A spy among us

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - REG WAT­SON

THE LOST PAGES By R. D. Fran­cis Self- pub­lished $ 26 + $ 4.20 postage Or­der: fran­cis.tas@tadaust.org.au

The Lost Pages is the fi rst book for English­man R. D. Fran­cis, who has lived in Tas­ma­nia for sev­eral years.

The novel is fast- mov­ing and full of ac­tion. It is rather short – just 134 pages – but if you’re look­ing for an ad­ven­ture which in­cludes in­trigue, bad guys, po­ten­tial in­ter­na­tional in­ci­dents, ex­cit­ing women and ex­otic for­eign places then this is your book.

The hero is Jack Har­ri­son who, while only in his 30s, has en­joyed a suc­cess­ful ca­reer in the Bri­tish Se­cret Ser­vice.

He also has a great in­ter­est in cal­lig­ra­phy, an­cient his­tory and an­cient manuscripts.

Shun­ning the life of the Ser­vice, he makes Tas­ma­nia his home buy­ing a hobby farm – it would seem his peace­ful fu­ture is as­sured.

Un­til “my old boss from the In­tel­li­gence Depart­ment in Lon­don” shows up.

B. J. Loader has hunted Har­ri­son down for a spe­cial job – to lo­cate miss­ing pages from an old man­u­script called The Book of Kells, a price­less man­u­script “prob­a­bly from the eighth century”. The miss­ing pages need to be found so the Bri­tish prime min­is­ter can present the man­u­script as a gift to his Ir­ish coun­ter­part.

Loader ap­proaches Har­ri­son be­cause of his knowl­edge and spe­cial skills in this area. But Bri­tish In­tel­li­gence is not the only one on the trail of the miss­ing pages.

A wealthy in­di­vid­ual – and we never re­ally fi nd out who – em­ploys sev­eral tough guys to get the miss­ing pages be­fore Har­ri­son can.

The ac­tion starts al­most im­me­di­ately, when Har­ri­son leaves Loader be­hind at his farm while vis­it­ing his neigh­bour. Loader is at­tacked by vi­cious thugs who send him off to the Royal Ho­bart Hospi­tal.

Har­ri­son then sets about his busi­ness, tak­ing up the tempt­ing fi nan­cial of­fer of Loader’s. To fi nd these miss­ing pages to com­plete the man­u­script, Har­ri­son trav­els to Am­s­ter­dam, Rome, Tus­cany and Venice, be­fore mov­ing across to Lon­don and south­ern Eng­land, all the while stalked by un­savoury char­ac­ters.

Along the way he meets Fiona, a pro­fes­sional pho­to­jour­nal­ist, and they team up on the ad­ven­ture.

It’s a risk­ing busi­ness though, and as he says half­way through the story: “I’ve been chased, cap­tured, beaten up, in­car­cer­ated and nearly burned alive.”

With the help of pro­fes­sors, ma­trons and min­is­ter of reli­gions, the miss­ing pages are fi nally found, which need to be trans­ported to Dublin where they can be pre­sented in a for­mal man­ner.

On the jour­ney across the Ir­ish Sea, the ferry on which they are trav­el­ling is at­tacked by men on a cabin cruiser, who board the ferry with their guns.

They are given the miss­ing pages by Har­ri­son on the or­ders of Loader and the crooks leave sat­isfi ed, be­liev­ing they have achieved their aim.

Har­ri­son is fu­ri­ous with Loader, only to be told that the pages were not gen­uine and the real ones have trav­elled by a dif­fer­ent method.

For any­one look­ing for a fast­mov­ing ad­ven­ture story, much in the vein of James Bond, this is a book for you.

JU­BILEE OF TAS­MA­NIA AND THE CES­SA­TION OF TRANS­PORTA­TION MEDAL By Roger McNe­ice OAM Self- pub­lished $ 25.50 + $ 5.50 postage

Roger McNe­ice OAM, well­known nu­mis­ma­tist, has put pen to paper once more to pro­duce a small book on the medal­lion/ medal dat­ing from 1853 to herald the ces­sa­tion of trans­porta­tion.

Nine thou­sand of these medals were made from white metal or pewter and were pre­sented to school­child­ren of the day.

How­ever, a bronze medal was also pro­duced, but re­stricted to only 100, which were pre­sented to leading cit­i­zens of the colony.

Only one gold medal was made, which was pre­sented to Queen Vic­to­ria.

It was an im­por­tant medal­lion, high­light­ing the ces­sa­tion of the ac­cursed con­vict trans­port sys­tem which came to an end at the same time of the colony’s Ju­bilee ( 1803- 1853).

The book, how­ever, is not just about the medal.

The ma­jor­ity of it deals with the steps leading up to the ces­sa­tion and what hap­pened when news was re­ceived that the anti-trans­porta­tion­ists had won.

As McNe­ice says, “to fully un­der­stand a medal­lion was is­sued to com­mem­o­rate this sig­nifi cant event, it is nec­es­sary to look back to the early colo­nial set­tle­ment of the is­land and trace the events which led up to the is­sue of the medal­lion”.

In was in 1847 that con­certed moves were made in Launce­s­ton to or­gan­ise re­sis­tance to trans­porta­tion and pe­ti­tion Lon­don for its abo­li­tion.

Groups ex­panded rapidly – not only to Ho­bart, but to Syd­ney, Ade­laide, Mel­bourne and as far afi eld as New Zealand.

In the end, all their ef­forts proved fruit­ful as news was re­ceived on April 26, 1853, that con­vict trans­porta­tion to the colony was to cease.

What was in­trigu­ing was the ex­tent of cel­e­bra­tions which hap­pened through­out the is­land, not just at Ho­bart and Launce­s­ton, but many coun­try towns such as Ross, Camp­bell Town and Oat­lands.

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