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Robert Hay (1789–1847) joined the Royal Navy when he was 14 years old and served on the lower decks as a ‘shoe boy’ during the French wars. After one attempt to desert, he was posted to the East Indies, where he was badly wounded; the next time he got home to Scotland without falling foul of the press gang. Written in 1820, his memoir is a vivid account of naval life – and a wonderful yarn. Edited and introduced by Vincent McInerney.