BOOK REVIEW | The Fabulous Flotilla: Scotland’s Adventure on the Rivers of Burma

Paul Strachan will be a wee bit familiar to regular readers of Baird Maritime. His articles on riverine tourism in South-East Asia have intrigued us recently. He is an excellent writer who describes his subject brilliantly.

This delightful book presents Paul’s talents perfectly. In clearly and well-illustrated form, it combines history, geography, sociology, architecture, travelogue, political science, and biographies with fascinating maritime history. All that is set against the background of a beautiful and once rich country whose current repressive military rulers are working ruthlessly to return it to “hermit kingdom” status.

As Paul describes so well, modern Burma – or Myanmar, if you prefer – was largely established on the back of the riverine infrastructure introduced and developed by the Scottish-owned Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, whose steamships safely connected all the main towns of the country. With over 1,200 ships, it was once the largest privately-owned shipowner in the world.

Operating on all of Burma’s major rivers from 1839, the company continued to serve, with a hiatus during the Japanese invasion, until 1949, when it was nationalised.

This is the very well-told story of an amazing shipping company and a fascinating and, generally, delightful country.

Author: Paul Strachan

Available from Whittles Publishing, Caithness, Scotland, UK.


An excerpt of the book can be read here. It is posted here on Baird Maritime with the publisher’s permission.

Neil Baird

Co-founder and former Editor-in-Chief of Baird Maritime and Work Boat World magazine, Neil has travelled the length and breadth of this planet in over 40 years in the business. He knows the global work boat industry better than anyone. A globally recognised expert on ferry safety, his doctoral thesis “Fatal Ferry Accidents, Their Causes and Prevention”, is still widely considered to be the bible on the subject.