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Monday, September 17, 2007

The Clyde Puffer

I'm not sure many of you will know what a Clyde Puffer is. Perhaps if I mention Para Handy and The Vital Spark or The Maggie. Ring a bell? Maybe a ship's bell?

Honestly, I didn't know what a Clyde Puffer was either until I started looking for self-propelled mooring barges. That led me to canal barges, which led me to flat bottom steamers, which led me to Scottish coasting vessels called Clyde Puffers. These were common traders around the turn of the 19th Century, typically used to carry cargo around the west coast of Scotland and the Hebrides Islands. What's interesting here is that author Neil Munroe (not the same one who wrote Robocop) gave these vessels and their crews mythical status when he penned stories of the fictional Vital Spark and her rascally captain Para Handy. These stories eventually led to a BBC Series and a movie called The Maggie, which was written by screenwriter William Rose, who would go on to write It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World and the Oscar winning Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.

Talk about getting off track. Here I was trying to find a small steel boat for dock and mooring work and I ended up looking for DVDs of old BBC TV shows.


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