Elaine Forrestal

A rare female voice

Refrigerators had not been invented when Clara went out to the new diggings at Fly Flat

It takes a lot of determination to succeed at anything you want to do. But sometimes determination is the very thing that holds you back.

I discovered this while writing my latest novel based on the life of Clara Saunders who, at 14 years of age, was one of only two women among the two thousand men who flocked to the new diggings that would become Coolgardie. Hers is a rare female story among the fascinating, but very ‘blokey’ tall tales, myths and bush ballads that have survived from the gold rush days of the 1890s.

After discovering her ‘Memories’ in the Battye Library early in 2016 I was determined to tell Clara’s  story. In the pages of her transcribed journal, her voice comes through loud and clear. The pages are full of wry humour, passion and a pragmatic acceptance of the incredible hardships endured by all those ordinary people who ventured out into the desert in search of the elusive gold. But in spite of my great admiration for her courage and my burning desire to bring her story out from the shadowy archives, after two years work the manuscript was going nowhere. It was not until Cate Sutherland suggested that I needed to use Clara’s 14 year old voice, not her ‘lady voice’ which was the one she used when she wrote her ‘Memories’ in an old exercise book much later in her long life.

It is now clear to me that everyone has more than one voice! In fact everyone has a number of voices, each one slightly different but still uniquely their own. Thanks Cate.