The Noblest Work of God

The Memoirs of James Lough and John Craig

By Peter Aitchison

Format: Paperback

In the bleak aftermath of the Eyemouth fishing disaster, when 189 men drowned in a devastating hurricane, fisherman James Lough was drawn to a new life in the United States - enticed to do so by his wife's cousin John Craig, the son of a Berwickshire migrant who had made good the American dream.

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Birlinn Limited

Birlinn publishes mostly non-fiction books, ranging from biography to history, military history and Scottish interest. Their imprints, Polygon Books, Arena Sport Books and John Donald Books, publish a wide variety of genres including culture, literary fiction, poetry and sports.

Product Description


For eight years Lough and his family laboured in Ohio before returning home to Scotland - where they first had to settle the debts they had left unpaid as they dashed for the Atlantic crossing, before building up a successful coastal trading business. The Loughs experienced tragedy and pain in the First World War and its aftermath. James was distraught when first his wife and then three of his four sons perished. Yet throughout, Lough clung to a personal creed based on the principles of thrift, hard work and personal advancement. He was, in his own words, 'The Noblest Work of God', an honest man with a simple but profound view of right and wrong. In 1928 Lough returned to America where he helped in the compilation of a family tribute to John Craig. Like Lough, Craig was a self-made man. He had backed Lincoln in the Civil War, had made a fortune during Reconstruction, and then lost it again in speculative ventures, before establishing a shipyard on the Great Lakes. In 1908 he was approached to run for President of the United States on the Republican ticket, before standing aside for the eventual winner, William Taft.

James Lough received a copy of the Craig book Episodes of my Life in late 1928 and, unknown to his own family, he then wrote down his own long and remarkable life story which he sent back to his kin in America. It lay forgotten there until a chance encounter drew the document back to Scotland and to Lough's great-great grandson, Peter Aitchison. The two works are now combined in a single volume along with a detailed commentary which brings the story up to date - the Loughs went back to fishing in Scotland while the Craigs moved to Long Beach, where they struck oil and are now one of the most successful and celebrated families in California. For the first time in eight decades the two branches of the same family are brought together in a unique book, richly illustrated with period and contemporary photographs. The Noblest Work of God was the basis of a major BBC Radio programme for transmission in December 2004.

Additional Information

Additional Information

Format Paperback
Imprint Birlinn Limited
Publication Date 25 Nov 2004
ISBN 9781841583921
Number of Pages 224

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