San Pareil resident Sheelagh Green shows her first book - a work of historical fiction that looks at a group of real English labourers fighting for better wages during the Industrial Revolution. — Adam Kveton

San Pareil resident a grad at 74, an author at 83

Sheelagh Green publishes historical fiction book on British labourers

The Industrial Revolution had changed the lives of so many in England.

Not as before, when kings and religions came and went, and the lives of the lower classes stayed much the same.

“For the ordinary worker, things didn’t change much,” said San Pareil resident and newly minted author Sheelagh Green. “Until the Industrial Revolution.”

It’s that change, and one group of agricultural labourer’s attempt to improve their lot in life, that is the subject of Green’s first book, And Ordered Their Estate.

The title itself is a reference to the former order of things. Taken from an Anglican hymn, the context of the quote is “… The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate, God made them highly or lowly, and ordered their estate …”.

“That was how things were seen,” said Green. “It was the way it was ordained. You weren’t expected to try and improve your position. If God made you poor, tough!”

Centred around the Tolpuddle Martyrs — six men who were trying to gain better wages. The union they formed was legal, but they were nonetheless arrested and charged under an obscure law in 1834.

They were sent away to Tasmania and Australia, said Green.

To her otherwise historically accurate account, created through research done at the British Museum and in Tolpuddle itself, Green introduces a fictitious, illiterate farmer as another view into the lives of simple labourers at the time.

The farmer, Seth Fielding, isn’t having an easy go of it either. Dying of tuberculosis, he’s wracked with guilt about the part he played in betraying the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

But the bright spot in this depiction of a dark, difficult time in history is Fielding’s love for his wife and family, gleaned from his wandering, delirious thoughts.

Green, who had been interested in writing fiction for quite some time, began And Ordered Their Estate in 2005 while going to what’s now Vancouver Island University in her ’70s. Attending university represented the realization of a long sought-after goal for Green, as did the publishing of her first book in June of this year.

“It was a thrill,” said Green of having her book out for people to read. “A feeling of achievement.”

Now, her only hope is that those interested get themselves a copy and enjoy it.

The book can be purchased at www.friesenpress.com/bookstore and searching the book’s title.

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