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Hebrides News


Gaelic comedian and entertainer Norman Maclean has died at the age of 80 years.

Norman Maclean was a Glasgow Islander, born in Govan in December 1936.  His father - who spent very long periods away at sea in the Merchant Navy - hailed from Tiree and his mother from Benbecula.

He was fluent Gaelic speaker after spending his formative years with Benbecula relatives - firstly in Strathan in Lochabar followed by three years in the islands where he attended Torlum School.

On the family’s return to the Glasgow, he went to secondary school in Bellahouston Academy where he excelled in his studies and became Dux of the school.

After graduating from Glasgow University a teaching career beckoned with posts in Ness in Lewis, Lossiemouth, Oban, Fort Augustus and Glasgow.

In 1967 he won both the Gold Medal and the Bardic Crown at the National Mod being held in his home city in 1967.

Weekend gigs as a wedding piper and a regular column for the Oban Times supplemented his teacher’s salary but the pressure of being depute head teacher in a rough school took its toll.

By now the lure of the stage was becoming more of an attraction - he had a great talent for entertainment, a renowned piper and singer -  and he was in popular demand for shows across the Highlands and Western Isles.

Poignantly, another islander - John Alick Macpherson - who has also died this week - gave him his first break into broadcasting, catapulting his career to a new level.  

Spots on Gaelic radio lead to guest performances on TV before he was invited to present a run of Sur Ur Beatha programmes.

In 1978, the BBC gave him his own show and 'Tormod Air Telly' made him a household name across Scotland.

Writing was another of his skills. He authored many novels and poems and his autobiography - The Leper’s Bell - was published in 2009.

That same year he moved to South Uist, continuing to dabble in TV and film work as well as writing a monthly feature for Am Pàipear.

Millennials will remember him as the miller in Baile Mhuilinn and the Gaelic voice of Donnie Murdo - Danger Mouse.

Battles with alcohol tormented his adult life contributing to the break-up of his two marriages and a destructive road block to much greater success.

Grampian TV produced a documentary about his life in 1991 and nearly two decades later a similar programme for BBC Alba showed his continuing struggles.




Death of Norman Maclean, Galedom’s much loved entertainer


31 August 2017