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Neil Munro was born in 1863. He followed a career in journalism, eventually becoming editor of the Glasgow Evening News. He achieved great success as a poet and novelist, writing masterpieces of historical fiction such as John Splendid and The New Road as well as the humorous tales of Para Handy, Erchie and Jimmy Swan. Neil Munro died in 1930.
March 2011 Guest Editor Robert Goddard on Para Handy... Between 1905 and his retirement from journalism in 1924, Neil Munro produced 99 short stories for the Glasgow Evening News about the mishaps and misadventures of Para Handy and the crew of the Vital Spark. Ferrying assorted cargoes, some of them living, between Glasgow and the West Highland ports, Para, Dougie the mate, MacPhail the engineer and Sunny Jim the cook (in succession to The Tar) will welcome you aboard whenever you want to escape to their world within a world of scrapes, japes, disagreements and surprising discoveries. As Para himself would say, it’s “chust sublime.”
For this, one of a series of illustrated volumes, first published in 1907, Neil Munro (1863-1930) was surely the ideal choice of author with his versatility as historical novelist and journalist. Born and bred in Inveraray, he spent years on the Glasgow Evening News, contributing two well-loved columns that envious colleagues would describe as having the Munro touch. Para Handy made his first casual appearance in those pages. This book is a rich storehouse of facts geographical and historical, but it too shows the Munro touch. We feel his joie de vivre and his innate love of his own corner of the world as he accompanies us from the river's source at Little Clyde Farm, past the orchards near Lanark, the shipyards of Glasgow, down to the Firth itself in its doon the watter heyday, ending with chapters on Loch Fyne and the islands. With sixty-seven black-and-white illustrations.
Neil Munro (1863-1930) is well known for his brilliant humorous sketches which celebrate Para Handy, the wily skipper of the puffer Vital Spark, and his crew. One of the most outstanding journalists of his day, he was also the author of fine historical novels of which John Splendid and The New Road are most highly acclaimed. Throughout his literary career he also wrote poetry. Not surprisingly, as a young Highlander compelled to move to the city of Glasgow for work, one of the main themes in this genre is exile. With the onset of the Great War in 1914, however, he found his true poetic voice. The devastating loss of his son in France and three visits to the front line as war correspondent galvanised him to write a sequence of sixteen well-crafted poems which he called Bagpipe Ballads. Many of these bring home to us the grim sadness of war and ensure Munro's place with the other notable Scottish war poets of the period. Bob Preston is to be congratulated for bringing together for the first time all of Neil Munro's known verses, for assembling them in chronological order of publication and for providing extensive notes which include the publishing history of each poem.