Outer Hebridean Saints (Northern Part)

9 05 2020

A common misconception held by people from the wrong side of the Minch is that saints play no part in the religion of the islands North of Benbecula.

Yus, we’ve got all the well known saints of the old Celtic church – St Columba’s this and St Ronan’s that – but fleek all from the 8th century onwards. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Northern half of the Outer Hebrides has been out of the saint business since the Vikings arrived.

So, we’ve put together a handy (and free) cut out guide to all your favourite (Northernmost)  Outer Hebridean saints

In no particular order, here they are in all their ecclesiastical and/or hermetic glory.  

St Ornoway-The patron saint of townies. Originally from MacKenzie St, he took holy orders in 543AD with a Free Church (Considerablyearlierthanthought) Religious Order of Monks called The Fleekin Skint Brothers of Penury, who specialised in begging on Cromwell St. In an effort to make the town more upmarket and attract a better class of Viking, he was said to have driven the maws from the town and established the first cattle-grids.

St Ornoway was trampled to death in 657 AD while cursing a flock of Laxdale sheep that had jumped the grid and were eating his hydrangeas. 

He makes a miraculous re-appearance once a year, on St Ornoway’s Day, when he flies around the town with a big crozier and smites anybody heard to speak Gaelic within the city limits.

St Einish -This native of Tong was the Patron Saint of Quicksand, following his discovery of the notorious Steinish quicksands. And he was also the first person to disappear in the Steinish quicksands, following a disastrous ‘shortcut’ after a Ceilidh in Sandwick Hall.

St Rùpag – Patron Saint of tea and scones (and dodgy Mòd folk bands circa 1984). It was rumoured that a great Holy Relic, his actual teaspoon, ended up in the Coffee Pot cutlery drawer.

St EpwegaiIyonwego -The patron saint of Lewis wedding dances. It is said that Epwegailyonwego was a Viking dance tutor from Trondheim, who introduced the social convention of all the coves standing round the walls of the dance hall, until they had partaken in a sufficient quantity of mead to give them the courage to ask a blone for a dance. He was trampled to death after trying to teach 200 Icelandic berserkers the Vinland Barndance.

St Oneyfieldfarm – Patron saint of farmers on the outskirts of Stornoway. Like nearly all the Saints listed here, Oneyfieldfarm claimed to have a piece of the ‘One True Cross (Inn)’, after it was involuntarily demolished in 792AD  following a heated debate by its clientele over the best way to cross the Barvas Moor.  If every claimed piece was put together you could rebuild the Inn 100 times over.   

St Ockinish – Patron Saint of Lobster Creels. He lived in a hermitage made from discarded lobster creels. 

St Rond – Patron Saint of Nice Views Over The Sound Of Harris.

St Onecircle – Patron Saint of new age solstice hippies.

St Arinn – Patron Saint of excessive drinking.

St Armore – Patron Saint of posh knitting.

St Amper -The Patron Saint of Harris Tweed Inspectors. Said to have driven out the electric motor, thus condemning the islands to a peat and paraffin lamp existence until the electric came back in the 1950’s. 

And although not a northern Saint, we shouldn’t forget St Affa,  the Patron Saint of funny shaped rocks. Legend has it he drove the normal rocks away.

Bizarrely, all of the above Holy men were on the go around about the same time. They were all keen crofters and did much to sow the seed that grew to be the passion for small scale agricultural holdings that prevails throughout the islands to this day. Either that or they imparted the great love for subsidies which makes the crofting world go round today. 

The Saints even considered setting up a crofting collective (for Saints only, obviously) and even went as far as applying together for grants to build new agricultural buildings. However, the schism gene kicked in and they all fell out, but not before they managed to get hold of a template for a decent sized building to keep their cows. A popular song is rumoured to have been written about this – ‘When The Saints Got Matching Byres’

Forgotten (non)Leodhasach Explorers : Part 2 of Some – Marag-o Pollochar and the Silk-Cut Road to J&E’s.

25 04 2020

We don’t chust do celebrity obituaries at the Made Up History of Stornoway, although you could be forgiven for thinking that these days. So here’s some proper historical made-up history for a change – Number 2 in our series on Forgotten Leodhasach explorers.

This cove wasn’t actually a Leodhasach at all at all, but since Lewis was where he did most of his exploring (and seeing he wasn’t from very far away) we’ll count him in anyway.

Marag-o Pollochar was a merchant and explorer from South Uist, where his parents had a small inn. In the 13th century there was no decent bakery in the Uists, and so bread from Stornoway was highly prized and extremely rare, particularly the plain loaves produced by the legendary J&E Macleod on the corner of Church St and Kenneth St. The Uibhistich didn’t actually know how to get to J&E’s themselves; It was a long way away, back in them days, across the trackless wastes of Harris and Lochs. So they had to buy their bread via the Hearachs, who jealousy guarded the location of their source and charged a fleekeen huge markup.

Marag-o realised that if he could map out the mythical route to J&E’s himself, he’d be able to cut out the Hearachs and trade with the legendary Stornoway bakery directly.

After sailing across the Sound of Harris by night, Marag-o donned the garb of a Hearach tribesman (boiler suit, turned-down wellies, manky tweed chacket with a quarter bottle in the pocket, a bonaid chlò, and a rollup behind each ear). 

Confident in his ability to blend in, he set out on what was to be an epic series of peregrinations that took him to every corner of South Harris but, after 10 years, found him no nearer the fabled land of J&E. Eventually Marag-o decided it was time to stop trying to get to Stornoway by Mitchell’s bus, and set off from Rodel by foot instead.

After traversing the length of the Golden Road, hitching a ride on a camel train across the Govig Desert, and fighting off yetis on the high mountain passes of the Clisham, Marag-o finally crossed the border into Lewis. 

In the tale of his journey, dictated many years later to his cellmate in a Gerinish prison, Marag-o told of many wonders encountered along the route. These included giants, cyclopseses, and a race of strange half man/half sheep/half deer/half salmon creatures inhabiting the ruined city of Airidhbhruachstrakhan.

After leaving the fabled but lawless Silkcut Route city of Bukharalallan, Marag-o and his party were followed by a party of dastardly local brigands who ambushed them and stole all their supplies.

Nearly starved to death, the gallant adventurers staggered into the grand bazaar at Samarkameronterrace just in time to haggle for the last bridie on the shelf and get it heated up in the microwave. With this exotic sustenance onboard, Marag-o girded his loinchops and set out on the last few miles to the fabled East. 

Passing the city dump and navigating through a forest of early wind turbines (fenceposts with seagull feathers nailed onto a wooden circle), Marag-o at last came to the Great Cattle Grid. At first the fierce Easterner tribesmen looked upon Marag-o with suspicion, but when they found out he spoke Gaelic (albeit with a Uist accent) they relaxed their guard slightly and escorted him to Sandwick Road and the headquarters of the Great Kublai Khan-seo, the Emperor of J&E’s.   

Kublai Khan-seo was a grandson of Enghies Khan-seo, the fearsome leader of the Maw-ngol horde, a nomadic tribe from the Barvas steppes who invaded Stornoway in 1206 and established a yak-petrol station that opened on Sundays.  Kublai himself founded the Ewe-an Dynasty after seizing the throne of J&E from its previous owners, the GaelicSong Dynasty.

Kublai Khan-seo was also renowned for his Golden Bòrd. This should not be confused with his distant cousin Kublai Khan’s Golden Horde. Whereas the Golden Horde was an army of warriors fabled for distributing dread, the Golden Bòrd was a table for displaying bread.  The Golden Bòrd started out as a small trestle table, where Khan-seo used to display that day’s fresh, golden brown/not quite burnt baking. The original one was set up outside his bakery, but as his baking began to find fame (and become less burnt), he had to add more tables and eventually ended up having to open a shop at the junction of Church St and Kenneth St, the famed J&E’s.  

North Uist/Canadian prog rockers Rushigarry (consisting of Geddy Leacalee, Neal Puirt and Alec Dan Lifeboat)  later wrote a song in honour of Kublai Khan-seo’s Pleasure-Blackhouse, Xana-dubh, where his favourite bakers got to sleep in the beds that weren’t next to the cow.

Samuel Taylor Collbeacheridge, a famed Poet from Broadbay, also wrote a lengthy epic about Xana-dubh.

‘In Xanadubh did Kublai Khan-seo

A stately pleasure tigh dubh decree

Where Creed, the sacred river ran

Past poachers measureless to man.

(Our buns now are gluten free!!!’.

…so get yourself to J&E).

Tim Boke Sailor (and some other celebrities) RIP

16 04 2020

Hengoes. The recent rush of celebrities queuing up to get into the hereafter is keeping our obituary department here at the Made Up History of Stornoway busy as fleek.

No sooner had we done with Country and WestrenIsles star Kenny WrongChurch than news came of the passing of Soval soul singing sheep sensation Bill Wedders  (“Lìonal Me”, “Ain’t No Sunshine At All, Ever”, ”Lovely Daycon”). 

Then it was Honor Backman, famous for her role as kinky-Arnish-booted secret agent and licensed grocer Dr Cathy Ghall in BBC Alba’s classic swinging 60s series “The Àiridhvengers” (also starring Patrick MacNiseach as John Creed). To this day, fans of the series (well, Bodachs of a certain age) often debate the relative attractions of Backman versus her successor Diana Rigsroad, but the fact that Backman’s character had her own off-licence means she’s usually ahead in the polls. Backman was also famous for appearing opposite Sean Canneryroad’s Seamus Bonaid in “Gold(medal)singer”, as the legendary femme fatale Peatstack Gu-leòr. In later life she appeared in the inexplicably long-running ruppish RubhachTV sitcom “The Upper Bayble ” opposite woefully underutilised Sulasgeir thespian Steven McGannet.    

And chust the other day it was Sir Stirlingsquare Maws, champion tractor racing driver of the 50s. Maws was also a gifted Formula Vans driver and won many Ground Peats over the years. Sir Stirlingsquare’s name lives on, of course, in the famous Stornoway racing circuit at Mawssend.

But among the Grim Reaper’s latest crop, the celebrity who will probably be missed most is the late comic genius and lifelong seasickness sufferer Tim Boke-Sailor.

Born Murdo Angus Macaulay in 1941 in a blackhouse in Uig, near the site of the current petrol pump and community shop, Tim earned his stage name as a result of some spectacular projectile vomiting on his first ever boat trip. During a 5-minute row across to Great Bernera in the days before the bridge opened, one of his stunned shipmates christened Murdo Angus “The Timsgarry Boke Sailor”. and,  like the diced carrots on the paintwork, it stuck.

Having unwisely chosen to study Navigation at Lews Castle College, Boke-Sailor was a member of the college’s YM-bridge-based Footlights society, along with John Clisham et al (See Terry Jones obit) and of course the Rev Donny after whom the society was named.

Throughout the 60s Boke-Sailor refused to give in to seasickness, commuting across the Minch regularly to appear on Radio Raasay’s hilarious Gaelic poetry-based sketch show “I’m Sorley I’ll Read That Again” . “I’m Sorley…” also featured future Maw T Peatiron star John Clisham, diminutive musical genius and seagull watcher Bill Òrduighean, and Jo Kentangaval playing all the proper blones’ parts.

On Television, Boke-Sailor made his name on  “At Last the 19:48 Bus”, for which he wrote the “Four Eòropiemen” sketch later recycled more successfully on  “Maw T Peatiron”s Flying Cearc-house” (See our recent Terry Blones obit again). The sketch featured 4 Niseachs trying to outdo each other with reminiscences about the brutal poverty of their early years…..

”We’d have to swim back from Sulasgeir, dragging a wooden raft full of guga behind us, whilst having to light a fire on a wave in order to singe the feathers off…”

“That’s nothing! We had to jump across to Sulasgeir, carrying a fortnight’s supply of potatoes in a Woolies bag, whilst polishing the mirror on the Ness Lighthouse as we passed it…” 

With these connections, Boke-Sailor might well have ended up as a member of the Maw T Peatiron crew, but in true Leodhasach style he fell out with them in a theological dispute over whether Murdo Maclean’s or Nazir’s had the best communion hats. Resolving to assemble  his own breakaway comedy team, he formed The Coories after bumping into Graeme Gardenroad and former “I’m Sorley…” collaborator Bill Òrduighean at a Wednesday prayer meeting in Coulegrein. 

With its catchy theme song “The Coories! Coorie Coorie Psalm Psalm”, the show went on to massive success during the 70’s and early 80’s. The premise of the show was that The Coories would offer themselves as a congregation for hire to any Church short on members, with the tagline ‘We Do Any Pew, Anytime’. Usually the storyline involved The Coories finding themselves in bizarre situations, not least the famous Caora Kong episode, featuring a giant cheviot lamb climbing up a cardboard model of Martin’s Steeple.

Another well known episode featured The Coories becoming Masters of a marag-based martial art called “Heckaye Thump”, which parodied the popular Broadbay fighting discipline known as “Tong Fu”.

The Coories’ special three seater tractor also featured regularly, as they drove from church to church.

The Coories also achieved success in the pop charts, taking their moving tribute to a renowned school hostel,  “Manky GibsonHostel”, to Number 1 all over Stornoway and parts of South Lochs. 

“Poo, poo, poo the manky Gibson (manky Gibson)

We are here untilfleekingfourthyearatleast”

Right up till the present day, Boke-Sailor was a regular panellist on Radio Ranol’s “I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Guth”, hosted by the late Humphreechurch Eagleton. Boke-Sailor was a skilled player of “Goathill Crescent”, the show’s mythical game of strategy based on the stations in Stornoway’s underground railway system. 

Deceased trad chazz chanter player Eagleton payed a warm tribute to Boke-Sailor yesterday on hearing the news of his demise.  “I’m not too worried”, ars esan, “because Tim is very well practiced at this sort of thing; like all our panellists, he’s died on a regular basis throughout his comedy career”.


Kenny WrongChurch RIP

30 03 2020

Following hard on the heels of the death of Country megastar Kenny Rogers, news is just reaching us about the demise of local Country and WestrenIsles star Kenny WrongChurch.

Kenny was one of the leading lights in the world of Country & WestrenIsles music and had an impressive back catalogue of hit singles and albums. He was also a serial churchgoer, and enjoyed fomenting discord and schism in many local church denominations, as he was a deamhnaidh old bleigeard and could never make up his mind as to what church he should be attending. 

Kenny first found fame as a member of The New Christian Ministers, a band singing Country and Westren Psalms, but left due to a schism over whose turn it was to precent. 

His next band, formed with the crew of a Marvig herring drifter, was Kenny Wrongchurch and the Fish Edition. They had a big hit in 1967 with “I Just Dropped In (To See What Condition The Crit Was In)” which was based on a true story of a particularly boisterous session in the Criterion Bar. 

Wrongchurch and the Fish Edition were fleekeen hippies, and thus opposed to the long-running intervillage conflict over sheep grazing rights on the Arnish Moor known as the VietRam War. In 1969 they released a searing indictment of Point’s role in the conflict, told from the perspective of a Sheshader war veteran:  – “Rubha B (Don’t Take Your Love Duwn The Tuwn)”

In the early 70s, following another theological schism over the acceptable shade of black for elders’ hats on the Friday of the Tolsta òrduighean, Wrongchurch split with the Fish Edition and went solo. This turned out to be a good move, as the 1970’s were a very lucrative period for Kenny with hit after hit raising his profile all over some of Lewis. Meanwhile his former bandmates’ splinter group, “The Fish Edition (Continuing)” sank without trace.

In 1977 he wrote “Lewis Eel”, an appeal to the Stornoway Trust to do something about the increasing numbers of fresh water eels that were taking over the trout lochs and salmon rivers .

”You took a fine time to reel-in Lewis Eel 

With four angry ghillies keeping watch on the Creed

I had some tangled lines, caught up in a power line

But this time my hook’s needing freed

You took a fine time to reel-in Lewis Eel”

Perhaps his most well known song was his tribute to Stornoway’s only bookie’s shop, ”The Campbell-er”. This was a moving tribute about John Campbell’s betting shop on South Beach. WrongChurch would spend many happy hours there losing his shirt on the Newmarket nags. 

The B-side of “The Campbell-er” was “The Gambol-ler”, an alternate take of the same tune, but sponsored by the Board of Agriculture and intended to educate crofters in the basics of sheep management:

“Ewe got to know when to fleece ’em,

  Know when to freeze ’em,

  Know when to dose ’em,

  And when to get the ram,

  You never count your money,

  When the subsidy’s on the table,

  There’ll be time enough for countin’,

  When you get the cu-ram”

And of course in 1979 Wrongchurch finished off the 70s on a high note, with the international (Pairc and West Side) smash hit “Coward of the County (Public)” which went on to sell an unprecedented 4 copies in Maciver & Dart, 3 in DD Morrison’s and scored him 2 plays on Radio Ranol. 

At the start of the new decade, Wrongchurch had a successful writing partnership with Niseach precenting sensation Lional Macritchie, frontman of the Communiondores (“Easy Like Sunday Morning at the FP Òrduighean Isn’t”) which resulted in several hits including “Lady (Matheson)” and “Shear Your Love”.

Also in the early 1980’s The Highlands and Islands Development Board commissioned him to write a song promoting the new Parkend Industrial Estate. He enlisted local lass Dolly Parkend and together they had a smash hit which reached Number 1 all over Sandwick. This song was, of course ’Islands Industry’. 

WrongChurch also had huge success performing another duet in 1983 with the heartfelt ballad ‘We’ve Got The Sh*tes’,  with Sheena EastStreet. This was a cover version of a well known song by Bob Seceder and The Silver Pullet Band. 

(With thanks to Dunky, Roddy H and Innes for their help reminding us of Kenny’s many hits)

Terry Blones: A belated tribute

20 03 2020

Mainland comedy fans suffered another sad loss a few weeks back, with the passing of Monty Python’s Terry Jones. 

Unfortunately, the demise of Jones’ island cousin on the same day was largely ignored on the other side of the Minch. Which was a shame, because the comic legend’s late Leodhasach relation also had a long and varied (if slightly less successful) career in TV and film.

Terry Blones was a member of the influential comedy team Maw T Peatiron’s Flying Cearc-house (and acquired his surname because his colleagues were forever making him him dress up as a cailleach). Along with his 5 colleagues he produced some of BBC Alba’s finest comedy moments and left a legacy of groundbreaking sketches, with catch phrases that have become part of everyday conversation (for a certain species of truaghan bochd who can’t resist reciting them at every opportunity).

Blones didn’t actually appear in what is probably the most quoted piece in the team’s TV series. In “The Dead Guga Sketch” an irate Niseach played by John Clisham goes into Cross Stores to complain that his singed/dried/salted/packed gannet from Sulasgeir is a bit listless. (For more Southerly listeners, the piece was dubbed from Niseach into Lochie Gaelic and retransmitted as the “Dead Sgarbh Sketch”).

However Blones took the lead role as the waitress in the equally famous “Sgadan Sketch”, (Cove: “Dé a thagaibh?”  Waitress: “Tha buntàta, sgadan ‘s buntàta, buntàta ‘s sgadan, sgada ‘s buntàta ‘s sgadan, buntàta ‘s sgadan ‘s buntàta….”). 

Blones, Clisham and Chapman met while performing in the YMBridge amateur theatrical company “Footlights” (a group which spawned many comedy greats over the years, as well as a respected Free Church Minister.)

The Peatiron crew all went on to greater success. 

John Clisham wrote and starred in Fawlty Todhars (co-written by his then wife Connie Bùthsheumais) and A Fish Called Cnòdan. 

Michael Pale-ale became famed as a globe trotting documentary maker, including Around The Pubs In 80 Minutes, about a particularly memorable pub crawl round Stornoway during the 1979 Mod) and Dole to Dòmhnall (about his time spent working in Stornoway Job Centre when everyone was called Domhnall)

Terry Gili-amadan became a respected illustrator and director of fleekeen weird films including “Bragar-zil” and “Timsgarry Bandits”.

Eric Ayeayedòmhnall – Became a well known comedic actor but was perhaps best known for writing and singing Stornoway Sea-angling Club anthem ‘Always Hook on the Right Side for Lithe’.

Grazings Chapman – went on to write and star in the pirate film Yellowfleece. The film was originally conceived as a vehicle for hard-drinking and notoriously incontinent rock drummer Keith Mùn. However due to the fact that Mùn was long dead by the time Chapman got around to filming, he was replaced by an entire cast of Stornoway worthies including Peter SheepCrook, Marshy Fieldman, Spike MillRoadigan, Digg*m Da, Ch*rsty Al*ne and B*gie. Chapman also wrote the popular “A Lair’s Autobiography” – the life story of a burial plot in Aiginish cemetery, to which he retired in 1989.

Terry Blones found post Peatiron fame as a well respected director but found plenty of time to pursue his real passion as a medieval historian. His study of 13th-century Arnol poet Cheffrey Chau-siar was critically acclaimed. Meanwhile his BBC Alba documentaries such as “Terry Blones’ Mehhh-dieval Missionaries” and “Terry Blones’ Barra-barians” provided a refreshing reappraisal of peoples that history had previously judged to be ignorant uncultured maws from outside the cattle grid. Always keen to set the record straight, Blones did extensive research and arrived at the surprising conclusion that – yus, they were indeed as raw as a fleekeen peat, the whole fleekeen lot of them. 

The Peatiron gang made several films over the years including:

  • And Now For Souming Completely Different
  • The Meaning of Lithe
  • Maw T Peatiron and the Holy Creel – A take on the Arthurian Legend, where a bunch of inept Knights try to find the legendary and long lost Holy Creel. The film featured The Knights Of Niseach, Tolsta Witches, mysterious enchanters and The Knights of the Round Table (who were played by the various Peatirons) included Sir Galanhead, Sir Gawainabost and Sir Manse-alot,
  • The Life of Brendan – possibly the Peatirons’ best known film. This caused all sorts of controversy when it came out. The film was ostensibly about a young man called Brendan, who just by chance grew up at the same time as a well known MP. Terry Blones directed the film but also famously played Brendan’s mum with the classic line ‘He’s not the MP, he’s a very naughty boy’. The Life of Brendan also brought us ‘ What have the Rubhachs ever done for us?’ and ‘The Peoples Front of Judea (Continuing)’.

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.