The Cuiream Missile Crisis

9 10 2012

It’s 50 years this month since the Cuban Missile Crisis famously brought the world to the brink of nuclear Armageddon. In 1962 the eyes of the world were focussed on the Caribbean, where the Soviet Union and the USA faced each other down, and the fate of civilization and of life itself hung in the balance.

However, the Eye Peninsulas of the world were focused on a much more serious situation in the Minch, where a confrontation between Free Church congregations threated to split apart the fragile interdenominational peace that existed between the various churches on Lewis and Harris.

Old SYs in the know will tell you that this stand-off – The Cuiream Missile Crisis – came much closer to triggering a global nuclear conflagration than thon wee spat between Kruschev and Kennedy.

In the early 1960’s, the many and varied Presbyterian denominations of Lewis were engaged in a Cold War of ideology and holiness, as to which Church had the best sermons, the blackest elder hats and the biggest list of things that weren’t allowed. The Point and South Lochs Free Churches were on particularly bad terms after a falling-out involving a Minister’s wife putting too much salt in the Communion Soup, with counter-allegations being made that low grade Bachelor Buttons were being used in Rubhach services.

On the unlikely pretext of preventing Hearach Seceders from sneaking up to Point to invade their Communions, Knock Free Church announced plans to base nuclear missile batteries on the Shiant Islands, a mere stone’s throw from the South Lochs coast.

Finlay Castrator, the local Shepherd on the Shiants, was a hardline communist whose 1-man regime (governing a population consisting of himself and 400 sheep) was entirely dependent on the Rubhachs for support. As far as he was concerned, villages like Orinsay and Lemreway were hotbeds of exiled Shiant sheep intent on re-taking the islands and overthrowing him at the first opportunity, as they’d already tried to do in the abortive Bay Of Mehhhags invasion of 1961. Consequently he was only too happy to site the missiles on top of a cliff which meant that every Free Church, mission house and fank in South Lochs was in range.

Across the water, recently-elected President Calum F Kennedy of South Lochs was determined not to back down in the face of this provocation, and supported the local Free Church in demanding that Knock remove their missiles.

Meanwhile Knock Free Church’s case was taken up by the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Point, Knokita Khruisgean. The Rubhachs claimed that their batteries on the Shiants were a legitimate form of defence, pointing out that the Lochies had already done a deal with the Tolsta Seceders to site missiles on the cliffs above Traigh Mhor, taking most of Point into range.

A period of stalemate began, with both sides posturing and blaming the other in scathing sermons delivered from the pulpits. Neither side outgunned the other, but if one side moved first, the other would react almost instantly, resulting in devastation for the entire planet. It was this period of time where the phrase ‘MAD’ (Ministers Assuring Destruction) was first coined.

Eventually Kennedy and Khruisgean were persuaded to do a deal by Dag Hamnaway, the Secretary Cheneral of inter-church negotiating body the (Dis)United (Denomi)Nations who had recently died in a mysterious tractor crash.
In return for the Rubhachs removing their missiles from the Shiants, the Lochies agreed never to invade the islands. This didn’t go down well with the exiled anti-Castrator sheep community in South Lochs, who regarded it as a betrayal of their cause.

When Kennedy was assassinated as his motorcade passed through Dalbeg in November 1963, many conspiracy theorists suggested that the disgruntled Shiants sheep had had a hand in it. Or at least a hoof.