Don Hunter used his great-grandmother as the inspiration for his latest novel. Courtesy Don Hunter

Fort Langley author tells coal mining tale

Don Hunter’s latest novel is a historical fiction about a screen lass in the coal mines.

A Fort Langley writer published a historical novel in honour of his great-grandmother who worked in the coal mines in the 1880s

Don Hunter grew up in a coal mining family in North England and has been writing for fifty years.

“There was always a hankering to write a story about coal mining,” said Hunter.

His latest novel is called “Meg Tyson: Screen Lass,” and is a historical fiction that was inspired by Hunter’s great-grandmother Eliza Jane Williamson who worked as a screen lass in her teens in an England coal mine.

Hunter explained a screen lass “worked on the pit tops, sorting [and] screening the coal from rock and slate. Long hours of hard, dirty work.”

The novel follows the story of protagonist Meg, who is an 18-year-old working as a screen lass in a small village in England.

After an ugly incident takes place, Meg leaves her home and immigrates to Vancouver Island to start a new life on the colonial frontier.

While fictional character Meg escapes her screen lass job, Hunter’s grandmother didn’t have such a fortunate fate.

“My great-grandmother stayed in the mines until she died. I use her as an inspiration for this.”

And writing a historical fiction did not come without it’s challenges.

“There was a huge amount of research involved,” explained Hunter.

“Making sure I got everything right, the details are so critical when you’re writing a historical fiction. You need to know exactly what does a screen lass wear when she goes to work.”

The book can be enjoyed by all audiences of all ages.

“Anybody interested in B.C. history. It’s not a limited audience at all,” said Hunter.

When Hunter first moved to Canada from England, he worked at the Vancouver Province as a reporter, feature writer, and senior columnist.

“I was the first male in my family not to start his working life down in the pit.”

He’s the author of four other books and is currently working on a future novel.

“I like the independence, and I like storytelling. I like making things up,” said Hunter.

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