I had a wonderful time on Tuesday night when I accompanied 40 students and teachers from St Josephs school at Nyngan, in western NSW on a Ghost Boy tour of the Quarantine Station. The students were on a 5-day trip and there was great excitement at the thought of seeing the Quarantine Station at night and perhaps encountering some ghosts! This is the first time I’ve been on the new Ghost Boy tour (which is based on my novel of the same name) so it was particularly exciting for me to follow the guides and watch them make my story ‘come alive’ with episodes from the novel and explanations of what the main characters, Froggy and Tad, would have been doing at the places we visited (although the QS would have looked very different in 1881, the time when most of the novel is set.) Full marks to Anna Williams who devised the tour, and to our guides Julia and Julianne who did such a great job showing us around and talking about the novel and also about other aspects of the QS in terms of early immigration and the treatment of disease, the rigid class structure of the time, and so on. It was very atmospheric in the dark, walking around with just a few lanterns to help us see the way, hearing stories of the past and, in particular, the deadly smallpox epidemic that resulted in a royal commission being held into the Quarantine Station in 1882 because conditions had been so bad. (Reading eyewitness reports from ex-patients, those who’d managed to survive the horrendous conditions at the QS, was a great source of information when it came to writing my novel.)
Schools studying Ghost Boy can book into the tour, and also download a teachers’ resource kit from the QS website. Go to: www.qstation.com.au and you’ll find info under ‘Education’. Copies of Ghost Boy may be ordered through your local bookshop or from Random House Australia.

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