Ticket of Leave is a fictional story inspired by my great, great, great, grandfather who was transported to Australia in 1829.
It is dual narrative – a young man and his brother, harshly punished for a minor crime; and a young Irish woman, travelling to Aussie on assisted passage with her siblings.
A story of survival and adventure, and how their lives intertwine in the New World…
Extract from Novel
‘Tom?’ Lizzie calls. ‘Is out the matter?’
‘I bloody hope not,’ I grumble.
My heart’s racing as I run back across the fields. As I creep towards the barn all is quiet, although I hear every twig beneath my boots. An owl hoots and I’m praying they’ve called it off when I spot Henry standing guard.
I tap him on the shoulder and he fair jumps out of his skin. ‘S’truth Tom. Nigh on gave me a heart attack.’
I nod at the barn door. ‘They inside?’
‘Yes,’ he whispers. ‘I’m to keep watch.’
Not doing a very good job, I think, swinging open the door.
Inside, Will’s running around like a fool, lunging at the stupid geese.
‘For Christ’s sake,’ hisses Arthur, ‘just grab it by the throat.’
Over by the manger, Fred’s mumbling soothing words to a twitching sack. Will pounces, landing flat on his face in bird shit and, despite fears for their safety, I stifle a snort of laughter.
‘Ah.’ Arthur turns to me with a grin. ‘Thought you couldn’t resist.’
‘The plot is discovered,’ I say, trying to compose myself. ‘Let the birds go and get out.’
‘Not without my Christmas dinner.’ Arthur manhandles a bird into a second sack, tosses it over his shoulder and we head for the door.
Will yanks it open and stands, stock-still. Fred drops his sack and raises his hands in the air.
Outside, Henry is detained by a posse of men, while the gamekeeper and the warden from the village have shotguns pointed at us.
‘Games over, lads,’ says the warden.
The gamekeeper thrusts the muzzle of his gun into Arthur’s chest. ‘Let the birds go and come with us.’
I run a hand across my face. Damn and hell.