Books can be placed on a scale that extends, at one extreme, to those which are simply intended to be enjoyed while reading and then forgotten. "Directory of Clyde Paddle Steamers" by Alistair Deayton is about as near the other end of the spectrum as it is possible to get. This fairly weighty volume is an absolute labour of love by an acknowledged expert on the subject. Alistair Deayton has trawled every available source, from original records of the Clyde Trustees to local newspaper reports via the records of shipbuilders and operators. The result is a book that gives details of every single Clyde paddle steamer that was ever built and operated in the Clyde, listed chronologically and divided into chapters covering, mainly, a decade each.
Each of the 419 ships covered gets its own section, setting out its vital statistics, information about its building, its engine, and its ownership, followed by a potted history setting out the most important information year by year, from changes of ownership to accidents, incidents, and rebuildings; through to eventual sinkings or visits to the breakers' yard. The result is not a book that can simply be read from cover to cover, though dipping into it can be fascinating. Some vessels had a relatively quite life in Scottish waters, but others found themselves blockade running in the American Civil War, or destined for places as far afield as Brazil, Baku, the River Niger and Melbourne.
What this book really offers is an utterly definitive history based on, very obviously, a vast amount of research and the author's encyclopedic knowledge of the subject. The care taken can be seen from an introductory section rationalising the ships in this volume with those listed in what has, until now, been the definitive work on the subject, and setting out the reasons for every addition, deletion and change. This is not a book for the faint hearted or the casual reader, despite the very nice photographic sections. But it is a book that will for many years to come be viewed as the essential point of reference for anyone with any interest in Clyde paddle steamers. The perfect present for the paddle steamer nut in your life!