Dalmore Daytime

Dalmore Daytime
Sandy Beach

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

R.A.F. Uig Crash Land In Carloway

There were some fine teams and fine players in Lewis at that time,and particularly so "re na samhraidh a bhalaich Goill" (ie.during the summers of the Lowland boys). These lads brought their own skills to the Lewis game,which meant that no one could be sure of the outcome of a game, as few realised the calibre of these "new signings",nor from whence they came. They played throughout the year in a very competitive and often punishing arena. Their close season would allow them the luxury of playing during Lewis'"summer season".
A game which is still remembered,and which is probably the finest ever on Lewis soil, took place around 1958 in Carloway,between Carloway and the RAF team from Uig, where the RAF then had a sizable base. Today Aird Uig, with the remains of that camp, has an eerie quality about it,and in some ways reminds me of the location for "The Wicker Man". Being a services' team,they wanted for nothing,and were immaculately turned out and well supported. What became apparent later was that over half the RAF team were signed players with various English sides(Divisions 2,3 and 4). Carloway could boast Donald Maclennan(Renfrew Juniors) and the "Pralan" twins,Murdo and Duncan from Upper Carloway,who both played for Ardrossan Winton Rovers at that time.Seen for the first time,certainly by me,were the binovular twins of Anna Gherchy, two lads called Donnie and Ronnie Mackinnon(father was from Skye,you see)who took to the field that evening. I must say that they they looked the part, and their recent slim history was impressive. They had recently played for Dunipace Juniors and Rutherglen Glencairn and had been signed by top Scottish clubs,Donnie by Partick Thistle and his twin brother,Ronnie by Glasgow Rangers. In the first half,RAF proved to be the professionals, of which we were unaware,and led 2-0 at the interval. As bad as the result was,continuing taunts of "Come on Carloway,show us your style!"began to exercise the sizable home support. Every English accent from Newcastle to the Thames estuary were arrainged in belittling the Carloway boys.
Murdo Mackay ("The Bear")was the team's manager by dint of having bought the orange juice and the plastic pail. He pulled Donald,my brother aside,and in not so many words,asked what the hell was going on. "Don't worry,A' Mhurchadh,we'll take six off them". In Glasgow,such a statement is one of hope over promise. Whatever was said or agreed among the Carloway team,the crowd witnessed a brilliant display of football,probably never repeated again on the island.Ronnie Mackinnon moved up to the centre of the forward line,Donnie remained in midfield,and Donald my brother had a roving commission down the right flank.The idea was to feed Ronnie down the middle,and being the consumate professional,he scored five brilliant goals fed to him mainly by my brother,who scored himself to make the final score Carloway 6, RAF Uig 2."We'll take six off them". Maybe a wee bit of a prophecy.What do you think?
During the second half,the Sassenach support were beginning to get a tad tired of my cousin,Aonghas Hearradh, continuing to cry "Come on RAF Uig,show us your style!"

Monday, 28 July 2008

The Stornoway Cup Final (Around 1956)

In the months of July and August each year,football on the island of Lewis was trasformeed by the arrival of scores of young proto Leodhaisich who were "home" on their fortnight's fair holiday. They came from all parts of mainland Scotland and there were even some from England and the USA. Foreign holidays were almost unknown to us in the 1950s, and the arrival of so many young men and women to the island in the space of a few weeks, recalled the days when these islands were rightly known as "Tir nan Oig" (The Land of the Young ). The Glasgow Fair fortnight was by far the busiest time,when the island was "jumping" with dances,"cattle shows",busy bothans,something called "ruith nan oidhche"(which never was explained to me!)and of course a packed programme of football fixtures. Young men who regularly played football on the mainland,at amateur,secondary juvenile and junior levels,converged on Lewis to pull on the strips of their host villages,albeit for a couple of weeks. The game was thus transformed the length and breadth of the island during these summer weeks. In some small way,it is similar to the influx of foreign players to the Scottish League nowadays. When my brother,Donald, arrived in Stornoway at the beginning of the Glasgow Fair(second fortnight in July),"officials" of Carloway F.C. were standing at the bottom of the ship's gangway to sign Donald as a Carloway player for the duration. At least once,they paid his fare from Glasgow for an important game, a day or two outwith the Fair holiday. Of course every team would sign up 2 or 3 "visitors",and no game would play out as one might have expected, in the days before the arrival of this windfall of football talent.
And so it was that Domhnull Glass and a couple of fellow professionals turned out for Carloway against Stornoway United in the final of the Stornoway Cup at Goathill Park (1956?). United were the top team in these days,and were loath to surrender "their town's cup" to a bunch of Siarachs.They were so determined to win this game that they flew two of their top players from Inverness to Stornoway,at the club's expense.Few ordinary people could afford the high cost of a plane journey. The two United stars were "Raleigh" and "Blake"( nicknames,of course ),and these lads were working on the mainland. No expense would be spared in bringing these men over for this cup final. I can not think of the names "Raleigh" and "Blake", without picturing two Royal Naval destroyers viz. "HMS Raleigh" and "HMS Blake" coming to wreak havoc on this wee boat from Carloway. The result was United 1, Carloway 5 and to say that this was unbelievable is close to the truth. Donald's performance was outstanding, and this galvanised his fellow team mates to secure one of the biggest upsets in Lewis football history. There was a large dance later that evening in the Stornoway Town Hall, at which the cup was presented to a euphoric Carloway team and its 3 supporters.

We often say that it's a small world,and sometimes we can't believe just how small!
Last Sunday,while in the middle of writing this post ,I and three friends went on a fast boat trip from Seil Island to Iona. The young lady assisting,after some discussion about seals,found out that I had Lewis connections in Dalmore. "My mother is a Maciver from North Shawbost" exclaimed Liz,and she then mentioned that her uncle was known as "Larry". "Is that the same Larry who played football for Carloway when my brother was there? I am right in saying that he was a handsome cove,with beautiful Brylcreemed hair,and a good player to boot?" Liz said that this was the same Larry, and to him I extend my very best wishes(Iain Alasdair Shoudie).
And to the beautiful little ecologist,Liz I thank you for making my trip to Iona so interesting. By the way,Liz,when you laugh your face lights up,just like Larry's.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Stornoway and the "Deedle Doddle".

I have to say that, when I was younger,I found Stornoway to be an interesting place,and at times,even exciting. It was of course a town,a Royal Burgh indeed,and increasingly cosmopolitan. There were people from Mallaig,Buckie,Inverness and a few Sassenaich in highly placed positions,with of course the Italians in the cafes and the itinerant Asian gentlemen with their large brown cases of clothing and haberdashery.
Some people had long since left their rural idyll for life in the town,in search of a job,a home and in some cases marriage and a family. Living in the city,you felt that it went on and on in all directions,whereas with Stornoway, you could define its limits - it had grown gradually around the harbour area over some time, in an easy and attractive way . Later,probably under Mathieson, Stornoway was rebuilt as a "model town" with its rectangular grid of streets. You couldn't lose yourself in Stornoway,unless your sat-nav was compromised by a few "halfs". Our reasons for "going across" to Stornoway were varied,and almost always pleasurable. Carloway Football Club played the different Stornoway teams at Goathill Park,and with 3 or 4 teams sharing that football pitch ( United,Athletic,Rovers and School? ),we were over in Stornoway many a night. Sheep dog trials in the Castle Grounds would also see us "in town". The mink farm required us to visit the slaughterhouse and the Broad Bay fish shop in Stornoway once a week for animal offal and fresh fish carcasses. I will return again to expand on "the mink" and the sheep dog trials.
My brother,Donald ,was a gifted football player and showed promise from an early age(primary school and secondary school teams). I remember that our Aunty Peigi took a great interest in Donald's career. When money was tight,after the war,she sent money to our mother(her sister)to buy Donald his first pair of football boots,and on another occasion a leather football.There was no Nike nor Adidas in 1948 ( perhaps the young Fritz Walter had heard of them ),but these boots were made entirely from a lightly tanned cow hide,and that included leather studs and leather boot laces. The boots had steel toe caps,presumably to allow one to "toe end" a long kick without the boot imploding. The toes,after a few games,pointed upwards and this could be useful in "punting the ball into the middle". The leather studs were hammered into the sole of the boot,which often resulted in the protruding nails piercing the soles of the foot. The leather football had an inner rubber tube (bladder) which was pushed through an opening in the leather panels. The bladder was inflated to the right pressure,the connector tied with string and the "tubey" laced up,boy's style.It was inevitable,that during a game, the lacing would ease a bit and stand proud of the ball. If one were to head this "tubey",the chances were that,more so on a wet day, your forehead was left with a nasty grase or worse. Goodness knows where this football gear was made,but it was the same for Willie Waddell,Billy Steel or "Bustling" Billy Houliston.Donald had this "state of the art" gear,but the difference was that the professionals were paid £5 per game. Coming up - The Stornoway Cup Final: United v Carloway,at Goathill Park around the year 1956?

Monday, 21 July 2008

Princes,Pictures and" Pogan"

There often was a reason for going to Stornoway. When we were young boys,we went with an adult, who would generally have some "business" there. Later on,as times changed,and we changed,we did not need a reason "to go to town".
I remember going over to town with my uncle Shonnie on his motorbike(I think it was 1956)to see the royal family,who were on a tour of the Western Isles aboard the Royal Yacht "Britannia". It wasn't that we were fervent royalists,it was just that like so many others, we were "making our way to Stornoway" to witness an event which doesn't come around too often. Actually,about 25/30 years later,I was the sole reception committee to greet Prince Charles who was aboard a large Wessex helicopter, as it hovered above the Callanish Stones.I think Charles had an appointment in Uig,and it was deemed quicker "by air".I happened to be there(a favourite place of mine)when the whole of the prince's party appeared above me. The door slid open to afford the prince a better view of the mighty megaliths. I waved and he waved back - it was as simple as that,just being friendly. Shonnie and I were stationed at the corner of Cromwell Street and North Beach Street when the royal motorcade approached. It's ironic that here at "Buth Hamish"(James Mackenzie's shop on Cromwell Street),the Royalists met a Roundhead head on, once more.It was a warm summer's day,and Prince Philip drove the Queen very slowly past us in an open Hillman car,and near enough for me to notice the deep tan on them both,which had not been acquired on the present tour of the Hebrides. It has to be said that they made a handsome couple,looking happy and relaxed. The crowd cheered as they turned right up past Woolworths(can't do that now).Other cars followed, but the only other royal I can truly remember is HRH Princess Margaret Rose, as she passed us in an open Land Rover. She was a very beautiful young woman,and her beauty was said to eclipse that of any of the debutantes or society ladies of her day.
As my school returned later than others,I often made the return journey back to Renfrew on my own,which I found exciting. The "steamer" left Stornoway around midnight,and I made sure I was in town for early evening. I might have coffee and cake in the Rendezvous Cafe.I could afford to play the toff with the money I'd earned from the various enterprises in Dalmore. After that,it would almost certainly be a visit to the Picture House(I liked that name - no need for a grand name,it was the only cinema in town.) I distinctly remember two films from those times in the Picture House. There was the film "Marnie" with Jack Hawkins,and a film which made a lasting impression on me,"The Man Who Never Was",how British naval intelligence duped the Germans in WW2 by placing the body of a young British seaman in the Mediterranean Sea,carrying secret documents. Strangely, I saw this film not so long ago, and I enjoyed it just as much.
When I was 15(going 16),I had gone to my first Cattle Show Dance in the Carloway Drill Hall with Donald,my brother(17 going 18). I had been there a few times previously to see the offerings of the Highland and Islands Film Guild.But a dance there, with music from accordion and fiddle, and a whole lot of lovely girls was altogether different. My eye was taken by this lovely girl from Carloway,and later that morning (the dances started at midnight)I "saw her home". I think I got a couple of kisses from this bonnie lass. I was leaving Stornoway the following week,and we arranged to meet in town that afternoon.I remember she wore a shiny black mackintosh style coat,the belt tied in the "French style". We may have had coffee and cake,but surprisingly we did not go to the Picture House. I cannot be sure,but I think there were plenty more kisses that day.
Note : "pog s. - pogan pl." = kiss,kisses

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Bobbins and Bluebottles.

Previously,I told of the "Big Jobs" which my Uncle Shonnie Glass allocated us at the beginning of each summer vacation. Taking home the peats by horse and cart and picking out the thistles from a field of cut hay, were just two examples of Shonnie's Big Jobs,ensuring continuity of work for us,throughout the vacation,and at the same time reinforcing the much vaunted presbyterian work ethic. This work ethic seemed to travel with the emigrant Scot,but mostly with the dour presbyterian ones,of which I suppose there were many. The Shoudie boys eschewed the work,making the ethic redundant. With them,there were no "big jobs",only those required to keep body and soul together(perhaps not even the "soul"). My Shoudie uncles never gave me a job to do,because they never had jobs to give. This was an ongoing ceilidh house,and no one would have had it any other way.
In my early teenage years,the two main "occupations" for me in Dalmore were the "bobbins" and the "minks",and the latter will be dealt with in full,later on.
Shonnie was a weaver of Harris Tweed,as were most men,and some women,in these days. A good weaver could earn a pretty decent wage,and many would later marry and set up home on the strength of the security offered by the "tweeds". Harris Tweed was always subject to the vagaries of fashion,and the strength or otherwise of the US dollar. At that time(1954-1959),the industry was booming,and weavers would get as many tweeds as they could manage. The mills which I remember were K.Mackenzie("Sticky),Newall and Smith,all of Stornoway and Kenneth Macleod of Shawbost(Coinneach Rodd). There may have been others,which I can't now recall. The woollen warp,coiled in a large hank,and the large bobbins of "snath" (thread)were dropped off at the roadside next to the croft at 5 Dalmore,and finished tweeds uplifted by the same mill lorry. I would watch Shonnie setting up the loom("beart") for the weaving of a tweed,which involved "beaming",sorting out hundreds of threads,and setting the shuttle box, whose rotations were obedient to the punched holes on metal "cards",similar to the Hollerith computer cards of that time. You can see that engineering and its attendant terminology passed me by. The only aspect of weaving which concerned me was "filling the bobbins",and it was a paid job to ensure that Shonnie always had "iteachan" for his "spalan"(ie. bobbins filled with thread for the shuttles). The "boban" machine was driven by that monster JAP petrol engine(you will recall!)and any decent boban man could fill a large wooden box of "iteachan" in a couple of hours,which would keep the weaver in harness for the rest of the day. The trick was to keep every spindle of the machine "occupied",and this came with some practice.The window by the bobbin machine had a ghoulish fascination for me,and it has to be said now,a source of entertainment, as I went about my business. This window was host to 3or4 spiders and the glass pane was a Spaghetti Junction of the finest of silk webs. There always were a great number of flies and bluebottles around,and there were many who were attracted to that window. When a bluebottle became enmeshed in a web,the noise of vibration was loud,as the poor insect tried to free itself. There was no escape as the spider shimmied out to mummify its prey in a silken sarcophagus. There were many skeletal remains dotted about these webs. By the way,I was paid five bob for a tweed's worth of bobbins. To this day,I associate the sound of a bluebottle with these days in the weaving shed,but now I usher them safely out the window.

PS. In the early 1960s,Mrs Perrins,owner of the Garynahine estate,was responsible for the launch of Ceemo Tweeds. She hired the "very best" weavers and designers to produce lightweight tweeds that would appeal to the couture markets of London and Paris. The Ceemo Tweed was exquisitely designed,very soft and light and a feature of these was the beautiful way that silver and gold Lurex was woven through the cloth. Ceemo was a brave attempt at bringing the "clo`mor" out of the past,to engage with a very sophisticated market. Ceemo did especially well in the fashion houses of Paris,but events were to see its demise,some years later.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Am Bhaile Mor. Steornabhadh Mhor a' "Chaisteil".

When I was very young,the only time I would see Stornoway("am bhaile mor" - the big village ie.the town),was in the coming and going, during our summer holiday on Lewis. Very few people had cars in the years after WW2. The local doctor would have a car,but ministers and midwives would,I think,have had to make do with a sturdy Raleigh bicycle. You would see vans and lorries in Dalmore,of course,but motor cars were rare visitors. An exception to this was the visitation to the cemetery in Dalmore of a steady flow of hearses for committal services in "Cladh Dhail a'Mor". So,when we saw a "car" coming in the Mullach Mor,it was generally a hearse taking the departed for "tiodhlacadh" (burial). As stated elsewhere,my older brother,Donald(born 17.12.38)stayed for his first four years at 5 Dalmore,with my Grandpa Glass and Aunts Peigi and Dollag,speaking only Gaelic(he never lost it).He eventually returned to Renfrew in preparation for starting primary school,and of course learning the "new" language of this strange and hectic place. Our house in Inchinnan Road overlooked the large roundabout at St.Andrew's Cross ,which was always busy with all forms of transport,including "real cars". Donald was looking out on this scene from the kitchen window,when he noticed my mother behind him. Like a wise wee man,with a slight shake of his head,he said in Gaelic,of course." Mother,what an awful lot of funerals there are in this place!"
I have one early memory(although vague)of "going over to Stornoway"(as we Siareachs would say),and that involved a visit to the Lewis Hospital. I know that it was nothing serious(Mother wasn't with us),but I do not recall which of us (Donald or me) needed medical attention,or whether one,other or both was detained there,but I don't think so. What I do remember is that the van was blue,and its owner/driver was "Calum Aonghas Alasdair",a close cousin of ours and a gentleman through and through.Calum was one of the few in the district who owned a vehicle,and who most certainly would have done this "mercy mission" for anyone who might have asked,whether related to Calum or not. On the way across to town,we sat in the front,as this, was the only part which had windows. I do remember that we went via Callanish,and that the roads were "morgnan"(gravel) until we reached the outskirts of Stornoway. It would be some years to come before tarmacadam(no abbreviation here - credit to the Scot) appeared in the rural areas of Lewis. I recall that when I walked along a stretch of "unmade" road ie.morgnan,it was surprisingly easy on my bare feet. At Achmore,the main road to Stornoway went straight ahead through "airidh" territory to meet up with the Pentland Road from Carloway.This was and still is the A.858 to Stornoway. The road to Leurbost via Cliasgro was a sheep track, for all I know. When the sheep track was made up and tarmaced,the sheep wisely made way for man and the car,and a very fine road it is now. We will visit "the town" again in the future when there's a bit more tarmac on the roads.