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A Wild Call - One Man's Voyage in Pursuit of Freedom (Making Waves) Paperback – 10 Oct 2017
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"A very enjoyable read." --Royal Cruising Club (03/01/2018)
"A Wild Call would be a good read for many, especially those with an interest in sailing and the Scottish waters. The book also covers themes such as love and friendship throughout, making it heart-warming and enjoyable to read. Overall, A Wild Call is a very gentle and satisfying book." -- (03/01/2018)
About the Author
Martyn Murray worked in nature conservation, living for many years in the wilds of Africa. He sailed with his father in the Western Isles in his youth. He has also written The Storm Leopard and a bite-sized adaption of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species.
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Murray has inherited from his father a love of sailing, and buying a boat - not just any boat, but one with soul - could be his “path to adventure”, helping him to escape from the ‘rat race’ and to find a sense of purpose.
Eventually he finds - in Ireland - the right boat. She’s the “epitome of sea magic” and he names her Molio. This also happened to be the name of the author’s pet tortoise when he was a boy. And was the nickname given to St Molaise by the people of Arran when he arrived from Ireland at the end of the sixth century to live the life of a hermit.
Molio is one of several loves in this book. This 1930s ketch, which is ‘weatherworn’ and constantly needing to be repaired, is certainly a boat with soul, a strong workhorse that survives tempestuous seas to take the author to the remote St Kilda islands.
Martyn Murray adores Molio, “the gift of a father to his son”. He endows her with human qualities, at one time stating “There was an audible sigh from Molio”; and later writing that “Molio was a bit awestruck by this suave new companion” (his brother Greer’s boat) “who towered above her”.
And Murray adores the sea and the challenges he faces sailing - particularly in his beloved seas of the West of Scotland.
The book is beautifully written, and is a real page-turner. You are swept along - sometimes at a breathless pace - as the author tells you of his sailing adventures, and so much more. If you are a sailor, you will love this book. But, frankly, you will love it even if - like me - you are a landlubber.
The anecdotes are exquisitely detailed, helped by the author’s sea logs and also the old sailing logs of his father. And the book is really well researched. Murray knows his stuff and this enables him to tell us not just about his seafaring adventures, but also so much history. We are told about Bonnie Prince Charlie’s defeat at Culloden and subsequent escape disguised as Flora Macdonald’s maid; about Francis Drake hiding five ships in Ireland to escape the Spanish fleet; about the Highland clearances; about St Molaise and the coming of Christianity to Scotland; and so much more.
And his background as a field biologist and conservationist - with years of experience researching ecology and managing biodiversity in Africa and Asia - is important. For example, he chats with Scottish fishermen, understands the problems they face, particularly those created by the European Common Fisheries Policy, and offers a solution.
The book is often amusing, and his descriptions of people are striking. A love rival is dismissed as ‘Bermuda shorts’, and other acquaintances are described as ‘The Viking’, ‘Papa Hemingway’, etc. His brother Rob is compared physically to the Emperor Claudius.
Martyn Murray also loves freedom, and this book is partly a cry of anguish against what he sees as the erosion of freedoms in recent decades. Like many baby boomers - I am one, too - he perhaps somewhat romanticises the 60s and early 70s, but he makes a compelling case against the ‘Big Brother’ society. And he laments the fact that Government is becoming increasingly authoritarian. One chilling example is when Irish customs officials came aboard Molio armed with machine guns for a routine inspection.
Murray rightly points out that “At the heart of our society today is money”. This greed, although not new (it motivated the enclosures of the common land and the Highland clearances), has become worse. He regards the right to anchor in a sheltered harbour as “a right of common”. But freedom to roam the seas is being eroded by greedy harbourmasters who previously would allow strangers to berth their boats, but are now charging them a lot of money. Murray rails: “I was used to the timeless hospitality of the west highlands and ill-prepared for this intrusion by a grasping culture”. Another of his targets is the Crown Estate, complicit in ending the right to anchor, but also enclosing common waters to create fish farms. In so doing they are “stealing the commons and turning them over to the moneyed classes”. The author also points out the huge inequalities of land ownership in Scotland where more than half the land is owned by just 500 people.
But Murray acknowledges that in order to live freely inner freedom is needed, and during the course of this book we see his quest for that elusive goal.
Martyn Murray also tells us about his love for Kyla, a beautiful charismatic teacher he meets at a party in Edinburgh. Their on-off relationship is a key part of the book, and Murray is very fair in looking at things from Kyla’s point of view as well as his own. Once he realises some fundamental truths, he concludes the book - as he began it - with a memorable sentence “All sails were pulling now, we were running free”.
A wonderful read.