B r i c k L a n e C i r c l e
The Blue Eyed Girl
‘Eliza Fay’s first journey to India began in 1779 when she set sail from England with her newly wedded husband, Anthony Fay. They travelled overland through France, Italy, Greece and Turkey. It was an edifying tour of pleasure and discovery and they enjoyed the well-known cities and sights of these countries. But their voyage onward from the Hellespont to Egypt and hence to India was beset with perils, hardship, sickness and captivity. But Eliza faced all these trials with courage and fortitude. ’
I was born in London and I worked in Tower Hamlets as a teacher for 22 years before retiring in 2015. I was intrigued by the Brick Lane Circle writing project as I had done so much work with the Bangladeshi community but knew very little about South Asian History despite having studied History at the University of Leeds.
I have been writing fiction for a number of years and have recently completed my first novel “The Good Sister” which is set in London in the 1960’s. The Brick Lane Circle project offered a first class training in how to use archive material in order to write historical fiction. I jumped at the opportunity and was fortunate to be selected. The training we were given opened up a whole world of research material at the British Library and the London Metropolitan Archive as well as presentations from speakers and visits to the Victoria and Albert Museum and Greenwich Maritime Museum. The quality of presentations was excellent and I enjoyed all of them and especially the historic walk in the City of London led by Nick Robins. All of this opened a door into my education about the history of India and the British Raj.
At first I felt overwhelmed and intimidated by the sheer quantity of archive materials but when I eventually plucked up courage to use the British Library I was impressed by how the staff went out of their way to be helpful and inclusive and made me feel welcome and comfortable.
Eliza Fay died in 1815 but before then had turned her diaries and journals into a book entitled “Original Letters from India”. Her book was rediscovered by Leonard Woolf, who reprinted it with an interesting foreword by E.M. Forster in 1911. I was able to read this copy in the British Library.Type your paragraph here.
Because I have never been to India, I wanted to write about the experience of an English woman connected to the East India Company through her marriage. I discovered in a book in the Ideas Store a reference to Eliza Fay, who had written journals about four voyages she made to India in the late 18th century. What piqued my interest was that it emerged that her husband Anthony Fay had fathered a child with an Indian woman. She separated from her husband and a few years later tried to bring the boy back to England, but sadly he died on the journey. I have used the material in her diaries and turned some of it into fiction by imagining the child was a girl and she brought her back to Blackheath to set up a girls’ school.ere.