A fictionalised account of Nelson's childhood. Hunter Blair offers us a rare chance to explore Nelson's childhood -- through painstaking research and imaginative but plausible reconstruction. The scene is set in Burnham Thorpe, North Norfolk where the rector, Edmund Nelson and his wife Catherine, become the parents of 8 children. Six well-authenticated anecdotes put milestones across Horace's childhood and boyhood: losing himself at Hilborough; riding to school through deep snow; finding a 'rare' bird's nest; picking a sprig of yew from the churchyard tree at dead of night; catching the measles at school at North Walsham; where he also, chiefly for his friends, stripped the master's pear-tree and never owned up. (Was this one reason why he was so keen to leave school and go into the navy?).
The author dates these incidents by common sense and deduction and then sets them into plausible contexts. The Norwich Mercury and The Norfolk Gazette of the time provide a background tapestry of events, but the family's participation in them has to be largely imagined. (Nowhere does the author describe Horace's involvement in an event if that were circumstantially impossible.) We know the people, the neighbours, Horace was fond of when a child from the letters he wrote, the messages he sent, the enquiries he made as an adult, and thus the author lets them people his childhood. Horatio Nelson's feeling for his father appears in many letters between them yet not 'a scrap of a pen' survives from his mother: Hunter Blair suggests a huge bond between them, such as sets a person up for life. His relationships with his brothers and sisters, his tender love for Maurice, his recognition of the staunch faithful dullness of Susannah (Sukey) contrasted with the potential social brilliance of little Catherine (Kitty): these have been drawn in looking backwards from how he speaks of them, and to them, in later life.
Author: Pauline Hunter Blair
Title: The Nelson Boy
First Published by: Church Farm House Books
Date: 9 November 1999