Cal Flyn was holidaying at her childhood home in the Highlands of Scotland when she stumbled upon a little-known, dark family secret.
The journalist discovered that her great-great-great uncle, Angus McMillan, who had been mythologised as a great explorer and pioneer of early Australia, had in fact been the leader of a number of gruesome massacres of indigenous people.
In 1843 he led a loosely formed ‘Highland brigade’, which was responsible for a series of assaults so ferocious the sites would ever after be synonymous with bloodshed: Butchers Creek, Boney Point, Skull Creek and Slaughterhouse Gully.
Angus McMillan, Cal learnt, was known by another name: the butcher of Gippsland. Driven to piece together his story and to investigate her own family history, Cal decides to retrace is journey, looking for answers. How could a man lauded for his integrity commit such appalling acts?
This is a compelling and beautifully written memoir about dark and shameful family secrets, the burden of inter-generational grief and one young woman’s pilgrimage to attempt to lay the past to rest.
Thicker Than Water, by Cal Flynn, published by William Collins, £16.99.