Gone Ashore at Own Request (Expanded)

The final assessment in the Writing a Family Saga unit was another 750 word expansion of one of the six pieces we had written.  

Gone Ashore At Own Request

“Ma, I dun wanna be a baker for the rest of me life” almost yelled sixteen year old James.

“Ave ya talked to ya da or brothers?” Sarah replied distractingly as she started the second basket of ironing for the day.

“I ‘ave tried many a time to talk to da but he just waves me away and says he’s too busy for that nonsense.  It aint though Ma.  I’ve had enough of working all night, sloshing round buckets of brewer’s yeast and haulin sacks of flour I can barely lift.  I hate it.”

Acknowledging the growing frustration in his voice, Sarah stopped ironing and listened to James as he continued to complain about how bad it was being a baker. She didn’t much like doing everyone else’s laundry herself but she wasn’t really surprised by his declaration.  He had always been different from his father and older brothers; more inquisitive and adventurous.

“I suppose ya already gotta plan then if ya coming to me?”

James look sheepishly at his mother.  She knew him so well. “A mates got me a job as crew on a sailing ship goin to Australia and back” he replied excitedly “I sail next week”.

“Oh James, that’s so dangerous and you aint never been on a ship in ya life.”

“Ah Ma, I’ll be alright.  One of me mates has already dun a trip and said it was great. I just wanna see some of the world. Try somethin else” James solemnly pledged.

“Now ya promise me ya gonna come back” Sarah pleaded knowing she wasn’t going to change James mind.

“I’ll be back before ya know it Ma” reassured James

A week later Sarah and daughter Elizabeth stood alone as they said their goodbyes to James on the wharf as he boarded the barque ‘Saxon’.  His father and brothers had not taken the news well.

“Be careful, an always remember I love ya”, Sarah managed through a constant stream of tears running down her face, resigned to the fact that it may be the last time she sees her youngest son.

It didn’t take James long to realise he didn’t want to be a sailor either.  He didn’t actually mind the work it was the blasted sea sickness that was doing him in.  They had also found out that he was a baker so he spent a fair bit of time helping the cook which is not what he wanted to do.

The problem was, he had no idea what he was going to do next.  He didn’t know if he could endure the return journey especially after the recent storm that had hit them suddenly.  He didn’t think he was going to live through it. He had never been so miserable or scared in his life.

About a week after the storm passed, while James was relaxing on the upper deck enjoying the sun on his face and the calm weather, he spotted the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. She had beautiful long hair which was tied back with a pink ribbon and was laughing at the antics of two younger boys. Beside her stood a couple who were also laughing at the boys.

James recognised the man as being a Mr Price from Staffordshire.  He had briefly spoken to him a few times during the voyage.  When he notice James, Mr Price beckoned him to come join him. He was introduced to his family and much to James surprise, Mary Ann was only eleven years old.  She carried herself as if she were much closer to his age.

From that day on, James tried to spend as much of his down time as he could with the family.  He loved talking to Mary Ann but also enjoyed chatting to her father.  Mr Price was a brickmaker by trade and was heading to Melbourne to work in the brickyards.  The more he spoke about his work the more James thought it might be something he would like to try.

By the time the ‘Saxon’ arrived in Port Phillip Bay, James knew that he was going to break his mothers’ heart. As much as he would miss his family, he was going to stay in Melbourne.  He could see a bright future here and a chance at love.

Several months later Sarah was sad but not surprised, that when meeting the Saxon on its return, she only got a letter and James had been listed as ‘Gone ashore at own request’.

Reflective Statement

I have always been fascinated about how my sixteen year old 3xgreat grandfather ended up being a brickmaker in Melbourne & Gippsland, Victoria when he was born in Norfolk, England.  He came from a long line of bakers yet ended up on a ship as an errand boy. Most surprising of all was seeing the statement ‘Gone ashore at own request’ on the passenger list which suggests that he didn’t board intending to stay. It all became clear when he married in 1853. His wife, Mary Ann and her family had also arrived on the Saxon in 1849!  Her father was a brickmaker.

This narrative is pure fiction but it’s possibly one of the ways the conversation and journey might have gone. As the real reason has been lost in the echo of time and I being a romantic at heart, I believe that he fell in love with Mary Ann during the voyage.  They had thirteen children and were married for over 60 years.

My feedback on assignment two asked for more polish on my punctuation and more description. Having been a Defence force member for nearly 30 years and writing in the military style, punctuation and description are not one of my strengths. Military use the KISS theory. This unit and the previous Writing Family History have been a challenge.  I have certainly learnt a lot and hope that my narratives have shown that I have taken it all on board and I can now show not tell!


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I have been researching my family history since 2009. I am interested it the family names Shingles, McEwan, Snowdon & Witt around Gippsland and Wodonga areas of Victoria, Australia

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