Without Edward Collins’ actions Barefoot on the Cobbles would not have been written. He embodies human frailty, as do we all. His complexities are hinted at in the very brief glimpses of him that have been found in the records. He was key to my story, yet, of the main characters, he was the one about whom I could find least. As I sought to uncover a sympathetic, yet believable, motivation for his somewhat strange behaviour, a three-dimensional individual began to emerge; one who had experienced his own trauma and tragedy. Mainly due to his common surname, I was unable to contact any family members. Should they read the novel, I do hope that they feel the conclusions I have drawn from the meagre facts are not illogical. Despite the appalling, albeit largely unintentional, ramifications of his actions, I wanted the reader to be able to empathise with Edward Collins, who was, in his own way, a victim. I hope I have succeeded.
We meet Edward Collins in Clovelly, where he is staying for the benefit of his health. From the outset he is an enigma. He and his wife can clearly afford expensive hotels, what then are they doing in a small guest house on the North Devon coast? He is comfortably off, a professional, a university man. How will he interact with Clovelly’s down-to-earth fishermen?
Edward Laurence Collins was born on 1 May 1880 in Liverpool. He gained an MA from Cambridge University and became a consulting engineer. Although I have been unable to positively identify a role for him during the First World War, I think that it is likely that he saw action in some capacity. He married Amelia Martha Hutson in 1915. It seems unlikely that the couple had any children. It also appears that his two sisters died unmarried, hence the lack of living relatives. The Collins remained in Clovelly for some time after the events described in the novel. Edward then travelled widely, probably in the course of his work, going to Gibraltar in 1926 and Chile in 1936. He had plans to live in the Channel Islands but I have no firm evidence that he did so. Edward Collins died on 17 January 1953 in Somerset and is buried in Thornfalcon Church.
‘Clovelly slept. There were no sounds from the cobbled street but the night and its attendant horrors, closed in on Edward Collins. Even eighteen months spent embraced in the village’s serenity had not banished the terrors that darkness could bring. He awoke from the recurring nightmare, shaking and sweating. Curled in a foetal position, clasping his knees, he silently sobbed.’
Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.