Cold Blows the Wind, Excerpt by Catherine Meyrick

Hobart Town 1878 – a vibrant town drawing people from every corner of the earth where, with confidence and a flair for storytelling, a person can be whoever he or she wants. Almost.

Ellen Thompson is young, vivacious and unmarried, with a six-month-old baby. Despite her fierce attachment to her family, boisterous and unashamed of their convict origins, Ellen dreams of marriage and disappearing into the ranks of the respectable. Then she meets Harry Woods.

Harry, newly arrived in Hobart Town from Western Australia, has come to help his aging father, ‘the Old Man of the Mountain’ who for more than twenty years has guided climbers on Mount Wellington. Harry sees in Ellen a chance to remake his life.

But, in Hobart Town, the past is never far away, never truly forgotten. When the past collides with Ellen’s dreams, she is forced to confront everything in life a woman fears most.

Based on a period in the lives of the author’s great-great-grandparents, Sarah Ellen Thompson and Henry Watkins Woods, Cold Blows the Wind is not a romance but it is a story of love – a mother’s love for her children, a woman’s love for her family and, those most troublesome loves of all, for the men in her life. It is a story of the enduring strength of the human spirit.


‘It’s white halfway down the mountain,’ Ellen said, dragging a chair next to Alice who was holding Billy. ‘Come here, Billy, my darling.’ She hauled him onto her lap and smothered him with kisses. The child squirmed but she held him tight, rocking him.

The rain slashed against the window.

‘Where’s Mam?’

Mary Ann nodded towards their father. ‘Ask him.’

‘Dad?’ Ellen said.

Her father sat puffing on his pipe, staring at the stove.

She raised her voice. ‘Dad!’

‘At Campbell Street, I suppose.’

Ellen gaped. ‘In the House of Correction?’ She handed Billy back to Alice and moved over in front of her father.

‘She met a mate from the old days. She was a barmaid in the Labour in Vain too. I left them sitting in the Rob Roy last night, arms around each other, singing like long-lost sisters.

‘You left her there! Anything could have happened to her.’

‘It’s only across the road and your mother knows how to look after herself. I called in at the police office on the way to work and she was waiting to go to court. Drunk and incapable.’ He chuckled. ‘It’s a wonder it wasn’t obscene language as well.’

Ellen stood, hands on her hips. ‘You didn’t go and pay her fine?’

‘She hadn’t been to court and I had to get to work.’

‘But after work?’

Her father shrugged and didn’t meet Ellen’s eyes. ‘I forgot.’

‘Forgot your wife!’ She clamped her mouth shut on the words she wanted to scream at him. How could he forget the woman he had been married to for over twenty-five years, had eight children with, and buried one? It wasn’t as if they were always rowing—they seemed to enjoy each other’s company still. And, after all that, how could a man forget his wife and leave her to be locked up in the House of Correction? If someone like her father didn’t care enough, what hope did Ellen and her sisters have of finding a man to stick with them through life’s ups and downs?

She glared at him, breathing through her nose. ‘Well, you had better go and get her now.’

‘S’pose I should. But they probably won’t let her out until the morning.’

‘You can at least try,’ Ellen said.

Dad got up off his chair and stuck his hand in his pocket. ‘Here Bessie.’ He tipped a few coins into her hand. ‘Go over to the Rob Roy and get us a couple of bottles. Your mum will be wanting a hair of the dog when she comes home.’

Ellen looked at her sisters. ‘We need to get this fire burning properly and some tea on. Did anyone think to buy bread?’

As the front door slammed shut behind their father, a burst of cold air blasted into the room.

‘Jane, can you find that old blanket to hang over the door? It might stop some of the draft.’ Ellen rattled in the pantry cupboard. ‘It will be potatoes and bacon for tea tonight. Plenty to go around though.’

She straightened up and folded her arms tight across her bosom for warmth. ‘It must be freezing at the Springs at the moment.’

‘I bet young Mr Woods hasn’t seen snow before,’ Alice said.

‘He’ll see plenty now.’ Mary Ann stood and moved away from the stove as Ellen put wood into the firebox. ‘There wouldn’t be much work for him either. It must be hard in winter up there.’

Ellen thought of the way Harry Woods had smiled as he’d moved off with his party of climbers, the light in his eyes as if he couldn’t help smiling at her. He was a bit older than she was but nowhere near as old as Mam and Dad. He seemed more courteous than the men she knew. Was he the sort to leave his wife in the lock-up overnight? Was he even the sort who would have anything to do with a woman who could end up there?

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Meet Catherine Meyrick

Catherine Meyrick is an Australian writer of romantic historical fiction. She lives in Melbourne but grew up in Ballarat, a large regional city steeped in history. Until recently she worked as a customer service librarian at her local library. She has a Master of Arts in history and is also an obsessive genealogist.

When she is not writing, reading and researching, Catherine enjoys gardening, the cinema and music of all sorts from early music and classical to folk and country & western. And, not least, taking photos of the family cat to post on Instagram.

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