Tag: Harry Hartog Maroochydore

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-Down the Rabbit hole in search of Hampstead Heath

WHISPERS through TIME-Down the Rabbit hole in search of Hampstead Heath

Down the Rabbit hole in search of the Heath.

Historical research can be likened to falling down a rabbit hole-Alice in Wonderland style. What may seem a curious but straight forward exploration becomes before long a ‘curiouser and curiouser’ foray, to borrow from Alice’s words. You pop down for a moment in time but emerge hours later, whirling from your discoveries. Charged with fascinating facts, the trajectory of your novel takes an unexpected detour which ultimately, on reflection, was a good outcome. I am now a firm believer that detours are not a nuisance but actually where you were meant to go anyway. Straight lines are after all just boring paths from point A to B, aren’t they? Life is what happens when you have other plans.

So that is how The Hardy Tree (see my first blog) entered my Whispers through Time novel. Family research led to the Parish Church of St Pancras which led to The Hardy Tree then to Thomas Hardy himself etc. Similarly, as the Reeseg family featured in the novel lived nearby in Hampstead, I learnt about beautiful Hampstead Heath and its long history as a common space for London’s people.

The heath entered the pages of history way back in 986 A.D when the seemingly unprepared king, Ethelred the Unready, granted the people land at ‘Hemstede, ’then owned by Westminster Abbey. Even in the 19th century, Hampstead was on the outskirts of London, so back then it really would have been in the boondocks.

Hampstead Heath occupies 790 acres on a sandy ridge that connects Hampstead to Highgate. As the largest area of common space in London, it has through the centuries offered the freedom and beauty of nature to all and a venue for runners, walkers and kite flyers. The heath features over 25 ponds that fill as rain falls due to the clay underneath. These ponds originated from damming a tributary of the River Fleet way back in 1777 with the purpose of supplementing the city’s water supply. In time some of these larger ponds functioned as ‘segregated by gender’ swimming pools and model boat sailing ponds.

The geography of this area makes it one of the higher parts of London. From Parliament Hill, visitors can survey the changing London skyline. Golder’s Hill Park on the western end occupies the site of an original grand house destroyed in World War II. Unlike the rest of the free to range heath, this area is fenced and closed at night. It features a duck pond, a deer sanctuary, butterfly garden and small zoo.

In Whispers through Time, Gustave, my great uncle, runs and cycles through the greater heath with his younger sisters, Winifred and Francesca. Reuben, Francesca’s love interest also frequents the heath to bemoan his fate as a star-crossed lover, torn between love and duty to his family and religion.

I am certainly not the only writer to use this beautiful public park as a setting for parts of a novel. The Heath provides the opening backdrop for Wilkie Collins’ Victorian novel, Woman in White. Bram Stoker also partly set his gothic tale, Dracula (1897) on the Heath. The undead character, Lucy now a vampire abducts children from the Heath. This book is a must-read for not only its dark tale but its classic vampire characters and Gothic setting in a Transylvanian castle. Written as a series of letters and diary entries, it is a riveting read, despite the passing of time since its writing. Another more modern novel, John le Carre’s, Smiley’s People, also uses the heath as the murder scene of General Vladimir.

To experience more of Hampstead Heath immerse yourself in the historical novel, Whispers through Time based on the real life story of my maternal grandparents who emigrated from London to Sydney in 1912, just months after the Titanic sinking, (see previous blog on The Titanic)

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https://authoracademybookstore.com.au,

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Berkelouw Online Bookstore

SUNNY COAST TIMES – Joni Scott Author

SUNNY COAST TIMES – Joni Scott Author

Two Sunny Coast siblings have created a unique literary work that melds facts from their own family history with fiction.

Heather Carlisle, from Little Mountain, researched her family tree over 15 years before her sister Joni Scott Ryall, from Mudjimba, filled in the gaps, silences and mysteries with the magic dust of fiction.

The result is a historical novel called Whispers Through Time, recently published by Austin-Macauley in London, that focuses on another two sisters, now lost in time: their grandmother and great-aunt.

First-time novelist Joni says writing the fictional part was made easier by having some facts to base the story upon.

“I think the book chose me as it seemed to flow rather effortlessly and surprisingly quickly from somewhere within me,” she says. “I was on holidays and reading The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. She is an Australian author who writes fantastic novels wherein a character in the present discovers secrets about her family in the past. I really enjoy this style of book and so, having time to spare, decided to try writing myself, using my sister’s research of our maternal grandparents’ lives.

“Also, as all my grandmother’s siblings (all seven of them who reached adulthood) have no living descendants, I had free rein to create their characters and some of their actions.

“As I am a maths and science teacher, I had never attempted an extended fiction writing exercise before. Once I started this totally unplanned project, I found this new activity totally compelling, so compelling that I even continued to write a chapter a day as my husband and I toured South-East Asia for six weeks in April 2019.”

The story is one of love and loss, set in the first decades of the 20th century and encompassing the Boer Wars and Titanic tragedy, and travelling to the outposts of the British Empire. It revolves around the lives of the sisters’ grandparents, Walter and Winifred. With present-day granddaughter Heather, or Heady as she is known, trying to reconstruct the past, the story moves between past and present.

“The nature of time is an ever-present theme that waxes and wanes like a tide throughout lives,” Joni says. “There are the what-if moments, the only-if moments, and the sad reality that past and present generations can never meet, forever separated by time. Family is also a strong theme throughout, and the novel touches on women in the Victorian patriarchal society.”

Joni says Heady, a retired personal assistant, began the research into their family tree as a search for answers.

“Heady felt frustrated by the fact that her mother and aunt knew nothing about their own parents,” she says. “She started research with a search for the grandparents’ marriage certificate, then continued backwards to London and the 1800s using Census and registry records.

“Ever the organised one, she has the patience and tenacity to research family history. This she has done for about 15 years.”

Joni says the sequel, Time, Heal my Heart, is well on its way but its progress has been delayed by what she calls “an unexpected turn”.

“I wrote another novel, The Last Hotel, soon to be released by Tellwell,” she says. “It is a story within a story too. Interestingly, I was up to the research on the Spanish flu for the before-mentioned sequel, when COVID happened. Bit spooky, sense of deja vu. At the same time, I acquired CRPS, a supposedly incurable and debilitating nervous disease. I lost the use of my right arm and hand, so could not write, let alone brush my hair.

“Just before COVID hit Europe, February 28 to be exact, my husband and I flew to Genova in Italy for some prebooked treatment … While we were there the lockdowns occurred, starting at stage one and proceeding to stage four. Our hopes for a holiday after treatment were dashed
as border after border closed around Italy. Though we were only 10km from the Red Zone in Lombardy, the virus never invaded Genova while we were there. But we had to leave under the new regulation that tourists must leave. Hotels were closed so being a tourist was suddenly untenable.

“The police escorted us to the station from where we travelled towards the French border … France was not yet in lockdown but soon was and hotel after hotel closed. Hence the book title, The Last Hotel, inspired by this. Stranded strangers meet up at the last hotel open and magic and love happen. It is an uplifting story despite being based in the epidemic.

“I am very proud of this book baby as I wrote it while recovering in quarantine, back in Australia, totally with my left hand on the iPad.”

Whispers Through Times and The Last Hotel are available online from www.joniscottauthor.com, as well as online through Author Academy Bookstore, Harry Hartog Maroochydore and Berkeleouw Book Barn in Australia.