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Six Days of Mayhem – Synopsis

This is the basic synopsis for the book I am writing.  Any feedback is welcome.

The year is 1920 and 87 year old Michael Brown is traipsing up Collins St, Melbourne, with a young fellow by his side.  The young fellow is his Grandson who has picked Michael up from his Boarding House in Spencer St.  The young fellow is puzzled on where they are going and why.  Eventually they end up at the Old Sea Baths in St Kilda where Michael finds a Caretaker and asks to be let in.  Michael then starts talking about the race and the Dreamchaser and the one that got away.  The Grandson is fascinated by all of this as it is new to him and he never knew that his Grandad was a long distance walker, but he is still puzzled because he knows that his Grandad isn’t revealing everything.  They then leave when the Caretaker comes and kicks them out.

The year is now 1853  and Michael Brown is standing on the Clipper ship SS Lady Adelaide coming through the heads into Port Philip Bay.  He has been on the ship for three months coming from England. Michael is the 20 year old son of a mining family in Cornwall.  He has decided to immigrate and start a new life as he has seen mining kill the males in his family for years and he wants adventure.  Australia he has heard is the place for adventure. He gets off the boat in Melbourne and finds lodgings.  He stays in Melbourne for a couple of weeks. He reads about the gold being found in Ballarat along with the rumours he is hearing and decides to head for Ballarat.  He didn’t want to be  a miner again, but it is something that he knows and will get him started in his new life. He is also finding that the only difference between Melbourne and London is that Melbourne is younger and still has crowds and noise everywhere.

Michael Brown heads off for Ballarat.  He decided to trudge up there on the road, but isn’t alone.  There are literally hundreds of people heading for the digging s of Ballarat.  After two weeks on the road, he arrives in the diggings and is overwhelmed by the vastness of the place.  He organises himself a claim, buys the necessary equipment from the store and gets to work in the Ballarat diggings. Over the next few weeks, he gets to work mining but isn’t having any luck.  It is appearing that the great dream might end up being very hard work.

He is wandering past the local hotel one night during the week when he sees an advert for a 50 mile walking race the following weekend. It was inviting all challengers to take on the Australian champion, William Edwards. Entry fee is ten shillings and the prize is a whopping twenty pounds. He remembers that he walked from Melbourne to Ballarat without too much hassle and it cant be too much hassle to compete in a walking race.  This is the time for young Mchael Brown to take on the world. Entries are accepted down at the newspaper office, so he goes down there and enters straight away.

The next week comes around and he find himself on the starting line outside the Eureka Inn in Main Street, Ballarat.  There are half a dozen other walkers lined up. One of them is a female who is very pretty. Her name is Emily and she is French. She also appears very aloof and doesn’t respond much to Michael’s attempts at conversation. Another walker is Allan McKean who is Irish and looks very fit.  Then William Edwards turns up and the crowd erupts in applause.  The race starts and Edwards shoots into the lead.  Michael decides that his best tactics are to stay on his heels and hope for the best.  About 20 miles into the race, an older Gent by the name of Peter Gray introduces himself from the sidelines and tells Michael that he should have a seconder.  Not knowing much about this game, Michael agrees and next thing he knows, Peter shoves a drink into his hand.  A bond is formed.

The race continues and Edwards keeps the lead. He ends up winning and Michael is a very close second.  The other competitors congratulate him, along with Edwards who welcomes Brown to the sport of Pedestrianism. Michael also gets 5 pounds for second place which he is more than happy with. He then has a chat with Allan McKean who tells him about a 6 day race in Sydney in three months time when the best in the world are coming to race the Australians with a massive 100 pounds prizemoney.

Michael then heads home and is accosted in the street by a Gent introducing himself as Thomas.  Thomas congratulates Michael on his great performance and then asks him what his normal job is.  They talk about mining and then Thomas asks him if he is getting hassled on the diggings by the Constabulary.  He replies no. Thomas then tells him what he is trying to do in getting equal rights for the Miners and the uprising that is planned.  Michael is interested, but very tired, so begs his leave and departs.

The next day, Michael is hovering around his diggings, is feeling a little bit sore, but knows that he has to do some work. Peter Gray turns up at his allotment and they start talking.  Peter mentions the 6 day Go as you please race in Sydney and suggests that he should go in the race.  Michael at first is very reluctant as he is wanting to make a go of his mining life, but the results from yesterday fascinated  him and he is wandering what could be achieved.  Evenutally he says yes and agrees to race over 6 days in Moore Park three months from now.  Peter is elated. They then work out that they will have to traipse to Sydney on foot. Peter ratiuonalises that it will be perfect training for the race and Michael knows that he is looking forward to seeing more of the country.  They decide that they will leave Ballarat by the end of the week.

The following day they meet up again and traipse down to the Store where Michael sells all of his mining gear. He buys a bedroll and a swag before they leave and head to the telegraph office.  Once there they send a telegraph to the Newspaper office in Sydney. It announces Michael’s intention to compete in the World 6 day race in three months time and please reserve a place for him in the field.  They then head to the Royal Hotel to have a few celebratory drinks and to get to know each other a bit more. The afternoon goes by , they meet up with Allan from the race along with the Irishman, Thomas and a few of his friends.  Mike very much agrees with his cause, but knows that he has to leave town and find his fame and fortune in pedestrianism. He pledges to Thomas though that he shall spread word of the problems on the diggings far and wide and shall be their Ambassador.  At this time both men are full after an afternoon of whisky.

The next day, Michael and Peter are up early and onto the open road, Peter is about twenty years older than Michael but still very fit for his age.  He has no trouble keeping up with him. Over the next few weeks they have no trouble getting out twenty , thirty miles a day which is good training for the race.  They pick up some work on the way which keeps them fed and even buy themselves a horse from another swagman on the road. Peter doesn’t mind riding the horse as walking is starting to wear him down. He definitely will be staying as the seconder for the up and coming pedestrian.

The next few weeks are uneventful. They head through the townships of Wangaratta, Albury, Wagga and then  they get to Goulburn.  When they are in Goulburn, Mike gets hold of a Sydney paper and reads an article on the 6 day race in Moore Park.  He sees that he has been accepted into the race and there will be a walker from America by the name of Edward Weston.  Apparently he is written up as being the Champion of the World.  This excites him but at the same time makes him very nervous.

The trip continues and two weeks later they arrive at Windsor which is on the outskirts of Sydney.  There is great commotion that day with talk of a race to happen between the Mail Service Coach and the “Flying Pieman”. The race is starting in ten minutes time. This fascinates Mike and Peter, so they go and have a look and introduce themselves to the Pieman.  His name is William King and his main trade is selling Pies.  He is a very good runner and he makes extra by carrying out bets and challenges for money.  If he beats the coach back to Sydney he wins 10 Guineas for his efforts. He has heard about the 6 day race, but thinks that it is too long and he would go loopy in the process.  The crowd gathers a short time later and after a speech from the Windsor Mayor, the runner and coach are off.  At the end of the street, they see that King is about twenty minutes off.

The next day they continue their trip into Sydney and a week later they arrive in the center of Sydney.  They decide to find the newspaper office who are sponsoring the race and announce themselves. Soon they are in the Daily Telegraph Office being warmly welcomed by the Editor in Chief who tells them the full details about the race.  They get directions on how to get to Moore Park and bid their fairwell. They decide to camp at Moore Park now.  They can find their way around and get ready for the race.

The next week goes by quickly and they get organised for the race.  Moore Park is basically a paddock next to the cricket ground which is basically a Sunday meeting place for Sydneyites of all persuasions.  By race day it has been transformed into a miniature village.  The track is grass and is 200 yards in circumference.  The runners and walkers are allowed to pitch their tent along the other side of the course, whilst the public can watch from the main straight.

There are twenty runners and walkers entered. By the morning of the race they have met most of the field.  The field includes Edward Weston and Frank Hart from overseas.  Emily from Ballarat is there and looking as radiant as usual.  Michael is happy that she has set up her tent next to him and they get to have a few nice chats.  William Edwards is there, acting like he owns the place and shouting at everyone that doesn’t do his bidding Allan McKean turns up after only deciding two weeks ago to compete.  He got the stage coach up.  There are half a dozen other competitors as well that are completely new to the sport and don’t really have an idea what they are in for.  Peter also notices that there is some heavy bookmaking action happening just off the track and decides to go and check it out.  He loves a gamble and if he can win a few dollars from his man winning then so be it.

By midday a crowd of at least 500 has turned up to watch and the race gets under way.  Edwards gets off to a flying start followed by Weston, Hart, McKean and Michael.  After twelve hours there is only five miles between the top five places whilst the last five are already struggling. Edwards keeps going during the night and has a comfortable lead. Weston and Hart go off together and two hours later, Peter convinces Michael to have a two hour break. He has moved up to third and already has a five mile gap over the two foreigners.  Emily was the target of a small vocal crowd of protestors. They were from the Anglican Church and were against the fact that she was competing in such a strenuous activity.  She wants to leave the race, but Michael convinces her to keep on going. The police eventually arrive and break up the protest.

After twenty four hours the race is still very close. Allan McKean has hit the lead with Michael in second place. Weston and Hart seemed to have eased off and there are allegations amongst the bookmakers that the two foreigners are treating it as a holiday.  The race continues to get good crowds and people  seem to be treating it as a good evening’s entertainment.  Emily is doing very well after the initial distraction and is in the top ten.  Five runners have dropped out having realised the real pressures of multi-day pedestrianism.  Michael is starting to get a bit frustrated with his friend and crew, Peter.  Every time he wants his help Peter seems to have disappeared to the bookmakers tent or elsewhere.

The next two days progress and McKean and Michael are swapping the lead constantly. One goes for a sleep and the other one overtakes him.  Weston and Hart still appear to be treating it as a holiday.  Weston complains of the cold and wants more appearance money for the hardship.  He threatens to pull out, but just seems to slow down some more.  It is about midnight on the forth day when Hart suddenly wobbles on the track and falls over.  He gets taken to his tent holding his stomach. There is a great commotion of doctors and other officials heading in and out of his tent.  Word starts to spread that the bookmakers tried to poison him with strychnine. The Police come and question the bookmakers plus officials. It is about six o clock in the morning when the officials make an announcement over the loudspeaker that Hart will not take any further part in the race, but is expected to make a full recovery.  The two Australians are still fighting for the lead and Emily is in seventh place.

The last night comes around with McKean on 420 miles and Michael one mile further back on 419 miles.  Weston is just circulating the track now, not really caring about his own performance, but is helping and coaching Michael to hopefully winning.  He claims to anyone that will listen, that for his age, Michael could be the best Pedestrian ever.  Word has got out about the closeness of the race and the crowds swarm to Moore Park for the last night.  By 8pm that night, there are literally thousands of people of all ages, gender and society class present at the track.   They seem equally divided in their support for Allan and Michael.  They keep lapping about the same speed, but by about midnight Allan disappears for a much needed sleep and Michael quickly ups the anti to take the lead.

Allan comes back on the track at 2am, but by that time, Michael has a 5 mile lead and has the race well in his control.  The crowd gradually wanes during the night and by about 6am the race is all over.  Michael is the first past the post winning with 470 miles. Allan is second with 465 and Weston is third with 420 miles.  Emily has just beaten the 400 mile barrier with 401 miles.  Michael gets his 100 pounds at the award ceremony and is very chuffed at what he has achieved.  It is at the Award ceremony that the pedestrians are told about the 6 day race in Melbourne in 6 weeks time, where the prize is going to be the Welcome Stranger nugget.   Michael, Peter or Emily don’t give it much thought though as they are too tired to think properly.

After the race, Michael is talking to Emily and realises that he is quite struck with her beauty and character.  He decides to invite her out that evening for a celebratory meal. At the same time, Peter walks up to them and he realises that he should invite Peter as well.  They then hear that they can stay in the tents for a couple of days until they find other accommodation or move out of town.  They all disappear and have a good sleep as the crowd disperses. The workmen are working around them, but they heart nothing as all three are oblivious to the world.

That evening, they meet up together and head for the Hotel which is only just down the road.  Michael was hoping for a quiet evening, but was soon recognised as the great champion and was mobbed with well wishers and free drinks during the course of the night. Evenutally the bedlam dies down and the three get to have their quiet meal together.  During the course of the evening, they decide to get on the boat and head for Melbourne and the next 6 day adventure.  The prize of the Welcome Nugget seems like an impossible dream for Michael, but one he must pursue.  Michael offers to pay Emily’s boat trip to Melbourne and of course, Peter as well.  During the course of the evening, Michael realises that he is in love with Emily and must tell her.

They leave the Pub later on that evening and head back to Moore Park. Peter disappears somewhere into the night (probably looking for more drinks).  Michael and Emily just wander in the night and eventually get back to the tent.  Emily invites him inside. He accepts, they both go inside and lay on the bed.  They seem to talk for all hours of the night, until Michael falls asleep.  The hard work of the last six days has finally caught up with him.  Emily kisses Michael on the head, turns over and is soon asleep herself.

The next day, Michael and Emily find Peter fast asleep in his tent , still very hungover and very much drunk.  They had to the wharf and soon find a clipper that is going to Melbourne tomorrow.  It leaves tomorrow and if there is good sailing they will arrive two weeks prior to the race. Michael pays for their passage and they all wander back to Moore Park to get organised.  On the way back, they buy a local paper and see that Michael is the main sporting headline , reducing the horse racing results to the second page.  He also notices though that the flying Pieman was quoted in the race results as saying that the six day racers are only racing at that distance because they are too slow to take him on! Michael shakes his head and throws the paper in the bin.  During the rest of the day, they get themselves ready and discuss the Melbourne race. Peter decides that he is going to crew for both of them during the Melbourne race.  Both  Emily and Michael agree that this is a good idea, but Michael does remind him not to wander off to the bookmakers tent too much during the race.

The next two weeks goes slowly as the Clipper makes its way slowly towards Melbourne.  For Michael it goes quickly as he is use to such travel and much longer.  Emily and Peter struggle with the time.  Emily and Michael do spend a lot of time talking and become very close during the journey. They decide that after the race, that they are going to retire and buy a freehold farm back up near Bendigo.

The clipper arrives back into Melbourne and Port Philip Bay right on  the two week time frame.  They find The Argus Office and submit their entrys for the race.  The editor is wrapped that Michael has shown for the race , but not too sure about Emily entering.  She is the only female entered and the Editor warns them about the strong religious movement that exists.  He tells them that 50 people have entered the race scheduled  to be run at the St Kilda Sea Baths and the interest has been phenomenal.  They decide to look for some lodgings in Spencer St and get their bearings from there.  Michael and Emily spend the next two weeks doing some training and hopefully getting rid of their sea legs.

The day before the race, they go in and check at the Sea Baths. It is an outdoor track only 200 yards in circumference.  Very much like the six day tracks in England and America.  The only overseas competitor that they can see listed is Frank Hart, which is surprising to them as he still looked very sick at the end of the Sydney race.  They recognise a few of the names , especially Allan McKean and William Edwards, but most of the field appear to be gold diggers that couldn’t find their fortune on the fields of Ballarat.  They see this as an easy way of making their fortune!  Emily is very annoyed that she isn’t on the entry list.  She finds the newspaper editor who is also doubling as race organiser.  He explains that she is entered, but her name will not be made public until the race starts.  This should keep the religious zealots at bay for at least twenty four hours.  They find their two tents/ cubby houses and ge themselves set up for the race.  Emily goes off with Peter to buy some supplies, whilst Michael has a rest.

The day of the race dawns and the St Kilda Sea Baths are bustling with life and excitement. The Dreamchaser is standing in the middle of the Oval with two policeman standing guard very intently.  Michael and Emily go for a walk, whilst Peter organises the two tents, so that he knows what is what and where.  They get back and start to catch up with a few of the other runners that are entered.  Allan McKean got a horse carriage back to Ballarat after the Sydney race and then down to Melbourne. William Edwards had been doing some smaller races around the Victorian/South Australian area and was looking forward to his 6 day debut.

A tall looking man walks up to Michael and introduces himself.  The Flying Pieman from Sydney has decided to enter the race.  He apoligises for the bravado in the Sydney press and explains that it is all a game. Peter goes off and puts his obligatory bet on the race. He comes back and reports that Frank Hart is the favourite at even money followed by Michael, McKean and Edwards all at 2 to 1.  The Flying Pieman is at 5 to 1.  The other runners in the field are all at odds of 10 to 1 and more.  In other words, name your own price for them.

CHANGE: By half past eleven the area outside the Sea Baths are packed to the rafters and the door have had to be closed.  The crowd outside aren’t happy and the Police are called to keep the peace. The runners are called to massive cheers form the crowd at ten minutes to. Emily is the last to be called, receiving a huge cheer from the women in the audience, but the me are deadly silent.  One can almost see the messangers being dispatched to the local churches to tell them what has occurred. Midday comes and the race is under way.  There are fifty people on a small  200 yard track and it is absolute bedlam.  The crowd loves it, as the runners start off at a frenetic pace.  Frank Hart seems a different runner from two months ago in Sydney and he seems determined to stamp his mark on the race from an early stage.  At the four hour mar he has already run  26 miles, has a two lap lead on the Flying Pieman, followed a further lap back by Edwards, McKean and Michael.  Emily is starting to wear some abuse from the crowd and is taking it very personally.

By eleven o clock that night, the crowd has considerably died down and the initial madness has subsided.  Ten of the runners are collapsed on their beds with exhaustion, their crew trying to cajole them into action.  The placegetters are still the same and Hart looks very comfortable as the leader. The night passes by very quietly and the runners seem determined to make their mark.  Early the next morning,  six men turn up under escort to move the Dreamchaser.  For safety and security reasons, race officials decide to move it into a side room where it will be safer from potential criminals. By midday  the crowd has started to build up , Frank Hart has past 100 miles in the first day.  He is very closely followed by Edwards, McKean, Michael and the Flying Pieman who are all three laps back and on the same lap.

The crowd has started to build up including the 100 odd religious protestors that have found their way towards the front of the spectators.  They are shouting religious quotes as Emily goes by , which she tries to ignore.  It gets to six o clock that night and there is commotion when three men have jumped the fence and trying to remove Emily from the track. Michael and Peter are in the tent at the time, they hear the commotion and soon realise that Emily is in trouble.  They race out and beat off the three men that are trying to drag her off the track.  No one notices the three reporters that are close by living onto every word!  The police are soon on the scene and take the three trespassers off to the Police Station. The Argus editor has his perfect headline and the next day, Emily’s attempted abduction is there for all to see.  The race progresses and by the next morning the top five is still the same.  Michael has moved into second place and the Pieman has dropped back into fifth. There are thirty of the original fifty runners left in the race.  Most of the retirees have realised that  they were in over their heads,

Day two soon gives way as day three dawns.  The daytime madness soon picks up again as the crowd from all over Melbourne converge to see this strange ritual take place.  The Argus editor is on a money winner with his sales going through the roof and the admissions into the Exhibition building bringing in a small fortune as well. The next day progresses with not much changing in the race.  Michael is being crewed very well by Peter and believes it is only a matter of time when hart will falter,  Emily is going through the motions and seems to have lost interest in the whole sport.

It is just after midday on day four when the bedlam in the stadium changes into full blown madness.  A shot rings out from the stands and Edwards falls to the ground.  . Time seems to have frozen, as  the crowd take a few seconds to realise what has happened before the screams erupt.  McKean and Michael are first  to get to Edwards and realise that he is dead.  The Police are soon there to look after the body whilst other police start to remove the specators.  The Race Director is screaming for his runners to get  off the track and wait in their tents.  Bedlam continues for the next hour until the RD comes and tells the runners that the race will start again at 3pm. The race will still finish at the same time.  The police have not made an arrest and have asked that no spectators come back in.

The race resumes  in a very sombre atmosphere.  Rumours are already circulating that Edwards was a very heavy gambler and womaniser and he was always going to meet his end this way.  The runners can still hear the crowd outside who are very vocal in their anger at being shut out.  The runners make their feelings known to the RD, but he doesn’t want anyone back in.  He relents the next day and the crowd come pouring back in at eight in the morning.  It is  day five.  Hart is still in the lead, followed by Michael and McKean. Pieman seems to have dropped right off the pace.  There are only twenty left in the filed and Emily is spending more time off the track than on.  Michael is worried about her, but knows that he has to look after his own race.  Peter doesn’t offer any reason on what is wrong with Emily.

The race progresses into the business end.  Michael is starting to catch Hart who between them trade the lead for the night. The crowd is loving it and their support seems evenly divided.  The crowd stays for the night as, Michael slowly confirms his lead.  Day breaks and there are only ten runners bothering to run anymore.  At eight am , there is a sudden commotion of whistles coming from the side room where the Dreamchaser was being secured.  The two police guards have been tied up and the massive one metre nugget has been stolen.  The whole place erupts,  the crowd thinks that it is a great joke and the runners are wandering what they are running for.

The Race Director assures Hart and Michael that they will be paid the  equivalent in prizemoney if the nugget is not recovered.  Michael keeps going and gradually extends his lead over Hart.  There are only five runners left on the track. The others are too stuffed to continue.  By midday the race has finished, Michael has won with 490 miles, he has hopefully won the nugget and can now disappear with Emily for a new life.

He then realises that he hasn’t seen Emily or Peter for a few hours and gets back to his  tent to freshen up before the presentations. He sees that Peter is not there, thinks nothing of it and goes to wake up Emily with the good news.  He goes into her tent and sees that she is not there either.  Her port is gone and there is a note on the table.  He opens up the note and reads it. “Sorry Michael, Peter has more to offer.  My life is with him. Emily” He drops to his knees and cries! The penny then dropped with him.  He got up, went and found the police and told them who had disappeared.  He then came back , left his details with the editor/RD,  packed his bag and walked out, determined to once again start a new life in Australia.

2011 – copyright.

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