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0196 | Stargazing – Peter Hill

Context: Borrowed from my mate Gareth, and finished this off just as we were packing for a six week trip to Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, PNG and UAE.

My mate Gareth is into lighthouses. Don’t ask why. Anyway, when I was at his place recently, he spoke very highly of this book and I read it on his recommendation as I’m not greatly into non-fiction these days. I was expecting more about lighthouses to be honest.

Whereas descriptions of lighthouses, annals from lighthouse history, careful studies of the people involved, the weather, shipping, the lights etc all fit into a book about life on a lighthouse, Hill obviously found that his notes from over 20 years before he sat down to write didn’t add up to a book-worth of material.

What I would have done was get in my car and go in search of more material from the lives of the actual people involved who must now be moldering in old-people’s homes up and down the nation. Lives that are now numbered and will be gone very shortly.

What Hill did was gather his entire range of cultural memorabilia from the early 70s and chuck it all down in between lovely bits of writing about lighthouses. Bummer.

What’s the effect? Well, you’ll have him arriving by helicopter to some remote piece of basalt and settling into a routine for five pages and then five more pages of a conversation about the Watergate scandal. Sure, the conversation is with lighthouse keepers, but come on, that doesn’t really count does it?

Quite needlessly therefore, there are separate chapters each for his two periods of shore leave where hardly anything at all lighthouse-related happens. Instead we’ve got bars, pubs, women, Amsterdam and the Edinburgh Festival. Fascinating… unless you’re reading it to find out about lighthouses.

So, this was a disappointing read for me I’m afraid, and I’d recommend it only to those who want a memoir of what it was like to be 1970s art student with bits of lighthouses thrown in.

“How on earth did you get a job as a lighthouse keeper?”

Perhaps it was time to visit the jewels of this great ocean necklace.

rubbish | poor | mediocre | okay | good | very good | excellent | superb

3 comments… add one
  • Bikkuri 3 August, 2009, 3:48 pm

    Odd, last year I met my first Gareth, a new colleague. Since that time, the name keeps popping up everywhere. Why does he love lighthouses? Clearly, the answer is: because they are cool. My question is: how could one not love lighthouses? 😉

  • Peter J Hill 6 December, 2009, 3:46 pm

    You may have thought Peter Hill’s book was lacking in the fundamentals of lighthouse keeping what I am going to tell you now will blow your socks off.
    Two people called Peter Hill joined the Northern Lighthouse Board, Stargazing’s Peter in 1973 and myself in 1979. Only I went on to serve 13 years in the service before redundancy forced me to loeave in 1992. I too have now finished and published my memoirs in the book Star of the Four Kingdoms on sale shortly. I hope that in my book you will have some of your questions answered and get more of a feel for what it was like not only for me but my wife for she too makes her contribution to tell the story.
    Anybody who has researched Peter Hill will know that he is famous for elaborate hoaxes and for his superfictions but Peter J Hill author of Star of the Four Kingdoms is the real Lighthouse Keeper and a photograph of him and his family can be seen not only in the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse Museum but also on page 100 of the book Scotland’s Edge. Not even he could pull off that hoax.

  • Steve Hardy 9 January, 2010, 10:53 pm

    I have had the honour of reading the Star of The Four Kingdoms in its raw state, and found it fascinating. I also have had the pleasure of meeting Peter, the author ,when he visited the opening of the Mull of Galloway Lighthouase Exhibition back in June 2009. He hides his light under a bushel, not only is he an accomplished writer, but also an excellent poet. His poems can be seen and read at the exhibition, and copies of his book can also be purchased there as well. The exhibition opens daily from Easter to end of October, the tower is open for climbing only at weekends, every bank holiday and every Monday in July and August.
    It is hoped that Peter will be at the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse Exhbition some time over Easter to personally sign his book.

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