Holyhead Author

Gareth Rowlands

A Fleeting Visit is a fact-based historical novel set in the period 1861-1862 describing the clandestine operations of Captain James D. Bulloch in purchasing and ordering the building of ships for the US Confederate Navy American Civil War hostilities between the Federal states of the North and Confederates in the South began in 1861. The North carried out a crippling blockade of the Southern ports. The Confederates had few ships to counter the blockades and lacked the resources to build them. Captain Bulloch, a distinguished naval officer from the South is sent to Liverpool, England to buy ships and oversee their construction. As it was against British law for a company to supply any foreign warring faction with armed ships he had to act as a private individual in arranging the construction of vessels that could later be converted to warships once outside British waters.In Liverpool Bulloch arranged the Laird shipyard to build two steam screw cruisers, the Oreto and No. 290. He carried this out secretly as he was under observation by Federal agents. In the meantime he purchases the Fingal, already in service from Greenock, Scotland. In order to evade Union spies, Bulloch goes to the port of Holyhead to take delivery. On its night time arrival, the Fingal collides with a brig which sinks and Bulloch has to make a quick getaway on the Fingal to avoid customs inspection which would result in the discovery of hidden arms. The Fingal became the CSS Atlanta.Bulloch returns to Liverpool and oversees the construction of the vessels at Lairds shipyards. Once out of British waters the Oreto, becomes the CSS Florida and the 290 becomes the infamous CSS Alabama. Both set sail on a mission of destruction against the interests of the United States. The Confederate Navy inflicted so much damage on the commerce of the North that the United States government demanded large reparations from Great Britain after the war ended resulting in the famous Alabama Claims.
Over the last few years Gareth, a retired teacher, has successfully published three local history titles in aid of local charities. No Problems too Small, The Story of the Marine Yard at Holyhead, Trains & Boats & Planes, Holyhead Past and Present, Every Picture Tells a Story.
What is A Fleeting Visit about? A Fleeting Visit is a fact-based historical novel set in the period 1861-1862 describing the clandestine operations of Captain James D. Bulloch of the Confederate Navy and involves his visit to Holyhead. The book is illustrated with forty photographs of what Holyhead might have been like at the time and also includes photographs on board the CSS Alabama. What made you write a novel this time? Early in 2009 a friend suggested I write a novel. It has always been my ambition to write a novel since I was in school but I couldnt think of a suitable plot. I read a lot of books, mostly thrillers, so I was intrigued to discover my friends idea. She said A Confederate Naval Officer, Captain Bulloch, came to Holyhead in 1861 and there was an incident, when a ship collided with another ship, just off the end of the partially completed breakwater.
The idea lay dormant until a year later when I began to write during the very cold months at the start of 2010. The incident was the focal point. I began to research what happened before and after the incident and discovered that Bulloch did indeed stay in Holyhead for three days. I then traced what led him to come to Holyhead from his enlistment in the Confederate Navy at the outbreak of the American Civil War. I decided that it might be interesting to fictitiously describe how Bulloch spent his time in Holyhead. What happened after the incident in Holyhead is a fascinating story of how Bulloch had ships built in Liverpool, the most infamous of which was the CSS Alabama. How did writing a novel compare with writing a book on local history? It was far more difficult to write a novel for a number of reasons. It was difficult to get the sequence of events correct. I dont write a book from start to finish. I tend to write in sections then put it all together at the end, much like making a film, I suppose. To some extent I had to consider the language used at the time but I intentionally avoided describing costume etc. and concentrated on the story instead. It was also difficult to decide where to stop! So much has been written about the American Civil War. Its really fascinating and I hope that I’ve wetted the appetite of some readers to discover more about the war and particularly what happened to the infamous CSS Alabama.
Why did you choose to donate the proceeds of the book to the Maritime Museum?
The museum is run entirely by a team of volunteers who manage the shop and act as guides to the two display areas. They have a wealth of knowledge which they impart enthusiastically to visitors. They also provide educational visits to groups including local schools. The museum relies entirely on sales, entrance fees and donations. Grants usually cover material items and do not allow for overheads such as insurance, electricity etc. so they need extra fund and support.
A Fleeting Visit will be available from the Maritime Museum, Ucheldre Centre and local newsagents including The Chocolate Box, Chadwicks and Summers. Printed by Cambrian Printers, Aberystwyth a copy will cost £8.50 with all the money from sales going to the Maritime Museum, Holyhead.
For more information, contact:
Gareth Tel: 01407 861911