Traveller remembered

By Ashleigh Fielding | posted on October 25, 2018

A NOVEL inspired by the life of a European settler who named several Great Southern locations is being launched tonight by Albany author and artist Helen Laing.

Circles of Fortune is a fictionalised account of naval surgeon Thomas Braidwood Wilson’s life and tells of his explorations of Australia and his life in the settler colonies.

Wilson explored the south-west of WA in 1829 and named the Denmark River, Mount Lindesay, Mount Hallowell and Mount Barker after his fellow comrades.

Wilson Inlet and the Wilson’s grevillea were named in his honour.

Ms Laing said she decided to write a tale on the explorer’s life after delving further into his history.

“A friend of mine was doing a paper on naval surgeons who contributed to the first settlement,” she said.

“One of them was Wilson.

“He just jumped out at me; he was such an incredible, compassionate man and adventurous, and felt deeply about the plight of Aboriginal people and how European diseases affected them.”

Ms Laing said she chose the fiction format as she is not a historic academic, but that didn’t mean she did any less research.

Ms Laing spent approximately 10 years writing the book, while juggling a midwifery career and later retirement, travelling and renovating a house.

She said she visited libraries in Canberra and New South Wales and spent hundreds of dollars on history books to get all the details on Wilson.

Ms Laing chose to write in the first person as Wilson, but changed Wilson’s writing style to one more suited to her.

“I tried to write with full stops and capital letters everywhere like he [Wilson] did, but it was so stilted!” Ms Laing said.

“So I changed it to modern language.

“But, I included Wilson’s letters to his wife, which are in their original style.”

Circles of Fortune is being launched tonight at the Albany Public Library at 5.30pm and those wishing to attend are encouraged to notify the library prior to account for space.

Ms Laing will join local historian Malcolm Traill for a curatorial next Tuesday at the Museum of the Great Southern at 10.30am to speak about the book further.

Circles of Fortune is available for purchase at Paperbark Merchants, the museum and Bay Merchants on demand.