J. W. Fawcett - Researching a life
When I'm working on a novel, I rely mainly on secondary sources: someone else has done the primary research. When we decided to republish the Tales, I thought I'd do a short intro about the author, and I wasn't prepared for what we found or how gripped I would get. If it hadn't been for David Butler's census and archive research, I'd have been too daunted to try to piece the story together.
Once I got going, there were so many strands to the research that sometimes I felt like one of those dog-walkers you see with twelve hounds on tangled leads! The biography I've produced is just a start. I never did get to the bottom of the Kitchener connection, but I have an intriguing theory; I don’t know how to find out whether Fawcett was really shipwrecked three times or picked up in a gunboat; I can’t go to Australia to read the fragile records from a part of his life that will really surprise you; the National Archives is bound to have information I haven’t found; if you’re a genealogy buff, you might be able to find him on more passenger lists, and you might even be able to find out whether he has any living relatives; you might have documents or photos in your loft... The possibilities are endless.
If you fancy picking up one of these strands of research, please get in touch. When the 200 copies we've printed sell out, we can make a revised second edition as more information comes to light. In the book, I’ve listed the resources we used and included transcriptions of articles. You’ll also find more information in the Appendices; there are some useful links below.
Let’s find out everything we can about James William Fawcett: not only does he deserve it, but we’ll also find out more about our own history along the way.
Links and documents
The Late J.W.Fawcett by Madeleine Hope Dodds, in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne
Timber Trees of Queensland in the Queensland Agricultural Journal 1st October 1899
Dendrological Notes on North West Durham from the Transactions of the Royal Forestry Society 1885.
Heroes & Villains - feature by Mike Amos in Northern Echo based on interview with Ray Thompson
Satley's Forgotten Son - an article by Ray Thompson published in the Lanchester Village Voice Sept 2008. P.5.
John Robson by R.A.Baker and D.S.Gill in the Northumbrian Naturalist Volume 83, 2017, pages 12-23
Complete scan of the Narrative of the Terrible Cyclone and Flood in Townsville 1896 Courtesy of Townsville City Library
Billy Costello, The Pitman Photographer - a website by Joe Mallon.