The Maggie

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The Maggie
Original British quad-sized poster
Directed byAlexander Mackendrick
Screenplay byWilliam Rose
Story byAlexander Mackendrick
Produced byMichael Balcon
Michael Truman
StarringPaul Douglas
Alex Mackenzie
James Copeland
CinematographyGordon Dines
Music byJohn Addison
Distributed byGeneral Film Distributors (UK)
Universal-International (US)
Release dates
  • 25 February 1954 (1954-02-25) (UK[1])
  • 30 August 1954 (1954-08-30) (US)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The 'Maggie' (released in the U.S. as High and Dry) is a 1954 British comedy film produced by Ealing Studios. Directed by Alexander Mackendrick and written by William Rose, it is a story of a clash of cultures between a hard-driving American businessman and a wily Scottish Clyde puffer captain.

The story was inspired by Neil Munro's short stories of the Vital Spark and her captain, Para Handy.[2][3]


The Maggie is an aged Clyde puffer, a small, coal fired cargo boat. Peter MacTaggart, her rascal of a captain, is in dire need of £300 to repair the boat's plates and renew its loading licence. At the offices of a shipping company in Glasgow, he overhears Mr Pusey, an Englishman complete with bowler hat and umbrella, trying to arrange transportation of some personal furniture for his boss, American Calvin B. Marshall. The reputable shipping company has nothing immediately available, so MacTaggart gets the job when Pusey mistakenly believes that he works for the company and that the more modern vessel docked next to the Maggie is MacTaggart's.

Marshall is a wealthy industrialist, a stubborn and determined self-made man. When he eventually learns the truth, he sets out in pursuit by aeroplane and hired car. Catching up with the puffer, he puts Pusey on board to ensure the cargo is transferred to another boat. Pusey is no match for the captain and ends up in jail on a charge of poaching, after pushing the Laird in the canal. Marshall realizes that he will have to handle the matter personally. After another costly chase, he boards the boat himself to hasten the cargo transfer. The route and timing of the voyage however, are governed by MacTaggart, tidal variations, fog and local community priorities.

Marshall's hostile attitude gradually softens somewhat. He is particularly touched by the loyalty of the "wee boy", Dougie, to his captain. At one point, when Marshall threatens to buy the boat from the owner, MacTaggart's sister, and sell it for scrap, Dougie releases a folding table on him, knocking him unconscious. His mood changes again when the wily MacTaggart moors the puffer under a wooden jetty; as the tide rises, the jetty (due for dismantling anyway) is damaged, making it impossible to transfer the furniture to the deeper draught vessel when it arrives.

At one of the unscheduled stops, the crew attend the hundredth birthday party of an islander, and Marshall chats with a nineteen-year-old girl who is pondering her future. She has two suitors, an up-and-coming, ambitious store owner and a poor fisherman. The American advises her to choose the former, but she believes she will marry the latter, explaining that he will give her his time, rather than just things. This strikes a chord with Marshall. He is having marital difficulties, and the furniture is an attempt to patch things up with his wife.

As they finally near their destination, the engine fails. Marshall uses his engineering knowledge to repair the old, poorly maintained machinery. The engine fires up but only serves to drive the Maggie onto some rocks. Marshall asks MacTaggart if they can save her by jettisoning the cargo. MacTaggart then apologetically informs him that he neglected to insure the furniture, but Marshall orders it thrown overboard anyway. The Maggie is saved.

At journey's end, Marshall, with some prodding by Dougie, even allows MacTaggart to keep the money he so desperately needs. In appreciation of his magnanimity, MacTaggart renames the puffer the Calvin B. Marshall.



The Maggie was played by two J.J. Hay boats in the film, the Boer and the Inca. Much of the film was shot on location at Crinan and Islay. The film uses real place names as far as the Crinan Canal, then switches to fictional placenames once they get through it (apart from Oban, Applecross and Portree). The film's working title was "Highland Fling", during filming in the summer of 1953, but was changed to The Maggie before its release in early 1954.


According to Kinematograph Weekly the film was a "money maker" at the British box office in 1954.[4]

In 1963 Colin McArthur criticised its representation of Scotland and its relationship with American capital, and of the failure of contemporary commentators to interrogate the narrative about the Scotland it constructed.[5][6]

Home video[edit]

Issued in the UK on VHS in 2002, a DVD followed in 2006 and was included alongside three other films in The Definitive Ealing Studios Collection: Volume Four. A digitally-restored version was issued on Blu-ray and DVD in 2015, which contains subtitles and extra features. The Maggie was released in the US on 10 March 2020 as part of an Ealing Comedy double feature entitled Whisky Galore! & The Maggie: Two Films by Alexander Mackendrick.

Further reading[edit]

  • McArthur, Colin (1983), The Maggie, in Hearn, Sheila G. (ed.), Cencrastus No. 12, Spring 1983, pp. 10 –14, ISSN 0264-0856
  • McArthur, Colin (2002), Whisky Galore! and the Maggie: A British Film Guide, I. B. Taurus, ASIN B00XV3IS8Y


  1. ^ Times Digital Archive: First advert in The Times, 25 February 1954, page 2
  2. ^ Osborne, Brian D.; Armstrong, Ronald (1998). Echoes of the Sea. Canongate. p. 405.
  3. ^ Jack, Ian (20 September 2003). "Letting off steam". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
  4. ^ Billings, Josh (16 December 1954). "Other monkey makers". Kinematograph Weekly. p. 9.
  5. ^ McArthur, Colin (1983), The Maggie, in Hearn, Sheila G. (ed.), Cencrastus No. 12, Spring 1983, pp. 10 - 14, ISSN 0264-0856
  6. ^ McArthur, Colin (2002), Whisky Galore! and The Maggie, I.B. Tauris, ISBN 9781860646331

External links[edit]