Saturday, 26 April 2014

The Pilgrims leave for America.

A snippet from ONE SMALL CANDLE as the Pilgrims leave Holland on the Speedwell for England on the first leg of their journey to America:

John Robinson came over and sat down on the blanket beside Will, linking his hands over his drawn up knees. ‘I would that I could come with you Will,’ he said.
‘We will miss you,’ Will told him. He paused for his heart was full of love for this fearless proclaimer of God’s Word, yet not knowing quite how to express it. ‘I will miss you.’ It was no more than the truth. ‘I want you to know, Brother, that you, and Brother Brewster, have been like fathers to me. I have learned so much from you both.’

John Robinson smiled that quiet smile of his, and said gently: ‘We’ve watched you grow up, Will, seen you at a tender age take a stand for the Truth. Don’t ever compromise the Truth. Stand upright for the Lord. Be strong, Will. The company rely on your good sense and your capableness. You are an elder and you know what you are about. Work together with Master Brewster, and Master Carver and Master Fuller. You have strength in you. Use it.’

Will was silent, feeling that he was unworthy of this great man’s accolade, yet deeply grateful for it at the same time.

John Robinson put his hand inside his jerkin and brought out some sheets of paper folded up together and sealed. ‘I have written a letter for all the brothers and sisters, and all those going along with you, which I hope will encourage you all.’

Will took the letter and John put his hand on his to stop him opening it. ‘No, it is for when you sail from Southampton. Give it into the hand of Brother Brewster when you meet him there.’

Obediently Will tucked it into his doublet. ‘Yes, I will.’

‘And write to me, Will. Tell me the details Brother Brewster will not think to tell me, for he is lazy when it comes to writing letters, I think. Look how few he has sent since he has been in England!’

‘I will write,’ Will promised.

John sighed, and the silence between them was awkward. ‘I would I were going with you,’ he repeated. ‘You have no idea how much this means to me, how much I long to go. You are doing the Lord’s work in this. Build a settlement, a colony, help others to come after you, to a place where a man may think and worship as he wishes. And one day, perhaps I can come to you, if the Lord wills it.’

‘I would you were coming now,’ Will told him.

John’s eyes took on a glow as he saw America in his imagination. ‘This will be our Promised Land, Will. We will build Jerusalem, a cause for rejoicing, in the wilderness. A land built on the free worship of God. You are young, Will. You will bear the burdens well. And God will go with you.’

As the dawn approached on Saturday 22 July 1620 they began to board the Speedwell. The warm night had turned to rain, soaking passengers and crew and well-wishers.

To Captain Reynolds’ intense annoyance, everyone went aboard, including those saying farewell. The ship’s decks were a tangle of people, men and women and children, getting caught up in the ropes, in the way of the sailors.

The moment had come. They wept in each others’ arms, and sobbed, and prayed together. Children wept at being parted from parents. Fear and Patience Brewster sobbed in their mother’s arms, for she was going and taking her two young sons with her and they were not. Bridget Fuller clung to her husband Sam as he tried to comfort her. Digorie Priest said goodbye to his wife Sarah and his sons who were staying, and Sarah Priest in her turn hugged her own brother Isaac Allerton and his wife Mary and their three young children for they were all going. Nothing, Mary Allerton had declared to her husband when he suggested she and the little ones should stay at home, would prevent her from taking her place at her husband’s side, and where she went, her children went, as a matter of course. William White, who was going with his very pregnant wife, Susanna, Sam Fuller’s sister, and their sole surviving son Resolved, aged just five, bid farewell to his cousins Roger White and Bridget Robinson. Mary Cushman was a passenger, ready to meet her husband in Southampton. Catherine Carver kissed her sisters Bridget Robinson and Jane Thickens and Frances Jessop, and her brothers Thomas and Roger White. She was also to meet her husband John Carver in Southampton. Edward Winslow and his wife Elizabeth who had become beloved by all the congregation, had no-one to say goodbye to, but the Blossoms, Thomas and Thomas junior who were going wept with Anne, wife and mother to be left behind.

John Robinson fell to his knees on the deck, and, as if it were a signal, the noise suddenly stopped, and with almost one motion everyone of the congregation fell to their knees with him. In prayer, with tears, John Robinson begged God for his love and help towards the travellers—the Pilgrims.

Now the time had come for Will and Dorothy to part from her parents and her sister, and their five-year old son Jonathan.

The parting  was worse than Will had anticipated. An agony that would stay with him a lifetime. For all his youth Jonathan understood that his parents were leaving him, perhaps forever. He clung to Dorothy, sobbing and begging her not to go.

Dorothy sobbed as she held him tightly. ‘There, there, don’t cry my little man. We’ll soon see you again. I promise.’ But her efforts at soothing him were hampered by her own sobs.

‘Mother! Please don’t go! Don’t leave me here! Please. I want to go too.’

Will bent down and tried a sterner tactic. ‘Now John, no more of this crying. You must be a man and look after grandmother.’

But Jonathan clung all the harder and wailed pitifully.

Will took him from Dorothy, and held him in his own arms. This was his son, his own flesh and blood. Will loved him as a father must, and his resolve weakened. But he was not ignorant of the dangers that lay ahead. No, Jonathan was far too precious to risk on a venture that he knew was fraught with danger.

Deprived of Jonathan, Dorothy threw her arms around her mother and the two women wept, and then her father, as Will gave Jonathan into his grandmother’s arms. With promises to write and to the sound of Jonathan’s hysterics, Will gently pulled her away, allowing them to leave the ship.

Captain Reynolds’s voice could be heard above the tumult. They must make sail or lose the tide.

With all those ashore who were going ashore, Captain Reynolds gave his orders to the mate: ‘Make all sail!’

‘Lay aloft there, you laggards!’ cried the mate, and barefooted sailors ran up the rigging, loosing the sails. Others cast off and the ship began to move.

The passengers lined the gunwales as the wind filled the sails and the Speedwell moved away from the quay, slowly at first, then with growing speed, out into deep water. The passengers waved to their friends and families, calling out last-minute messages.

And there in the front of the bystanders, his blonde curls shining like ripe corn was Jonathan, Will’s last sight of him, standing between his grandparents, crying out for his mother, little hand outstretched to the ship.
Will watched him until they were out of sight, as tears streamed down his own face.

ONE SMALL CANDLE Available in print and Kindle editions
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Tuesday, 8 April 2014


This is my contribution to the chain of posts by historical fiction authors in which we introduce the main character of our work in progress of soon-to-be-published novel.

1.  What is the name of your character? Is he fictional or a historic person?

Roger L’Estrange is a real historical person who was born in 1616.

2.  When and where is the story set?

1640 to 1648 which is during the English Civil War. The story is set in Norfolk, particularly in Hunstanton and in King’s Lynn.

3.  What should we know about him?

Roger L’Estrange is the third and youngest son of Sir Hamon L’Estrange. He is an impetuous young man, a dashing cavalier, eager to fight for the King.

4.  What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?

His royalist father seizes control of King’s Lynn from the hands of Parliament, which brings Oliver Cromwell and Lord Manchester and a large army to the town to lay siege to it. Both Roger and his brother fight to defend Lynn. At the same time Roger falls in love with a beautiful Puritan woman, which earns him the displeasure of his father.

5.  What is the personal goal of the character?

Roger wants to win the approval of his father and his King. At the same time he is fighting to win his lady despite the disapproval of both their families. Furthermore he wants King’s Lynn in the hands of the royalists, and he will do anything to achieve it.

6.  Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

It is called For The King, and subtitled Roger L’Estrange and the siege of King’s Lynn during the English Civil War (might change that last bit!).

7.  When can we expect the book to be published?

Well I was hoping for the spring, but as the spring is already in full swing, I think it might be a bit later! It is taking longer than I thought. At the latest in the autumn, but possibly in the summer. Either way, not long!

You can read a snippet from FOR THE KING at

I have tagged other authors who will be posting about their main character on the 12th April:  

Beth Von Staats 

My other books available from Amazon:


The Battle of Newburn

Newburn, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne, August 1640

As Roger Le Strange watched the sea of blue hats of the ranked masses of Scottish Covenanters across the Tyne valley his heart shuddered in his chest. They outnumbered the King’s army and were better prepared, more experienced.
‘’Sblood, we’ll be slaughtered!’ someone along the line swore and Roger glanced towards him. No-one smiled. They sat on their restless horses grim-faced, staring at imminent death, mechanically struggling to keep them in the rank.
Roger’s gloved hand shook as it held the rein. No wonder his horse sidestepped.
‘You know what Leslie intends to do, don’t you?’ His father’s deep voice beside him caused him to turn his head sharply to look at him. As ever, Sir Hamon was cool, matter-of-fact even. His grey eyes briefly held the ghost of a smile and he calmed Roger.
He took a steadying breath. ‘He wants to take Newcastle.’ The Scottish target, the town of Newcastle, with its fortifications was no more than five miles to the east but here at Newburn with its ford was the crossing point over the Tyne.
‘Indeed.’ Sir Hamon squinted in the bright August sun at the opposite bank. ‘They’ve got artillery in the tower.’
Roger’s eyes followed his gaze to the top of the square church tower where shadowy dots moved about behind the battlements. He could not see the guns, but he knew they were there ready to rain death on the King’s men. ‘I see them,’ he said. ‘How in the name of all that is sacred did they get them up there?’
‘A lot of heave-ho-ing I shouldn’t wonder!’ Sir Hamon turned his attention to the King’s army, the infantry, the pikemen, the gunners massed on the slopes below them. ‘Damn shambles!’ he grumbled. He referred to the troops Viscount Conway had mustered for the king, a ramshackle army of raw and largely untrained recruits, ordinary men who had marched from the south of the country to arrive exhausted and demoralised  in the borderlands. Many of them had no heart for the fight. They were there because of loyalty to their ‘lords of the manor’ who had been summoned to the King’s army. An undisciplined and unwilling rabble, Roger thought. They had no idea of the cause of the argument, no grasp of the politics, no pay and no reason to fight.
Sweat trickled down Roger’s back and stood out on his clean-shaven lip. He wore a thick, padded gambeson beneath his coat so that the armour did not chafe through to his skin.
They had lapsed into silence, father and son. Tension swaddled the waiting troops. Beyond their own artillery the grassy bank shimmered in the heat. On the opposite bank the Scots lined up their men behind the guns. On the King’s side too, men were lined up in ranks. They moved around as though they were out for a Sunday stroll, shuffling in the heat, weighed down with glinting armour, those that had it, forming into ragged lines, while the officers rode up and down bellowing orders. The King should have had a retained army, trained, ready. But with Parliament withholding payment, he simply could not afford it. As it was, he could not pay the troops now. The lords had to see to it.
‘What’s this?’ Sir Hamon moved away a little and stood up in the stirrups to get a better look. Roger followed his example. A rider, no three riders, came out from the Scottish ranks, splashing across the river Tyne at the Newburn Ford and galloped into the English camp.
Sir Hamon immediately dismounted, handing the reins to his son and marched to Viscount Conway’s tent. As a mere younger son, Roger was not privy to the conversations of his commanders, whereas Sir Hamon was. But as Lord Conway emerged from his tent to meet the riders, he jumped down from his horse, handed the reins of both horses to their groom who had magically appeared from behind him and followed at a run behind his father and found himself at the rear of Lord Conway’s men. He was considered a tall man, but their hats obscured his vision, so that he moved more to the side to see what was happening.
The messengers dressed in tartan skirts and sashes and blue coats did not dismount, but one of them sporting an impressive red beard walked his fine chestnut mare forward. Even then he stayed mounted, staring haughtily down on the English Lord. The Scottish heathens lacked common manners!
‘General Leslie sends his compliments to Lord Conway,’ he bellowed in a thick lilting Scottish brogue so that Roger had to concentrate hard in order to understand him.
Viscount Conway, an elegant man, with long flowing light brown hair and an immaculate moustache and small beard, graciously inclined his head in stark contrast to the uncouth Scottish messenger who continued:
‘We, the Covenanters do not wish to fight the English but General Leslie requests free passage so that we may petition the King.’ He leaned forward and held out a scroll of paper so that Lord Conway could reach it.
Breaking the seal, Lord Conway took a minute to read while the messengers waited and everyone else held their breath.
Then he pursed his lips. ‘Tell the General that I cannot accede to his wishes,’ he said and turned his back on the messenger to return to his tent, contemptuously dismissing him.
The Scotsman’s eyes flashed in anger and all of Conway’s men reached for the swords on their hips, but although the man grumbled something incomprehensible he turned his horse’s head and spurred the animal into a gallop down the slope towards the Tyne, his companions following behind.
Conway stopped at the tent entrance and turned to Colonel Lunsford in command of the artillery. ‘Make ready the guns.’
Sir Hamon left Conway’s men and Roger joined him as they returned to the cavalry. Sir Hamon shot him a censuring look, but chose not to mention Roger’s impertinence. The drummers began to beat the advance and Roger felt that swoop in his belly of fear and excitement.
‘This is it,’ Sir Hamon said to Roger. ‘Remember what I taught you. No heroics. Do not risk your life. Make your sword thrusts true.’
He walked quickly, but Roger kept pace. ‘I will watch your back, sir.’
He stopped and looked at his son, tenderness in his eyes. ‘If I do not come home, look after your lady mother,’ he said.
Roger nodded and swallowed.
Shouts behind them warned them as the first cannon fired. Turning around, Roger’s heart swooped as he saw the Scottish cavalry advancing towards the ford. A plume of spray in the Tyne showed where a cannonball from the Royalist’s side hit the water, the aim too short, but the English adjusted their aim and continued to fire on the Cavalry with the boom of cannon, spewing smoke and the shuddering of the hot August air. The smell of burning gunpowder wafted towards them and all at once Roger and Sir Hamon ran for their horses.
Scottish horses collapsed beneath their riders, mown down by the barrage of fire from the Royalists, then the Scots retreated. However the small victory was short lived. From their vantage points on the slightly higher ground, the Scots retaliated by pounding the English guns.
By now Roger and Sir Hamon had reached their positions and took possession of their mounts, Roger leaping into the saddle, Sir Hamon hopping up stiffly from the stirrup.
The bombardment was relentless and the gunners turned and fled. ‘Look at them!’ Roger cried in disgust. ‘They run from the Scots!’
Frowning at the retreating figures of English artillery running from the enemy, Sir Hamon merely said: ‘Raw recruits. Even Colonel Lunsford cannot keep them.’ From this higher point they could see the Scots pouring across the dark river at the ford, could see the whole battle being played out beneath them.
Frustration made Roger grind his teeth. ‘We need to give fire!’ But there was no-one left to give fire, they had fled.
‘Here they come!’
The cry from along the ranks made Roger draw breath. Beneath him his horse fidgeted and nodded his head. With an effort Roger held him, patted and stroked the animal’s neck with a black gloved hand and spoke to him in low tones, but his eyes were on the oncoming Scottish hordes.
‘Hold you hard there, boy.’ Sir Hamon’s voice was low. Roger took a steadying breath. All along the cavalry line the king’s men drew their swords with the ring of metal, holding them upright in their hands, ready for the order.
They waited as the Scottish cavalry charged down the hill.
‘We should go,’ Sir Hamon muttered. ‘He’s leaving it too late.’
Then as the Scots crossed the river, the order came from Henry Wilmot, in command of the cavalry. ‘Charge!’
Digging his heels into his horse’s flanks, with his father at his side, Roger leaned forward in the saddle as his bay stallion sprang into action like a suddenly released spring, hurtling headlong down the grassy slope, hooves thundering over the uneven turf.. Roger kept pace with everyone else, his sword held out in front of him. No man wanted to be the one out in front when they met with the enemy, but neither did he want to be the last man.
The Scottish musketeers had already taken up their positions.
Suddenly confronted with two ranks of black muzzles, the first of the cavalry came to a sudden halt in front of Roger and his father. Quickly they pulled up on the reins as the upper rank of Scottish muskets belched smoke and popped. A whisper of hot air next to Roger’s ear, felt rather than heard, was too close for comfort.
In the confusion, men and horses were hit.
It was too much for the inexperienced English. They too broke ranks and began to retreat to get out of the murderous, death-dealing fire. Sizing up the situation, Roger grabbed the reins on Sir Hamon’s mount and pulled him round.

‘Let’s get out of here,’ he bellowed.

FOR THE KING Roger L'Estrange and the Siege of King's Lynn, an English Civil War novel will be published in the autumn.

Evelyn Tidman is the author of GENTLEMAN OF FORTUNE The Adventures of Bartholomew Roberts, Pirate and ONE SMALL CANDLE The Story of William Bradford and the Pilgrim Fathers available from Amazon