Dalmore Daytime

Dalmore Daytime
Sandy Beach

Monday, 13 October 2008

Balaich Shoudie sell their Wool.

There was a time when a sheep's fleece would fetch a decent price ,which made the business of shearing sheep worthwhile. Today,a pound of wool fetches a mere few pennies,and the only reason one can see for using the "deamhais"(shears)is for the comfort of the animal. Why the price of wool has all but evaporated, I am not sure,but try buying a Pringle woollen sweater and it is impossible to reconcile its inflated price with the pittance paid for the wool.
Back in the mid 50s,wool commanded a good price,and for my Maclennan uncles("Balaich Shoudie"),the day they went to sell the year's wool at the Stornoway tweed mills was a day to remember,or not ,as the case might be. Murdo and Iain took it in turn,year about, to sell the wool in town,and undertake some other essential business.For such an outing,smart/casual was the dress order of the day - light pullover over what they now call a "grandad" shirt,navy blue jacket,grey trousers and black shoes. The best cap(not the everyday cap with the stained sweatband)topped all,and was worn at a jaunty angle. It was amazing that the "balaich" could emerge from that "taigh dubh" looking so clean and smart. On the big occasions like weddings or trips to Glasgow,Iain Shoudie donned full "Chicago" dress of dark suit,paper collar and tie,and his wide brimmed hat was worn with the brim pulled slightly over one eye at a rakish angle. Between times,the Chicago suit was kept up in the room,hanging from a nail on the "tallan",and covered by several pages of the Daily Express. I would usually go along on this jaunt with my uncle,who would "hire" the services of Seoras and his Austin A.35 van. After all,we had a large cargo of wool going to Stornoway, and possibly a very different cargo on the way back.
Seoras would have some business of his own in town,but the first stop would be "Moulin Stickey"(Kenneth Mackenzie's mill) to sell the large bales of wool. I never went in to the mill,nor was I privy to how much the wool fetched that day. I just knew that that wool paid well,and that an enjoyable day lay ahead.Certain bills had to be paid,and "proveeshons" acquired,mainly meat, which was not readily available in Carloway.In Willie John Macdonald's shop, beef and beef sausages was the order of the day.Then it was up to Dougie Maclean's butcher shop,and here was purchased two giant pork chops,the likes of which I'd never seen before or since. Onions,carrots.turnip and possibly cabbage completed the shopping list for now,and we all would have lunch in the Royal Hotel,courtesy of the "wool man". If it was 'An Shoudie who was in town,it has to be said that I never came across anyone as well-kent in Stornoway as "himself" . Anywhere 'An Shoudie went,men from different districts seem to know him,and would engage Iain in conversation, mainly of a light hearted nature,and possibly suffused with a little gossip. "Gaireachdaich"(laughter) - it must have been heard in Portnaguran. I'm not sure why 'An Shoudie was so well got with people. He was in the RNR ,did his stints at the Battery and was in the Navy during the war. But so were many other Lewismen. Basically Iain was an extrovert and "a very funny guy",He enjoyed a drink and was very clubbable,and it was guaranteed that your day was better for having met him. It could take half an hour,sometimes,with 'An Shoudie by your side, to travel the short distance from the Royal Hotel to the Town Hall.But I didn't mind-"torr gaireachdaich"
The penultimate stop of the day was always the Star Inn on South Beach Street,where the clientele was in these days mainly "balaich a'Taobh Siar"(West Side Boys). Quite a few nips vanished "down the hatch" and at breakneck speed,while a single half pint of beer seemed to last forever. How do I know such things? Well, this young lad sat in the far corner,watching the action and nursing my own half pint of "lemonade". On the way out of town,somewhere along Bayhead,George's van came to a halt,as if through conditioning. On the opposite side of the road was "Buth Henderson",Stornoway's only licensed grocer(as far as I know),and no sheepman straight from a sale, could pass it by without stocking up. Murdo,Iain's brother,would expect a carry out,and in this he was never disappointed. It invariably consisted of a bottle of Glenlivet whisky,six screwtops of beer, a 20 packet of Capstan Full Strength and another pack of Senior Service cigarettes. And of course,there were the giant pork chops to look forward to.

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