Authors: Felicity Pulman
‘You don’t have to be afraid. I’ll look after you,’ Noah teased.
Allie spat into her mask, rinsed it and pulled the strap over her head. The cold water swirled around her legs as she waded deeper. Was she still afraid? It was time to find out.
She smiled at Noah. ‘Let’s go,’ she said, and slotted the snorkel’s mouthpiece into position.
‘Just stay here in the shallows for a minute and practise your breathing,’ he said.
Allie flopped down and put her face underwater. She took a few experimental breaths, and then began to swim. She was conscious of Noah swimming beside her, but soon forgot about him as the sand gave way to rocks and the reef unfolded before her wondering eyes. She gazed with delight at the array of fish. They came in every size, shape, pattern and colour: blue, green, yellow, orange, silver, black and white. Some ducked for cover under nubbled platelets at her approach, while others flicked through and around soft blobby corals and sharp spiny fingers.
A small reddish fish swam close to her, looking at her with an inquisitive expression.
She felt Noah’s hand on her arm and raised her head out of the water.
‘We call that an
,’ he told her, after he’d spat out his snorkel. ‘Don’t let it get too close or it might decide to have a little nibble.’
Allie held up her thumb and finger in a circle, the signal he’d told her meant everything was okay. She lowered her face into the water again and marvelled as the reef and its inhabitants became clear once more.
Everything was indeed okay. In fact, today, everything was just perfect.
The reforming commandant, Alexander Maconochie, was a real person. Other real historical figures include Reverend Rogers; Gilbert Robertson, superintendent of agriculture at Longridge, and his family; Samuel Barrow, the sadistic magistrate known as ‘the Christ Killer’; and Alfred Baldock, the chief constable.
John Bennett is a fictional character, but I have based him on the two commandants who followed on from Maconochie: Major Joseph Childs (1844–46) and John Price (1846–53), the most notorious of all the commandants, who left the island shortly before the penal colony closed to make way for the relocation of the Pitcairn Islanders (descendants of the
mutineers). After leaving the island, Price was appointed inspector general of penal establishments in Victoria. He lived in Melbourne, but died in Williamstown, where he was stoned by a party of prisoners and left for dead — a fate also suffered by my fictional commandant, John Bennett. Everyone else, past and present, is also fictional.
Elizabeth Robertson lived on the island during the time of both Joseph Childs and John Price, so I have taken some liberties with the time that the Robertsons arrived on Norfolk Island. Some of Elizabeth’s letters to her sister Frances (Fanny) have been published, and I used these (along with my imagination) to flesh out my story. Elizabeth died of tuberculosis, aged twenty-four, and her headstone is just as I’ve described it.
The treatment of the prisoners, their punishments and the ‘cooking pot riot’ described by Alice are based on fact. There was also a true-life love affair between a convict and a commandant’s daughter: Mary Ann (Minnie) Maconochie fell in love with her violin tutor, a convict. After the affair was discovered, he was thrown into prison. Apparently, he later made a name for himself in musical circles in Tasmania and Sydney, although his ghost is said to haunt Government House on Norfolk Island. Mary Ann was banished to England to live with an aunt, and later acted as her father’s secretary after he returned to England. She never married, and died aged thirty-two of Bright’s disease (a disease of the kidneys).
A Ring Through Time
was written during a May Gibbs Fellowship in Adelaide in 2010. My gratitude and thanks to everyone associated with the May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust for their friendship, help and encouragement, and for giving me the time and opportunity to focus on writing my novel. Particular thanks to Ian and Mary Wilson of the MGCLT for their interest in my project, and to Grant and Sandy Tambling for their input and help with my research.
I’m extremely grateful to the administrator of Norfolk Island, Hon Owen Walsh, and his wife, Bianca, for giving me the opportunity to explore Government House, and for finding for me the perfect hiding place for Alice’s diary. My thanks to Helen Sampson for sharing her knowledge of the island’s history. I’d also like to thank Trish Magri, staff and students at the Norfolk Island Central School for sharing their experiences and allowing me to take part in school activities. Special thanks to Trish for reading and providing feedback on my manuscript.
My thanks also to friends old and new in the writing community for their unfailing enthusiasm and support of this project, especially Laurine Croasdale and Vashti Farrer for valuable input and information, and for setting me on the right path.
Finally, my thanks to the editorial team at HarperCollins, whose care and attention to detail have made this story immeasurably better.
Felicity Pulman is the award-winning author of numerous novels for children and young adults. Her fascination with history, and with the unknown in our world, is reflected in her writing, as is her love of music and enjoyment of body surfing and snorkelling. She was born in Zimbabwe, but has spent most of her life in Australia. She is married, and has two children and five grandchildren who keep her on her toes and (almost) up to date with the latest technology!
An imprint of HarperCollins
First published in Australia in 2013
This edition published in 2013
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Copyright © Felicity Pulman 2013
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National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication data:
Pulman, Felicity, 1945–
A ring through time / Felicity Pulman.
ISBN: 978 0 7322 9488 5 (pbk.)
ISBN: 9781743095072 (epub)
Aged 13 years +
Norfolk Island – Juvenile fiction.
Cover design by Jane Waterhouse, HarperCollins Design Studio
Cover images: Girl © Ant Strack/Corbis; Kingston historic penal settlement, Norfolk Island by Jocelyn Burt/Ozstock Images Pty Ltd; all other images by shutterstock.com