the Convict Trail Project

Question: What have you been doing lately?
Answer: Working very very hard with the fingers flying rapidly across the keyboard.

Well that is the question a lot of folk have been dropping my way these past few weeks since returning from New York and the SCBWI Winter Conference (awesome time, wonderful conference stupendous speakers, glorious friends). In fact these flying fingers have been in operation for quite a few months – since well before Christmas.

Late last year a colleague of mine Daniel Woo (and computer brain too), informed me about a project he was working on. The problem was they needed a writer and when I found out what the project was I jumped at it with glee. It is History! And the historian supplying me with countless reams of paper and documents to sift through is Elizabeth Roberts.

So since well before Christmas I have been working on reading and then writing the content for what will be a downloadable App, available from the iTunes store that tells the story of the creation of the Great North Road here in Sydney. This was one of the early convict infrastructure projects that involved, surveying, blazing and clearing of trees, forming walls and culverts and bridges and road base, shaping sandstone, stockades, transportable gaols, and the bridge and road gangs of convicts some of whom were in specially marked clothes, to form the road for the early settlers to travel between the Hunter Region and Sydney. The building of the road was also a way to keep those intolerable convicts occupied and send a message to the motherland that life here wasn’t easy.

This project was coordinated by the folks at the Convict Trail project and for the past three months I have been ploughing though reams and reams of research and reference papers and booklets, taking their information and converting it into a 20+ character script radio play. I handed them a script of over 100 pages with characters that included Governor Darling, a range of convicts, some overseers and their assistants and a few other characters along the way. Of course it was way too much (I wrote a lot of background story too for context) but the script has been whipped into shape. Much of the voice over has been recorded using professional voice over artists and Dan is putting the final touches to the timing of the script – and including a few sound effects as well. Very soon the project will be done. Users will be able to download the App and drive the Great North Road from Bucketty towards Wollembi and listen to the story of the building of the road. in many spots they will be driving over the origianl road. Along the way users can jump out of their car at some of the places places and take a walk around the historical sites and through the wonders of the GPS hear more of the story. Dan sent to me a sound bite of the first part of the script recently and I tingled at hearing my words being read. Yee hah!

And yesterday (Wednesday) I was driven along the Glenorie to Wiseman’s Ferry stretch of the road to scope out the next segment of the project. That involved lots of stopwatch work timing the stretches between points of interest along the road, like natural springs, a grave or two, Wiseman’s house, the ferry, the pick markings and drill makings, a very worn aboriginal rock carving and a bridge or two … including the oldest in use bridge on mainland Australia – the Thomas James Bridge at Wiseman’s Ferry. While I was being driven on that stretch of the road Dan was driving the next section along doing final timings and checkings!

This is an amazing project and is way excellent fun!

To find out more about the Convict Trail project visit their website. They also have a newsletter and will no doubt alert interested persons when it is available – as will I.

And Daniel’s cyber presence is here.

And here are some photos of yesterday’s drive:



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