His name is Hurricane Jack. Or Hurrican’ Jeck! The finest sailor who ever sailed the seas! As Para Handy, skipper of The Vital Spark — a “Clyde Puffer” or steamboat in the harbors of the Scottish Highlands — claims. Para Handy, or rather, Captain John Macfarlane, has a crew of wonderful characters, including the effete engineer Dan Macphail, the superstitious ship’s mate Dougie, Colin the Tar, and his cousin Davie Green, also known as known as Sunny Jim, a deck-hand wizard with the melodious squeezebox. But Hurricane Jack is the feature character in this remarkable collection of unusual tales by Scots’ national treasure Neil Munro (who wrote, if you aren’t Scottish and can’t recall him, during the early twentieth century).
Neil Munro (1863 – 1930) was a Scottish journalist, newspaper editor, author and literary critic. He was basically a serious writer but is now mainly known for his humorous short stories, originally written under the pen name Hugh Foulis. (It seems that he was not making a serious attempt to disguise his identity, but wanted to keep his serious and humorous writings separate.) The best known were about the fictional Clyde puffer the Vital Spark and her captain Para Handy but they also included stories about the waiter and kirk beadle Erchie MacPherson and the traveling drapery salesman Jimmy Swan. They were originally published in the Glasgow Evening News but collections were published as books. A key figure in literary circles, Munro was a friend of the writers J. M. Barrie, John Buchan, Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham and Joseph Conrad and the artists Edward A. Hornel, George Houston, Pittendrigh MacGillivray and Robert Macaulay Stevenson. He was an early promoter of the works of both Conrad and Rudyard Kipling.
These gentle but penetrating stories of the Vital Spark and its crew are among the funniest. Shot through with the rich vein of scottish humour and filled with homespun yet deep philosophical reflections these stories will stay with you for many years.