Sheelagh Whittaker

Sheelagh Whittaker

Author finds answers in family’s ancestry

Sheelagh Whittaker used her family’s history – and her journey to uncover it – for her first full-length novel

Creative writing schools often teach students to write what they know – and what does a writer know more about than their own family?

While researching her family’s geneology, Sheelagh Whittaker came across a story that was both shocking and intriguing – her great-grandfather’s second wife, along with her sister, were charged with the murder of the former’s illegitimate toddler.

She and her sister uncovered the family history after finding testimony of her grandmother, who was just nine at the time of the trial.

The story was just the sort that Whittaker was looking for.

“I thought, here’s my book,” she said.

The Slaidburn Angel traces Whittaker’s family history in Britain, along with a first-person account of the genealogical search, interspersed with modern history.

Whittaker said she didn’t shy away from the personal nature of the story, despite some of its negative aspects, because she always strove for honesty about herself.

Whittaker, who owns a home in Nanaimo and visits regularly, earned a master’s degree in business administration and climbed the corporate ladder to currently sit on the board of directors for Imperial Oil. She is also a director for Standard Life.

She was featured in the Women of Influence lecture series and named “The Pioneer” in the Globe and Mail’s Women in Power series. She is also a member of Maclean’s Honour Roll.

“I’m still a working woman,” Whittaker said.

She considers herself a feminist and a fighter for women’s rights, which leads her to always be honest with other women about her own struggles and consequences of her choices.

“That has been characteristic of my style,” she said.

The Slaidburn Angel was researched and written over a 12-year period, which saw her live in Australia and Canada, while maintaining a family and full-time job.

It’s her first full-length novel, aside from contributions to books like Memos to the Prime Minister, but she started writing as a child. She was first published in the Alberta Poetry Yearbook in 1960 and while her poem Oil! didn’t win, it was printed on the very last page of the anthology.

For her next book, she draws on her experiences and feminist ideals once again for a series of stories, inspired by the Canterbury Tales.

Whittaker presents her book for reading and discussion at Harbourfront library on July 22, 1-3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information on the reading, please call 250-753-1154, ext. 238.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com

Just Posted

Woodgrove Centre has a temporary COVID-19 vaccination clinic operated by Island Health. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 vaccine clinic set up at Woodgrove Centre

Anyone 12 and up can receive a first dose of mRNA vaccine seven days a week

Six United Way chapters around the province are merging into United Way B.C. (News Bulletin file photo)
Central Island’s United Way merging with other chapters to create United Way B.C.

Money raised in communities will stay in those communities, agency says

Young people graduating in COVID-19 times have shown resilience. (Stock photo)
Editorial: Class of 2021 has shown smarts and resilience

Congratulations and good luck to Grade 12s who have persevered during the pandemic

The Nanaimo Business Awards are accepting nominations now. (Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce image)
Nanaimo Business Awards accepting nominations of worthy winners

This year’s awards aren’t until the fall, but the nomination period ends June 28

Retailers say they’re ready for the ban on single-use plastic checkout bags in Nanaimo when it takes effect July 1. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Retailers report they’re ready for Nanaimo’s single-use checkout bag ban

Business operators say there’s been plenty of time to plan and prepare for bylaw that kicks in July 1

A person stands in a tower on the perimeter of the Number 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng in western China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on April 23, 2021. Human rights groups and Western nations led by the United States, Britain and Germany accused China of massive crimes against the Uyghur minority and demanded unimpeded access for U.N. experts at a virtual meeting on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 denounced by China as “politically motivated” and based on “lies.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark Schiefelbein
VIDEO: Trudeau demands truth from China about Uyghurs

PM says Canada has admitted broken Indigenous relationship, unlike China on Uyghurs

CELEBRATING INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY
Council members and witnesses from the Hupacasath First Nation, left, and Tseshaht First Nation, right, prepare to raise their respective flags in front of Port Alberni City Hall on Monday, June 21, 2021. The flags will permanently fly as part of the city’s reconciliation work. See more coverage from the flag raising ceremony on page A5. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Vancouver Island First Nations flags to fly permanently at city hall

Addition of flags are one Port Alberni response to reconciliation

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, middle right, participates in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in honour of the launch of Kelowna’s plasma donor centre at Orchard Plaza Mall on June 22. From left to right: Canadian Blood Services’ business development manager Janna Pantella, Canadian Blood Services’ operational excellence manager Tyler Burke, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and Canadian Blood Services’ centre manager Janine Johns. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
B.C.’s first dedicated plasma donor centre opens in Kelowna

The Kelowna location is the third dedicated plasma donor to open in Canada

Children walk with their parents to Sherwood Park Elementary in North Vancouver for the first day back to school on Sept. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Study reassures parents, teachers that COVID-19 infrequently shared at school

Federally funded study in Vancouver finds risk in the classroom and in the community identical

Conservative MP Kevin Waugh rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday April 13, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Single-game sports betting about to become legal in Canada

Senate passes bill to take sports gambling away from overseas agencies

Point Roberts is part of the mainland United States but not physically connected to it, to reach the community by land one must pass through Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Closed Canadian border leaves Point Roberts’ only grocery store on verge of closure

‘We’re Americans but we’re not attached to America. It’s easy to forget we’re here,’ says owner Ali Hayton

The Somass Sawmill sits idle in early May 2021. While the kilns have been in use occasionally, and the lot has been used to store woodchips this spring, the mill has been curtailed since July 27, 2017. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni to expropriate Somass Sawmill from Western Forest Products

Sawmill has been ‘indefinitely’ curtailed since 2017

Robin Sanford and her fiance Simon Park were married in an impromptu ceremony at Abbotsford Regional Hospital on June 16. (Submitted photo)
Mom dies day after witnessing daughter’s hospital wedding in Abbotsford

Nurses help arrange impromptu ceremony in 3 hours for bride and groom

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. home owner grant won’t be altered, despite expert advice

Tax break for residences worth up to $1.6 million too popular

Most Read