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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 29 December 2015
A well written and heartfelt book drawing us into a world long lost. The little steam driven cargo vessels, nick-named 'puffers', were the mainstay of the island and mainland communities of the Scottish west cost and their crews were tough and expert seamen. Now the communities they served have often dwindled into little more than collections of holiday cottages and most of the cargoes go by road. The last of the puffers are relics, crewed and maintained by enthusiasts, and the skills and traditions of their crews are almost forgotten. Those who have read Neil Munro's short stories of Para Handy will find this a compelling read - and if you haven't read them then I suggest you give them a try. If you know the West Coast of Scotland you'll be right at home and if you don't, you'll want to go there.
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on 24 December 2012
If you're a fan of Para Handy then you must read this. The description of life on the puffers and it's characters is first class. I was disappointed when I came to the end. I am perhaps somewhat biased as I was fortunate enough to be the person who keyed the text initially but although I obviously read as I keyed I have read this again and again. This book has also been passed between members of my family. A true, amusing and exceptional book!!
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on 4 April 2017
Interesting subject, not a brilliant book. Worth a read, but only if you're already fond of the subject.
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on 16 October 2008
An excellent account of a now vanished, and very hard, way of life.
The author, while not totally dispassionate, gives a fair account of what must have been a very tough life. Despite that toughness he obviously enjoyed the life and the people that it brought him into contact with.
I suppose I ought to mention Para Handy in connection with this book. I love the Para Handy tales but this book is alredy higher in my estimation than those. It is that good.
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on 11 January 2016
I bought this book for my son (now aged 50) who was mate in the late 1980's on the last Puffer in trade in the Western Isles. She was called Eilean Easedale (previously Eldesa) and retired from trade in 2007. She was renamed Vital Spark of Glasgow and I believe is now moored on Inverary Pier as a floating museum. He says it's a great tale and I hope to borrow it from him soon!
Angela Richards
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on 24 April 2015
This is not great literature and is not particularly well written but it is an important work of social history and a very worthwhile and entertaining read. The author documents the last 28-29 years of the puffers - the small coastal lighters that worked the West coast of Scotland - and does so with authority as he worked his way up from deck hand to mate and to skipper. The book illustrates just how hard a life working the puffers was, how many of the crewmen were real characters, the routes travelled and the cargoes carried. An easy read with many short stories about the life, the trade, the tragedy and the humour involved. A thorough insight into a way of life and a trade that has now ceased. An excellent companion to the Parahandy stories as it compliments them very well by providing a real and relevant background. If you like Parahandy you`ll like this. If you enjoy recent social history you`ll enjoy this. Highly recommended.
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on 28 April 2012
i purchased this for my step-son,he is over the moon with the book,very informative, and in very good condition,also very quick dispatch
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on 7 March 2015
Having just finished reading about Keith McGinn's life on board a Puffer boat I found it quite interesting. I was a bit surprised about the date he first went aboard a Puffer, it was 1966 which was getting towards the last few years of the Puffers. I thought the book would go back to the 50's at least as 1966 is relatively recent. However Mr McGinn progresses rather quickly it seems to get a Puffer of his own, I felt there could have been a bit more content of when he was working his way up. The description of life on a working boat is good, with hard times and easier times that modernisation brought. Personally I would have liked to have had a few more anecdotes like you get in railwaymans tales of working steam trains, but all in all the book readable although a bit slim. There are some good photographs amongs the pages which I found helpful as I am just finishing building a model of a Puffer. A pity more of the boats were not saved for preservation as working Puffers.
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on 20 January 2013
The Puffers were an essential part of the seaways and culture around the Clyde and the Scottish Islands in the twentieth century. Immortalised and romanticised of course by Neil Munro's Para Handy, this account paints an honest picture of what was a hard life, but one enjoyed by its players. Keith McGinn tells a story that had to be told and it charts his journey from cabin boy to skipper and illustrates the hardships and realities of plying the waters of The Minch and Inner Hebrides with their diverse cargoes. He introduces us to many characters on the boats and on the land right up to the puffers' demise in the early 1990s - ultimatelty replaced by bigger vessels - with another shot fired in the direction of the Tories, wreckers of ways of life, culture and lives. In some ways it is a sad story but one that chronicles a necessary part of the trade of the time.
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on 22 July 2013
I read this a couple of weeks ago. I found that I was picking my kindle up at every opportunity to read this book such is the pull of the book. Whilst I do not remember or have any close contact with the long gone puffermen, this book brings you into contact , with the hardy men that sailed on these vessels. Keith started of as a deck boy / Peggy / cook. He worked his way up from the bottom right to the top eventually becoming captain. During this time he watched progress decimate the industry, finally progress overtook it. The obvious comparison would be Para Handy, but this is more than a tongue in cheek comedy. This is a true life experience.
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