This is a much more ambitious story than the pirate yarns the precede it. It’s a big step up in its scope and reach and I was delighted by the way it came together. The ladies themselves are the inspiration for the story. The Reverend Betty Handley, a dear friend from Mount Isa, is the model for Fr Betty on Magnetic Island. Mrs Josie James makes an appearance as the Headmistress at St Hilda’s. Mrs Judith Hancock [formerly the Head at Brisbane Girls Grammar School] is a model for Tilly Kidd. The energy and excitement of the ladies really makes this a blistering feminist tract.
There are some moments I love in this story: the list of rules for the Happy Haven and the Speech Night at St Hilda’s, for example. When I read the story aloud, the moment when the Saucy Nancy passes the Merry Mackerel at anchor off Noosa always moves me to tears. I’m sentimental, I guess, but the little moment of optimism and hope crashing in on a time of darkness just about trumps anything else I’ve written.
The girls loved this story when they heard it for the first time – and other children to whom I’ve read it have loved it too.