From the moment we first leafed through "The Lifeboat Service in Scotland Station by Station" by Nicholas Leach, we knew we were hooked. Yes, it helps if you find a subject of interest anyway, which is certainly the case here, but we'd defy anyone who has ever visited a Scottish port to open this book without wanting to delve deeper. There is, after all, something very special about lifeboats, and the presence of a lifeboat is such a characteristic feature of so many Scottish ports and harbours.
The book comes in two distinct parts. The first third tells the story of the lifeboat service in Scotland from its beginnings in 1800 to the opening of the 47th Scottish lifeboat station, in Arbroath, in 2013. The story is told in chronological chapters, from the first lifeboats and the arrival on the scene of the RNLI, to 19th century lifeboat work and the introduction and then takeover by motor lifeboats. Wartime service is well covered, as is the rebuilding of the lifeboat service after 1945, despite a number of tragedies. We then look at self-righting lifeboats and inshore lifeboats, before coming up to date with coverage of the modern era.
The main body of the book carries sections of between one and three pages looking at each of Scotland's active lifeboat stations, with shorter sections about many closed lifeboat stations. The stations are covered in a clockwise direction proceeding around Scotland's coast. Information boxes give key dates, current lifeboats and station honours, and each section includes a brief history: all accompanied by more superb photographs.
Every aspect of the book is impressive, but perhaps best of all is the presentation of the material. This succeeds in relating the excellent (and numerous) illustrations to the text in a very effective way, and in the introductory chapters uses boxed out sections to tell particular stories of heroism or tragedy. The result is an outstanding book with a thoroughly modern and accessible feel, and one that we know we will be referring to again and again.