In this collection of short stories, Brendan Gisby has yet again shown his flair and talent for story-telling. “Ferry Tales” takes its title from South Queensferry, which sits on the Southern shore of the River Forth in Scotland and which is referred to by the locals as The Ferry. The stories all evolve around the Author’s family whilst he was growing up in the Ferry in that frugal aftermath of war during the 1950’s and early l960’s.
Barnes & Noble.com
Blazes Boylan's Book Bazaar
Whilst they reflect the austerity of that period, the stories also contain insight into the backbone of the people during that time. Sprinkled with humour, they make not only an entertaining read, but also provide a sometimes somewhat humbling experience.
Superbly written, as is to be expected from this writer, each story reaches out to the reader in a way which touches and moves. They are so well narrated that their colourful characters appear to come alive on the pages. The fact that they oftimes re-appear in totally different stories, thereby familiarising the reader with them, makes them so much more authentic and the reading of them even more enjoyable.
This is a most delightful collection of tales to pick up and put down as desired, and for many will bring to the surface warm memories of a different way of life.
– The Black Sheep –
The garden gate was square and made of cast iron and painted black. It was just the right size for the boy to swing on. By standing on the bottom rail, pushing his knees through the bars and resting his elbows on the top rail, he could make the gate swing back and forward, back and forward, only occasionally being required to put one foot on the ground and push the gate in order to refresh its momentum. But he needed to be gentle, otherwise the gate would clang shut and he would have to start all over again.
He would come out here at the front of the house to swing on the gate whenever he wanted some peace from the hubbub going on back there or if he needed to think about something or simply if he had nothing else to do. He liked the tranquillity that the movement gave him. Feeling safe behind the gate, he also liked to watch events on the street: people passing by or tending their gardens or going to and from the succession of vendors’ vans.
Sometimes he thought that he was a younger (and much quieter) version of Jimmy Martin, the man who lived a few doors along. Jimmy often sat for hours on end at the open window of his front room. He also watched the comings and goings on the street, but where he and the boy differed was his habit of shouting out insults at the people he saw, his big, rough voice reverberating off the houses. Although some of the older women became alarmed when Jimmy shouted and wouldn’t venture out on the street if he was sitting there, most people regarded him as a bit of a nuisance, a harmless crank. The boy’s mum used to say that one day the men in white coats would come and cart Jimmy off to the loony bin, but that was before she invited him into her kitchen for a cup of tea – she always did that with waifs and strays – and learned his story. It seemed that Jimmy had been captured by the Germans early on in the War. He spent the remainder of the War working down a salt mine in France. He and his fellow prisoners weren’t treated badly, though, and they got on quite well with their guards. One day, when the Germans realised that the War was lost, the guards took Jimmy and the other prisoners down the mine and told them that they were going to be executed. But the guards cried and said they couldn’t go through with it and just left them there. Jimmy admitted that he hadn’t been right in the head ever since that day.
Jimmy wasn’t at his window today, so the boy was the only one out here, watching, swinging back and forward, back and forward. It was early in the afternoon on a warm, sunny Thursday in July, well into the school holidays. Nothing was happening on the street. The only noises to disturb the quiet of the place were the little squeaks that came intermittently from the gate. If the boy’s mum heard that squeaking, she would come to the front door and shout at him, telling him again to get off the gate, not to break it. But the boy was pretty certain that his mum wouldn’t appear at the front door; not this afternoon, anyway. She was at the back of the house just now, in the kitchen with the two youngest children – ‘the bairns’, everyone called them – and his dad. The last time he saw her, which was only ten minutes ago, she was sitting at the kitchen table, cradling his dad’s head, trying to console him, trying to soothe the awful, relentless pain that was racking him. The poor man had toothache; not the grinding, throbbing kind of toothache that people usually suffered, but a blinding, raging toothache that had come in the night and was now rampaging through the whole of his bottom jaw, making him want to cry out and beat his head against the wall. What made things even more tragic was that his dad couldn’t get any treatment for the toothache. He had no money to pay the local dentist. He couldn’t even scrape together the bus fare to go to the Dental Hospital in Edinburgh, where he would be treated for free. It was pay day at the dockyard tomorrow, another twenty-four hours before he would have the money, an eternity away.
The situation was hopeless, the boy had concluded, which was why he had sought solace out here. He couldn’t bear to watch his dad’s agony any longer, to hear the man groan and whimper. His sisters must have felt the same way; all three of them seemed to have cleared off, leaving just the bairns in the house and him swinging on the gate. A hopeless situation, he concluded again, continuing to swing back and forward, back and forward, feeling very depressed.