Adult,  Big Book


Davey Davies

Daniel Shenkin born into a working class community of the 19th century scarred and buried in the bowels of the coal mines and forged in the Ironworks of his black South Wales valley. He gambles, loves and bare knuckle fights for survival. He is determined to form a union. The protest he leads turns into a revolt. Working men and soldiers are killed or wounded. Together with his side kick the giant of a man Regan O'Hara he is sentenced to transportation for a term of 20 years in the penal colonies of Australia. His grounding in brutality is completed on the prison hulks and the convict ship the Runnymede. The ship is captained by the tyrant Josiah Moxey and joint owned by the decadent Lord Feltsham. They have smuggled loot from London on to the ship and Shenkin knows to much. They want him dead but Shenkin's pride,determination and two fisted approach, while even in chains, sees him survive. He finds love in the form of Elizabeth Moxey the niece of the captain and the friendship of the ship's doctor. His resilience proves to much for Moxey and Lord Felthsham to handle on their own. They enlist the dregs of the convict ship and sadistic guards of the penal prison to kill him. It is a roller coaster of an adventure in the cold bowels of the earth then on the sea and land. Everything is against him his background, the sovereign state, the men that are out to kill him, but he carries his pride in his two fists. Shenkin is a dangerous man a 19th century ' rebel with a cause ' his cause is to survive - don't stand in his way.


It can’t end here thought Shenkin, but the knife in Kettlewell’s hand said differently; even in the poor light of a cold winters morning the blade gleamed long, sharp edged, deadly. Kettlewell expertly tossed the knife from hand to hand, a twisted smile on his face. Shenkin moved back, one step, two steps. Dear god he thought I’m going to bloody die unless I do something quickly. The knife slashed inwards then upwards forcing Shenkin to move back across the tilting deck. Smirking, Kettlewell moved closer; the knife came flashing forward again, Shenkin lunged at Kettlewell’s knife hand but missed as the swaying deck of the ship sent him off balance. He felt the knife blade sink deep into his left side, feeling desperately behind him his hand grasped what felt like the top of a heavy stick. He swung it up from behind him and brought it down hard onto Kettlewell’s skull. He was gratified to feel gristle and bone collapse under the blow. The last thing Shenkin heard was Collins calling out his name, as he dropped to his knees and collapsed onto the rolling deck of the ship.

To the sound of the wind and the pounding sea Shenkin came to his senses. The knife wound in his side rejoiced at his consciousness, sending waves of pain flooding through his body. While the ship pitched and rolled, he tried to stand but was sent reeling across the cabin. Tight leg irons bit into his ankles and tripped him up just short of the bulkhead. The sudden stop jarred his whole body, causing the wound in his side to open again. He tried anxiously to stem the flow of blood, as voices and the rattle of keys announced the arrival of visitors.

‘Sweet mother of God haven’t I told you to stay laying down?’ said Tarn, pushing roughly past the armed guard as he spoke.

Dr Michael Patrick Tarn was short, thickset, with a barrel-chest that threatened to burst open his black salt-stained coat. He was blunt, abrasive, blasphemous, and Shenkin was fortunate he was the Surgeon-Superintendent on the Runnymede, a three-masted, ship-rigged convict ship of 594 tons. She was built in Calcutta in 1802 of the finest teak, classed in the Underwriters’ Green Book simply as Ship. She was still seaworthy but evil smelling, poorly ventilated, and badly in need of recaulking. Consequently, below the waterline sea water seeped through the seams, so that everyone and everything was damp and cold.

Nevertheless, Tarn set about his duties to keep his patient alive, while the weather continued its brutal assault on the ship. Earlier that day the bleak January morning had frozen the image of London’s Woolwich Docks onto the eyes of the men aboard the ship. A pale watery-eyed sun had watched them sail down the Thames. Then out into the English Channel, a maelstrom of freezing wind and roaring waves. By Dover the weather was at gale force, where a north-easterly wind blew them down the English coast. After almost three days of hard sailing, they finally passed the Eddystone Rocks lying ghostly and threatening just eight miles off Rame Head on the starboard bow. The lighthouse stood aloof on top of the reef, it gave a one-eyed blink of goodbye to the Runnymede. Then they were into the full embrace of the North Atlantic where rolling seas carried the ship across the shallows of the continental shelf.

The crew moved slowly in response to mist-muffled orders, shouted into the numbing cold; they were tired, short tempered and cursing. Their laboured breath hung in the air, a latticework of frozen breath. The rigging glistened in a spray of silvery frost as the wind howled at the floating prison of human cargo.

In the hold between decks, converted to take the criminals of the British Empire as far from her shores as possible, 119 convicts were shackled in a union of suffering. They were wet to the skin, and blue of face, having had to stand on the open deck as the crew busied themselves with the ship. Their guards, muskets at the ready, had finally taken them down to the between deck. All the while the ship was pitching about like a cork in the tumultuous waves. The guards cursed as they issued some dry broad arrow marked clothes. These came in two sizes small and large, with nothing in between. The convicts tried to swap the clothes among themselves for the best fit they could find. Some with clothes half on, others with the arms of their tops tangled up they were pushed, shoved and cursed at towards a covered hut. There, blacksmiths began inspecting their leg irons, painful repairs were made. The more dangerous among them, their clothes marked with a red cross, were now doubled ironed, had it not been for the knife fight, as a political dissenter this would have included Shenkin. Painful shouts went out as metal trapped the skin pinching it tight between the metal. At long last they were marched back down to the dark damp between decks below the forecastle. Rows of iron grilled cells lined each side waiting with open mouths to devour their human cargo. First they were seated at long rough wooden tables. In front of them lay bread and cheese on tin plates, all of which were too hard for men or weevils to eat. Not that they had any appetite to eat; over the past hours most had been seasick, the deck was awash with sea water and vomit. Two of the convicts were already dead, but still sat upright in their collective bondage. Water rations lay ice bound in frost-decorated tin mugs. Bedding soaked by freezing cascading water from the upper decks hung over the bunks stiff with ice and dead frozen lice. Armed marines stood grim-faced at the foot of the companion ladders to the upper decks. These initial long hours of the voyage already seemed like a lifetime of pain and misery, if there was a worse place on God’s earth, then only he knew where.

In the sick bay Surgeon-Superintendent Dr Tarn continued to treat his first patient of the voyage.

‘Sweet Jesus! Another bloody voyage, with stinking convicts, and bad bloody weather,’ said Tarn, muttering to himself. ‘Why in hell’s name do I do it?’

Shenkin Banner

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: 28th July 2022
Format: Paperback
Pages: 409
Genre: Historical
Age: Adult
Reviewer: N/A
Source: N/A

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