I remember vividly the first time I saw this film. It was a grey afternoon, spirits were drooping and I felt as dull as the tupperware sky outside. With no great relish, I turned on the afternoon movie - The Maggie - and gently let myself become enchanted. The word "gently" says it all, for this is an uplifting movie, full of charm and the odd brush stroke of pathos. Giggles transform into laughter with this one.
It's an old tale of local knowledge taking on a Corporation - though in a private capacity as Calvin B Marshall is anxious to deliver some domestic appliances, including 4 baths ("What all on one island?" asks the incredulous Wee Boy), to a Scottish retreat, part of his plan to save an ailing marriage. The cargo unwittingly falls in to the hands of the motley crew of a puffer - The Maggie - and then begins a comic chase which is a delight to behold. Once Mr Marshall gets involved in a hands on way, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery. The lessons may be homely and somewhat prissy now, but it's pleasant to wallow in a social world that could never be. More's the shame for us. Still, it remains a wonderful wish-fulfillment world, touched by the gentlest of humours. A marvellous tonic for escapists.
I don't recollect seeing any mention of it in the credits of the film nor in any of the comments on this site however "The Maggie" is very obviously based on "The Vital Spark".
Neil Munro wrote "The Vital Spark" in 1906, the collected tales of Master Mariner Para Handy and his Clyde puffer The Vital Spark which he had previously had published as articles in the Looker On column of the Glasgow Evening News. On board were McPhail the engineer, Dougie the deck hand and Sunny Jim the cabin boy. Neil Munro went on to write more columns and collated these into two further books detailing Para Handy's exploits and misdeeds while travelling the coastline of Scotland. Much later writer Stuart Donald took up the baton and wrote three further volumes of Para Handy's tales, a brave thing to do considering the place in Scottish popular culture.
The BBC Scotland made a small run of TV programmes in the late 1960's and early 1970's which were revisited in 1994 by Gregor Fisher (Rab C Nesbitt and the Baldy Man) in the two series of "The Tales of Para Handy".
Anyone familiar with Neil Munro's work would recognise the characters on board The Maggie in an instant. They may have different names but the characters are identical.
At 5th July 2001. Further to my previous review of "The Maggie" Tommy Kearins, Dougie the wee boy in the film, is alive and well and living in retirement in Scotland at age 63. He tells me that he was selected for the role after being spotted in the Scouts "Gang Show" working backstage. After being interviewed by Ealing he spent 3 months making the film in 1953 and recalls he was paid over 3 times what his father made in the Clyde shipyards. He still takes a keen interest in the old "puffers" like "The Maggie" and hopes to attend a get- together of enthusiasts at the crinan canal in a few weeks time. The Maggie was actually two boats in the film, the "Boer" and the "Inca". Phil Hatfield.