The Lady of the Heather

The Lady of the Heather by Will Lawson

Published by Oswald-Sealy NZ Ltd  19??

From the dust jacket reads

In his book "New Zealand's Lone Islands" R Garrick wrote: "Sir James Ross on his Antarctic Expedition in 1840, spoke of a mysterious woman seen by the whalers on Campbell Island. They declared they had seen her wearing the Royal Stuart tartan and Glengarry bonnet with a sprig of heather on it.

A writer in "The Pall Mall Gazette", who had been a passenger in the New Zealand Government steamer Hinemoa stated that this grand daughter of Meg Walkendaw, lover of Prince Charlie, was kidnapped by seamen Stewart, after whom Stewart Island was named, at the instigation of Jacobites who believed her to be a spy in the pay of England.

Will Lawson brings this semi legendary figure to to life in this book. Her life of solitude, broken by her rescue and visito to Hobert and by the visits of sealers and smugglers is described by Lawson in a story that will fascinate readers of all ages.

In a foreword, John O'Brien, author of "Around the Boree Log", describes "The Lady of the Heather" as a fine yarn of the south seas, with their raging storms lashing a lonely isle, the sea lions roaring on the beach, the penguins strutting in absurd procession and the mollyhawks wheeling in the wind. It is a tale of whalers, sealers, smugglers, escaped convicts, on their lawful and unlawful occassions, and of all, strange ships stealing in under reefed topsails, the kind of the thing which Will Lawdon can do so well'.


This is the review as appears in the Newsletter 10 (March 1971)

"The Lady of the Heather" - by Will Lawson
Published Angtns & Robertson (1945)

So it was all a myth, a legend from the previous century and the sighing in the tussock must merely have been an asthmatic seal elephant over the hill. At least author Lawson does state that his effort is a novel, but the few facts on Campbell Island are seriously in error and his Victorian prose is all but suffocating after 160 wasted pages.

One is borne away on an incredible Cook's Tour in the very first page, where Marie Armand, Our Lady of the Heather, paces the sand of North-West Harbour as she looks across the waters of Perseverance Inlet to the high rocks above Monumental Harbour - no mean feat. Nor should the reader lose his way as he is forced to run through the tea-tree and around the base of the black cliffs which tower above him.

His 'rough' seamen are kindly, shy and well mannered creatures and a crisis is narrowly averted in a later chapter: "A dull anger glowed in her heart; if it had not been this kindly captain to whom she spoke, she would have been rude." Alores - such wickedness of heart might well have soiled our image of this fragile goddess.

All is not lost however, if one progresses no further than the flyleaf, where a simple but picturesque extract from a poem by Henry Kendall appears:

Down in the South, by the waste without sail on it -
Far from the zone of the blossom and tree -
Lieth, with winter and whirlwind and wail on it -
Ghost of a land by the ghost of a sea.

Wild is the cry of the sea in the caves by it -
Sea that is smitten by spears of the snow -
Desolate songs are the songs of the waves by it -
Down in the South, where the ships never go.

then close the book and put it back on the shelf.


There never was a North-West Harbour. The author refers to either East Harbour or North-West Bay, the latter a later title for Monumental Harbour, so named due to the structure of Dent Island. The legend does however, correctly revolve around Perserverance Harbour.

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