No one with an interest in Scotland and its history, and especially in the story of the development of the Hebrides and western seaboard, can have failed to come across the many wonderful books about ships, shipping and everything that is both nautical and Scottish by Alistair Deayton. "Piers of the Hebrides and Western Isles" is his latest and makes a fascinating contribution to our understanding of the way shipping links with the island have changed over the years, from the island perspective. It is a companion volume to "West Highland Piers" but if like us you've not read the earlier book, it does nothing to detract from the enjoyment of the current volume.
What you get is some 180 photographs, both colour and black & white, most from the 1900s, though a few earlier and a few more recent. The photographs are of high quality and carefully chosen to illustrate the subject. Typically they show not just the actual piers, but usually also steamers or ferries arriving, departing or berthed at the piers in question. This is not, despite the title, a book purely about piers. It is a book which celebrates the way island life has evolved and developed as the services using those piers have evolved and developed: and we watch as steamers delivering goods and foot passengers developed into early low capacity vehicle ferries and, more recently, into modern services which have transformed many of the islands (not necessarily always for the better, but that's a separate story).
The photographs are accompanied by excellent captions which, without ever becoming excessive in length, sets each picture in its historical context, and by a brief introduction which helps set the scene. We've declared ourselves to be fans of Alistair Deayton's previous work in the opening paragraph: and this is a book we'd strongly recommend to anyone with an interest in Scotland's many Hebridean and western islands. And sometimes it's the small things which really add interest. We were fascinated to read on page 56 that Armadale on Skye is a notoriously difficult pier to photograph a ship at. We weren't previously aware of its notoriety: but it does help explain issues we've sometime had when taking photographs there!