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BOOK REVIEWS

Book cover front of "Andrew Thompson" by Annegret Hall

Jon Fearon, FOUNDERS Magazine August 2021

The writer takes us back to Andrew’s family and boyhood as an apprentice weaver in eighteenth century in the southern borders of Scotland. … Hall skillfully outlines the setting and politico-economic climate of the time and how it led to Andrew’s conviction and transportation on the Pitt in 1791.This clear understanding of the family background allows the reader to get to know the boy and suggests what may have driven him to attain such heights in the colony and at such a young age.

… The author’s approach is entirely chronological and the chapter headings clearly show how Thompson’s rise to prominence came about through his official appointments, from leading constable while still a convict to the Chief Constable of the district, manager of Governor Bligh’s farm, hard-working rescuer of flood victims and his appointment as Chief Magistrate under Governor Macquarie.

The most enthralling section of the book is Andrew Thompson’s unexpected and unplanned role in the interplay between the Exclusionists or Exclusives, represented with malice and often-blatant corruption by John Macarthur and George Johnston, and the Emancipists, their honest leader and wise mentor being Thompson himself. Do read this wonderfully written book. There is much to learn about this truly local hero and his life and times. Learn what led to Andrew’s building his grand house on the water’s edge at Sydney Cove and the ructions that ensued. You will see that the much attested maneuvering in today’s politics echoes that of those in high office some 200 years ago.

Peter Le Breton, Goodreads, February 2022

I’d never heard of Andrew Thompson until I ‘met’ snippets of him in Hall’s first book. His story is moving, inspiring, tragic and, unlike John Macarthur’s, genuinely heroic. Andrew grew up in a small Scottish town near the English border. At 17 he was incarcerated in a local prison awaiting trial for theft. It is not clear what his role, if any, was in the crime. However, Andrew was sentenced to transportation to New South Wales for 14 years, a brutal punishment for a 17- year-old with no previous offences. It was unlikely his family would ever see him again, and they didn’t.

In the colony, Andrew distinguished himself with his gifts, skills, integrity and enterprise. He was popular with fellow convicts, emancipists and free settlers, alike. Governors valued his leadership. Andrew became the wealthiest settler in colonial Australia. ...  At risk to his own life, on more than one occasion he rescued folk stranded in flood waters on the Hawkesbury.

What distinguishes [her books] from other histories of the period is not only that they are scrupulously researched and referenced. It is the creative way in which the author has woven actual personal lives into her historical narratives. At times, Hall makes reasonable assumptions, based on the available evidence, about what the protagonists might have thought, felt and done in different circumstances. Unlike some Hollywood movies ‘based on true stories’, nowhere does Hall add incredible additions or changes for dramatic ‘box office’ effect.

Indeed, ... the heroes of her first and second books... are powerful beyond measure. Embelishments would be gilding the lily. These books provide unique perspectives on Colonial Australia, rooted in the historical evidence available and centred around real persons, their struggles, setbacks and triumphs. Reading them is like reading history as if people matter. Rather like watching a well-crafted historical drama or book adaptation film or TV series.

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