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Red Winter Journey

Keelhaulung - Pirate Punishment

Paul Rushworth-Brown

A tale of a peasant family caught in the ravages of the English Civil War in 1642. A young man, Tommy Rushworth, tries to stay alive after being absconded into the Parliamentary Army and taken off to war. Thomas Rushworth Snr is racing against time to save his son from imminent death in a war he wanted no part of.

Back in Haworth, Tommy's mother despairs, waiting news of the fate of her son and husband. Through the turmoil and suffering, William and Lucy, develop their own love story and are tested to the limit by the persecution of the steward of the manor who conspires to sabotage their future.

The bloody hell of war and the saga of family tribulations drive this period drama with exceptional narrative and factual accuracy of the talented author who penned SKULDUGGERY and is becoming one of Australia's established new authors.

"A dark and dramatic prose of family and war that brings the realism of history to your imagination with little effort...a great read..." Barry, Indiebook reviewer

Book Excerpt or Article

Keelhauling was “a severe punishment whereby the condemned man was dragged beneath the ship’s keel on a rope. It served as a terrible warning to all mariners in the 17th century.”

When a sailor was keelhauled, he would be stripped and tied so that he could not swim. Usually, a weight was attached to his legs to pull him away from the ship. The sailor was attached to a rope that ran underwater from one side of the ship to the other, and he was rapidly pulled through the water. Assuming the sailor did not usually drown, he would be severely injured by the extremely sharp barnacles on the underside of the ship. This practice would leave severe scars on the flesh of the sailor, serving as a constant reminder of the event.

A keelhauling over the length would be fatal, either through drowning, or through blood loss brought by contact with the ship. A keelhauling across the width (typically about one third of a ship's length) was a "lesser" punishment that might give the victim a fighting chance to survive.

The cuts received from such close contact could not only cause severe injuries and blood loss, but also the loss of limbs and even in some cases decapitation. The speed of movement while underwater was often crucial in determining how much injuries the will sailor get. If the rope was pulled more slowly, weight on the sailor would cause him to go deeper and narrowly miss the barnacles on the hull. But if he was pulled faster, the sailor would remain in contact with the hull during entire underwater travel, causing incredible injuries.

On September 9, 1882, a telegraph documented two Egyptian men court-martialled after an attempted murder near Alexandria. They were sentenced to a keelhauling under Article 2 of the Egyptian Naval Code, and both men survived but suffered terribly. A New York Times article cites one of the English correspondents who witnessed this keelhauling, who describes the extent of their injuries:

“The one upon whom the strain of the rope had fallen was apparently lifeless. His face was turned toward us: it was bleeding and torn: his clothes were hanging in shreds, and his hands were dripping with blood. His eyes were open, but they seemed to be filled with blood. The ship’s bottom, covered with barnacles, rasped upon the poor devils like nails…The nose of one wretch was torn almost away. One ear was gone…He was bloody literally from head to foot.”

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Paul Rushworth-Brown was born in Maidstone, Kent, England. He spent time in a foster home in Manchester before emigrating to Canada with his mother in 1972. He spent his teenage years living and going to school in Toronto, Ontario where he also played professional soccer in the Canadian National Soccer League. In 1982, he emigrated to Australia to spend time with his father, Jimmy Brown, who had moved there from Yorkshire in the mid-fifties.
Paul became a writer in 2015 when he embarked on a six-month project to produce a written family history for his children, Rachael, Christopher, and Hayley. Through this research, he developed a passion for writing.

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