Dunsborough author Kenneth Hill writes novel on Captain Thomas and Ravenswood

Dunsborough author Kenneth Hill wrote Ravenswood Dreaming over a five year period. Picture: Supplied.

Dunsborough author Kenneth Hill wrote Ravenswood Dreaming over a five year period. Picture: Supplied.

As a child, Kenneth Hill was always intrigued by a photo of a man hanging on his grandma's lounge room wall.

Over time he learnt it was his ancestor Captain John Thomas who came out to the Swan River Colony as a 15-year-old boy and eventually settled at the Ravenswood Hall, now known as the Ravenswood Hotel.

Interested in historical fiction Dunsborough author Mr Hill decided to write a book on his relative, John Thomas, called Ravenswood Dreaming.

Getting sick of falling asleep in front of the TV he began to write to fill his time up "usefully" before bed.

"I was a teacher and I got very interested in teaching creative writing to primary school students so I thought I've been teaching this I better have a crack at it."

He had just finished writing his first book The Mulberry tree and was rummaging through an old case in the shed that contained letters, old photos and other items when he came across a newspaper article on Captain Thomas.

At the end of the article the journalist noted that someone should turn Captain Thomas' life into a novel.

"A few months went by and I kept thinking, maybe I could write about Captain Thomas," Mr Hill said.

"I investigated further and thought it was an incredible story, that had to be told."

Thomas family history

John Thomas and his family came to Western Australia in 1829 with his parents and three siblings.

At 17, John began farming in the Kelmscott district before becoming a boatman in Fremantle.

By the time Captain Thomas and his wife Elizabeth purchased Ravenswood they had ships carrying freight from Fremantle to Bunbury and the Vasse, and bringing butter back from those districts.

Other ships they owner carried goods between Fremantle and Singapore.

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Three years after the couple purchased Ravenswood, the great flood of 1862 washed away the original mud brick cottage.

The Thomas family took refuge in a barn before building the more substantial residence Ravenswood Hall now known as Ravenswood Hotel.

Mr Hill remembers the Ravenswood Hotel fondly himself, often joining his uncles and father when they came down to the Murray River to fish.

As a child he would go for a swim while his family would enjoy a beer.

Delving deep

Mr Hill wrote the 623 page book over five years.

"I realised it was a tremendous story but it grew into a very big book," he said.

"I thought I have to edit out some of it but I just couldn't. It would've spoiled the book so I went ahead and published it."

When asked why he named the book Ravenswood Dreaming, Mr Hill said it had a dual meaning.

"The Thomas' always dreamed of having a farm while the Bindjareb people spoke of the land where the Ravenswood Hotel is as being given to them during the dreaming."

Mr Hill said the book included the impact of colonisation on Indigenous people.

To find out more visit, VIVID Publishing or phone 97568421.

This story Ravenswood Dreaming: How a photo of a man in his grandma's home inspired a book first appeared on Mandurah Mail.