duval. Cac played an author suffering from writer’s block who takes a job as the caretaker of the Overbooked Hotel in South Lochs and moves his family there. The film was famed for its enigmatic script, which produced a number of memorable and well used phrases including ‘All Work and No Pray Makes Cac A Dull Boy’’ and ‘Heeeeeere’s Shonnnny’ as Cac battered down a door with a rusty tairsgeir.

However, no list of Kingcole’s best known works would be complete without mentioning “The Strond”; a post-apocalyptic tale in which an outbreak of Super-Fluke (nicknamed Captain Tups) has wiped out 99.4% of the livestock in South Harris. The turmoil that follows leads to a massive fight between Good and Evil, (Evil in this case being personified by the sinister character of Rodel Flagg). The book is famed not for its quality, but for its length (clocking in at around 2000 pages) and its weight (roughly akin to the double wheel of a Massey Ferguson 135) making it the only book never to have been checked out of Stornoway Public Library, even by N*rrie MacGr*g*r.

Chinger BakersRoad.

13 10 2019

Fans of heavy 60s power trios, extended improvisational jazz rock and other self-indulgent hippy ruppish will have been dismayed to hear of the recent death of virtuoso drummer Chinger Bakersroad (80).

His death has been little reported due to the fact that it occurred, coincidentally, on the same day as that of Ginger Baker, his slightly more successful Mainland cousin.

Born near Bakers Road in 1939,  Chinger exhibited extraordinary musical talent from a very early age, playing professionally with Brues Incorporated (where he met long term band mate and sparring partner Jack Brues), along with other stalwarts of the late 50s Leodhasach music scene.

By 1963 Chinger and Brues had joined the Grimshader Bond Organisation. The GBO were a hip, eclectic and critically acclaimed group playing a groundbreaking mix of port ‘n’ beul (P&B) and modren chazz, but the relationship between Brue and Bakersroad was famously antagonistic. Concerts would often end with the pair knocking the fleek out of each other backstage and destroying chairs, tables, glassware and other fixtures and fittings.

One night in 1964 they had a particularly savage scrap after a gig in the Macs, inflicting destruction on the bar’s sparkling state-of-the-art washrooms as they swung double basses and flung hi-hats at each other. Nobody could agree afterwards who should clean up and pay for the damage, so the toilets remained in a state of insanitary devastation until the Clachan finally closed its doors in 2013.

Chinger was famed as being one of the first ‘rock’ drummers to use a double bass drum. He unfortunately first decided to try the double bass drum set up whilst a drummer in the Lewis Pipe Band and subsequently dislocated his whole body after marching along Cromwell St Quay in the late 1950’s and overbalancing into the hold of a fishing boat.  

Chinger also encountered ex-Garryvardbirds guitar ace and trainee elder Eric “God” Clachan around this time and it wasn’t long until they came up with a cunning musical plan to form a supergroup to break out of the strictures of classic P ‘n’ B. 

The name they chose for their new power trio was Crowdie. Crowdie hit the ground running and had soon established themselves as the premier Stornoway rock band of the late Sixties. A series of acclaimed albums were recorded, including “Feis Cream” in 1966, “Disraeli Gne-ach” in 1967 and “Wee-Frees of Fire” in 1968. A number of classic songs were also included on these albums including “I feel Freechurch”, “Sunshine of Your Cove”, “I’m So Glic”, “Baaaaahdge”, “Strange Bru” and “White Loom” (which was about running your tweed loom off the white meter once the Harris Tweed Inspector had left the village).   

This short period of incredible creativity couldn’t last and Crowdie imploded amidst a whirlwind of fights, fallouts and fanks. The three members went their separate ways, but not before a career defining farewell gig at the RAH – the Ropach Arnol Hall. On hearing that the band had split, Jimi Hendrix famously interrupted his live appearance on “Se Ur Beatha” to pay tribute to them with a spontaneous rendition of “Sunshine of Your Cove”.

In his post-Crowdie career Chinger became more involved in Chazz/World/Fusion influences and played with some of Lewis’s finest musicians. His notable actives included;

Find Faith- a short lived evangelical super group along with Eric Clachan and Steve Winwool.

Laxdale-based early 70s hard rock megastars Bakersroad Guershadervitz Army.

Chinger Bakersroad’s Gale Force Marine – a fusion rock group singing songs about creels.

Hawkwinch- Chinger joined a later day version of the psychedelic hippies, most famed for their big hit “Silver Maw-Sheen” which was about a tractor valet service.

Faolag Kuti, the legendary African huidh-life musician and seagull lover. Bakersroad went to Nigeria in 1971 and spent several years hanging about with Faolag at his Bacachkota studio next to the Lagos branch of the Gut Factory.  Faolag and Bakersroad collaborated on a number of seagull-related projects in this period, including stealing chips, divebombing cailleachs’ hats and producing Paul Cacsgàrdney’s Wings.

PiL (Prebyterian Image Limited) –  In the mid-80s Bakersroad was recruited by avante-garde producer Bill Laxdale for a brief stint in a team of c(r)ack session musicians hired to back ex Sects Pistol (baptisimal) f(r)ont man Shonny Rotten. The resultant album was generically packaged and released under several titles, so that it could be marketed independently to different Presbyterian denominations without revealing that it was also being sold to their bitter ecclesiastical rivals. The majority of copies were sold in Free Church format, where it was released as  “(Monthly) Record”.

Crowdie reformed in 2005 for a few lucrative gigs in the RAH and Madison Carn Gardens, but both gigs descended into fisticuffs as part forgotten disputes came back to the surface.

For most of his life Bakersroad famously struggled with herring addiction, and developed a variety of bizarre hobbies and lifestyle changes to combat it. A failed experiment farming “Oliver’s Brae Olives” on a South-facing slope next to Knockgarry was followed by many years on a ranch in South Lochs, where he maintained a flock of world class polo sheep and enjoyed punching visiting documentary makers from BBC Alba.

Editor’s note: Chinger Bakersroad was not related at all at all to thon ‘Chinger Stagbakery’ cove mentioned in our 2014 Jack Brue obituary. Any consistencies between that article and this one are entirely accidental.

Where the Pyramid Meets The Ui -Roagy Erisort RIP

8 06 2019

Across the world (and on some other planets as well) fans of 60s Texan psychedelic rock are mourning the recent demise of Roger Kynard “Roky” Erickson, deranged former frontman of the 13th Floor Elevators.

But spare a thought for his less successful Leodhasach cousin, Roagy Erisort, who passed away the same day.

Roagy Ceann-a-Loch Erisort was born in the rootin’ tootin’ Wild West city of Ballalas, Texas Lochs in 1947, and demonstrated an interest in music from an early age by not taking up the melodeon.

Inspired by his Texan cousin’s early success with The Spades, Roagy formed The  Tairsgeirs, and scored a hit in the Laxay/Balallan/Airidhbhruach metropolitan area with “We Sell Soval” in early 1965.

The mid-60s was a time of experimentation with mind-altering substances, and in the desert  around Ballalas there grew a wide variety of plants which the indigenous shamen had been using to get off their faces for centuries. Roagy and his freaky musician pals made liberal use of these, and an increasing intake of hallucinogenic peat-yote and bog cotton  cigarettes soon began to affect their music and lyrics.

Inevitably, after ingesting a particularly large quantity of Liobag ‘son Diathad (LSD) one day, and washing it down with the sheep tranquilliser  mehhhscaline, Roagy decided he’d seen the light, and got a dose of the cuiream.

It was in this state in late 1965 that Roagy met trainee minister, mystic, conspiracy theorist and electric pigidh player Tormod “Masonic” Hall, and formed the 13th Floor Moderators. Signing up with Niseach biscuit magnate Lelan Roigean’s record label InterNessional Amadans, the band released their seminal album “The Psychedelic Psalms of the 13th Floor Moderators” in 1966. The album featured the band’s one and only hit single “Ewe’re Gonna Miss Mehhhh”, which has been covered by generations of ruppish garage bands ever since.    

The Moderators’ management reckoned they should take their trippy sounds West, to the bohemian village of San Fankcisco (which used to be next to Fivepenny Borve but fell into the Atlantic in an earthquake in 1969, and that’s why you’ve neffer heard of it, oh yus). Out in San Fankcisco the Flounder Power movement was taking off and the hippies were in need of groovy sounds. Soon the Moderators found themselves playing cavernous psychedelic dancehalls like the Fillmoor Westside and the Adabroc Ballroom, sharing bills with the likes of the Graipfull Dead, Moby Graip and Jefferson Airidhantuim (fronted by Graip Slick).

In 1967 the Moderators released their second album “Eaststreet Everywhere”, featuring “Sheep Inside This House” and a cover of Bob Dell-an’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Brue”

In 1968, in an effort to avoid jail after being busted for possession of marag-juana, Erisort pleaded insanity. 1968 was also the peak of the brutal jungle conflict between North Lochs and South Lochs over sheep grazing rights out the back of Airidhbhruach (the Viet-Ram war) and Roagy reckoned an insanity plea would reduce his chances of being drafted to the front. While succeeding in its immediate objectives, Erisort’s cunning plan also got him sent to Craig Dunain for 3 years.

While Roagy was a guest of the famous Inversneckie sanatorium, the rest of the Moderators cobbled together their third album “Bull of the Woodlandcentre” (1969) and then decided it was ruppish and split up.

Erisort’s work since the days of the Moderators was characterised by long periods of silence (usually when he was in Craig Dunain again) punctuated with occasional flashes of brilliance. Working under a variety of names and guises (such as Roagy Erisort & The Alines) and with modern collaborators such as Maw-gwai, he turned out occasional classics such as “Two Hearach Dogs”, “Star Inn Eyes” and “I Waulked With A Zombie”.

While Roagy may not have enjoyed mainstream success, there is no doubt that his influence on modren music was profound – as can be seen from the flock of respected artists who appeared on the 1990 Erisort tribute album  “Where The Pyramid Meets The Ui”. These included ZZ Tobson, R.A.M., Julian Fishermensco-op and The Jesus and Mayburygarden Chain.


Call The Fishwife

18 04 2019

There has been plenty interest of late about Call The Midwife, the popular BBC Sunday evening drama, coming all the way to Lewis and Harris to film their Christmas Special. There have been hundreds of articulated lorries with studio equipment, mobile dressing rooms and catering facilities trundling up and down the Clisham over the last few weeks. And famous actors have been spotted all over the town’s most glamourous nightspots. It’s almost as if they were filming Machair all over again.

By a remarkable coincidence, the cast and crew of popular BBC Alba show ‘Call The Fishwife’ are currently down in the East End of London filming their own Nollaig Chridheal Special.

Call The Fishwife is a long running BBC Alba TV show about the Herring industry and the hard working herring girls that kept the barrels full and the catch salted.

Set in the poverty stricken East End kipper sheds of Stornoway of the late 50’s and early 60’s, the show has run for several seasons and has featured an ever changing ensemble cast of just about every Gaelic speaking actor from Machair.

The story is based around the memories of immigrant Hearach worker, and newly qualified Fishwife, Jenny LackaLee. Her tale is narrated throughout the show by well known actor Fishvanessa Redgrave.

The Fishwives were all employed by a Fish Merchant to provide fresh fish to a Presbyterian religious order to make sure that there was always plenty of fish for the Ministers’ and Elders’ teas. The Fishwives all lived together in NoNunsAtAll House, which was handy for Inaclete Road.

Each week the show has a number of hard hitting and socially relevant storylines, usually involving a gutting knife getting blunt, a barrel falling off a lorry or one of the Fishwive’s bikes getting a flat tyre. It usually ended with the Fishwives solving the problem and saving the hungry Ministers’ tea just in the nick of time.    

As well as Fishvanessa Redgrave, the stellar cast included well known actors like:

  • Jenny A-gutter who plays the Mother Fish-Supperior

  • Stephen McGannet (one of the famous McGannet acting dynasty, which also included Patrick McGuga, the star of The Parishioner – “I’m not a number; I’m a Free Church man” ) as Doctor Peatstack Burner

  • Pam CalMacFerries- Sister Fishvangelina

  • Helen Chorge – Trixie Fanklin

  • Miranda Cart-Hummy

  • Beinn Calanneilly- Police Sgt Peat Bogs

Dick Laxdale-King of the Turf Guitar

5 04 2019

Dick Laxdale – King of the Turf Guitar RIP

Fans of surf music are mourning the passing of Dick Dale, the influential “King of the Surf Guitar” whose career was revived in recent years when his early 60s hits were used in the films of Quentin Tarantino.

But old SYs of a certain age – especially those who lived their misspent youth in the post-Elvis but pre-moptop era of the late 50s/early 60s – were much sadder to hear of the demise the same day of Dale’s less successful Leodhasach cousin, Dick Laxdale.

Dick Laxdale was born Richard Mùnsewer in Guershader in 1937, to Labostese parents. When he was still very young the family moved West to Bridge Cottages, and the young Dick grew up on the edge of the Barvas moor, surrounded by peat banks, midgies, caorans and so on. A fan of Country ‘n’ Westren music (the Leodhasach version of Country ‘n’ Western), his early musical career consisted mostly of playing “Wuyld Suyde of Luyfe” over and over at dances in the Laxdale Hall, as 3rd guitarist in the mid-50s line-up of K*ntrast.

At the same time, Dick was influenced by the exotic Eastern music that his parents had taken from their homeland, and began to experiment with playing precenting scales, waulking songs and D*ncan ‘M*jor’ M*rrison piano riffs on his guitar.

The turning point in Laxdale’s career came one day 1959, when the coal boat that used to deliver to Stornoway broke down. Duncan Maciver’s and all the other coal merchants in town immediately put their prices up, which sparked a revival of peat-cutting among the Townies of Stornoway. It wasn’t chust midgies that the moor was swarming with that year, as hordes of Townies poured forth across the cattle grids, brandishing their spades and tairsgears.

In order to get the youth of the town to help out instead of indulging in the standard teen pastimes of the 50s (smoking in the Luydo, greasing their DAs with ola nan ucais, slashing the seats in the Playhouse, running high-speed “dragtor” races on the Braighe Road, staging huge and violent gang “rumbles” round the back of the Gut Factory – and that was chust the blones), Stornoway Town Council’s psychological warfare department initiated a secret campaign to make the kids think that going to the peats was “cool”.

Before long a whole “Turfing” subculture had sprung up among the teens, with its own turf slang (‘wipe out’- cleaning the tarasgeir; ‘Hang Hen’- getting dinner ready out on the moor; ‘Charlie-gnarly’; ‘Shooting the curls’- getting a quick haircut from Johnny Geeper using his shotgun method) and so on.

The turfing scene also had its own distinctive fashions (Hawaiian boiler suits, bobban bikinis) and, of course, its unforgettable turf music.

Oh yus – Stornoway’s “musicians” of the day were keen to jump on any bandwagon that was going. Many groups appeared out of the woodwork to cash in on the turf music craze – most of whom had never been over the cattle grid or near a peat bank in their lives. These included instrumental groups such as the Chant-ers (“Pipe-cleaner”), The Trash(geir)men (Turfin’ Bàrd) and of course the Turf-àiridhs, whose big hit “Wipe Out”, with its blood-curdling shriek at the start, was inspired by the limited sanitary facilities available at their sheiling on the Pentland Road (in particular, it is said, the heather “toilet paper”).

Vocal groups included Chan and Christine (“Turf City”) and, most famously, the SouthBeach Boys, featuring troubled musical genius Brian Wilson (until he dropped out of the band after recording “Peat Sounds”” and went off to Skye to start the Free Press).

Dick Laxdale was as quick to cash in on the turf music trend as everyone else, dropping his Country ‘n’ Westren sound like a hot caoran and forming a new band. It wasn’t long before “Dick Laxdale And His Dell-tones” secured a residency at Stornoway’s popular Rendezvous Cafe, and became hugely popular with the turf-obsessed youth of the town.

At a gig in the Rendezvous, a chance meeting with Liòbag Fender, chief guitar designer and head of ship’s chandlery at Charles Morrison & Sons, saw Laxdale go into partnership with the firm to help develop their technology. The result was the Fender Siomanthearlaich, a famously robust amplifier made out of rope and old tyres. The Fender Siomanthearlaich made Laxdale’s Rendezvous shows much louder than those of his rivals, enabling him to drown out the roar of passing Mitchell’s buses and the wheeze  of Tommy Darkie’s accordion from the nearby Royal. Even better, when not in use for musical purposes, the Fender Siomanthearlaich could be hung over the side of a boat to protect against collisions with the pier. Co dhiù, Laxdale’s high volume concerts in the Rendezvous became legendary, and his first album “Turfer’s Choice” was recorded live there in 1962.

“Turfer’s Choice” and its follow-up “King of the Turf Guitar” were big hits, yielding singles such as “Turf Peat”, “Miserylewis” and Let’s Go Lifting” which topped the Radio Ranol charts regularly.

Laxdale was soon in big demand, appearing on the Ed Suilven show and in a variety of hastily cobbled together turf exploitation flicks like “Cruach Building Party”, “Getting Eaten By the Midgies While Waiting for the Tractor Party” and “Doing Your Back in Throwing Fleekeen Big Wet Fàds Out of the Bank Party” (all starring turf movie stalwarts Fankie Ath-rùdhan and Caorannette Fàdicello)

But success for Laxdale was short lived, as the turf craze was soon to be eclipsed by the next big thing – the wave of mawptop beat combos from the West Side that soon became known as the Brue-tish Invasion. First it was the Peatles, then (from Callanish) the Standing Stones, then a horde of other bands – the Arnolmals, the Ceardbirds, the Dave Clachantruiseal 5, the Holies, Herman’s Herring, the Minks (You Really Caught Me), The Co? (My Sustentation, I Can Sheep For Miles) etc etc.     

 It was only in the 1990s that Laxdale’s career was revived, when cult Hearach director Quentin Taransaytino used “Miserylewis” for the opening of his violent movie about gangsters fighting over the rights to a highly prized peat bank on the Grimshader road –  “Poll Friction”.

Dick Laxdale’s massive influence on popular music is evident from the tributes that have poured in since his death, from fellow guitarists of all genres – from Hank Marvig, the late Jimi Henshed and Stevie Rayburnstove, to Peat Township, Ritchie Backmoor, Jeff Beag (Frogaidh Beag’s great uncle), Brian Mayburygardens, Ry Cuiream and Johnny Marrag.

The Gaelic psalms at Dick Laxdale’s funeral were going to be precented by his pal, enigmatic Hearach singer/songwriter Sir E Scott Waulker from the Waulker Brothers (“The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine in Cromore” and “Make it seasick on yourself”). But unfortunately Waulker  went and popped his clogs the other day as well.

RIP Peter Torquilterrace from The Mankees

2 03 2019

RIP Peter Torcuilterrace from The Mankees

Sad to report that another one of the legendary local band ‘The Mankees’ has passed on to the great gig in the sky (and bizarrely, dying within minutes of his more famous cousin Peter Tork from The Monkees).  

Peter, (a former journalist from Point), was one of the famous Mankees, a group of trendy youngsters set up by local Stornoway businessmen to try and emulate the success of The Monkees. Although of course, any resemblance to The Monkees was purely coincidental.

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

The other Mankees were Mickey Domhlann’s, a former shoe salesman, Davey Blones, a former child actor and sheep jockey, and independently wealthy Townie dilettante Mike Nesssmithavenue, who didn’t have to work because his mother was the inventor of Dipp-Ex – the world’s top sheep whitening fluid.

The Mankees all lived together in a big house, drove about the town in The Mankee-mobile (an old Town Council ‘ash-cart’) and had wacky adventures every week. Each episode would have several catchy songs.

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

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

The hits kept coming and the tv show kept bringing in advertising revenue. Songs included;

  • Last Train to Cladh Shanndabhaig,

  • Day Dream Tweed Weaver

  • I’m a Seceder

  • (I’m Not Your) Steading Blone

  • Peasant Newvalley Sunday

  • A Little Bit Mehh, A Little Bit Brue

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

Aside from the occasional reunion tour, Torcuilterrace’s post-Mankees career was sporadic and lacklustre, but the TV show has been so widely repeated since the 60s (especially since BBC Alba started) that he was able to live comfortably off repeat fees. Nevertheless, he continued to play for enjoyment with his danns ‘a rathaid combo Sủgh Suet Brues. He also maintained a keen interest in the dramatic and journalistic arts, and was never happier than when indulging in his favourite hobby of fomenting schisms in his local church congregation then writing to the Gazette to complain about them.

Jeff Stornowayne’s War of the Wools

1 02 2019

‘The chances of any sheep coming from Maws are a million to one they said’.

Many townies of a certain age will be delighted to know that a stage production of “War of the Worlds” is due to take place in An Lanntair in March this year. This musical interpretation of HG Wells’ famous book about a Martian invasion was originally created as a concept album  in the late 70’s by composer Jeff Wayne, and sold in its millions.

In more recent years Wayne transformed his album into a big-budget epic musical, and the Stornoway stage show will feature a host of local musicians, singers and actorrrs, who will recreate Wayne’s original 2006 theatrical spectacular.

But few folk today remember that Jeff Wayne was heavily influenced by his cousin Jeff Stornowayne, who had written a popular album (4 copies sold in Maciver and Darts) based on a similar book – “War of the Wools” by renowned Victorian SY-fi (Stornoway Fiction) writer HG Ironwells.

Ironwells was a big pal of Lord Leverhulme, and used to come up for his holidays every summer to lurk among the rhododendrons in the Castle Grounds. Inspired by his surroundings, he wrote several successful Stornoway-based novels including “The Invisible Ram”, “The Tuyme Machinn” (in which a steam-motorised Hattersley loom connected to Stornoway’’s famous ‘Suyme’s Clock’ enabled the protagonist to travel to the future), and of course, “The Island of Doctor Murdeau”.

But Ironwells’ best selling book by a long chalk (7 copies sold in Loch Erisort Bookshoppe) was “The War of the Wools” – a chilling tale about the maws eyeing up the fertile gardens of Stornoway and thinking that their sheep could benefit from a diet change of marigolds and petunias, instead of raw heather.

However, the cunning townies had built an almost impenetrable barrier of cattle grids around the town, preventing such wooly incursions. So, how could the maws get their sheep into Stornoway? By using fleekeen big spaceships and death rays, that’s how!

After much blood, gore, destruction and general excitement, the maws are eventually defeated, not by the townies’ efforts, but when they succumb to the fumes from the Gut Factory.

The book caught the attention of the masses (the aforementioned 7 people who could read in Stornoway at that time) and firmly established the SY-fi genre.

In the 1930’s, “The War of the Wools” became infamous following a live radio adaptation on Isles FM by Orduighean Wellies. The good people of Stornoway thought the Maws were actually invading the town and had crossed the cattle grids with their sheeps. This resulted in mass panic leading to rioting and looting in the streets. The rioting has continued to this day in some parts of the town.  

In the 1970s, Stornowayne had been looking for an opportunity to bring a local book to life as a musical concept.  He took “War of the Wools” and turned it into an epic, double concept album musical extravaganza featuring the very finest Leodhsach musicians and thespians of the period. Many of the leading parts were voiced by top celebrities of the day.

“The Parson” was played by Phil Lional from hard rockers Thin Leodhasach (who had a string of hits including ‘The Boys From Back Are In Town’, ‘Dancing in The Moor Light’ and ‘Bard Reputation’.

Meanwhile “The Artilleryman”  was voiced by David Nessex (the 70s chart hearthrob behind such hits as “Rubhach On, “Amaraga”, “Gonna Make You A Star (Inn)”, and “Silver D.R.’s Machine”).  

And “Obh-ita” star Julie Covingtownie contributed her dulcet tones as “The voice of Bethesda”.

But the one voice everyone remembers from “War of the Wools” is that of “The Narrator” – legendary Stornoway Thespian Richard Burnt-toine, the star of such classic films as ‘Where Eagleton Dares’, ‘An Townie and Cleobattery’ and ‘Who’s Afraid of Virgin Wool?’  

Who could forget Burnt-toine’s momentous delivery of the album’s opening words….

‘In the late 19th century, few townies had even considered the possible existence of extra-town-estial life, and yet Stornoway had in fact long been enviously observed by advanced beings’

….as he ominously set the scene for Mawsian Invaders, sci-fi sheep and deathrays, all delivered over a bombastic soundtrack of monstrously overproduced orchestral prog rock,  puirt-a-beul and dodgy disco.

Top musicians on the album included Jeff Stornowayne himself, guitarist Chris Spreadingmanure, Ken Freepresbyteriman on melodeon, and ace session bassist B*lly Flower, who’d famously played with classical rock maestros Skye, and done the slidy double bass on former Bobban Underground singer P*ddy Reed’s solo hit “Walk on the West Side”.

As well as the massive success of the album itself, Stornowayne and his band scored a huge hit single (3 plays on “Caithris na h-Oidche”) with Side B Track 2 – Chustin Heycove from the Moody Brues singing ‘Forever (D)autumn(an)’.

Several stage productions of “War of the Wools” have gone on tour over the years, with the original parts being played by new actors. Burnt-toin’s Narrator role has often been reprised by Liam Niseach (“Schuilven’s List”, “Rob Robhanais”, “The Communions”, “Siar Wars I – The Phantom Mehhh-Ness” and “II – Attack of the Blones”).

Niseach was hired to after the failure of several costly attempts by the production team to replicate the deceased Burnt-toine onstage using complex special effects and animatronics. These involved a copy of the original album on cassette from Woolies, a photo of Burnt-toine’s face cut out of the Gazette, some sellotape and (variously) the statue nicked from Lady Matheson’s monument, a tailor’s dummy stolen from Murdo Maclean’s, and a scarecrow obtained under cover of darkness from Goathill farm.