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Some Christmas holiday reading

John Bean’s historic novel ”Trail of the Viking Finger” is dedicated to the retention of ‘Englishness’, something the liberal-left call ‘racist’.

In fact it is not overtly political and would make a wonderful Christmas present at £7.99. It is available at all main bookshops in the UK and if not currently in stock they will obtain it in 2-3 days.

It is also available from Amazon with deliveries guaranteed before Christmas.

If buyers would like a signed copy contact John Bean via – johnatjbapr@aol.com – and he will arrange for the signed copy to be posted to you at a total cost of £10 (which includes the postage by recorded delivery).

Attached in this report are two extracts which give a good guide to the book’s content and style and also shows reader interest to ladies as well as gents.

Chapter 2 Extract.

It took half-an-hour to drag the boat up the track and into the bushes before they decided to have their extended breakfast. Margit said she did not feel hungry, ‘ but I will have something later’. No one, not even Ragnar, saw her previously sneaking into some bushes to be sick. This was because with the aid of a net he had been otherwise occupied in catching two plovers and an oyster catcher to augment supplies.

They could see some people working in a field some distance away. Margit said it was probably one of the last fields to be harvested for wheat. The barley would be in by now.

‘If we go to the south I believe we will come to Driffield. My father has a sister who lives there and I went with him and mother two years back. There is a good road there which goes to Stamford Bridge and then into York.’

‘It must be only an hour or so before midday,’ said Byorne, butting in. ‘So let’s get moving and try what you said Margit. We can alter our route should we have to.’ This was met with everyone’s approval.

As they moved off Ragnar said we must look more like serfs or cottagers so that those who meet us will belief us when we say we are going on for final harvesting work. ‘We must hide our weapons as best as possible. I have already got my helmet down the back of my jerkin, which makes me look like a hunchback.’

This was greeted with laughter. They would not have laughed if they knew they were on a convergent path that meant they would meet up with King Sweyn and his Viking and Saxon army.

Twice they passed greetings with peasant farm workers, leaving Margit and Ragnar, as they looked less Danish, to say they were on their way to Driffield where they had a job. Passing through a small village in the late afternoon they were again accosted by some villagers.

‘Haven’t you heard! A big army of Vikings and Saxons from Wessex have landed and are probably in Driffield now. They are going to sack Jorvik! Best not go to Driffield until it’s all over.

Directly they were out of earshot of the villagers Bjorne said, ‘The way I look at it we have two choices. We can carry on to Driffield and join up with Sveyn’s men and hope we can be carried into York by them without being killed in the fighting. Or we can swing north now, move along the edge of the moors then come down to enter Jorvik by a north gate that’s only used by local people on foot and usually has no guard over it. That will be the opposite side from where Sweyn is likely to attack.’

All agreed that they should take the northern route, although it will take longer.

Dusk was approaching when just off the track they were following they saw a dilapidated barn, which they thought probably housed cattle in the winter months. As the rain of the last two hours showed no sign of lifting, they decided this would have to be their home for the night. The men took it in turns to keep lookout, each being fully armed and wearing one of the helmets.

Refreshed by a good night’s sleep, they set off at dawn, having augmented their shrinking rations with some turnips stolen from a nearby field. Luck was with them as only once did they see some Norman horsemen in the far distance who were going away from them. Apparently they had not appeared to have seen them.

Chapter 7 Extract.

It was October 8th that a rather agitated Cedric told Richard at his work site that Councillor Arthur Winterton was at the Byrne home and wanted to see Captain Byrne urgently.

Richard went to his own house first, washed and dressed in his best non-military clothes. He then went to the main house where his sister Kathy let him in and, adopting the manner of a servant maid, led him to Councillor Winterton. Shaking his hand, the councillor told him,

‘ Parliamentary troops are gathering near Sherburn in Elmet – almost on your doorstep – probably to attack York. Lord Digby is raising a cavalier force as well as troops to beat them to the punch and asks you to join him in your rank as a Cavalier Captain. Have you still got a horse and weapons?

‘Yes I have,’ replied Richard. ‘Where shall I report and when?’

‘Come to Heslington, which is near the Osboldwick gate to arrive early morning of October 12th. Travel by night so that it lessens the chance of you being seen by the enemy.’

Richard told his brother and sister Kathy of his actions and to say nothing to his son. He was going to tell Bryan that he had to go away on business for a few days. He asked Cedric to tell the drainage organisers much the same story and give them his apologies.

It was just after dawn as Richard arrived at Hesslington. Seeing the other horses gathered there Boudicca’s ear picked up and she raised her head and whinnied. She knew that she was going to be in a great race again with many other horses and lots of noise with men shouting, screaming, all to a cacophony of explosions and bugles blowing.

He pulled her up and as he patted her on the side of her chest he was sure her heart was racing.

‘ Calm down my old Boudi. It’s not the big race today. Only practising.’

The ‘practising’ went on for another two days, during which he met up with some of his former Cavaliers who survived the battle of Marston Moor. Although Lord Digby had hoped for more men, particularly horse soldiers that had turned up over the three days, he gave the order mid-morning on October 15th for the foot soldiers to set off towards Sherburn in Elmet. Two hours later, the Cavaliers set off with Captain Richard Byrne in charge of a forty-strong troop protecting Lord Digby.

They were about to fight a battle only three miles from the site of the battle of Towton where in 1461 Edward IV established the supremacy of the House of York over Lancaster at the cost of 38,000 lives.

It was just after passing through Appleton Roebuck when the horseman caught up with the foot soldiers. They told them that they had seen several Roundhead mounted scouts.

The hope of carrying out a surprise attack was now gone.

It was mid-afternoon when the Royalists approached the outskirts of Sherburn. The Parliamentarians foot soldiers had manned a barricade and were supported by what appeared to be less than a hundred mounted Ironsides. Still some 400 yards out from the barricade Lord Digby gave the order for the Cavaliers to charge and the foot soldiers to load muskets and follow up.

First away was Richard Byrne on Boudicca. They had gone less than 100 yards when Boudicca reared up then fell to the ground and lay motionless. The rest of his troupe went round them as Richard looked in vain for any signs of blood on his horse.

‘Oh God, my dear old Boudi your heart just gave up,’ he cried. ‘ You knew this was going to be your last charge.’

Two foot soldiers eagerly accepted his request to help him move the horse close to a hedge alongside a ditch so as to give free movement for returning horsemen. Richard stayed there, nearly in tears, hoping that when the Cavaliers returned there may be a rider-less horse he could capture and so rejoin his men.

Digby’s quickly taken charge was initially successful and they took control of all the village. But with only half an hour of daylight left the Parliamentarians led by Colonel Copley counter- attacked and routed the Royalists, taking around 400 prisoners.

Quickly seeing that it was highly likely that Digby’s forces were now incapable of a further attack, Richard threw himself into the ditch hoping that the nettles he had fallen into and the bulk of Boudicca’s corpse above would hide him from any Roundheads looking for prisoners. Before doing so he had also removed his saddle from Boudicca and used that as further cover in his hiding place.

He remained there for what he imagined must be not far from midnight. With his saddle strapped to his back he moved through fields and along ditches around Sherburn. Again without using the lane connecting directly with Church Fenton, he made his way across country for five miles or so before reaching the comparative safety of his wattle and daub cottage.

After six hours deep unbroken sleep he got up, ate a piece of stale bread and drunk some milk that has still not gone completely sour. He went to the Byrne family house to let them know he had survived.

The men, and his son Bryan, were at work, but Kathy and Ellen were there looking after the children and Mother, who now had serious dementia. They both hugged him. Sister Kathy said:

‘Richard, you are indestructible. But it is such a shame for that poor old horse who you worked to death.’

Looking serious, Kathy added. ‘A message arrived for you. It was from James Byrne and took nine months to get here from New Plymouth in the New World. Your Mary died of pneumonia just before last Christmas as a result of the intense cold they get there in wintertime.’

Richard stood immobile and said not a word in reply as his eyes welled up with tears. After two or three minutes he just said, ‘Oh, my poor Mary, I should never have left her for so long.’

Ellen, who was never diplomatic, quietly cut off some fresh bread and a piece of bacon. ‘Here you are Richard we imagine you have not had much to eat since your escape. What is the past must now be forgotten. You can marry the lovely Irish girl Maryanne now, particularly as she is expecting a baby.’