Story of Cornish courage, grit and determination captured in a new book – A Different Earth

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9781904880349_Cvr_UKed.inddA Different Earth is an amazing story based on the real life experiences of a Cornish mining family, who left the county in 1848 to escape the poverty and starvation of the potato blight in search of a new life in Australia


Researched and written by Max Beck, the great-great grandson of Jane and Richard Dunstan, the book charts the gruelling life of the family and their seven children as they decide to become part of Cornwall’s 19th-century ‘great emigration’ to Australia when the potato famine struck.


Max beck writes, “When I was growing up, my father ran two pubs in Victoria, Australia and amongst his repertoire of stories was a larger than life account of my great-great grandmother Jane Dunstan. The story of a powerful little Cornish woman who lost her husband, two daughters and then decided to walk 550 miles overland with her six children was extremely captivating, but seemed almost beyond belief. I resolved that one day, when I retired, I would check the accuracy of it. To my amazement not only was it true but there was so much more to the story than I discovered here in Australia”.


“It has been an amazing experience to retrace my family steps and chart what is a remarkable story of courage, perseverance, tragedy and ultimately a settled and happy life. It took five years to research and write the book including two great trips to Cornwall to and carry out wider research at the Royal Institution of Cornwall. It was also an opportunity to see where the family lived, although the cottage at Tolcarne they built has long since gone. I also visited other locations in Australia and spent a week aboard a tall ship to get a feel for life at sea, so it has been a real labour of love,” said Max.

“What struck me most on researching and telling the story of Jane was just how difficult life – both in Cornwall and then in Australia – was,” he added.

An introduction by Professor Philip Payton, formerly of Bodmin and now living in Australia, notes that A Different Earth ‘is a remarkable reading of the emigrant-settler experience through feminine eyes…Demonstrating an assured mastery of the historical context, Max Beck has clearly read widely and carefully.’

Told uniquely from the perspective of Jane, who was born in Wendron 1814, the book reflects mining life in all its hardships, the challenges of bringing up seven children in a tiny, self-built cottage in Tolcarne and the devastation caused by the potato blight that led them, like so many others, to become pioneer miners in Australia.

To purchase ‘A Different Earth’ directly from our partners, Wordery, please click here

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