How did three men, using only accordion, pipes, mandolin, piano and inventive percussion, manage to make their audience feel like they were on board Para Handy's puffer, The Vital Spark?
That is exactly what Allan MacDonald, Iain MacLeod and Russell Hunter (A.K.A. The Crew Of The Puffer) were able to achieve in "Para Handy: A Highland Voyage" - the final event in the Skye Book Festival, held at the Aros Centre.
Originally featured in Neil Munro's short stories, Para Handy was the captain of The Vital Spark - a steamboat that delivered essential supplies around the west coast and Hebridean islands. Allan, Iain and Russell were bringing a musical touch to the stories as they took their listeners on a journey, starting from Glasgow to running aground on the Isle of Skye, and finally to The Grand Ceilidh at Dunoon.
Allan, Iain and Russell put great energy into their performance. Their foot-tapping songs were irresistible, with the audience happily chanting the choruses. If you closed your eyes, you could easily believe you were on The Vital Spark, as the sound of the engine was brilliantly mimicked by the men.
Displayed as a backdrop was an evocative picture of a puffer, dwarfed by the dramatic Scottish scenery. That, and the talents of Allan, Iain and Russell, made the audience feel as if they were just watching three friends playing music and having fun on calmer waters as their puffer carried them home.