The Stony Ground is the story of Cornish farmworker James Ruse, reprieved from the hangman’s noose and transported to Botany Bay on the First Fleet in 1788. Ruse, commemorated as a pioneer in his adopted country, was reputedly the first prisoner ashore, carrying an officer on his back. Eventually pardoned, at Experiment Farm he became Australia’s first settled farmer, the first ex-convict to be granted land and the first settler to become self-sufficient, bringing him into conflict with indigenous people. In this gripping historical novel the life of Australia’s most symbolic convict is described in Ruse’s own voice.
A highly original narrative of exile and survival from rural England to New South Wales and the Tasman Sea filling a gap in the literature of transportation and dramatising a key period in British penal history.
‘A fascinating, compelling and important account of a violent and bloody history. It’s a real achievement – a thorough account of a whole life, framed by questions of economics, authority, social-class, church and Law—successfully occupying an imaginative space that feels both documentary and fictional’—Andy Croft, poet and novelist.
Michael Crowley is a writer and dramatist who has worked in theatre, youth theatre, prisons and elsewhere. He lives in West Yorkshire. His writings include The Man They Couldn’t Hang and Behind the Lines: Creative Writing with Offenders and People at Risk (both Waterside Press) and his poetry Close to Home and First Fleet.
You can read Michael Crowley’s article “The James Ruse Story: An Epic Tale of Everyman” on his blog: michaelcrowley.blog.