1950s Fiction

noimage The Piper’s Tune (1950)
George Blake

A story of two families. Rab Rollo a big brash industrialist living on the Ardhallow peninsula with his mistresses, legitimate daughter Aline and illegitimate daughter Jenny. Other family headed by Wee Moray Marr a ship modelbuilder in the Garvel shipyards his social climber of a wife, clever son Jock who trains to be a naval architect, stifled daughter Hetty, and inconsequential young son. Action takes place from 1920s through to 1940s, following social and financial decline of the great Clydeside industrialists, as embodied by Rollo. Marr sets up business as a yacht builder with his son. Rollo orders a yacht for Aline and Jock falls in love with and marries her. Aline had had affair with gardener’s son Niall who runs away to sea so disposing of her to lower status family only option. War intervenes Jock joins navy, Moray dies under strain of building for admiralty, Rollo’s mansion requisitioned. Hetty runs off with airman who is killed. She becomes a nurse and meets Niall her true love. They marry he is killed. In aftermath of war Rollo is invalid in his house, now a hotel run by Hetty, Jenny and Jock. Novel ends with Jock being offered job in a shipyard, proposing to Jenny, and Rollo dying.

George Blake, The Piper’s Tune, (London, 1950).
noimage So Much to Record (1951)
Will R Bird

A novel concerning the fortunes of a Nova Scotia shipbuilding family whose fortunes are displaced by the emergence of steam and steel technologies.

Will R Bird, So Much to Record, (Toronto, 1951).
noimage The Valley of Song (1951)
Elizabeth Goudge

A story about the building of a ship, the lovliest sailing ship that was ever launched at the ship-building town where Tabitha Silon lived. She is the heroine of this book and she is the blacksmith’s little daughter. Interwoven with the story of the ship is the the story of the adventures she had when she found a little low door in the wall of a disused quarry, and went through it into that country which is nearer to all of us than we imagine. She made friends with the inhabitants of that country, and they helped the people of the little town upon the river bank to build the lovely ship. Indeed if Tabitha had not found that little low door in the quarry the ship would never have been built at all. (from the cover)

Elizabeth Goudge, The Valley of Song, (London, 1951).
noimage The Zhurbins (1953)
Vsevolod Kochetov

Soviet era novel, a family chronicle of working class shipbuilders spanning three generations.

Vsevolod Kochetov, The Zhurbins, (Moscow, 1953).
noimage A Grand Man (1954)
Catherine Cookson

Mary Ann’s dad is an alcoholic shipbuilder. She battles, connives, and bargains to get a better way of life for those she loves and especially for the ‘grand man’ himself. Cookson wrote dozens of stories set against the backdrop of industrial Tyneside, but little relates specifically to shipbuilding.

Catherine Cookson, A Grand Man, (London, 1954).
noimage Bright Web in the Darkness (1958)
Alexander Saxton

In charge of the large shipbuilding unions during World War II were bigoted labor leaders. This story builds to its shattering climax in their effort to bar Negro workers. Through the eyes of Joyce Allen, a talented Negro girl who becomes a wartime welder, we witness a bitter fight against injustice.

Alexander Saxton, Bright Web in the Darkness, (New York, 1958).
noimage Who Told Clutha (1958)
Hugh Munro

First story of Clutha the shipyard detective. As private detective to Alma Dockyard, Clutha’s is no mean job. Lonlier than a uniformed policeman, his beat is stalked by special perils. The pin-pricks of smash and grab and petty pilfering are only a detail of his day. The fact of a sudden death from an accidentally dropped hammer is much more real. There is no talk of accidents, however, when one of the yard’s piecework counters is ‘given the message’ on the tank-top of American millionaire Patna’s new research ship. At first Clutha is prepared to write off the killing as private revenge. Then glamorous Jaqueline Patna puts a shapely leg across her father’s deck line.

Hugh Munro, Who Told Clutha, (London, 1958).
noimage Clutha Plays a Hunch (1959)
Hugh Munro

Clutha is the yard detective at Alma’s shipyard. Story about American gangsters trying to steal secrets of atomic submarine being built in the yard. Yard owner, Sir Ewan Gareloch stays in a house called ‘Benrivet’.

Hugh Munro, Clutha Plays a Hunch, (London, 1959).
noimage The Sea Road (1959)
Thomas Muir

Historical novel about Gavin Drummond who works at his uncle’s boat yard on the Holy Loch. He wants to be an engineer so he runs away to Glasgow and gets a job as an apprentice fitter. Workers go on strike. Yard owners lose money in bank collapse and yard closes down. He escapes from city by going for walks in country. One day he comes across farmer who has had a stroke. Helps girl to run the farm. Decides to give up engineering and the sea for the girl and the farm. Author was apprentice engineer in Clyde shipyard then went to sea.

Thomas Muir, The Sea Road, (London, 1959).