As we meet Will Harding, in the penultimate chapter of Barefoot on the Cobbles, he is on his way home from a tour of duty on a merchant ship, just after the end of the First World War. Harding is the forgotten victim in a Clovelly tragedy whose tale is oft told. Whereas the event, which is included in the novel, acknowledges his companion, Harding’s name is not usually mentioned. It was only when researching for the book, I realised that two men were involved. I will hold my hand up to Will’s age being wrong in the novel. I could pretend that there was some valid literary reason for this but then you might ask me what that was. In my defence, Will is very vague about his age on official documents but I can’t justify why I chose to use the incorrect one.
William Robert Harding was actually born in Clovelly in 1882, son of Richard and Mary Ann Harding née Whitefield. Both families had a long seafaring tradition and Will joined the merchant service. He married Rosa Evelyn Jenn in 1903 in Cardiff and they had a son and three daughters. He served on a number of ships together with other Clovelly men.
‘Weary and apprehensive, Leonard hauled his kit bag on to the cart and hunched down next to Will Harding, an experienced sailor who looked older than his thirty four years, with weather-hewn face and prematurely balding pate hidden under a cap. Will was a family man, eager to get back to his pretty wife, his near-grown son Billy and three little girls.’
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.