Monday, July 11, 2016

The testimony of William Hook

I've been uploading posts of the people and events behind my book The Sound over at my other website. You can click on the book cover for a look. Today though, I thought I'd put up the original statement, the seminal text if you like, of William Hook's testimony to Major Edmund Lockyer, on A WineDark Sea. This one page document is what the whole novel is based upon. Anyone who has read The Sound will see happenings and resonances: the Green Island killing, the Frenchman's compass, the fear and the hierarchies, the stolen child, and William Hook giving this information to the Major, the Major's son looking on with great interest, in a 'stinking golden tent'.

Historical Records of Australia, Series 3, Vol. 1, p. 473.

INFORMATION of William Hook, Native of New Zealand, Mariner and late belonging to the Schooner Brisbane of Hobart Town, touching the murder of a Male Native on Green Island, Oyster Harbour and King George’s Sound, and also forcibly taking away from the Main Land at Oyster Harbour four Male Natives, and landing them on Michaelmas Island in King George’s Sound, and there leaving them to perish, of the truth of which he, William Hook, voluntarily maketh Oath before Edmund Lockyer, Esquire, Major of His Majesty’s 57 Regt. Of Infantry, and Justice of the Peace of His Majesty’s Territory in New South Wales and Commandant of the Settlement at King George’s Sound, this Twelfth day of January, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Twenty Seven.

“That he, William Hook, being with the following persons at Oyster Harbour that composed the crew of a Boat employed sealing, John Randall Steersman, James Kirby, George Magennis and Samuel Bailey, with another Boat belonging to a Mr. Robinson of Hobart Town, and of which one Everitt was Steersman, the names of the crew he does not recollect, whilst there, had frequently been visited by the Natives, who were friendly, accompanying the Sealers fishing in their Boats, though the Native Women were never seen or came to the place where the Sealers were hutted.

That, about Eight Weeks ago, a French Man of War anchored in the sound and remained some time. That, one day after this Ship had left, Five of the Natives came to where their Boats stopped and requested to be taken to Green Island in Oyster Harbour to catch birds, when this Informant and another Man of the Hunter’s Boat, by name Ned, was ordered by John Randall and Everitt, the Boat Steerers, to take the Natives there and land them and come off, leaving them there, which they did; the Natives, perceiving the Boat going away, called out to the Informant to return, making all the signs possible for that purpose; but, having been ordered to leave them, Informant was afraid to act otherwise.

Next day Randall set out, accompanied by Kirby, Magennis and Bailey, armed with Guns and Cutlasses, soon after five OClock in the morning, and returned about Four or Five in the Evening bringing with them Four Native Women; that during their absence Informant was ordered to stay and take care of the Boat; during the night, two of the women made their escape though the Sealers had tied them two together by the Arms; next Morning both Boat’s Crews again went off armed, leaving Informant and another to watch the Boats; in the Evening they returned saying they had not seen any of the Natives or the Two Women that had made their escape, but had found hanging to the Trees at their encampment a Pocket Compass and a knife that had been given to the Natives by the Captain of the French Ship.

That, on the next day, Informant was sent with Ned and four others in the Boat to Green Island with a keg of water for the Natives; and, on the boats approaching the shore, they made a rush to get into it; the people in the boat shoved off to prevent them, and returned to the Party on shore, when four fresh hands got into the Boat, taking with them two Guns and two Swords and again went to the Island, and one Man got out to take a keg of water on shore; the Natives making a rush to get into the Boat, the Europeans resisted by striking them with their Oars and Swords; and, finding that they persisted, a Gun was fired with slugs over their Heads to frighten them, which did not answer; when a second shot was fired the Informant saw one of them fall forwards on his Face in the Water and the Blood spouting out from both his sides.

Kirby, who steered the boat, fired the first shot, but Informant cannot tell who fired the second.; the Boat was then shoved off and went to the Shore, and the next Morning Randall went again to the Island, and at first the Natives hid themselves; but on seeing Randall who was a great favourite with them, they came out and kissed him; he then took the four into his Boat, leaving the dead Body on the Island, and left Oyster Harbour and landed the four Natives on Michaelmas Island, and left them making great lamentations; Randall then went to Breaksea Island where the other Boat joined, bringing with them the Two Female Natives that they had taken away from the Main Land at Oyster Harbour.

One of these Females is now at Eclipse Island with Samuel Bailey, also a native Girl, a child Seven year old; the other Female taken from this is with George Magennis with the Boat to the Eastward; and this Informant further states that these men have other Native Women that they take about with them, Two from Van Diemen’s Land taken in Bass Strait and one from the Main Land opposite Kangaroo Island.

Witness: - E. Lockyer, junr.
Sworn before me: - E. Lockyer, J.P., Major, H.M. 57 Regt.

Image: Louis de Sainson from the French ship Astrolabe painted this picture of the channel at Emu Point, Green Island in the background, possibly within days of the events described above.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Cracking champagne over the bow of a book

On Friday night Kim Scott launched my book at the Entertainment Centre. The whole event was quite snazzy! Here are some photos.

 Simon the minstrel

 Ian from Fremantle Press, Tuaari who gave a Maori blessing, me, John who was a splendid MC, Kim who launched, Kathryn who read from The Sound, and Carol who performed a Welcome to Country.

 Super Bookseller Guy, Lockie from Paperbark Merchants

 That's me, saying something, me not falling apart on stage.

 And this is my Dad, family friend Fiona and winemaker extraordinaire Richard Bunn

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The C Word

Hey, happy Winter Solstice everyone!

This is the first of a series of posts about writing The Sound. In future posts I'll cover writing Indigenous characters as a wadjela yorga (white woman), how it takes a village to write a book, seascapes and landscapes in my books, and my own journey to publication with Fremantle Press. In The C Word, I'll try to nut out how I feel about imposing a work of dark history and creepy characters onto the world.

I'm in preparation to bare my throat (this is nothing new). No, not to the deities on this longest of long nights ... just to anyone who reads my work. And I'm not being flippant here. Frankly, it's terrifying, every time. Thankfully one official review has already landed in my inbox and it's a good one - four stars from an industry booksellers magazine.

"... the gritty descriptions of life in these times make this a fascinating read. Based on a true story and clearly grounded in the author's own experiences at sea, this book is an engaging and thought provoking
read, despite being quite confronting at times." Books + Publishing, National. May 2016.

There it is. The C word. I've had some interesting early comments about my book The Sound. A friend who has just read it said, "Sarah, I loved it! I was there. But if I didn't already know what these people were like, how brutal they were, I would have been shocked with what you've written. I would have thought you were exaggerating the violence and what those women went through. But I already knew the story and I was ready for it."

"Am just so grateful to be moved and confronted by bloody resolute and inspired writers like you," wrote another friend, who had picked up an early copy from Paperbark Merchants and read it while on an island holiday. There's that C word again.

The editor of the state newspaper's books page rang me for an interview and used the C word as well. A book sales rep stopped for a reprieve while reading it. Oh dear.

Reader, you may notice that I'm picking a single word out of what is otherwise praise for The Sound, like an angsty teen searching her beautiful body for blemishes. The thing is, I've been thinking for quite a while about how I'm going to talk about this book, because once you've published a book, you have to appear in public and talk about it, to pique people's interest, contribute to our literary culture, and hopefully sell the product. The Sound, although also inspired by history, seascape and working on boats, is an entirely different beast to Salt Story. Salt Story is described as charming and funny, whereas the only jokes in The Sound are usually made by women in the face of extreme deprivation and violence.

Writing The Sound, as WineDark readers will know, very nearly did me in. (Here is a link to Predator Dreams for those who haven't read it.) I don't know how the Ruth Rendells of this world can regularly produce works of such pathological violence without staggering from their studies profoundly damaged. They must just be better at protecting themselves than I was.

Maybe the confronting aspect of The Sound, apart from the violence, is the depiction of how people behave in a world without law - and that these behaviours haven't changed despite our pretty solid social contracts and legal systems. "Oh my God, that Bailey bloke is so creepy," shuddered my friend. Well, yes he was. Yes, he is.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Piglets! Chickens! Chicken dogs!

Yesterday I caught up with my son, who asked if I'd like to go to work with him, see what he's up to during the week. He's farm handing and he introduced me to the big mothers, their litters of squealing black and white piglets and the big old patriarch, "everyone's favourite" Tiger.

In the last picture, Obi the Meremma pup is in training to guard his flock of Isa Browns. He's so cute and fluffy! He even had a green ribbon tied around his neck. Not a cloth of pagan Celtic ritual, I'm afraid. It contains the carcass of the last chick he killed. So, um ... still in training, yes.

It's a multi-layered farm where the major produce is strawberries. We drove past aisles of avocado and lemon trees and fed the pigs on cracked eggs on our return from the free range chook caravan at the top of the hill. In the summer, the pigs eat strawberries. It was beautiful to see Stormboy on his rounds. I wish I could show you the vids of the piglets. Hilarious.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Mullet traps

 Aren't they beautiful? The stone fish traps revealed after the bar broke at the mouth and all the water rushed out.