Expanded Synopsis: “Loyalty”

Expanded Synopsis: “Loyalty”

1798. Rebellion. Ireland is ablaze. The British 23rd Light Dragoons, smash into the line of United Irishmen Rebels and French Army. A slaughter of the rebels ensues. Posted to Donegal, the handsome Isaac Preston of the 23rds meets the pretty, yet strong-willed Sarah Porter, a captain’s daughter. Her proud, overbearing father forbids her courtship by the tenant farmer’s son, he of inferior class. Facing a decision between love and privilege, she chooses to elope, leaving a life of comfort for common living in the Belfast Barracks in 1801.

History unfolds conflicts and challenges, with Isaac employed as an agent on an Irish estate, following a peace treaty between Britain and France. But with Napoleon threatening invasion of Britain, the family flees, to avoid Isaac’s likely recall, journeying to upper New York State.  Isaac now a successful builder and still a stubborn loyalist, refuses to swear the Oath of Allegiance, resulting in his imprisonment during the War of 1812.  Sarah must endure a harrowing four year survival period as a lone parent with her four boys. Isaac imprisoned, his release in 1815 and his subsequent inability to find work in a still hostile community, leaves for Upper Canada. In 1818, he returns to take his family north to the Kingston area. They settle on Amherst Island in 1820, cutting out a farm from the forest. In June 1838 the Upper Canada Rebellion flash points includes a shootout with the Bill Johnston pirate gang in the Preston home. The fearless Sarah eludes a pistol toting guard, escaping to raise the neighbours and chase the raiders off the island. She is recognized for her “true heroic British courage”.

“Loyalty” is also a story of the Protestant – Catholic divide in Ireland and its establishment in Canada with Isaac an Orange Order original, remembered for his lifelong commitment to the Lodges.

Loyalty is tested on many fronts and on many levels. Isaac is confronted with (in his mind) disdainful Catholics, through which he must evaluate his own beliefs. Sarah faces a decision of loyalty to either the man she loves or to the upper class family to which she belongs. As well as being a page turner, the story also deals with prejudice, love, loss and resilience. It is definitely not a soft romantic story placed into a historical scene. In the style of Hillary Mantel, it is well researched, in order to get the facts right.

Based on the true story of Sarah Porter and Isaac Preston, this sweeping saga follows the key events they lived and also the historic characters they touched: General Sir Edward Pakenham; Archibald Acheson, Governor General of Canada; Benedict Arnold; Sir John A Macdonald and the pirate Bill Johnston.


Sarah Porter and Isaac Preston were the author’s great-great-great grandparents.


It is time for this old story of Upper Canada to re-visited and loved once again.

Feedback: “Loyalty”

Feedback: “Loyalty”

In the journey of writing one’s first book, receiving feedback on that work, is a worrisome time. There is apprehension in passing your “baby” off for scrutiny. The book, so close to you, for so long and because you are so biased in its favour, you ponder. How will others receive it?  Will the voluntary readers politely trash the effort that has taken four years, leaving me feel like this effort has been waste of time, or will they like it? Better yet, will they really like it?


I asked seven very knowledgeable readers, authors and history professionals to review “Loyalty”.

The results. The positive comments were more than I had hoped for. Those comments included: a pager turner, sweeping saga, cared deeply for the protagonists, cried at Isaac’s death, wonderful telling of history through the characters, saw the movie as I read …

I am grateful.


“Loyalty is not yet published. In order to get a higher profile to catch the attention of potential publishers and agents, I am conducting a campaign to collect fans of the book and supporters of the story.

Below are the comments from the readers in their own words.

Percy Seymour – 3rd Canadian Ammunition Column

Percy Balfour Seymour 1891 – 1962

Member of the Canadian 3rd Division Ammunition Column, January 1916 – March 1919


This is a brief summary of Percy Seymour’s service in one of Canada’s under reported military units during World War 1.

The Canadian Divisional Ammunition Column’s (CDAC) purpose was to supply munitions from ordnance depots behind the “Front” to the artillery batteries or to the trenches themselves. Canada’s Third Division was recruited in early 1916, arriving on the battlefields of Flanders in July 1916.

Percy was likely chosen for the Ammunition Column as he knew how to care for and drive horses from his farm upbringing. The Seymour’s were horse experts for many generations previously, and I expect that this knowledge was important for his selection.

Most CDAC members were classified as “drivers”. The vehicle most often used was a horse drawn cart. Horses, lighter carts, and men were more maneuverable than unreliable small trucks, and with the ground constantly changing due to bombardments, and crater holes full of mud, that was paramount. Often, a driver would lead two pack horses or mules strapped to their backs. Other non-officer rank positions in the unit included gunners, bombardiers, shoe smiths, farriers, veterinary sergeants, and saddlers.

Travel was often at night to hide the activity from the German spotter planes and long range binoculars. One family story has Percy leading a pack mule with 4 shells attached, through no-man’s land in the dark to feed the trenches. He could have been killed many times over according to his commanders, but was not.

The 3rd CDAC, assembled and did its initial training in Toronto, leaving for England on board the “Metagama” on March 11, 1916 from St. John New Brunswick.

The picture below is the unit, in Toronto prior to debarking for England. In total, the number of members were 610. Their commander was Lt. Col. William Hurdman from Ottawa.


Archives Canada has details of all military units preserved in diaries. Hurdman’s is most interesting, describing the weather, enemy operations as well as the generalized duties of each day. Mention is made of meritorious conduct and of the casualties.

With this to guide me, I am researching the details of his service. These details are with family members and within his personal service records at Archives Canada. Some Canadian soldiers have their full service, medical and attestation records digitized for public viewing.

On August 9th 1916, at the Somme, 8 members of the 3rd CDAC’s were gassed. One driver, Reg Dyson was killed. Hurdman described his death as being from a “stray bullet.” Our family records also has Percy being gassed at the Somme, recovering and returning to active duty as a driver for the balance of the war. Percy may have been one of the eight to be hospitalized that day / night. Percy’s had lasting effects of the gas attack through his life with no recorded burns, thus I assume the gas was chlorine. Victims of gas attacks or other wounds, would be evacuated back from the lines, to field bandage units and onto hospitals. Some returned to England for treatment and convalescence.  Percy’s recovery details are within the archives, the details yet to be uncovered.



Loading shells into horse carts


King George visiting the Troops in Aug 14, 1916, including the 3rd CDACs


From Hurdman’s diary, another interesting find was Walter Ellingsworth. He was cited for bravery in 1916, but was discharged in December 1917, when he was found to be only 17, (15 when he signed up).

Major battles 3rd CDACs participated in: Somme, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, Amiens, Cambrai.


Above is Lt. Col. Hurdman’s diary account in the lead up to and start of Vimy Ridge action (April 9, 1917).


But the remembering of those who served and died, and those who served and survived, should entail more than just their service records. We need to understand and know the men (and women), who served; their mind sets, their personalities and why they committed to putting their lives on the line. And in this age of awareness of PTSD and the effects of war on civilian populations, a look at how these individuals lived following their war experiences, is also important. They all had unique lives.

“Driving Through Hell” my concept for a book, can be a story not only of service in battle for Canada, but of four men who came from different backgrounds to serve together and their resultant lives following The Great War. A story to unfold …