When Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in South Africa’s brutal Robben Prison, he tirelessly turned to the poem Invicitus. The inspirational verse was by the Victorian William Ernest Henley, penned on the occasion of the amputation of his leg. Still I Rise takes its title from a work by Maya Angelou and it resonates with the same spirit of an unconquerable soul, a woman who is captain of her fate. Just as Invicitus brought solace to generations so does the contemporary classic. It embodies the strength of character of the women profiled. Each chapter will outline the fall and rise of great ladies who smashed all obstacles, rather than let all obstacles smash them. The book offers hope to those undergoing their own Sisyphean struggles. The intrepid women are the antithesis of the traditional damsels in distress; rather than waiting for the prince they took salvation into their own hands.
Women celebrated in the book include Madame C. J. Walker-first female American millionaire, Aung San Suu Kyi-Burma’s first lady of freedom, Betty Shabazz-civil rights activist, Nellie Sachs-Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize recipient, Selma Lagerlof-first woman Nobel Laureate, Fannie Lou Hamer-American voting rights activist, Bessie Coleman-first African-American female pilot, Wilma Randolph-first woman to win three gold medals, Sonia Sotomayor-first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, Wangari Maathai-Nobel Prize winner, Winnifred Mandela-freedom fighter, Lois Wilson-founder of Al-Anon, Roxanne Quimby-co-founder of Burt’s Bees.
From the Book:
"Still I Rise
Maya Angelou, 1928 - 2014
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
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Elizabeth opened the door to the stranger letting her mouth hang upon in surprise, as the woman shouldered her way into the cottage, stooping so as not to damage her plumage on the lintel.
Once inside she looked about her. One room downstairs by the look of it and a ladder to another room above; a labourer’s cottage, plain to see, with its sparse, home-made furnishings. Earthenware pots littered a plank table along with the remains of a meal of cheese, plum bread, sliced apples and beakers of ale. Bill, her younger brother by a year, took a step towards her in surprise. His face looked grey and careworn. Was he only thirty-six?
‘Betsy, is it you? How did you know it was Mary’s funeral?’
‘I didn’t. I had business in Brigg so I thought to surprise you. I have been meaning to come for some time. I am sorry for your loss, brother. I wish now I had visited earlier.’ A polite mistruth as the fact of his recent loss made her plan easier to accomplish.
‘Sit down and take some refreshment. Elizabeth, this is your Aunt Betsy. You’re named after her. Fetch her some ale will you.’ Elizabeth dropped a quick curtsey and left to do as she was bid.
Betsy perched herself on a low, wooden bench and, after delivering further commiserations, she asked Bill the names of his children.
‘Well let’s see, there’s Elizabeth our eldest, then Tom, Hannah, William, John, we call him Joe, and our youngest Uriah. James, the baby died soon after his mother.’ Bill counted them out on his fingers. ‘That makes six, doesn’t it?’
‘If you don’t count James,’ Betsy concurred. ‘That’s the reason I came to visit. I have a proposal to take one off your hands. I have a very comfortable income and I need an heir. The doctor, I kept house for, left me a good-sized house in Grimsby and a respectable annual income.’
Bill did not know what to say. It did not feel right to give away one of his and Mary’s children. He thought for a moment and said. ‘Our Hannah will be a good mother to the youngest, we can just about manage. They don’t go hungry; Elizabeth is in service and brings in a little and Tom works on the farm with me. It’s better now than it was at the start of the war. At least there’s no shortage of bread now.’
‘That’s good. In these dismal times, I wondered how you’d been faring. I wrote to the vicar in Broughton and he told me where you were living.’
Bill looked baffled. To be honest it had been a few years since he had thought much of his sister. Times were hard and he had enough problems of his own to concern him, without thinking of his sister’s situation. It must be nigh on fourteen years since he had last seen her, the day of his wedding.
‘Just consider the advantage for the child. He will have an education and be able to choose any profession.’
Bill continued to look puzzled until he dragged his mind back to Betsy’s proposal. ‘One of my sons then; you want a boy?’ He studied the tamped down earthen floor for a long moment, turning the offer over in his mind. ‘I suppose Uriah will not remember us if you take him.’ Bill swallowed hard; perhaps it would be best for the child. He was barely two years old and it would free up Hannah for service in another year or two.
‘No I want one that’s old enough to be biddable and young enough to learn. What about that one?’ She pointed to William.
‘Not William. He’s his mother’s favourite.’ Her brother checked himself and said ‘was,’ in a way that caused Betsy to pat his hand.
‘He can be my favourite then.’ Betsy liked the look of William and she disliked the name Uriah, an unlucky name, for did not David have him killed to claim Bathsheba? She was indifferent to John. Had not Salome demanded his head on a plate? William, however, was a strong name, a lucky name, the name of their father, another William Holtby. Yes, she liked that. As she studied him, she began to see a likeness to his grandfather, maybe not in his colouring, but in his green eyes which were set wide apart and the long, thin nose and the square set to his chin. He would grow up to be handsome and she was not averse to handsome.
Betsy also noted the way William sat still on his aunt’s lap, not fidgeting like Joe, or picking his nose like Uriah. William appeared to be listening to the conversation going on around him. She could see him thinking. He would do very well and she made up her mind.
‘I’ll give you twenty pounds as a dowry for your daughters. The younger one has an eye that wanders; she will need money if she is to find a husband.’
Bill sighed. His sister had always been bossy but how could he turn down a fortune, more money than he earned in a year? It was true, Hannah’s squint was going to be a burden to her. He rubbed his head as though it would make his thinking clearer, but tiredness, grief and resentment muddied his mind. Why did Mary have to die and leave him with all these problems? He’d been content with his lot but within forty-eight hours his world had blown apart. Betsy tapped him on the arm, impatient for an answer.
He took the safest option. ‘Mary was never one to mollycoddle the children but she thought William special, said he would amount to something. Maybe it’s you who will make that happen, Betsy, because all I can see for the future is more poverty. If the fields are enclosed and we must work for a pittance, how will we cope? Then there’s all this talk of invasion. Tom and I have been called to train for the militia, although we only have pikes for weapons. I often worry what will happen to the children if I am killed fighting. Pray God it never comes to that.’ Bill swallowed hard again and shook his sister’s hand to seal the deal and she passed him a bag of sovereigns, not that suspicious paper money the government had introduced, but gold. More money than he had seen in his life. He would need to find a good hiding place for it.
‘Well if we are to reach Brigg by dark we ought to set off. You’d best make your goodbyes brother. We’ll not visit again; it will unsettle the child.’
A week after uncovering the secret of what really happened at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, history professor Matt Conroy was lying in a morgue with the back of his head blown off.
SFPD homicide inspector Tom McGuire, a long-time friend of Conroy’s, volunteers to assist the FBI in bringing the killer to justice. The FBI, however, is ordered to stand down for “national security” reasons.
They thought that would be the end of it. They were wrong.
Tom McGuire was not about to stand down. Not for anyone, not for any reason. That decision put him in the crosshairs of one of the world’s most secretive and dangerous organizations – an organization whose rich, powerful and ruthless members would stop at nothing to make sure their 140-year-old secret remained hidden.
Drawn into a labyrinth of conspiracies over a century old, Tom McGuire has just walked into his worst nightmare
June 15, 1865
Lily sat on her horse looking intently south, up the valley. The mountains blocking their path to the west, endless prairies as far as the eye could see behind them. They had joined a large wagon train at Fort Laramie and were into their second day on the Oregon Trail. The train was turning right, headed to the north, away from the valley and toward the mountain passes discovered by the mountain men decades before.
“What’s this valley called?” Lily asked the scout riding alongside.
“Doesn’t have a name I know of, ma’am. Maybe Chugwater? I’ve heard some call it that after Chugwater Creek way up the valley,” pointing to the south and east of where they sat.
“How far to Denver City from here?”
“Denver City’s about due south of here, ma’am. If you were a bird, you could fly there in a little less than two hundred miles.”
“Thanks. And the name’s Lily, not ma’am. Lily Smoot.”
She trotted over to the wagon. Gus was driving. John swaying up and down in a Cheyenne cradleboard on his back. Lincoln was riding alongside. As in the previous train, he had taken the job of getting children up and down the back of the wagon to ride with Auggy the bear.
“This is it, Gus,” she said.
“Look all around. This is the valley Iliff told us about. The greatest ranchland ever.”
The two men looked around at the gentle hills to the base of the mountains, the trees green in the few creek beds to the south of them. A sea of ravines hidden among the hills all the way to the looming mountains in the western distance.
“Must be quite a sight when it’s covered with buffalo,” Lincoln said.
“It’d be an even better sight covered with our cattle,” Gus said.
“Iliff told us we wouldn’t last a week up here,” Lincoln said. “The Cheyenne and Sioux aren't even crazy about the wagon trains headed west through here, but they’ve agreed to give them free passage as long as nobody stays.”
As if on cue, two of the scouts trotted over.
“Gus,” one of them said. “Craziest thing. There’s a group of Indians approached us from the west when we made the turn to the north. The scouts said they came in peace. They asked if we had a wagon with a big black bear on it.”
Lily looked out to the west. Toward the magnificence of the mountains. And Mount Laramie towering over all. On a hill above the pattern of threaded ravines, about two miles away, she could just make out a small group that looked to be two of the wagon train’s scouts with three Indians.
“What’d you tell them?” Gus asked.
“I said we’d go look and see.”
“You got anybody who’ll drive our wagon for a while?” Gus asked.
“Sure. You going out to see what they want.”
“We know what they want,” Lily said.
‘Seven reasons they have for risking life… not fealty, faith, nor fee, but reasons of their own and cause enough to die for.’
On Solway Sand, set against the turmoil of sixteenth century Anglo/Scottish border conflict, is the third instalment of The Borderer Chronicles series. Jack Brownfield, a borderer, in a life not of his choosing, continues to travel a dangerous path not of his design. He seeks to escape the bonds that hold him. But ties, bound tightly, are never easy to break. This is a story of contrast and redemption, as seven seek salvation for a lonely Cumbrian village on a Solway shore.
‘There is a place, ethereal, where the elements of rock and sand slowly melt into the sea. A place to find in the morning, when the wind is stilled and tide receded. When God’s breath sits over the water and clouds the distant hills of Dumfriesshire in blues of unnatural hue. When he colours it all so perfectly with subtle brush.’
Monday morning Clarkson is on the hotel roof top, the sun already hot on his back. Around 8:30 the balcony door opens at Bobrowski’s room. A waiter wheels a food cart out before him. With a practiced flourish the man snaps a table cloth and places it on the table top. Placing the plates and silverware on the table first, he brings the silver domed food platters from inside the cart. Checking the table to be certain everything is in place, the waiter goes back into the room pushing the cart.
Ally and Fay are the first two people to appear. Clarkson brings the rifle up and sets it on the roof’s ledge. The women are pouring coffee into cups and beckoning the men to the table. Clarkson pulls the rifle stock to his cheek. Two men come out on the balcony. Clive sits with his back to Clarkson. Reggie sits across from Clive.
Claire Fairthorpe rushes back to her room to get her Walther pistol specially equipped with a silencer. The fat man rises from the bed and grabs her wrist. “Come back to bed my sweet little dumpling, I am ready for you again.”
Claire yanks her wrist from his grip and takes the pistol from a dresser drawer. Turning back toward the man Claire points the pistol at him. “Do not be here when I return, you fill me with disgust.”
He puts his hands up defensively and turns away. Claire grabs her purse and rushes from the room. At the cab stand in front of her hotel she steps in front of a couple and slams the door closed. She yells at the cab driver, “Get me to the Harbor Hotel now!”
Throwing money to the driver when they arrive at the hotel she bolts from the cab. Facing toward the front of the hotel she sees two wings of the building that jut out from the center rooms. She knows where Bobrowski’s room is but now must decide which of the wings Clarkson would choose. She rushes to her right.
“Son of a bitch,” mutters Clarkson. Clive’s head is in the way of his shot. Clarkson takes the rifle down and moves further out to his right. The shot will have to be at an angle he did not foresee. Laying the rifle on the ledge he puts a blanket down to kneel on. Looking through the scope he brings the center of the crosshairs to bear on the left side of Reggie’s head.
Claire reaches the roof top of the building’s wing she chose. Opening the door to the roof slowly, she looks through the gap. Not seeing anyone she goes through the door. The roof is empty, no one is at the ledge overlooking the rooms below. “Damn it! Wrong wing.” Fairthorpe runs back to the door.
Ally and Fay are putting the food on plates and setting the plates before the men. Clarkson waits for the women to sit down. With the women settled he pulls the rifle’s stock into his shoulder and sights through the scope. Ally’s head is just forward bending toward her food. Reggie’s head is perfectly in the crosshairs. Clarkson takes a deep breath.
“William Charker, for your part in the burglary of the dwelling of Thomas Evans at St. Mary Lambeth and stealing goods to the value of £33.60 you are hereby sentenced, along with your accomplice, to 7 years transportation to the colony of New South Wales.”
William Charker was born in Winchester, Hampshire, England on 16th of December, 1774. The fourteenth child of a family of fifteen, his father, Edward Charker, a Tallow Chandler and his mother Elizabeth (nee Barr). The Charkers were wealthy traders and yeoman farmers and so William well educated and independent. On the 7th of December, 1800 he inexplicably became involved (with an accomplice) in a substantial burglary at the dwelling house of Thomas Evans at St Mary Lambeth stealing goods to the value of £33.6.0.
The two were arrested and tried on 25th of March, 1801 at the Surrey Assizes. Each sentenced to only seven years even though their crime being a capital offence. At his trial, his name given as William Charker, alias William Chalker, was is the first known use of the alias which became his general name in Australia, except on Legal Documents and Government Correspondence where he always used Charker.
William had known a little about New South Wales. He had said to Thomas “my knowledge amounted to little more than that after being discovered by the explorer James Cook in 1770,” New South Wales had become an alternate for transportation destination of convicts as the Americans were no longer willing to have convicts dumped there after their War of Independence in in1776.
Transportation had become a viable alternate both physical and financial to storing the excess prisoners that there was no longer room in the overcrowded prisons. The short term solution of holding prisoners in prison hulks moored in the rivers of southern England.
Hulks were retired naval or merchant ships that would still float but considered unseaworthy. In most cases, all the upper superstructure (Masts, etc.) had been removed and most of the below deck space converted into gaol cells. Because of the poor condition of the hulks, more guards were necessary as well as the continual outbreaks of disease created an unacceptable risk to the greater population.
Transportation costs would be about the same cost as keeping prisoners in hulks but once they arrived in New South Wales they could be put to work and the colony would become self-sufficient in a short time. Additionally, as there was no danger of escape back into the English general population, it became possible to cut a large number of guards.
On the 6th of December 1785, Orders in Council were issued in London for the establishment of a penal colony in New South Wales, on land claimed by Britain by explorer James Cook in his first voyage to the Pacific in 1770.
The First Fleet is the name given to the 11 ships which left Great Britain on the 13th of May 1787 to found a penal colony that became the first European settlement in Australia. The fleet consisted of two Royal Navy vessels, three store ships, and six convict transports, carrying more than one thousand convicts, marines and seamen, and a vast quantity of stores. From England, the Fleet sailed southwest to Rio de Janeiro, then east to Cape Town and via the Great Southern Ocean to Botany Bay, arriving in mid-January 1788, taking two hundred and fifty-two days from departure to final arrival.
William went first to the County Gaol and then on to the prison hulk HMS Protée. Protée started as a sixty-four gun ship of the line of the French Navy, launched in 1772. Captured by the Royal Navy on the 24th of February 1780 and converted to serve as a prison ship in 1799, then finally broken up in 1815.
William surveyed his surroundings and later he would recall to his children.
“The conditions on board the floating gaols were appalling; the standards of hygiene were so poor that disease spread quickly. The living quarters were so bad that it was like living in a sewer. The hulks were cramped, and we had to sleep in fetters. We had to live on one deck that was barely high enough to let a man stand. The officers lived in cabins in the stern.”
“When on arriving on board, we were all at once stripped and washed in two large tubs of water, then, after putting on a suit of coarse slop clothing, we were put in irons and sent below with our own clothes being taken from them.”
“We now were poorly dressed as well as unhealthy. They were supposed to give us a linen shirt, a brown jacket and a pair of breeches but the men who controlled the ships usually pocketed the money the government had given for our clothes.”
“Six-hundred of us were confined in this floating dungeon nearly, most of us were double-ironed, and I saw the horrible effects arising from the continual rattling of chains, the filth and vermin naturally produced by such a crowd of miserable inhabitants, the oaths and execrations regularly heard amongst them…. The sick were given little medical attention and were not separated from the healthy.”
“I felt elated when finally in January 1802, I was transferred to the convict transport Coromandel. Us convicts were housed below decks on the prison deck and often further confined behind bars. In many cases, we were restrained in chains and only allowed on deck for fresh air and exercise. Conditions were cramped, and we slept in hammocks.”
“We departed from Spithead in company with the Perseus on 12 February 1802.”
As soon as they cleared, England conditions aboard improved. They were now no longer considered a threat of escape, and so the restrictions were somewhat eased.
As they sailed south to and past the Canary Islands, the daily routine was beginning to set in. At four in the early morning, the prisoner cooks (three in numbers) were admitted on deck and at five-thirty. The captain of his division (the convict nominated as a senior convict) joined the other captains on the upper deck for the purpose of filling wash tubs while the remaining prisoners commenced taking up their beds and hammocks. By six, William and the first half of the prisoners were admitted for the purpose of washing their person. Within half an hour the other half were allowed to wash. Breakfast was at eight and during breakfast, the ship’s crew were cleaning upper deck and water closets
While heading southwards across the Atlantic to Rio de Janeiro, they ran into the first of many storms.
William managed to keep his food down, but the ship became awash with vomit. The seasoned sailors joked about how convicts predicament. It must be realised that the majority of the convicts had never been to sea and were still recovering from the cramped conditions aboard the prison hulks.
Aboard the Ship were several families of free settlers, but as they were kept separate from all the convicts, William knew nothing about them. He wondered what people would voluntary take their family to this unknown place that reportedly had very few refinements and facilities.
“The clouds seem to rise from the water, turning day into night. Then suddenly the wind began to howl, and initially the ship lurched dangerously to starboard before the helmsman could correct the list. I thought that we were goners. Then came the driving rain, It was so fierce I was sure it was cutting into the deck timbers above them. The unbearable stench of the vomit from my fellow prisoners seemed to cover the whole deck. We would have preferred to be on deck instead of in that hell hole we were confined.”
The storm abated after about 10 hours and then the weather calmed. The days were becoming warmer as the travelled through the tropics and the many tropical storms did not seem as bad as that first one not long after they sailed past the Canary Islands.
The daily routine continued and to Williams first surprise as well as cleaning and general “housekeeping duties” there was a regular schooling and religious instruction. He could not figure out if this were to subdue the convicts and keep discipline or did the authorities think that a better education and religious training would cause them to “change their bad habits.”
Not long after he sighted land off Brazil, he noted that the course turned to south-eastward and followed the westerly winds across the Atlantic to the Cape.
The seas were beginning to roughen up, and the temperature had dropped, but it was still a lot warmer than when they had left England.
The journey across the southern Atlantic was reasonably uneventful until they drew nearer to the Cape. The wind increased dramatically causing the ship to pitch and roll. Even the sight of land on the port side did little to raise the spirits of William although after they had sailed a day into the Indian Ocean, the weather improved.
It was during this time that one of the convicts became violently ill and despite the efforts of the crew, he passed away.
It amazed William to how all the crew and every convict lined the decks while the poor soul was given a decent burial at sea.
“We all lined the deck. Prisoners, officers, crew as well as the free settlers. The body was on a plank leaning over the side and covered with the Queen’s flag. As the captain said those words that committed the body to the sea, two of the crew raised one end of the plank, and the lifeless body slid from underneath the flag and into the deep.”
In reflection, William pondered as to how different the voyage was as compared to the horrific stories that had been circulation in the gaols and prison hulks in England.
He noted that the crew at no time had acted as guards, and a few of the crew showed great symphony for the convict’s predicament. He had also admired the respect that the crew had shown the female convicts and how some of them entertained the children of the female convicts.
By the end of May they had crossed the Indian Ocean and at times over the next few weeks, they kept seeing land to the north of the port beam.
The land kept on appearing as they turned north and there was an air of excitement mixed the in trepidation of what lay ahead.
Finally, on the 13th of July 1808, they sailed into Port Jackson.
As they sailed through the heads, the captain decided to allow groups of convicts on deck. Each group was allowed fifteen minutes. The captain knew that if he kept them confined he would run the risk of rioting because if they saw a glimpse of their destination, they would start to relax and possibly an air of excitement would replace the feelings of despair some must have been feeling.
“It was unbelievable.” William later recalled “This big harbour that seemed to go for miles. The soft green grass behind the mixture of rocky shores and small golden beaches and the thick bushland behind the shores made this place seem like paradise.”
They had sailed nonstop, the first convict ship to do so, Governor King on the 9th August 1802 was so impressed with the treatment and the condition of the prisoners that he wrote the following report:-
“The healthy state in which the Coromandel and Perseus arrived requires my particularly pointing out the masters of those ships to your notice. It appears by the log books, surgeon's diaries and the unanimous voice of every person on board those ships that the utmost kindness to the convicts. This, with the proper application of the comforts Government had so liberally provided for them and the good state of health all the people were in, induced the master of the Coromandel to proceed without stopping at any port. He arrived here in four months and one day, bringing every person in a state of high health, and fit for actual labour.And although it appears that the Perseus necessarily stopped at Rio and the Cape, yet the convicts were in as good condition as those on board the Coromandel. Nor can I omit the great pleasure felt by myself and the other visiting officers at the thanks expressed by the prisoners and passengers for the kind attention and care they had received from the masters and surgeons, who returned, an unusual quantity of the articles laid in by Government for the convicts during the voyage.”
William’s first sight of Sydney Cove was as they were disembarking at the rickety wharf.
“I was amazed at how the settlement had developed after only 14 years. Although rudimentary it was a thriving village.”
William was at first extremely unsteady on his feet due in part to a long sea voyage on rolling seas but also with the cramped conditions on board.
“The smells of shore are amazing. Clean, crisp air, the pleasant aromas of real food cooking but most importantly the lack of stench from humans living so close for so long. I could begin to see that it wasn’t going to be as bad as I had thought to live in this so called hell hole. I see that it may be possible eventually to have a real life in this colony if I behaved myself.”
Much of the town's buildings and infrastructure were centred on the military. The stores and trade were managed mainly be members of the New South Wales Corps and the whole town had a “garrison town” feeling about it.
“My initial thoughts are that the officers New South Wales Corps, seem to have too much influence over the running of the colony and appears that the governor’s office is just to rubber-stamp their decisions. Even the granting of pardons, as well as the allocation of land, seemed to be in the hands of the Corp’s officers.”
“My first night on land is an eerie experience. The lack of movement of the sea along with the entirely different sounds makes falling asleep terrible.”
“Awaking in the morning to the sounds of the native birds chirping along with the clatter of a bustling colony preparing for the task of the day was music to my ears.”
William was assigned shortly after his arrival, to work as a farm labourer for Jonas Archer and Mary Kearns at Mulgrave Place in the Hawkesbury district.
As he travelled to the farm, he was bewildered by the sights and sounds that he encountered.
“My first glance of kangaroos and other native animals give me discomfort although the aboriginals are causing me even more.”
As it turned out before long, he would build a bond and understanding with the local tribes that would lead to a long and peaceful relationship. It was unfortunate that all the settlers were unable to establish this relationship, and distrust disintegrated into bloodshed on many occasions.
Mary Kearns had been convicted of theft in Dublin in 1792 and was sentenced to 7 years transportation. She arrived in Sydney on 17 September 1793 aboard the "Sugarcane".
After completing her sentence, she was granted 65 acres of land in the Hawkesbury area at Green Hills, now known as Windsor.
She had been joined by her lover Jonas Archer and together they had started up clearing for the farm. Jonas was subordinate to Mary as he probably was reminded on many occasions that it was Mary’s grant and, therefore, her farm.
“It was incredible that in two short years, Mary and Jonas were able to clear the land and build a moderately successful farm on these river flats about 20 miles away from Sydney Harbour. Mary was a hard worker, and yet at the same time a very attractive woman, who was trying to build a real future regardless of her poor start.”
Having William assigned to their farm was a Godsend. William was a hard worker and built trust with them. He was always able to make positive improvements, and because he had been raised on farms by his yeoman farmer parents he had a natural gift for mixed farming. “If we plant the vegetable patch between the house and the storage shed, we should have more control over where the animals may roam,” he remarked to Mary shortly after his arrival.
Jonas, on the other hand, had a dislike for farming as well he was proving to be a liability with an extremely bad business attributes.
This untimely led to in 1803, Jonas Archer fled to avoid his creditors and Mary became the sole owner of the farm. Mary always had a liking for William, so it was no surprise that in a short time after Jonas left, she married William. The farm was then known as Chalker’s Farm.
The Rum Corps vs. Governor Bligh
Governor William Bligh reached Sydney on 6th August 1806. He had been sent to replace Governor King, who was looking forward to returning to England. (It was thought that he was disappointed that during his time in office, the officers of the corps had overridden his authority and left him somewhat dejected.
Bligh had a reputation for being extremely autocratic, and he did suffer insubordination from anyone at all.
Losing control of the HMS Bounty to his crew 20 years previous had made him even more ruthless.
Bligh had discovered to his dismay on his arrival that the New South Wales Corps ran most of the commerce under the command of Major George Johnson with the close cooperation of a former officer and now grazier and merchant John McArthur.
Resident farmers of the Hawkesbury region, in particular, had complained to Bligh about the high prices being charged by the Corps for staple goods. The restrictions on availability of mutton by McArthur and, therefore, the high prices for meat further raised their concerns along with the fact that the Corps had attempted to introduce alcoholic liquor (that the Corps had full control of) as a currency. This led the Corps being often referred to as “The Rum Corps” The name being a misnomer as whiskey was the only alcohol used as currency.
Bligh started to attempt to stop these practices and tried to restrict the commercial activities of the Corps but had little success. The impasse continued until on the 26th January 1808 Major Johnson (egged on by McArthur) led a troop in full military regalia accompanied by the regimental band to government house and arrest Bligh. Major Johnson installed himself as the acting governor.
For just under two years Bligh remained under guard until Lachlan Macquarie arrived to assume the position of Governor.
Macquarie was the first non-naval governor and just before his arrival the New South Wales Corps (now known as the 102 regiment of foot) was recalled to England and replaced by the 73 regiment of foot. Major Johnson was court marshalled in England while McArthur was put on trial in Sydney.
Through all this William mostly ignored what was happening in Sydney as he was still a convict and he needed to keep away from controversy for fear of being relocated to another work area. He did, however, hold contempt for the Rum Corps and even more for Bligh, who seemed too weak to control them.
By 1806, they were prospering, but all was about to change with a devastating flood in March of that year in which the settlers lost everything that could not be quickly moved to higher ground. William was driving his stock when he heard the call “HELP.” Looking toward the overflowing river, he saw three of his neighbours struggling in the torrent along with a small child. Without pausing, William ran to the riverbank where his little boat was tied up and rowed out to the middle of the river. He rowed to the child first and after he was aboard William then rowed to save the three men in turn. When it overturned, the adults drowned, but William swam to the shore with the child on his back.
He was rewarded with a Conditional Pardon in August 1806. Conditional pardon meant that although free he was not able to leave the colony until his pardon became absolute. To be pardoned said that William was no longer to be regarded as a thief sentenced to 7 years, but instead, a free man whereas Mary was always to be considered as an ex-criminal.
The Blue Mountains
After the harvest of 1806-7, their marriage ended with a legal separation notified in the Sydney Gazette of July 1807.
The marriage had endured only three years. When it ended, William left took only his horse and left all other property and goods with Mary.
William was granted an Absolute Pardon on April 7th, 1808.
He was now free to return to England but instead chose to remain and enter employment with Gregory Blaxland as his farm overseer, probably at his Brush Farm property and later at his more extensive South Creek holding. William made a good supervisor and had built himself a reputation as a hard worker and a very honest employee.
Along with his Absolute Pardon, William received a grant of 30 acres of land at the Cooks River but did not take up the grant. Instead, in August 1812, he applied for and received a grant of sixty acres at South Creek. The South Creek farm was used mostly to raise cattle while he pursued his other sources of income.
After leaving the employ of Blaxland, he also worked as an overseer for William Lawson at Prospect from 1810 to 1814.
Lawson and Wentworth, as well as being neighbours, were good friends. They were both visionaries who saw the need for the colony’s further expansion in the area. The Blue Mountains to the west had become a barrier to this development of the settlement which was now requiring more farming land to meet its needs, particularly after the droughts of 1812 and 1813.
“The local Indigenous people know at least two routes by which to cross the mountains,” William told Blaxland. The first was along Bilpin Ridge, later followed by Archibald Bell with the assistance of the local Darug people (now the location of Bells Line of Road), and the second was along Cox’s River.
Unfortunately too many of the landholders and free settlers would not believe William as they had all come to distrust the aboriginal people.
Some even believed that the aboriginals were of a sub-human race and therefore not capable of knowing such things. William had long since made friends with a lot of them and as such he appreciated their knowledge of the land. However, he was unable to influence those around him to allow the aboriginals to show the way.
Until 1813 however, the settlers remained unaware of how to cross the mountains, despite several attempts, including two by Blaxland himself. Early in 1813 Blaxland, who wanted more grazing land, obtained the approval of Governor Lachlan Macquarie and approached Lawson and Wentworth to secure their participation in a new exploratory expedition following the mountain ridges.
“Mr. Lawson was able to go with the other two knowing all too well that his farm was being looked after by me,” William told his son at a later date.
Blaxland, Wentworth, and Lawson led an expedition party, which included four servants, four pack horses, and five dogs. Two of the four men who assisted the party have been identified as James Burne, a guide and kangaroo hunter, and Samuel Fairs, a convict who arrived in Australia in 1809. The two others also thought to be convicts, remain unidentified.
The party left from Blaxland's South Creek farm near the modern suburb of St Marys in western Sydney, on 11 May 1813 and crossed the Nepean River later that day. They made their way over the mountains, following the ridges, and completed the crossing in twenty-one days. The explorers' success has been attributed to the methodical approach and decision to travel on the ridges instead of through the valleys. The three explorers and two of their servants would set out each day, leaving the other two men at their campsite, and mark out a trail, before turning back later in the day to cut a path for the horses and allow the rest of the party to progress.
The party first saw the plains beyond the mountains from Mount York. They continued to Mount Blaxland 25 km south of the site of Lithgow, on the western side of the mountains. From this point, Blaxland declared there was enough forest or grassland “to support the stock of the colony for thirty years,” while Lawson called it "the best-watered Country of any I have seen in the Colony.” The party then turned back, making the return journey in six days.
Bruno runs to the platform between the train cars chasing Jack and smashes him across his face with the big pistol. Jack falls back against the rail separating the cars and slumps to the steel floor. The train lurches and Bruno stumbles backward against the door trying to keep his balance. He grabs the door to steady himself and charges back toward Jack. The train slows and then speeds up as it crests a hill. Bruno stumbles on the uneven steel plates of the platform. He is off balance again and comes toward Jack with his head down and his arms outstretched to catch his fall. Jack pulls his knees to his chest, his feet catch Bruno in the stomach. Using Bruno’s own momentum, Jack pushes his legs up and vaults Bruno’s helpless bulk over the rail. The scream abruptly stops as he plummets under the thundering steel wheels.
Maddy bursts through the door and helps Jack to his feet.
“I was sure he was going to shoot you Jack, he seemed to go over the railing in slow motion and then get sucked under the train. That was awful but I could not take my eyes away.”
Jack puts his arms around Maddy and hugs her to him tightly. “It’s ok now baby, we need to think about getting off this thing before we get to the next station. We can’t be far from the border now. We’re coming into another turn let me see if I can see what’s up ahead.”
As the train goes around the turn, Jack can see past the line of cars.
“We are going up another hill with a turn at the top of it. The train will be going pretty slow as it makes the turn. It looks like a hay field on the outside of the turn. That should make for a pretty soft landing. Make sure you clear the road bed.”
Maddy looks down as the countryside flashes by at what seems to her to be an impossible speed. She looks back at Jack with her eyes wide. “What, Jack? Do you think I am going to jump from this train?”
“We’re gonna have to jump off this thing. Don’t think about it, just jump when I tell you. Let’s go, Maddy. Roll when you hit the ground. Come on, get ready it’s slowing down. Jump!”
If Mark Wilkerson had to listen to any more of that morbid organ music, he was going to throw up. A migraine beat against his temples and tears rolled down his cheeks as he stood propped against his crutches, his dislocated shoulder aching. Through bleary eyes, he viewed the three closed coffins at the front of the viewing parlor. Gold glitter on white satin ribbons across the caskets read, “Devoted Father,” “Loving Mother,” and “Baby Sister – Sabrina.” She was only six.
Ornate floral arrangements surrounded the closed caskets, their florist shop fragrance adding to Mark’s migraine. He ran his hand across the smooth surface of his mother’s coffin; fingered the satin ribbon. She was in there, at least what was left of her, but he would never see her again. Never again would he feel the warm touch of her lips on his cheek when she kissed him good night.
His weepy eyes abruptly gushed with tears. What happened? He still wondered, shaking his head. Even though he’d somehow survived the accident, he still didn’t know anything about it. All he knew was what the County Sheriff’s deputy and the doctor at the hospital had told him; that he and his family had been in a tragic, fiery accident on the Carquinez Bridge on Christmas Eve.
The doctor also told him his memory would probably return, but it could take some time. He’d called it “dissociative amnesia," whatever that was. He said it was often caused by severe emotional trauma.
Mark’s grandmother, Emily Wilkerson, told him he’d performed with the family at a rest home earlier that night, but he couldn’t remember that either. He felt, more than remembered his father had been angry about something. Then there was Amanda Bonfili. What happened on their date? Or did they have a date? He just couldn’t remember.
Mark moved to his father’s casket. How could he live without him? His dad had been his greatest inspiration, his best friend. He looked down at the casket as his tears rolled. How could he live with the guilt of knowing their last words may have been spoken in anger? He’d never even had a chance to say I’m sorry, if he’d done something wrong or even good-bye. Somehow, he felt he might have been at least partly responsible for the accident. “Forgive me, dad.” His cries escaped his lips in a whisper, “for whatever I did. I’m sorry.” Tears stung his eyes and he wiped them on his sports jacket sleeve.
He wished he could see his family just one last time, but the undertaker had told him their bodies were too charred. The thought horrified him and Mark agreed it would be better to remember them as he’d last seen them alive.
At least his sister, Amy, was being spared the funeral ordeal. But she was still in a coma and her condition was serious. The doctors said she could have brain damage if she survived. That sounded worse than his amnesia.
The accident had only been three days ago and tomorrow, after the funeral, the coffins would be lowered into the cold ground. Is that all there is to life? Mark wondered, To live your life then be discarded like some trash. Hanging his head, he wished he could have died in their place, or at least with them. How Amy and he had survived was a mystery.
Moving to Sabrina’s casket, he laid his forehead against her tiny coffin. “Dear God! Please make this go away. Make them come back.” But even as he prayed, he knew God couldn’t make that happen, assuming He was even real. After all, why would an all-powerful, loving God take away the people he loved most; his parents and his six-year-old sister who had so much to live for, the family Amy and he needed?
Why? The question kept repeating over in his mind, as he wiped his eyes again. Why did his parents have to die and of all people little Sabrina?
SABRINA! Mark wanted to shout, as if it would bring her back.
He missed his baby sister every bit as much as he missed his mother and father.
“Sabrina,” he whispered.
He would never see her again. Tears rolled down his cheeks as Mark thought of her charred little body inside the tiny coffin and the pain she must have endured in the fire. She didn’t deserve to die.
Mark felt a warm hand on his shoulder. Straightening with his crutches, he leaned into his grandmother’s arms. “Go ahead and cry,” she said. “It’s good to let it out.”
Mark leaned down and laid his cheek in the hollow of her neck. He could smell her sweet, old ladies perfume. “Why?” he asked. “Why didn’t God protect them? Why did He let Sabrina die and not me? She didn’t even get a chance to live her life.” He turned away and tightened his fists on the crutch’s handgrip.
He felt his grandmother’s warm fingers turn his chin. “Mark, I know this is hard for you. It’s hard for me too and it will be hard on Amy when she comes home.” His grandmother choked on her words then blotted her eyes with her hankie, “if she does. Son, we don’t always understand why He allows things like this to happen, but my mother always told me, ‘what we see today as a tragedy, we may look back at tomorrow as a blessing.’” Emily hugged him tighter and stroked his hair.
“A blessing? How can losing almost my entire family ever be a blessing?” Mark huffed and pulled away. His head throbbed even more. Then looking back at his grandmother, he said, “If I ever find out who caused the accident, I swear… I’ll… I’ll kill him…. I promise that.”
“No, Mark. Don’t think like that. It was just that, an accident. You need to forgive them.”
“I can’t, Grandma. I just can’t.”
Saying goodbye to the company commanders was difficult. Saying goodbye to First Sergeant Tanneyhill was especially difficult. Conor promised Chaplain Yancey that he would attend as many of his services as possible, as he had been doing, and Conor thanked him for his support and friendship. The brigade commander, Colonel Baker, agreed that Captain Willingham would be the best choice as Conor’s replacement, and the three of them met for two hours to transition the regiment.
In the late evening, Conor was walking the regimental line with Captain Willingham when three soldiers called out from their trench.
“We hear you’re leaving us, sir. Before you get away, we’d like for you to join us down here.”
Willingham and Conor jumped down into the trench with the three young soldiers. One man reached into his coat pocket and brought out a handful of shelled, roasted peanuts. He passed three of the peanuts to Conor, three to the others, and they toasted each other by tapping the shells together. “To the Thirty-eighth Georgia,” they all repeated.
The peanuts were damp and stale, but Conor didn’t care. It was the purest, most unselfish, most cherished gift he could remember.
“We’ll miss you, sir. We walked a lot of miles together, didn’t we?”
“We did. And I appreciate what you men have meant to this regiment, and to me personally. I’ll ask you to give Captain Willingham the same great support you gave me.”
“We will, sir. Good luck to you.”
Conor mentioned to Willingham as they finished the inspection of the line, “Where did we get such men as these? How could I have been so blessed to command them? To have gone into battle with them, and bled with them, and watched so many of them die? These men have carried me from the field after being wounded. I have seen them march for days on dusty roads, wade fast-flowing, rain-swollen rivers, trudge through hard rain and thick mud, and lie down on the grass and be asleep in a matter of seconds. I have looked into their eyes just before we faced an enemy of superior strength and seen their determination, and knew they would be right there with me as we moved forward each time, every time. I have watched them freezing in the cold, half-starved, homesick, lovesick, physically sick, and yet they manned their posts. I have written to their mothers of their astonishing bravery and of how proud they should be of their dead heroic sons. I have listened to their ribald humor, their cursing, their sarcasm, and their prayers. I know that no matter how long I live, no matter what else I do in this life, I will never see their equal again. Just where did we get such men as these?”
Afterwards, when he got back to his hut and thought about those young, undernourished, loyal soldiers so eagerly sharing their few remaining peanuts with him, an act of extraordinary generosity matched only by their magnificent valor, Conor sat on the ground and wept.
PROJECT ORION: WE COME IN PEACE (WITH NUCLEAR BOMBS!)
[DECLASSIFIED IN 1979]
It could have been just like the movies. Specifically, the soppy sci-fi melodramas of the 1950s, those humorless, grim-faced sagas of men (always white Americans), square-jawed and broad of shoulder, who faced that Great Unknown, outer space (cue the reverb) with stoicism and Yankee guts. The troupe of six to twelve individuals were usually clad in faded blue jumpsuits (probably because they were all of military bent, possibly US Air Force)—no space suits or helmets for these guys; worrying about decompression is for sissies. These were steely-eyed, anvil-chinned rocket men. The heroes would walk up a ramp or climb a ladder into the great, gleaming, cigar-shaped silver rocketship (a long-lost term widely used in the early 1950s) without assistance or fanfare—in that sunny postwar era, it took only a handful of servicemen and a few elderly scientists to launch a manned rocket. Once inside, the crewmen would close a submarine-style hatch, strap themselves into great steel chairs, take one last look around their girder-festooned, capacious cabin (1950s rocketship flight decks were the size of your average New York bachelor pad and built like battleships), nod silently to the eldest of the bunch (usually wearing colonel's eagles), who would then push the button. This was inevitably a large red push button, marked in true military parlance with something like "IGNITE ROCKETS" or more simply "FIRE!" and off they would go into the Wild Blue Yonder, while on the ground (in a similarly military posture, perhaps within a Quonset hut in New Mexico), a few worried guys in white lab coats watched a twelve-inch radar screen with a huge white dot ascending. A handful of servicemen usually stood nearby, looking vacuously at meaningless blinking lights dancing on their consoles. A single computer, the size of a small RV, would click and whir nearby. This was Space Command (or some other imagined, militarized NASA precursor) after all.
Upon reaching space, the colonel would grasp an ice cream cone–sized microphone cabled to the control panel, and as he looked in awe at a receding Earth on the giant "televisor" screen, he'd announce in dour tones, "This is spaceship X-1. We are in outer space." It was all very dramatic and thematically colorless. If you don't believe me, check out the classic 1950s cinematic space extravaganzas The Conquest of Space or Destination Moon, staples of the genre. Be sure to watch closely during the launch scenes, as the actors' faces are distorted by the horrifying, and as yet little understood, g-forces of launch. Within moments the 737-sized, single-stage craft was in space—no dawdling in orbit—heading in a straight line for the moon or Mars. It's all very humbling and fun, in a deadly serious fashion.
To be fair to the pioneering producers of these epic motion picture dramas, little was known of spaceflight before the 1960s, and sci-fi movie budgets were puny. Few movie studios took the genre seriously, and it's amazing that these innovative moviemakers pulled off what they did, given the general lack of respect these drive-in, Saturday matinee potboilers gained for them.2 But as we now know, the dramatic scenario outlined above is not exactly how human spaceflight turned out.
But it could have been.
The Apollo lunar landing program, initiated shortly after these types of films were made, mandated a different approach. NASA's moon rocket, Wernher von Braun's masterpiece, would be a multistage affair, operating right at the edge of its weight-lifting capability. NASA's first plan was to ascend directly to the moon, land, then, after a suitable period of exploration, return to Earth, shedding stages at appropriate junctures. But this brute-force methodology would have required a truly massive rocket (it was to be called Nova, and was much larger than its successor, the Saturn V), well beyond the means at hand. A bit more planning and a lot of innovative thinking resulted in the moon program we all remember, with the still-massive 363-foot Saturn V rocket propelling a tiny capsule and lander to the moon, of which only the thirteen-foot-wide capsule returned. It took hundreds of thousands of people to build it, thousands to launch and operate it, and somewhere north of twenty billion 1960s dollars to finance it. Apollo was a far cry from the rocketships of the movies.
But there were alternative plans for a massive, battleship-sized single-stage spacecraft that could have flown to the moon and beyond. In its ultimate form, this behemoth would have dwarfed the motion picture versions. A hundred or more crewmen, leaning back in space-age versions of Barcaloungers, would have departed Earth with enough fuel, life support, and supplies to reach the moon, Mars, or even Jupiter and Saturn within months. Once in space the crew would have unbelted themselves and had far more room to drift, eat, work, and sleep than the International Space Station and even most modern submarines offer. It would have been like a well-appointed office complex in space, a true space liner—this majestic craft could have unlocked the entire solar system to exploration within the decade. And best of all? It was atomic.
The massive spaceship was called Project Orion (no relation to the modern shuttle-replacing spacecraft beyond the cool name), and it would have been a nuclear-powered behemoth. Orion was first formally conceptualized in a 1955 study by Stanislaw Ulam, a Polish American mathematician who was part of the Manhattan Project in WWII, and Cornelius Everett, working from notions that Ulam had first pondered soon after WWII. Besides working on the bombs dropped on Japan, Ulam was, along with Edward Teller, a prime mover on America's first hydrogen bomb project. Soon after completing his work on H-bombs, Ulam formalized his thoughts about nuclear rocket propulsion. Other work was being done on atomic rockets, but was less dramatic—these projects involved superheating a fuel mass, such as liquid hydrogen, inside a fission reactor to eject it at high speeds out of the rocket nozzle. While much more efficient than the chemical rockets being designed by von Braun and others, it was not the massive leap in propulsion that would take humanity to the stars. Ulam had a different idea—nuclear pulse propulsion, which was not fully declassified until 1979.3 From the abstract:
Repeated nuclear explosions outside the body of a projectile are considered as providing means to accelerate such objects to velocities of the order of 106 cm/sec.4
Yes, that's right. Rather than fiddling around with rapidly expanding heated gasses with a nuclear reactor, Ulam took the most direct path to high energy release: nuclear explosions. Ulam had been mulling this over for more than a decade, reasoning that chemical rockets were terribly constrained by both the mass of the fuels and the temperatures at which they could realistically operate. Other proposals to detonate tiny nukes inside combustion chambers (one proposal suggested a chamber diameter of 130 feet, or almost four times the diameter of the Saturn V), while an improvement over chemical rockets, were deemed impractical, and did not offer a large enough increase in performance to impress Ulam. But what if the combustion chamber could be eliminated altogether and a small nuke simply detonated in open space? A percentage of the energy released by a reasonably sized nuclear explosion—not specified in the paper, but probably on the order of a half to one kiloton (about 10 percent that of the Hiroshima bomb)—would nudge a nearby spacecraft with propulsive force that, while brief, would be enormous.
Ulam characterized the spacecraft as an unmanned thirty-three-foot diameter, disk-shaped ship, with a mass of twelve to twenty tons. It would experience an acceleration of up to 10,000 g (the Apollo astronauts, riding atop the Saturn V, maxed out at just under 5 g, though the rocket was capable of more)—hence the unmanned nature of the design. Human occupants would have been turned into puddles of red jelly within moments. This robotic probe would carry dozens to hundreds of bombs, to be released at roughly one-second intervals (accompanied by a disk of plastic or container of water that would vaporize when the nuke ignited, to enhance the effect), and the resulting force of these continual explosions would propel the craft forward—right now.
Ulam was concerned about the heat impinging on the base of the craft, and suggested that a magnetic field might help to shield the spacecraft from the high-energy, one-millisecond flashes.
This was about as far as he got—it was a short study, but an intriguing one, and did not go unnoticed. In 1955 a new company called General Atomics was founded. It was a subdivision of General Dynamics, a huge defense contractor and builder of military submarines. General Atomics would specialize in efforts to harness the recently liberated power of the atom—in effect, their mission would be to find profit in nondestructive uses of atomic fission. The company became involved in a number of ventures, including a commercial nuclear reactor power generator, which was widely deployed. They also became interested in Ulam's classified paper (to which the chiefs of the company were apparently privy), and decided to pursue a serious study of the completely theoretical ideas within. Thus was born Project Orion, the nuclear pulse spaceship.
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