The Eoropievision Song Contest

17 05 2013

In a previous article we saw how, back in 1974, 2 blones and 2 coves from Stornoway went off and won the Eurovision Song Contest for Sweden. (https://stornowayhistory.wordpress.com/tag/abba/)

But with all the fuss over in Malmo next weekend, it’s easy to forget that it’s not just continental Europe that can stage ridiculous overblown tackfests characterised by abysmal music, constant cultural and linguistic misunderstandings, and a voting system that serves to highlight rather than conceal the old enmities that have driven most of the participants to war against each other for centuries.

Oh no – indeed, many years before Johnny Foreigner came along and pinched the idea, the warring villages of Ness had set up a similar event in an effort to distract their citizens from knocking lumps out of each other in disputes about sheep’s earmarks, bothans, fences and the finer points of the Doctrine of Predestination. This was, of course, the Eoropievision Song Contest.

The village of Eoropie has long been known as “The Switzerland of Ness” due to its tendency to remain neutral during disputes between other townships in the area (and kindly offer to look after their money while they fight each other). It doesn’t have a chocolate industry to speak of, but it is well known for the manufacture of Guga Clocks.

Marcel Beistealachd, head of the Eoropie Broadcasting Union, conceived the idea of the Eoropievision Song contest in 1948. Beistealachd decided that –since one of the causes of intervillage warfare was the unending argument about whose Gaelic was ‘right’, the whole contest would be organised and run in French. Unfortunately none of the original judging panel knew any French numbers, and so in the first contest in 1949, everybody was awarded ‘Nul Point’ and came last.

Beistealachd was not deterred by this, nor by the complete absence in these days of electricity or televisions in the district. Over the next few years, several villages from outside Ness began to compete, and by the mid 60s, Eoropievision was a large scale affair involving most of the villages from the Butt to Barra. The exception was Point, whose hardline communist rulers refused to have anything to do with such decadent capitalist frivolity until the fall of the Braigh Wall in 1989. From 1989 onwards the Contest saw an increase in entries, as previously unheard of former ‘Rubhach Pact’ villages (such as Broker and Portvoller) submitted entries. As most of the Point villages had been cut off from modern culture for so long, these entries tended to be at least 40 years behind the rest of Lewis and Harris in terms of songwriting, and most entries tended to be all about the dream of catching a really big fish.

The Contest also had it fair share of controversy. In 1974 the Port Nis entry was a signal to the village’s populace to rise up in the ‘Damnation Revolution’ that overthrew their insufficiently hard-line minister, the Rev Marcelo Mackayetano. Uig cove Clibhe Richards still claims to this day that his song ‘Congregations’ was kept off the winning position by the revolutionaries.

In the late 1990’s the Inaclete entry from Dana Interdenominational caused consternation when it was discovered that she was not all she appeared to be, and was not really a Free Churcher but a Seceder!

Voting patterns are often dominated by politics. Castlebay, Arnol, Lochboisdale and Bragar always vote tactically against each other. Grimshader and Tolsta always give each other maximum points and nobody else gives ever them any. And despite the breakup of the old communist regime in Point, Garrabost sends its tanks out on “exercises” each year a week or so before the contest and then routinely receives “Douze Points” from all its former Rubhach Pact client villages in the area.

But the most common occurrence is the maws all ganging up and giving ‘Nul Point’ to the Stornoway entries. This was certainly the case when Engebret Fillingstation got fleek all votes last year (2012).

Winners and Notable Entries

  • ·Few Europievision winners went on to achieve lasting success, but H*bba, who won the 1974 contest, was a notable exception, topping the charts for years afterwards with hits such as  “Psalma Mia”, “Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Plank And a Hammer”) and “Knowing Me, I Know Who It Was, Was it You?”.
  • ·In 1967, Sandie Shaw  – a supergroup composed of hard-gigging Plasterfield rawk chick  Sandie Mackinnon and quiet acoustic Newton thrash metal axeman Iain Shaw – won with “(Collie) Puppy on a String”
  • ·Bugsy Fizz – a supergroup composed of Bugsy and Cally Fizzags  – nearly won the 1981 contest with “Making Your Mind Up” (song about deciding on which Free Church splinter group to join). But the bit where they pulled off their skirts caused so much outrage that they were disqualified and exiled. This is how it went:

 

Making Your Mind Up (which breakaway church to join)

You gotta Secede it up

And then you gotta schism it down

Cos if you believe that a church can hit the top

You gotta pray around

And soon you will find at Communion Time

You’re making your mind up.

You gotta stand for prayers

And for psalms sit down

You gotta be sure that it’s something

Every elders gonna talk about

On Sunday Night

Before you decide the tithe is right

For making your mind up.

Don’t let your inner schism

Take you from behind

Trust your sinner vision

Don’t let FPs change your mind

 

  • ·Second rate Hearach H*bba wannabees the Brotherhood of Manish  won in 1976 with “Save All Your Fishes For Me”
  • ·In 1980 Johnny ‘Local’ – A white settler pretending to be a maw – sang the Lemreway entry and won. ‘Local’ was to become a fixture of the contest as a performer, writer and arranger for many years to come. But he’s still fleekeen ruppish.
  • ·Ciorstaidh-Anna and the Wakes won in 1997 with “Mamma Weer Al-Crae-zee Now”. Oh no it wasn’t – it was “A Hearse With No Name”. Or maybe “Going Down To Ullapool”. Or something.
  • ·And of course who can forget Finsbay’s unexpected 2006 winner : Grotesque cuireamach metal merchants Lord-i with “Hard Rock Thighearnabheannaichte”?

 

This year’s final takes place on Saturday night in Marvig.

Fleek knows who’s going to win  Probably not Bonnie Tyler – She was going to come and sing the Marybank entry “Total Eclipse of the Ceard” – but it turns out she’s got an other job on that night.

Our money’s on a Rubhach – probably thon Murdina Garrabostova. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll vote for her as well.

 

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Dallas: The BBC Alba Version

5 09 2012

So Dallas returns to the TV screens after a long hiatus.
But who can forgot the long running BBC Alba series ‘Dell-as’ which ran from the late 70’s to the mid 80’s?
Many critics unfairly claimed that it was a blatant rip off of Dallas, but to anyone who watched the popular Gaelic tv series, there is no doubt that it bore no resemblance what so ever to the glossy Texas soap opera.
Dell-as was set on Lewis and was all about a wealthy family from Ness who had made their fortune from the lucrative Guga-Oil industry. The company had been set up by famed guga-hunter Euan Morrison. Just after the Second World War, Euan had noticed a gap in the domestic heating oil market and found that guga oil worked really well (albeit a lot smellier) as a paraffin replacement. Euan set up a company to sell the guga-oil which he called it ‘Euan Oil’.
Houses across the Hebrides started using supplies of Euan Oil to light their domestic chores, and soon money was pouring in to Euan’s pockets. The TV series was all about Euan Oil and his disfunctional family, plus the intrigues, dalliances and shenanigans that went on in the lifestyles of the rich & famous.
The series was centred on the goings-on in a huge, whitewashed, ‘Department’ house in the village of Dell that Euan had built with the proceeds from his guga-oil. The house was called South Graap. Unusually for the time, this house had three bedrooms and was shown furnished with the finest stuff from Murdo MacLeans and the JD Williams Catalogue.
The cast were always shown wearing the latest fashions from Nazirs & Smiths Shoe Shop, and the female members of the cast were always sporting the latest perm from Salon Nan Eilean.
In the story, Euan had two sons. The eldest was called Johnny Robbie, or JR for short, and he helped Euan run the business. The youngest son, (who worked part time driving the Councils septic tank lorry and was called Chobby Euan) also had an involvement in the Company, but didn’t really get on with JR.
JR was married to a posh blone from Stornoway called Siuthad-Ellen whilst Chobby was married to a woman of crofting & sheepherding stock called Ramella. Other regular characters included Clibhe Barnes, Ray Velvet-Crabs and Lewisy Euan (also known as the Poison Scorp).
The storylines began to get weirder and weirder as the series went on and included alien abduction, dream sequences and countless divorces. However, the series is best remembered for the cliff-hanger ending of the 1980’s, when JR Euan was found face down at the bottom of South Graap’s septic tank, prompting the speculation on everyone’s lips (and also on t-shirts, posters, badges, songs etc) ‘Who Shat JR?’





Some Stornoway Rhyming Slang

18 08 2010

Many years ago, the residents of the East End of Stornoway (commonly known as ‘the Battery’ after the former Royal Naval Reserve base located there) started using a type of rhyming slang to communicate with each other. The ‘secret’ language was thought to have been developed to enable the Battery Gang to discuss where their Bonfire Night tyres were hidden without the Manor Gang finding out. The slang became popular throughout Stornoway and was eventually adopted by the workers in the many Tweed Mills down the Battery and became known as ‘Clothney’ Rhyming Slang.

As an aside, a person was called an Eastender if they were born within earshot of ‘The Bow Bells’ (which was the noise of C*lan Bow’s clinking bottle of Bells Whiskey as he staggered along Inaclete Road from Cathy Dhall’s Shop).
The slang gradually died out as it became very confusing for the poor townies what with having to cope with English and Gaelic as well.
Some of the last remaining examples of Clothney Rhyming Slang are shown below.
Arnish Welder= Church Elder (as in ‘My old man’s an Arnish Welder.’ : ‘Oh, he must be very holy’)
Church Elder=Arnish Welder (As in ‘My old man’s a Church Elder.’ ‘Oh he must be off and on the Dole-y’. This particular use of slang led to much confusion as on several occasions actual Welders ended up officiating at Funerals in Arnish Boots and orange boiler suits.
Dawn Squad=local Mod (As in ‘Will you look at that, there’s the Local Mod outside the Porters Lodge again.’)- The use of slang here led to some small amount of confusion which saw the Dawn Squad winning the ‘Best Waulking Song’ category at the 1972 Local Mod.
Callanish Stone=cheeky blone (As in ‘That nurse is a right Callanish.’)
Marag Dubh=poo (As in ‘I’m bursting for a marag but there’s no bog roll left in Perceval Square Toilet’)
Barvas Show=Cheerio (As in ‘ Do you know where the funeral is tomorrow?’ ‘It’s in Tolsta. Barvas.’  ‘Eh??’)
Tarbert Ferry=pint of sherry (As in two ladies just in from Church asking what they’d like to drink before dinner- ‘Would you like a Cream Soda dear?’ ‘No thanks, that sermon was a bit on the long side so I think I’ll need a Tarbert.’
Mitchells Bus=Al Crae’s Hearse (as in ‘I’m waiting for Al Crae’s Hearse to take me to Sandwick’)
Arnish Light=Load of Sh*te (As in ‘Good morning Minister, you were right, yon new Elder talks a lot of Arnish’)




The Discovery of the New (and Old) World

21 07 2009

It’s well known that the Vikings have a cast iron claim to have discovered the New World around 1000AD- a good few hundred years before yon Christopher Columbus cove. But it’s a little known fact that Leif Erikson actually set off for the far side of the Atlantic from Lewis. Eric the Red, Leif’s father had been banished from his Sandwick homelands for over claiming his sheep subsidy and had already fled west to discover Greenland in 985AD (mistakenly thinking that it was Ullapool- he was always getting port and starboard mixed up). Some years later, Leif was sent back to Lewis by his old man to stock up on blackpuddings.  However, on his return journey with a longship full of marags, Leif decided to keep on rowing as far west as he could to see where he would end up.

At the same time as Leif was heading west, an intrepid party of Mi’kmaq Indians were setting sail from their homelands in present day Nova Scotia. They were aiming to see how far east they could get before falling off the edge of the world. Under the leadership of their chief Padd’ehh-W’aq, the Native Americans set out in a large raft made out of dug-out Spruce trees.

With friendly waves, the two bands of explorers took their leaves and set out for their respective destinations, buoyed with the knowledge that there was dry land waiting them at either side of the Atlantic and not sudden drops into space.

As fortune would have it, at exactly the same time, some two weeks later, Leif set foot in Newfoundland and Padd’ehh-W’aq set foot in Uig on the Isle of Lewis.The Lewis Vikings made the Mi’kmaq very welcome after hearing that they had passed Leif in mid Atlantic. The Native Americans were showered with gifts of marags and chess pieces by the Vikings and in return the Mi’kmaq gave presents of tweed patterns and a really good recipe for guga.

Before leaving to return to the America’s, the Mi’kmaq chief presented the local Church of Odin with an ornate carved bone amulet depicting the two Atlantic crossings. This notable occasion passed into common folklore as ‘Mi’kmaq Padd’ehh-W’aq Gave A God A Bone’





Go West Young Man!

29 10 2008

Back in the 1840’s, the people of Stornoway became aware of the rich resources lying far to the west, in the uncharted lands of Uig and Bernera. A few brave and hardy trappers had forged a route across the moors into the unknown ‘Wild West’, looking for adventure and trading opportunities with the natives (the Uigeochs). These hardy souls, bedecked in rabbit fur bonnets and sheepskin jackets,  had brought back tales of rich salmon rivers, wild deer and prime quality sheep. These ‘mountain men’ would risk life and limb for the rich pickings offered in this Promised Land, bringing peats, rabbit skins, Uig sheep fleeces and chess pieces to the town and finding a ready market for their spoils.

It wasn’t long until settlers from the town started to think about making the long trail across the moors to find a new life amongst the scenic beaches and rich mountains of the west. This was to become known far and wide as the Uig Trail. Promises of vast tracts of land and easy going Common Grazing’s Committee’s soon attracted eager settlers in their droves. Soon carters and wheel-rights throughout the town were working to capacity to build covered wagons in preparation for the great trail westwards.

The first wagon train set out from Stornoway in 1841, leaving from Mitchells Wagon Emporium on Cromwell Street, (where Mitchells Bus Station used to be) to the cheers of the populace. 20 wagons in total, with a trail of sheep, cows and hens behind them, left the safety of the town for far flung Uig. The journey was to be a long and arduous one, taking nearly two days, with an overnight stop off in Garrynahine. Eventually, Garrynahine would become a major node on the Trail to Uig and saw the establishment of an Inn (later to become Garynahine Lodge) for use by the pioneers.

The wagon trains encountered many difficulties on its way to Uig. There were rivers to ford, long sea-lochs to negotiate and narrow mountain passes. There was also the constant threat of the natives nicking hens under cover of darkness. Often the wagon trains would have to form a defensive circle as Bernera coves appeared on the skyline, waving their weapons (poaching nets and tarrisgeirs), until they could be calmed with the promise of beads and trinkets (and a few casts on the Creed). And of course Mac in s’ tronaich would appear every now and then and make off with a hen.

But eventually the wagon trains bringing their cargo of townie settlers would get through. New villages sprang up all over Uig and Bernera and soon Stornoway was awash with poached salmon sent home to grannie.

Gradually communications between the town and the far west improved. A new speedy mail service was soon started, where a trained ‘homing’ sheep had bags of letters attached to its back and sent on its way along the Uig Trail. The Sheep Express became famous throughout Lewis and became known for its slogan ‘The mail quite often gets through’.

And, as everyone knows, the coming of the railways to Lewis opened up the entire western seaboard and brought civilisation to the Uig Hills but this is another (true) story, for another day.





US Presidential Elections- Lewismen cast your vote!

20 10 2008

We’ve been hearing about these bleedin’ US elections for what seems like years and years (if not decades). It’s hard to believe that in just a few more days our American cousins will soon have a new President and we can go back to looking across the Atlantic for the important things in life, like tv programmes, films and music without been bored to tears by all this election carry on (was there something about a moose getting shot by a hockey stick?)

Many people will be unaware that the residents of the Isle of Lewis are all entitled to vote in the forthcoming US Presidential Elections. This has been the case since 1944, but so few people know about it that voting turnout is spectacularly low. So low in fact that the Presidential candidates have not actively campaigned on Lewis since the 1960’s (when Lyndon B Johnson held a rally in the Town Hall which unfortunately clashed with the Stornoway Communions and so no one turned up). Back in the fifties, Dwight D ‘Ike’ Eisenhower hired a Mitchells bus to tour round the island and many people remember him standing in the bus doorway with a megaphone, as the bus made its winding way through rural Lewis. However, most people thought he was just a local drunk on his way home with a carry-out and so didn’t pay much attention.

And the Lewis Primaries haven’t been called for many years either due to there not been enough balloons on Lewis. This used to be held on ‘Fleeking Hardy Tuesday’ , the week before Super Tuesday.

So how did this voting (and possibly citizenship) issue arise?

It goes back to the days of the Second World War, when several hundred US Airmen were stationed at RAF Stornoway. Stornoway was used, (amongst other things), as a transatlantic staging post, acting as the first landfall for thousands of aircraft heading to Europe to help with the Allied build up for D-Day. It is widely acknowledged that Lewis was chosen as this staging post, not because of its geographic location and suitable runways, but due to a minor map reading slip up, when a USAF Strategy Team mistakenly located Eoropie (in Ness) on an old map and thought it said Europe.

The many US servicemen posted to Stornoway were afforded as many of the ‘home comforts’ as possible to make then feel at home on the bleak and barren rock that was Lewis. US Servicemen’s cinema’s, clubs and sporting facilities (including a baseball park in Willow Glen) started to appear around Stornoway. Regular mail drops and imported ‘moms apple pie’ all helped make the Americans feel at home. The servicemen were also kept on the various lists maintained by the Government, including the Voters Roll, to provide a reassuring sense of American life.

This meant that the Post Office in Stornoway had to be allocated a zipcode to ensure that the mail got through. After the war, a slight slip of the finger on a typewriter meant that Stornoway, Lewis, was then added to the list of new towns springing up across America to house the returning servicemen. And quite simply, no-one noticed.

The first time an inhabitant of Stornoway realised something strange was going on was some time after the last serviceman had gone, when the Nicolson Institute was sent an application form for its ‘football’ team to enter the East Coast World Series All Schools Football Play-Off Finals in Boston. Shortly afterwards a lorry load of marching band uniforms turned up in the Rectors office (which rumour has it, he then promptly flogged to a passing Bulgarian klondyker in order to raise funds for a new piano).

So, come that important date in November, remember to use your vote wisely.

Me? I’m going to vote for that Barvas Obama cove.