Tag: Austin Macauley Publishers

Whispers through Time-Tilbury Docks

Whispers through Time-Tilbury Docks

The world has always been on the move. The Romans, the Vikings and the Polynesians all set off for new lands across the seas. Humans throughout history travelled to explore new territory, wage war, colonize or establish trade routes for exotic goods. Only in recent times has sea travel been about pure pleasure.

In the 12th century, Christian soldiers set off on crusades to the Holy Land from Dartmouth in Devon. Did you realize that all the towns ending in ‘mouth’ have the river name as their prefix? So, Dartmouth is on the mouth (i.e. the opening to the sea) of the river Dart. Similarly, Plymouth is on mouth of the river Ply and Bournemouth on the mouth of the river Bourne. You get the drift. It’s fun discovering word origins.

Near ancient Dartmouth Castle on the west bank of the river Dart is a tidal inlet called Warfleet Creek. It makes for a peaceful site today for a Devon picnic but in 1147 and 1190 it was the spot for the gathering of hundreds of ships and thousands of keen crusaders eager to sail to and claim the Holy Land.

Similarly, centuries later, the Tilbury Docks became the launching point for many British and Europeans to emigrate to places as far away as Australia.

The Tilbury Docks replaced the original East and West India Docks that operated close to London. The coming of the railways and the increased size of ships prioritized deep water over closeness to the city because now the railway could bring people from inner London to the Thames estuary. Tilbury in Essex on the north shore of the Thames was an excellent site. Here, downstream from London Bridge, the river looped southwards through the river estuary marshlands. Here also there was land available and the convenient South end railway that linked the Tilbury Ferry.

At the dawn of the steam ship era in 1886, Tilbury was a progressive project to connect Britain to its Empire. But like any project, there were issues. The freemasons employed went on strike in 1889 citing hard work for little pay. Indeed, their pay seems incredible to a modern reader- just 6d or 5c an hour. Some concessions were made and work continued but workers again went on strike in 1912.

The year 1912 is an interesting year as in April that year the unsinkable Titanic set forth on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic to New York. But the world’s most splendid liner never reached American shores but sunk beneath the waves of the icy Atlantic near Newfoundland taking the bulk of the passengers with it.

Also in 1912, my grandparents, Winifred and Walter, set sail on the SS Rangatira steam ship, a far less splendid craft. Despite the sinking of the ill-fated Titanic and family concern, they still travelled all the way from Tilbury Docks to Sydney Harbour. I fictionalized their meeting and romance aboard the Rangatira in my historical fiction novel, Whispers through Time.

For many Australians Tilbury Docks were the point of embarkation to Australia for either themselves or their forebears. Before World War II,  Ten Pound Poms as they were called at the time, came in their thousands on this assisted passage scheme to start a new life. Later after the war, Europeans came too, escaping war ravaged Europe, to work as skilled migrants on the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme.

The traffic was not just one way. Tilbury not only farewelled but welcomed people. The current multi-cultural population of Britain is due to these arrivals. Caribbean migrants in the late 1940’s, travelled on the SS Empire Windrush to start a new life, lured by the offer of work and housing. Other nationalities also arrived from the outposts of the British Empire such as Africa and India.

Tilbury Docks may not be as exotic a location as the Taj Mahal or as steeped in history as The Tower of London but the docks have established their place in history.

Like other iconic sea ports, Tilbury Docks have also established their place in film. Wikipedia informs me that John Wayne’s smuggling operation in the movie Branigan took place at Tilbury. Also, the boat chase scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was filmed not in Venice as suggested in the plot but at Tilbury. The docks also feature in the Jude Law film, Alfie (2004), Batman Begins (2005) and as the arrival point for Paddington Bear in the 2014 film, Paddington.

Just another slice of history to add to my growing history blog. Thank you for reading.

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Whispers Through Time- Full Steam Ahead

Whispers Through Time- Full Steam Ahead

Whispers through Time- Full Steam Ahead

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches

Robert Louis Stevenson (1885), The Railway Carriage.

WHISPERS THROUGH TIME -FULL STEAM AHEAD

Before the age of railways most people stayed in their hometowns and could not envisage travelling faster than a horse could gallop. Even the humble bicycle was not an everyday travel luxury until the 1870’s. The world changed forever when in 1830, another unrelated Stevenson, (spelt differently), namely, George Stephenson engineered the first railroad line from Liverpool to Manchester. He used the steam powered Rocket engine developed by his son, Robert.

Railways not only revolutionized the transport of goods but people. As newly constructed rail lines connected town after town, the world opened up for pleasure and business travel. All classes of people could suddenly travel to the mountains, the seaside, to spas and resorts. Thomas Cook, a great enthusiast for changing horizons, offered trips and tours across England then later, The Continent and Egypt culminating in a round-the -world tour offer of 222days in 1872.

Travel for travel’s sake,’ became the fashion. Tourism was born. The elegant and well-off young completed the Grand Tour of Europe as a rite of passage. Along with their chaperones, they marveled at the beauties and art of Rome, Paris and Florence. Guide books such as Bradshaw’s (UK) and Baedeker’s (Germany) became essential companions, offering information on journeys, timetables and hotels.

However, for every invention, there is a flow on of good and bad. Railways, for all their benefits, tore up the countryside and polluted landscapes with soot and noise. Without trains, men and supplies could not have reached the more sinister destination of The Western Front of WWI. Railways were powerful agents for change, fueling the progress of the Industrial Revolution as computers have powered The Digital Revolution of today.

Many of you, like me may have watched Michael Portillo’s wonderful series on Railways of the world where he uses his Bradshaw to educate us on the delights of this form of travel, past and present, whilst wowing us with his colourful wardrobe.

I like Michael love to learn about the past. I feel I definitely was born in the wrong time in history. The digital age holds little fascination for me. A romantic dreamer, I would have liked to live in my mother or grandmother’s era. But then again, I could have been unlucky to be poor and spent my life at a washing board bearing child after child like my great grandmother did. She had ten children, eight lived, one being Winfred my grandmother.

My historical novel, Whispers Through Time, the first book of my Time Trilogy, follows the early years and romances of Winifred and her sister Francesca and their voyage to Australia just months after The Titanic sinking. Whilst researching their lives, I studied the development of the railways in London. I could not have them travelling from one place to the other if the line had not opened yet. The railways firstly extended above ground until The Underground was built in 1863. My grandmother would have witnessed the protest in her home town of Hampstead Heath when an underground under The Heath and an extensive residential estate were proposed in 1903. Fortunately, due to ‘green’ activism, developers halted construction of the estate and underground. The station tunnel already dug 60 metres below Hampstead Hill was never used. Instead, London authorities extended The Heath for public use.

History is so interesting! Read more each week in my history snippet blogs. Follow me on Insta.

Books available online via websites, https://joniscottauthor.com

Whispers Through Time | Book | Austin Macauley Publishers

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Whispers Through Time-My Ancestry

Whispers Through Time-My Ancestry

My Ancestry

Ancestry is defined as one’s family origins and ethnicity. With the advent of home computers, this process of finding one’s ancestry or self discovery is now within an individual’s reach thanks to such sites as Ancestry.com. Anyone with a keyboard, misplaced enthusiasm and a roaring internet can collect details of dead relatives and occasionally locate a live cousin. But it takes time and patience. You need to scroll through endless electoral rolls, censuses, ship manifests, birth, death and marriage entries, many hand-written not typed. In addition to this frustrating and time consuming process, you come across many, many dead ends and bum steers wherein you were chasing the wrong great grandparent for weeks or months on end.

This time consuming hobby does not appeal to me at all. I would rather make up the story and all the dead relatives and cousins. But my older sister is a family tree enthusiast. Just as well, every family needs one member to keep track of us all. My sister, Heather has spent 15 years researching our lot, discovering in the process a lot of fascinating people , places and assorted facts. She calls it going down the rabbit hole. A bit like Alice, you pop down supposedly for a moment and emerge days later having learnt a lot.

That is how big sister, Heather found a little, but unfortunately not a lot, about our maternal grandmother, Winifred. Most grannies born in the time of Queen Victoria did predictable things like stay in their home town, marry and raise a bunch of kids. But not Winnie. No, she, as a young woman, took off from London supposedly alone to hop on a liner bound for Sydney just months after the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. My sister located her name on the ship (SS Rangatira) manifold and traced her arrival in Sydney six weeks later.

When I read all these fascinating facts that my sister had unearthed, I was like in a ‘wow’ state. I was also on holidays at a beach resort where it rained for two weeks solid. Having finished the books and jig saw, I had brought along ‘just in case’ it rained, I came up with the idea of entertaining myself with a spot of writing. Having just finished reading Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden about a grand-daughter exploring her grandmother’s past, I felt inspired to give my Nana a similar treatment. As most of the research was done by my big sis, How hard could it be to write it into some sort of story? Heather’s 70th birthday was looming and what can you get a gal who has a house and wardrobe full of stuff? A story, I decided. She likes stories and this one seemed a cracker, a bit of a mystery.

Although I am a math and science teacher, I have had to write a few things in my time. So I started to write about Winifred one rainy February afternoon in 2019. I only had a school exercise book with me, no computer, so it was a little arduous and scribbly at first. But I kept going for the week despite my husband’s lack of encouragement.

‘You’re writing a book?’ he scoffed.

‘Yep, sure am,’I replied.

Undeterred, I wrote away and when we returned home, I kept writing and writing. I wrote in my spare moments for five whole months, filling in the gaps and silences of Winifred’s story with the magic of fiction. By the time Heather’s birthday came around, I was able to present her with a ‘book’, all wrapped up with a pink satin bow. It had no cover, just numbered typed pages printed off at the local Officeworks for $25.

She was very surprised but delighted and read it in record time. Then she surprised me by sending it off to publishers unbeknown to me and by the time my birthday arrived she presented me with a letter of offer from Austin-Macauley, London for a contract to publish my little book, Whispers Through Time. The sequel, Time, Heal my Heart is at the same publisher now awaiting publication this year. In the meantime, I wrote another book, The Last Hotel published March 2020. But that is another story for another day, found on another of my blogs.

I retired from teaching and now write fulltime. You never know what you can do until you try!

P.S Heather found us a live cousin we didn’t know about! He lives in Norway and always wondered who he was until we found him. He and his family came and spent Christmas with us in 2019. Just as well as the Covid broke out just a month later and we would all still be waiting to meet each other, if he had not seized the moment to come to Australia. He looks just like our grandfather. Read all about our story and his in Time, Heal My Heart, released this year, 2022. But to prepare for this second installment read the first part, first !

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