Stowaways on the Arran
Local author’s new novel blends history with fiction
Patrick “Pat” Collins was combing through old newspaper clippings to research a story he was working on when he came across an item concerning Scottish stowaways with a Newfoundland connection.
From there, Collins delved further into the story of the Arran, and in less than a year he had his new novel “Forsaken Children” ready for publication.
“By far, for me, it was the most exciting book to write,” the Riverhead, Harbour Grace resident told The Compass.
According to Memorial University’s Maritime History Archive, the ship left Greenock, Scotland on April 7, 1868, carrying coal and oakum. Its destination was Quebec. Two stowaways were found prior to departure and sent off, with at least seven more found at sea, ranging in age from 11 years old to 21.
The boys were not treated well while on board. Some were beaten after they were caught stealing food from the ship.
In May, the boys were sent ashore after the ship got caught in ice along the west coast of Newfoundland. They were initially walking on ice halfdressed and starving. Some didn’t make it to shore.
Collins’ book alternates be- tween telling the story of the stowaways and a fictionalized account of the woman who first spotted them from the shore, Catherine MacInnis. She was Scottish woman who immigrated to Nova Scotia before moving to the Bay St. George community of Highlands in Newfoundland.
Tonally, the book works as an adventure, with plenty of suspenseful moments intermingled with more uplifting events.
“Everything about the boys on the Arran is true — how they were saved and so on, what happened to them afterwards and how the courts dealt with them ... The historical fiction part was Catherine herself and her personal life.”
Collins has written several books over the last few years, including “Murder at Mosquito Cove: The Murder of Elfreda Pike, 1870” and “The Spirit of the S.S. Kyle.”
Through some luck, Collins managed to track down MacInnis’ great-grandson, Don MacInnis. He became aware of the tale 15 years ago when descendants of one of the stowaways knocked on his door and shared the tale. Now living in Corner Brook, Don wrote the introduction to Collins’ book.
“Once I got the (book) done and sent it to him, he was totally enthused,” said Collins. “Writing a story about somebody whose great-grandmother saved these boys was very thrilling.”
Collins plans to visit western Newfoundland later this year to see Sandy Point, a resettled community where the surviving boys worked for a few months before moving on.
Local author Patrick Collins is shown here at a book-signing event in 2012.
DRC Publishing recently released Patrick Collins’ new book, “Forsaken Children.”