Hard Down! Hard Down! describes the eventful life of a Shetland man in pursuit of his ambitions - to reach the top in his profession, to find a wife, to cherish a family, to do his job well and to be respected by his peers. The account is enlivened by extracts from numerous well-chosen family letters, diaries and postcards revealing the minutiae of shipboard and family life 120 years ago. These include a bachelor night out in 'Frisco, buying slippers in Dantzig and a captain who changed his underclothes at midweek because he could not remember which weekend his wife had suggested! After four years as a fisherman in the stormy waters around Shetland, John Isbester chose to spend his next forty years in large square-rigged sailing ships from Liverpool at a time when shipping casualties were all too common. Remarkable feats of survival and tragic deaths are described with clarity and detail.