Sunday, 17 December 2017
It's an extremely well-written account of the time in the early 1840s when there was the Disruption in the Church of Scotland, when a large number of dissident clergyman were dismissed from their roles as clergymen.
One such personage is James Bantrie who, in common with many fellow dissenters, found themselves thrown out of their comfortable lifestyle and forced to seek alternative employment.
Bantrie and his family journey to a tiny parish on the Isle of Orchy, which is off the Argyll coast. The chief occupation of the islanders is the slate quarrying.
Doctor Alexander Beaton also turns up in the village of Eisdalsa. But he is not a newcomer, he is returning home, fully expecting to inherit his father's medical practice and to seek the hand in marriage of his childhood sweetheart.
However, he is heartbroken to discover that, in his absence, not only has his older brother managed to secure the ownership of their father's medical practice for himself, he has also taken Alexander's sweetheart for his own bride.
With nothing in Eisdalsa for him he replies to an advertisement for settlers at the recently established colony of Otago in New Zealand's South Island.
However, when the new settlers arrive after an eventful sea voyage, they find that they are less than welcome in the newly established town of Dunedin, as, despite what the advertisement promised, it is far from ready to receive any new settlers.
The novel is based on detailed research undertaken by archivist and author Mary Withall. This included the detailed letter books of the doctor who had been appointed to the Easedale quarries in the 1890s.
It's a warm and compelling account of the trials and tribulations of the Scotish people who, in the 1840s, were instrumental in the settlement of New Zealand. Although, points out Mary Withall, this is not a period of Scottish history that has been well covered.
The book is published by Matador and is a great Christmas gift for lovers of well-written historical fiction.
It can be bought here https://goo.gl/wdCFDG.