Category Archives: Southampton

Who’d have thought it? ~ 60!

images3As I approach my 60th birthday, in between a dream of a lifetime trip to Venice and a quiet celebration with my husband, mum and dad up here in Scotland (God willing), I have been reflecting on my ‘path’ to this moment in time in my writing life.

I have penned stories and poems since my teens for my personal pleasure, much inspired by Mrs Yates, my English teacher to A Level. However, it wasn’t until my late forties, the first time in my life I was made redundant, that I was inspired to write my first novel Riduna, (the Roman name for the Channel Island of Alderney) which was finally published in 2009.

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Fort Albert, Alderney

It was on a family holiday to the island of Alderney in fact, that I learnt about my wayward Great Grandmother Harriet. She tragically lost both parents at sea when she was eight, then in her teens she became too much to handle for her grandparents, who ran a public house and guest house, and was shipped off to live with her aunt on Guernsey. Her misdemeanor was allegedly too much fraternising with the soldiers stationed in the newly built forts of this ‘Gibraltar of the English Channel’!

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My family history inspired its sequel Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home (Ancasta is the Goddess of the River Itchen, Hampshire), which was published in 2012. Then a series of chance remarks in emails led me to write Murder, Now and Then (published in 2014)a book which linked where I lived in Bedfordshire to the Channel Islands in two time zone murders 100 years apart.

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Nellie Rault’s grave in Haynes churchyard, Bedfordshire

That same year Fife beckoned us, with a work transfer for my husband simultaneously to me being made redundant for the second time in my life. The Healing Paths of Fife naturally transpired from this life changing move north to Scotland. It is  a special book for me and a way of saying thank you to my new community, friends and the lovely Kingdom of Fife, which has welcomed us.

…and so in the months leading me up to my 60th birthday I have been writing once more in earnest. This new novel is a very different venture. It is a mystery inspired by social areas of need pertinent to our age, all of which we are all struggling to address. I hope it challenges perceptions but also that the reader warms to the colourful characters.

I will say no more at this stage because it has a few stages to go through before publication, but I am very excited about this project and feel full of hope for my 60th year.

For a more personal reflection on my 60 years visit http://www.selectionsofreflections.wordpress.com in a few days time.

Thanks for all your support!

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Filed under Channel Islands, Fife, Southampton, Writing

Friends reflect on the changing roles of their loved ones in WW1

To commemorate the centenary of WW1 I am sharing with you some extracts of my second novel, Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home’ which takes the Newton family, who live in Woolston, Southampton, through The Great War. In this piece, Harriet, the matriarch of  the series, has a surprise visitor, Edward, with whom she grew up on the island of Riduna (Alderney)  – Joe was her husband who died in 1910. 

I have used various techniques including letters, story telling, conversation and the arrival of Harry Harper, the air correspondent of The Daily Mail, to describe the changing lives of each of the Newton family.  Here I use conversation:

“It was with her family around her, apart from Tom and Jack, that Harriet prepared for the frugal Christmas ahead. With no end to the hostilities in sight, and more young men volunteering from the village every day, she remembered Harry Harper’s words and shivered. After Christmas, Hannah and Sarah offered to be trained at Supermarine to join the growing force of women workers who kept the industry afloat, since the demand for aircraft was ever increasing. Harriet’s role was now to look after the children as well as to run the guest house.

Although money was no longer an issue with both young ladies at work, she found there was less and less in the shops on which to spend the housekeeping. They only had a back yard for guests to sit in when the weather was good and no room for growing many vegetables, though she had put some tomatoes in pots and some lettuce, parsnip and carrot seeds in the place where there had been a very small lawn.

One day she was tinkering in the garden to get some fresh air, to avoid spending this spring morning doing the large pile of darning and mending in the corner of the kitchen, when, to her surprise, the little robin came and sat on the handle of her trowel. His presence brought calm to her otherwise troubled world and she gained strength from the feeling that Joe was close at hand.

‘What would you think of all of this, Joe?’ Harriet asked the robin.

‘I don’t know what Joe thinks, but I think that if you were talking to me like that I’d recommend that you be sent away for your own safety,’ remarked Edward, grinning.

When finding no one in the kitchen, unbeknown to Harriet, he had crept out into the yard behind her.

‘Don’t do that to me, Edward!’ Harriet replied crossly. ‘To what do I owe the pleasure?’ she added, unable to hide a hint of sarcasm, referring to the fact that she had not seen hide nor hair of him since before the outbreak of war.

‘Well, that’s a fine way to greet your oldest friend,’ he added, his face continuing to show signs of his unrepentant amusement.

‘I’m sorry, Edward. I was far away. It’s just this horrible war. It gets to you sometimes. I’ll make a cup of tea, shall I?’

Feeling a little braver this time, Edward replied,

‘I’ll have coffee if you’ve got some,’ but he wished he hadn’t made an issue of it as he watched Harriet reach far into the back of a cupboard and spoon out what was obviously the last of her coffee.

‘How are you Edward and how has this war affected your life?’

Edward seated himself comfortably at Harriet’s large kitchen table and began his tale, uninterrupted by Harriet, who sat opposite him, glad of an excuse to have a rest.

‘Not long after war was declared I knew my easy days of being Captain for a ferry of travellers and businessmen would soon be at an end, but I wasn’t sure how it would affect my life. It happened all too soon. My ship was commandeered to be a troop ship and repainted grey. At first it was quite exciting and the enthusiasm of the young soldiers I carried to France, not long out of nappies some of them, I can tell you, was contagious. I found myself singing their songs in my sleep. Since then it’s been tough. I’m always watching out for enemy submarines and trying to close my eyes to the state of the poor sods we bring back.’

Edward noticed Harriet’s face turn pale and thought at first that she was cross with him.

‘Excuse the language Harriet, but you should see them!’  he exclaimed in anger, but when Harriet didn’t reply, he realised his thoughtlessness. ‘And what news of your boys, Harriet?’ he asked more gently.

She tried to regain her composure and forget the images Edward’s words had conjured up for her.

‘Oh, Edward. I really don’t know. Jack’s an engineer for the RNAS and he and his brother left a couple of months ago. The last we heard was that he was undergoing some military training in a place near London.  Tom has signed up for the 9th (Cyclist’s) Battalion and he’s somewhere in Lincolnshire.’

‘That’s good. They’re still safe on English soil, then. Maybe the war will end before they get into danger.’

Unfortunately, neither Harriet nor Edward believed that this might be the case, but it sometimes helped to pretend.

‘What about Ernest and Sarah? Where are they now?’

‘Fortunately, Ernest is still at home, working at Supermarine. Sarah and Jack’s wife, Hannah, are working there too now, much to my disgust. Anthony and Jack aren’t too pleased about it either, but needs must, I suppose, and I enjoy looking after their children when they’re home from school.’

After a pause, Harriet was surprised to hear her own voice ask,

‘How is Marie, Edward?’

Realising the significance of Harriet mentioning Marie’s name, Edward was flustered momentarily.

‘Marie. Well, she got religion just after the start of the war and volunteered to help out at the docks with the Salvation Army of workers. They wouldn’t let her wear a fully fledged uniform, her and I not being…. well, you understand……. but they were certainly grateful for the extra pair of hands.’

‘What does she do?’ asked Harriet, ignoring Edward’s hesitant embarrassment.

‘She meets the injured soldiers coming off the ships from France. If they’re seriously injured she writes a postcard from them to their families to let them know that they’ve safely arrived back in England. She gets them to dictate or write the address if they can, before the men are sent on to hospital. Marie and I usually travel over on the Hotspur together, but a neighbour was sick today and so she stayed at home.’

Harriet realised that this was the true reason for the length of time since Edward’s last visit, but decided that she should be diplomatic and change the subject rather than to challenge him, but couldn’t think of anything to say. They sat quietly for a little while, each with their own thoughts, the uneasy silence heavy between them. Reluctantly, Edward decided that he must make a move and return to his ship. He was saddened that they were unable to relax in each other’s company the way they used to on Riduna. All that history between them.

As he stood up, their eyes met and for just a few seconds it was as if time stood still, but at that very moment two children burst through the door, coming to an immediate halt as they saw Edward standing there.

‘Don’t be shy, Timothy and Phyllis. Come here and meet your Uncle Edward. He’s a sailor and sails big ships to faraway places.’

Forgetting his shyness, Timothy came forward and took hold of Edward’s outstretched hand.

‘My dad flies in an aeroplane,’ he exclaimed proudly as he shook Edward’s hand.

‘And what about you, little lady?’ asked Edward as Phyllis went to hide behind Harriet’s chair.

‘Phyllis’s dad mends seaplanes, doesn’t he, Phyllis? Don’t be shy and say hello to your uncle.’

Phyllis stayed behind Harriet for protection but as Edward moved to the door he winked at her and she beamed a beautiful cheeky smile.

‘I’ll call again as soon as I can,’ said Edward as he reached the open doorway, smiling briefly at Harriet as he disappeared down the road towards the Floating Bridge.”

Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home is Diana Jackson’s second novel, set between 1910 and 1920 telling the stories of members of the Newton family as they embark on their own role on The Great War.

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Filed under Ancasta, Role of Women, Southampton, The Great War, Woolston

Diana Jackson’s World War One @Home Series ~ Industry of Woolston in WW1

In recognition of the BBC World War One at Home Series and in parallel to it, I aim to write posts of significant places and themes related to my writing and their impact on local people. These will include:

Industry of Woolston Southampton in WW1

Flying Boat Stations of the UK in WW1

The Hampshire Regiment

The Channel Islands and WW1

INDUSTRY OF WOOLSTON, SOUTHAMPTON DURING WORLD WAR ONE

There were two main employers in Woolston during both world wars, Thornycroft and Company, later to become Thosper Thornycroft and also Supermarine.

The Thornycroft shipbuilders occupied a large site on the banks of the River Itchen for 100 years from 1904 to 2004, when Thosper Thornycroft relocated to Portsmouth. This left a gaping hole in the heart of the area both in terms of employment but also in the scar on the landscape, which has only recently been reclaimed and redeveloped.

The first ship to be built and launched from the Woolston site was HMS Tartar in 1907 which served in the English Channel and the North Sea during World War One. For one hundred years generations of Southampton families worked there, called by the siren to herald the start of the day. I still remember hearing this during my visits to grandparents as a child.

I cannot better the tribute written by Keith Hamilton on February 2009 to Vosper Thornycroft telling of the importance of company for the well being and lives of Southampton’s and especially Woolston’s people, stressing the pride in their work to  serve the nation:

The End of an Era for Thornycroft by Keith Hamilton

The second major industry in Woolston since before World War One was Supermarine, of which I have written numerous posts, since it features in my novel

‘Ancasta ~ Guide me Swiftly Home.’

Just a little up the River Itchen, the other side of The Floating Bridge on Hazel Road, White’s boat builders was taken over by Pemberton Billing and began to develop flying boats in 1913. Although registered with the telegraphic name of Supermarine from its conception, Supermarine was the official name of the company in 1916, during the war.

Initially the skills of the boat builders would have been put to good use as the company diversified into developing flying boats, until the latter became their major focus. These must have been exciting times for local people in the early days of flight, not only to be involved in working at Supermarine but for families and friends to witness the unusual craft being launched on to the River Itchen and taking off and landing on Southampton Water. Like Vosper Thornycroft, Supermarine was a business of families, where many generations worked there, including the women during both WW1 and WW2. Both companies contributed to the prosperity of the local area of Woolston and its businesses and would have provided reserved occupations for workers in their contribution to the war effort.

Although better known later for The Schneider Trophy wins in the 1920’s and 1930’s and then the development of the Spitfire in the mid 1930’s I believe the seed for success was sown during World War One when a young, nineteen year old designer, RJ Mitchell joined the firm. My opinion is that it was Mitchell’s vision which turned the company into an international success story of which Southampton is understandably very proud.

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Filed under Ancasta, Early Flight, Flying Boats and Sea Planes, Southampton, Supermarine, The Great War, Woolston, WW1