Last week, I blogged about listening to a radio show on coded knitting that inadvertently sparked ideas for a new novel. This week, novel research is being approached from the opposite direction. The work is written, but now I need to flesh out the details.
One section of the contemporary fantasy I’m writing takes place in York, England in the 1950s. My protagonist, a widow with two young children, needs to flee the country to escape her wealthy, predatory father-in-law who’s scheming to take her children away.
Originally, I thought she’d go to South Africa, but after reading a few pages aloud to my critique group, two key questions came up. Why South Africa and how could she afford it? Good questions indeed. I began some research and soon came across an article about the “Ten Pound Poms” as the Australians once called British citizens who migrated to Australia and New Zealand after WWII.
You see, after the war, the Australian government decided it needed British workers (partly due to the Australian government’s racist whites-only policy back then) to build its economy, so they offered passage for only ten pounds, including free passage for kids. Tired of food rationing and probably the weather, among other things, nearly 400,000 Britons applied in the first year alone. The catch to the offer was that the Britons would have to stay for two years before they were allowed to return. Otherwise, they’d have to pay back the full fare.
Many built new lives there, but a minority loafed around not doing much of anything until they could return home, according to the article HERE. Also, those without money were shuffled into former army barracks when they arrived, so needless to say, conditions were less than ideal.
It’s a fascinating story to me, most of which I’ll never use in the book because my protagonist actually winds up in Canada, due to a dramatic change in circumstances. Still, like last week’s knitting story, this is a bit of real history that I knew nothing about until I began the research, and for that I thank my critique group!