Toowoomba author Jane Smith will launch her latest historical non-fiction book Ship of Death: The Tragedy of the Emigrant on 18 October.

Ship of Death tells the story of the horrific 1850 voyage and quarantine of the typhus-stricken ship Emigrant, the second government-sponsored immigrant ship to bring free settlers from the UK directly to Moreton Bay. The book focuses on the human stories of the main players in the drama, including some of the more colourful passengers, the captain, and the doctors, two of whom perished in the course of duty. Some of the passengers went on to become eminent citizens, including John Fogarty, a child on the voyage, who was elected mayor of Toowoomba in 1887 and 1892.

Ship of Death brings to life the hardships and hopes common to many of the early European immigrants to Australia,” says author Jane Smith. Former ABC journalist Kerry O’Brien, whose ancestors were passengers on the ill-fated voyage, has written a foreword. “Jane Smith… has added a rich vein to our understanding of the personal, individual legends of early white settlement in Queensland,” he writes.

The book was inspired by the author’s visit to the historic cemetery at Dunwich, Stradbroke Island, where the ship was quarantined for more than three months. “I saw twenty-six little white crosses in two rows,” Smith recalls. “At one end there are the graves of the two doctors who lost their lives caring for the sick. At the other end is a plaque that simply lists the names, ages and birth places of the dead.

Jane Smith is a librarian, editor and keen historical researcher who writes both fiction and non-fiction for adults and children. One of her children’s books was shortlisted for an Australian Book Industry Award, and another was on the 2017 Children’s Book Council of Australia ‘notable’ list. Her children’s book The Runaway is currently on the shortlist for the 2019 Speech Pathology Australia’s Book of the Year Award.

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