Tom Binnie: To the Cry of the Sand'ling
To the Cry of the Sand'ling is an unusual and involving novel for all ages. It is the story of three Scottish generations: David Miller, his father Tom, and his daughter Rosie. It follows their lives through two 18th century timelines: Rosie growing up in a small town in East Fife; Tom, mercantile trading in Delft; and David attending an orphan school in Edinburgh before developing into an inspired Scottish teacher.
It is a detailed story of three lives during a time of great social, political and economic change. Each character is strongly influenced by the lovers and friends they encounter on their life’s journey. It is a story of love, loss, and betrayal. It is a story of redemption, the value of learning and the acceptance of change. It is also a story of the influence of women in an age where history only tells of men.
To the Cry of the Sand'ling
Rosie, ten years of age, grows up in a market town in East Fife. Approaching puberty, she questions the extreme poverty and wealth she has become aware of in her close-knit community. David, her father, wants to make educational changes to, what he regards as, outmoded teaching in his school, and engages the support of the local landowner. A French girl has come to live in the landowner’s house and she and Rosie become friends. The experience opens Rosie’s eyes to a life outside the confines of her county town. Rosie’s mother dies and her life with her father changes. David and Rosie move to a coastal town of Kirkcaldy to start life anew.
Twenty years earlier, Rosie’s grandfather, Tom, an Edinburgh merchant, travels to Delft with his clerk, Joe, to oversee an ambitious trade, which, if successful, will free himself and his wife from her overbearing parents. Tom, away from the stifling and structured society of Presbyterian Edinburgh, enjoys the unfamiliar culture and freedom he finds in Delft. Tragedy strikes, the merchant ship runs on to rocks, and all is lost. Tom does not return to Scotland. Tom’s wife does not cope with the loss of her husband, and David, their only son, is sent to a school for fatherless children in Edinburgh.
At school, David, released from his suffocating family, thrives in his new environment, forming close relationships and engaging in the daily life of the school and the burgh. He tries to return to his family for the winter break but is shunned, and he returns to the school. He develops under a formative relationship with a senior boy. The school is not just Latin and Greek: David acts on stage, sings in the church choir, learns to operate the new printing press, escapes the grounds to shop in the markets, then there is an outbreak of smallpox.
After the loss of Tom, his clerk, Joe, takes over his position, and aims to save the family business. He returns to Delft in an attempt to keep the business afloat, but also to find out what happened to his friend and employer. He makes friends and gains personally and financially from his experience, but he does not satisfactorily solve the mystery of Tom’s disappearance.
Twenty years on, David is an inspiring Scottish teacher settled in his new school. A letter brings news and reveals information, hitherto suppressed by Joe, regarding his father, Tom, and the mystery of his disappearance in Delft. It is news that will change David and Rosie’s lives. The three threads, Rosie/Older David (Fife), Tom/Joe (Delft) and Young David (Edinburgh), are told in interwoven chapters with correlated themes of love, loss, betrayal and redemption.
Note: David Miller is a factual person, - noted for being the schoolmaster of Adam Smith, James Oswald and Robert Adam - as are many of the secondary characters featured in this 18th century Scottish novel. The story woven around them is, of course, completely fictitious.