THE WATER DOCTOR’S DAUGHTERS
29/6/2012 – It occurs to me that I should give a brief explanation of how I came across the story of Dr James Loftus Marsden and his daughters. It”s a little convoluted, but bear wih me. For some time I have been researching and publishing material on Lachlan Macquarie, an early and much admired governor of New South Wales.
Maquarie’s only son, Lachlan Macquarie Jnr, was born in the Colony but returned to the Isle of Mull with his parents in 1822. He married Isabella Campbell, whose sister Mary became stepmother to the Marsden children in 1851. Lachlan Jnr was a hopeless alcoholic and before his premature death in 1845 he had been accused of improper conduct with his sister-in-law Mary. I believe that the old stories about Mary and Lachlan Maquarie Jnr resurfaced during the trials over the deaths of Marian and Lucy Marsden, and may have harmed the prosecution case.
A TASTE OF THE THAMES
24/5/2012 – The contract for A Taste of the Thames has now been signed by myself and Robert Hale. The manuscript is due in London by July 30 although I am aiming for the end of this month. Would be good to have it launched in time for the London Book Fair next April. Rob and I are busy finalising licences etc for the pics. Over thirty of the sixty odd illustrations are Rob’s own photographs, so we don’t have to worry about those!
19/6/2012 – Well, due to all the rain here I managed to finish the manuscript six weeks early… despite my lap-top suffering a complete and very alarming meltdown! It now sits on its own little fan. The ms. was proofed in both hard copy and on-line over and over again by both Rob and myself . Mind you, I found Rob shaking with laughter over some of my typos! We have some really unique illustrations and they have definitely added a lot to the book. The hard copy and digital version have been posted to London.
29/6/2012 – Received word this week that the ms. and illustrations have arrived safely. Meanwhile the Museum of London have forwarded me two images of a Roman brothel token, retrieved from the Thames near Putney last year. The image on the front of the token is of an explicit sex act. Just as well there is a bit of corrosion in a crucial spot or it may be deemed too graphic for publication!
TWELFTH BATTALION AIF – TROOPSHIP GEELONG
Now at 35,000 words of A Butterfly On His Shoulder. Visited the Mitchell Library when in Sydney last week and found lots of material, including the published diary of the 12 Twelfth Battalion. Have also sourced a photograph of two Tasmanian nursing sisters who were aboard the Geelong, the troopship that transported the 12th Battalion to Egypt and subsequently to Gallipoli.
Having neglected this project to complete the ms. of A Taste of the Thames I can now take up where I left off. Will be visiting the lovely Mitchell Library again next week to do some more research. We are going down by train, which will be a bit of an adventure!
I fear that A Butterfly On His Shoulder has remained on the back burner. My trip to Sydney was postponed and following a chat with some writer friends I somehow launched into a new project. It is quirky and light-hearted; a pure joy to work on. This has provided a good break from the emotion of writing about World War One. I envisage it as 15,000 word ‘stocking filler’ for Christmas 2013. Have completed 6, 000 words but will put it aside now and get back to my main work-in-progress…honestly!
My story on the SS Waratah appears in this month’s issue of Quadrant. It tells the story of the passenger ship SS Waratah, which disappeared without trace off the coast of South Africa while enroute from Australia to London in 1909. On board were 211 passengers and crew, many of them Australian.
The ship is often described as Australia’s Titanic. There is a ghastly theory that the ship was disabled in a severe storm and drifted south to eventually perish in the Antarctic.
Oh Southern swell! Oh Southern swell!
Sad tragedies lurk in your kelp and shell.
(Alfred Styan Dendy, 1910)
SHELL-SHOCKED GALLIPOLI VETERAN
Have completed the first 30,000 words of my new project, which has the working title, A Butterfly On His Shoulder . I have now included a brief preface, which explains that the book traces the often parallel lives of Gallipoli veteran Private Arthur William Singleton and that of Captain Victor Richard Ratten. Captain Ratten was Arthur’s Regimental Medical Officer, and a completely bogus doctor . My next step will be to visit the New South Wales State Library, which holds several books and an unpublished thesis relating to the story.