Monday, January 21, 2008

The Secret River

Kate Grenville’s The Secret River won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for its author and was shortlisted for the 2006 Booker Prize. It is a novel about transportation to Australia, but it starts off in South London where its main protagonist, William Thornhills, is a Bermondsey-born waterman on the Thames. Various Borough and Bermondsey locations get mentioned. Most intriguing iss a reference to walking the streets ‘with a stick and a sack, gathering the pure for the morocco works. Pa carried the sack, young William was the one with the stick. Pa walked ahead, spotting the dark curl of a dog turd from his greater height... it was the boy’s job to push it into the sack with the stick... A full sack of pure was worth ninepence at the morocco yard. He had never asked what they used it for, only felt he would rather die than go on scraping the stuff off the cobbles of Southwark’. I have no idea what a morocco yard is or was - nothing comes up on Google for it – so would be interested in whether such a job ever really existed in Southwark or elsewhere, and if so to what purpose.

See also: Pure Bermondsey


Anonymous said...

i have read this book and found it very evocative. kate greville is an australian and has written some fantastic modern novels . lillians story is particularly good. its main character is a bag lady.

Anonymous said...

check out the worst jobs in history site. i think the poo was used to tan hide. so if there were any tanners localy..

Anonymous said...

It was used in the tanneries - there used to be 'Tanner St' in Bermondsey when I grew up there. FLOYD M.