"I trust it will not be giving away professional secrets to say that many readers would be surprised, perhaps shocked, at the questions which some newspaper editors will put to a defenseless woman under the guise of flattery."
“To Hell or Connaught,” Oliver Cromwell’s infamous threat against the native Irish in the 17th century, sent an unmistakable warning: “Leave your ancestral lands, or die.”
In short order, the Irish were herded west across the Shannon River to the province of Connaught, where the English assumed the land to be mainly bog and mountainous terrain. When it transpired that the land was arable, the threat morphed into: “To Hell or Barbados.” And so over the course of a few years Cromwell shipped 60,000 Irish men, women and children as slaves to Barbados, known as Sugar Island. There they worked and died under the whips of brutal overseers, planting and harvesting sugar cane. They were known as “Red Legs,” from their tendency to burn easily in the tropical sun. As far as we know none of them returned home, although it is thought that along with black slaves many did escape and threw in their lot with pirates operating from the island of Tortuga.
In the school history books of my day, this terrible episode was dispensed with in a small paragraph. It languished unseen in the long shadow of Ireland’s tragic history. But I never forgot it. Yet when I brought the topic up, most of my contemporaries had never heard of it. Forty years on, present-day students appear blissfully ignorant of it as well. What is going on? Is there a deliberate blackout of an incident best forgotten? As a race are we ashamed to admit that some of our ancestors were slaves?
As the years passed I discovered that scattered attempts had been made to shed light on this event. Then on a visit to Ireland in the early 2000s, I picked up a book by Irish Times journalist, Sean O’Callaghan (since deceased) entitled “To Hell or Barbados.” O’Callaghan had spent several weeks in Barbados, going through files in the library of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society looking for evidence of the Irish experience on the island. The tale he tells is harrowing and not for the fainthearted. It is as terrible as you might imagine –an early version of a World War II concentration camp.
For me the challenge became how to tell this story in a way that engaged readers emotionally, without repelling them. A story that would transport them back in time and help them walk in the shoes of the Red Legs, experience their moments of joy and despair, and in the end, cheer them on as they smash their way out of their island hellhole.
I felt this could best be achieved through the vehicle of a fictitious character. And so I created Michael Redferne, a middle-aged man abducted off the streets of an Irish seaport town and shipped in chains to Barbados. The story is told through his eyes. In a sense he is a stand-in for the forgotten thousands whose names we will never know. Having come upon a source for the Barbados section of the story, I now needed a source for the Irish segment.
In this regard I was lucky again. In 2007, I had the good fortune to discover a recently published book entitled “The Killing of Major Denis Mahon,” by Peter Duffy. It chronicles the murder of the local landlord in my hometown of Strokestown in 1847. It is also a treasure trove of research into what it was like to live in old Ireland in a time of famine. These two books were invaluable in helping me create the historical worlds in “Breakout From Sugar Island.”
Wiona Rutherford is barely keeping her head above the dust as she struggles to manage her dilapidated ranch and a mother who is lapsing into dementia. To make matters worse, the ranch, located in the arid, mountain corridor that is the border between Mexico and Southeast Arizona, is a major crossing for illegal aliens. Although Wiona is sympathetic to those who undertake this dangerous journey, she is sick to death of the damage they leave behind. Then she comes upon a lone woman and her just born baby on the cold ground under an oak tree.
Gayle Jandrey has created an enthralling human drama set within the complex and dynamic world of today’s Mexican–American border region. Living within this turbulent setting is Wiona, a tough independent rancher competing in a strictly male profession, and Stokey, a veteran Border Patrol Agent burdened with family issues as he patrols a Darwinian landscape of desperate migrant travelers seeking a better life and the malevolent human coyotes that exploit them like some type of cash commodity. Jandrey’s book gives an accurate portrayal of the danger, fear, desperation, and sometimes hope that is played out on our busiest border on a daily basis. I found it a good read and a difficult book to put down.
–Cameron Hintzen, Assistant Chief Patrol Agent U.S. Border Patrol (retired)
Jandrey tackles the border drama with brutal honesty, dishing up a meaty stew of characters – some you’ll love to hate, some you’ll hate to love.
–Gerry Hernbrode, author of Provincial Justice
For many years G. Davies Jandrey worked at Tucson Magnet High School in Tucson, Arizona where many of her students were Mexican nationals, and many of those were undocumented. In addition, she worked as a fire lookout in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeast Arizona for five seasons. These mountains, heavily traveled by drug mules and undocumented immigrants, form a backdrop for Journey though an Arid Land. She is the author of A Garden of Aloes, a novel set along Tucson’s notorious Miracle Mile, and lives in the desert outskirts of Tucson with her husband and fellow desert rat, Fritz Jandrey.
1810: The Royal Navy of Great Britain is all that stands between Napoleon and absolute domination of Europe. Royal Marine Captain Thomas Pennywhistle is assigned to HMS Active, part of a small squadron of frigates in the Adriatic Sea. It’s considered a sideshow theatre of the war, but on those waters, one of the greatest naval battles of the age will be fought.
As a Marine, Pennywhistle fights on land and sea. He leads his handful of men first against a battalion of Napoleon’s Army and finally against the French fleet in all its terrible grandeur, always leading from the front, fighting not only with weapons but by using his wit – cool and analytical where others are blinded by passion.
Pennywhistle’s own passions will be aroused by the beautiful and fiercely independent Carlotta, and he will be tested by conflicts that make him question his deepest principles.
HMS Active will take Pennywhistle's measure. Will he measure up?
Meet Donald Platt at the St. Cloud Heritage Museum in St. Cloud, Florida. Saturday, November 21, 2015, 9am-4pm. He will have copies of his book Close to the Sun.
HISTORIC BOOK FESTIVAL, AUTHOR'S DAY
Books! Books! Books! Come to the museum for a day of perusing history by local authors. Meet the authors and purchase their autographed copies. Examine collections of books that may be for sale. This event will be a booklover'sdelight!