Windjammers and Bluenose Sailors


192 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-9694180-9-4
DDC C813'.52






Reviewed by Matt Hartman

Matt Hartman is a freelance editor and cataloguer, running Hartman Cataloguing, Editing and Indexing Services.


This collection of the stories of Nova Scotia writer Colin McKay
(1876-1939) is, like many reprints, as notable for its historical
context as for its intrinsic literary value. This is not to say that the
stories are without merit. They are, in fact, enjoyable and well
written, strong in both drama and verisimilitude. They first appeared in
such periodicals of the day as Dalhousie Review, Adventure Magazine,
Ainslee’s Magazine, and McClure’s Magazine, as well as in most of
the Eastern newspapers like the Montreal Herald.

The stories may be reason enough for republication, but the two
introductory essays by the editors are at least as significant. McKay
was a socialist and a journalist who “made a very original
contribution to regional literature, yet has been almost completely
forgotten.” Editors Lewis Jackson and Ian McKay share a scholarly
appreciation for the author. The introductory biographical sketch,
“The Life of Colin McKay,” places the Maritimes writer firmly in the
seafaring tradition, describing how he followed the sea from the age of
15. The second essay, “Colin McKay’s Alternative Vision of the Age
of Sail,” is a comparison between the romanticized reporting of F.W.
Wallace and Colin McKay’s radical-socialist viewpoint: “As his
stories so vividly reveal, McKay knew the sting of salt, the body’s
exhaustion after brutal hours of toil, and the heat of the coal bunker.
He remembered too the frustrations of the working sailor enduring
irrational orders and avoidable disasters. His stories and poems exposed
the hardships, dangers and abuses associated with seafarers.”

Colin McKay worked as a reporter for the Halifax Herald following World
War I. His idea for an international schooner race between Canada and
the United States resulted in the Bluenose phenomenon, which today, says
Ian McKay, “is the very acme of regional nostalgia and tourism
promotion.” Recommended for public and academic libraries.


McKay, Colin., “Windjammers and Bluenose Sailors,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 17, 2024,