Perfect for those still reeling from a
Story ran in the St. Paul (Minnesota)
Pioneer Press on Sunday, November 26, 2000
A little more than a year ago,
author Bill Watkins dressed up as the doomed captain of the Titanic for a
Halloween celebration at Molly Quinn's pub in Minneapolis. He chose the
costume because the Titanic was made in Ireland, and he had just come out with
his first book, "A Celtic Childhood," a hilarious memoir of growing
up with an Irish mam and a Welsh dad.
This Halloween, he chose another
fitting costume for the debut of "Scotland is Not for the
Squeamish," the second in a trilogy published by St. Paul-based Ruminator
Press. Watkins, a British citizen who now lives in Minneapolis, became a
Highlander for the party at Molly Quinn's, where he is now co-owner,
storyteller, singer, poet and bartender. As he's still a "free-lance
druid," he says he needs a steady income.
Scotland is Not for the
Squeamish" picks up where "A Celtic Childhood" left off. In his
preface, Watkins confesses that as a lad he was dazzled by all things plaid.
In the late 1960's, Watkins is a young radio operator ("Sparks")
aboard a freighter to Tangier. Sparks delivers the news that the Isle of May
is ordered to return to London after delivering her cargo, a sure sign the
ship will be permanently docked.
The Scottish helmsman tries to
calm the captain. "Och, they'll tart the old doll up enough to get her
through the Board of Trade inspection and she'll be fine and no mistake. Ye
just see if she don't."
Watkins' ear for dialogue and
nuance brings the helmsman to life. You feel like you're eavesdropping on
colorful and off-color conversations. When you don't understand what they're
saying, there's a handy glossary. "Och" means but or however;
"Alba gu Brath!" is Scotland forever! Ever wonder what a Glasgow
kiss is? A head-butt.
Watkins is also a poet, and it
shows in his prose. Consider this passage: "Edinburgh, mystic mistress
and newfound friend, rises gently from the salt-soaked cobbles of Leith docks
like Aphrodite from the sea. The medieval Old Town uncoils in concentric
If you want a total immersion in
Scottish culture, "Scotland is Not for the Sqeamish" is the way to
go. Watkins uses humor, history and his own stories -- many true, some a wee
stretched -- to give context to the rogue country.
Do heed the title. This is not a
book for little lads and lassies. But young adults and older folks will
appreciate just how rotten is the job of fish-gutting, which an unsuspecting
Watkins is shanghaied into for his passage to Aberdeen.