Hello, and thank you for visiting my site. I hope that you'll return often and always find something of interest about my world and what inspires me to pick up a pen. (This is a figure of speech, unfortunately. My handwriting is terrible!) Here's what I've been up to recently...
‘Workhouse Orphan’ is now available from Amazon in paperback or as a download. I have a small stock, so please let me know if you would like a signed copy. I’m also more than happy to give an author talk to any interested group. Although the book is aimed at the younger reader, a great deal of research has gone into it and the subject matter makes it appropriate for any age group.
23 July, 2018
Will toiling underground in a Yorkshire coal mine be even worse than life in a London workhouse? Young David Dawson is given no choice in the matter and can only hope for the best, but what of the younger brothers and sister he has been forced to leave behind? Trying to think up a plan to rescue them is at the forefront of his mind as he gets to grips with backbreaking work and the almost incomprehensible speech of his new co-workers.
While this is a work of fiction and has a positive resolution, I hope that it may serve as a reminder of the inhumane treatment doled out to ‘paupers’ all over our country until well into the 20th century. Once inside the grim walls of a workhouse, families were split up and given no say in their daily lives. Outside, they might well starve or freeze to death. Orphan children were particularly powerless, their fate at the whim of the Board of Guardians.
This novel is set in an era when thirteen is considered high time for a child to earn his or her own living. Things have moved on since the days of Oliver Twist, but conditions are still harsh. His education cut short, young David faces a future of exhausting manual work in an industry known to be the most dangerous in the UK.
My inspiration has come from the cherished memory of David Robert Davidson, a workhouse boy from London who was briefly married to one of my great-aunts. Ten years younger than she, he was her second husband, the first having already perished in the Great War. In the photograph above, I believe David to be the young man posing with the Lewis gun.
He had been sent up to Hartshead, a small mining village in the former West Riding of Yorkshire, to work as a ‘hurrier’, pushing along heavy carts full of coal. As far as I have been able to ascertain, his reason for marrying was to take care of his friend’s widow and children until he was called up and to ensure their entitlement to a pension should the worst happen. Unfortunately, it did. David’s name is included on a memorial plaque in St Peter’s, Hartshead and honoured each Remembrance Day.
I should stress that ‘Workhouse Orphan’ is NOT a biography. The details of David’s short life that have passed down the family are too scanty for that. All I do know for sure is that his widow and stepdaughters thought the world of him. When they emigrated to the USA in 1919, they took with them his regimental photograph, from which the detail above is taken, and the certificate issued in recognition of his sacrifice for King and Country. Both were cherished until the last stepdaughter died, at which point they were sent over to me. A younger cousin now has charge of them.
23 July, 2018
Not having seen Ariel Dorfman’s challenging psychological drama ‘Death and the Maiden’ before, I really had to do my homework in order to do this performance justice. I was very glad that I had. The Harrogate Dramatic Society may be an amateur group, but there was nothing amateurish about the production. The three actors were word perfect and very convincing in their roles. The set was excellent and the scene changes well organised and slick.
The only sour note came when my review appeared in the press. Although the original I submitted was comfortably inside the prescribed word limit, someone had taken it upon him/herself to cut it, thus removing some well deserved praise. There has since been an apology and the promise of the review appearing in toto next week. If it does, I shall reproduce it below.
News flash! It did and here is the much improved version.
29 June, 2018
Submitting stories overseas is a new departure for me and I’m thrilled to report that one of my murder mysteries has just appeared in a magazine only available in Australia and New Zealand.
That’s Life Fast Fiction is glossy, bright and pays well. What’s not to like!
11 June, 2018
Well, that was fun! I showed some photographs about a turn of the (19th/20th) century workhouse and mining village, outlined my story, read some extracts and then let the Squigglers loose on the art materials provided. Very promising start. Thanks due to Shaun Doyle from Ripon Library (who also took the photo) and Vicki Lever from North Yorkshire Youth for their support and enthusiastic participation.
26 February, 2018
This should be fun. My ‘work in progress’ is a story about a boy sent up from a London workhouse to toil in the Yorkshire coal mines. It seems very appropriate that the Squigglers sometimes meet in the Ripon Workhouse Museum.
6 February, 2018
I’ve always been very grateful for the support of Ripon Writers’ Group and was delighted last night to receive the President’s Cup.
The Cup is awarded each year to the member with the most points in our rolling programme of internal competitions.
24 January, 2018
2018 has got off to a good start for me with the publication of the above story in The People’s Friend Special No. 151. Based on an anecdote told to me last year – every writer needs ears like a bat and a handy notebook – it tells of a young teacher trying for promotion. Interviews are daunting enough without half your carefully chosen outfit going missing just beforehand!
4 January, 2018
This week saw some of my fiction featured in a beautifully illustrated double page spread in Love Sunday, the supplement to the Sunday People. If you’d like to read the full story, please let me know. My A4 scanner isn’t up to it, but I’d be more than happy to send you the original Word document.
‘Crocodile Tears’ is a poignant tale that spans almost a lifetime, from Maureen as a toddler astray on Bridlington beach to a confused elderly lady lost in Leeds city centre. We’re often told to write about what we know and those two places are still very fresh in my memory. Most of my childhood holidays were spent in ‘Brid’, as we called it. The mother of one of our neighbours in Leeds used to put us up for the week as well as taking care of me in the evenings to give my parents a break.
The cash office of Woolworth’s on Briggate, to which Maureen is taken when she loses her mum in the Christmas crowds, is where I worked for several years as a Saturday girl and the bargains to be had round the corner at C & A’s January sale were eagerly anticipated all year round. It saddens me to think that both those stores, which once had branches all over the country, are long gone. The latter was always known to my family as C & A Modes, with Modes pronounced to rhyme with ‘roads’. Whether that was through tradition or ignorance of French, I’m not sure. It isn’t in the story, but I thought I’d mention it anyway.
What happened to Maureen in the end was inspired by memories of an aunt who suffered from dementia. Fortunately, the people who came across her early one morning sitting outside a pub in her night attire were just as kind and helpful as the policeman who finds Maureen.
13 November, 2017