The Bountiful Battye Library

On Sunday Black Jack Anderson and Straggler’s Reef were featuring in a Writer’s Festival session where participants got to peep into the inner workings of the Battye Library. For writers like me the Battye is the first place I go to check out facts and learn more about a character or place that I think I might write about.

When I needed details of the wreck of the Lancier on Straggler’s Reef in 1839, and the loss of the chest that contained 7000 pounds Stirling worth of silver coins, the Battye revealed just what a priceless treasure trove it is.

Almost ten years later, when all I had was the name Black Jack Anderson and a passing reference to Middle Island, the Battye again came up trumps. The Battye computer ran rings around Google and instantly came up with five references to Western Australia’s own pirate who was ‘the scourge of the Southern Ocean’ from 1825 to 1835 and could ‘disappear with the speed of a westerly wind’ whenever he was being pursued by the law.

Of course I wrote many other books during the ten year period between Straggler’s Reef and Black Jack Anderson. And every one of them required research into some aspect of the story. The Battye Library is almost a second home to me. All my archives are now kept there and it is always a great treat to be able to spend a day immersed in its fascinating collection of West Australian history.

Elaine Forrestal signing copies of Black Jack Anderson at the State Library where the Battye is housed.

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