A lifetime of travel in first book

Author Anne Prentice at home in Towerburn near Denholm.
Author Anne Prentice at home in Towerburn near Denholm.

A lifetime spent moving house, teaching and travelling across the globe has been the inspiration for a first-time Hawick author.

Anne Prentice lives near Denholm, but drew on her experiences living on four continents for her debut, Born Under a Wandering Star.

Anne’s peripatetic lifestyle was sparked, she says, by marrying into the Navy.

She met her husband, John, when they met across the Atlantic.

“He was on a ship that came in to Jamaica while I was there teaching,” she said. “He still sails, in fact, he’s off for two or three weeks at the moment, in the Scottish Islands.”

But there was also a family tradition of travel, especially, Anne says, among her female ancestors, who “were the type who were just getting on with it.”

“I was born and bred in the kind of family that would travel.

“There were seven generations of them that grew up in Fife, the recruiting ground for the Highland Light Infantry.

“They had been involved in the army, especially in the Indian Raj, for many years, so I think it was in the blood.

“I come from that kind of woman who was always travelling and packing and unpacking, while the men, engineers mainly, were building reservoirs and dams and so forth.

“There was a culture to it, and it was very interesting to me, so I thought that I would pursue it.”

That culture led to Anne living and working in places like Algeria, Kenya, Pakistan, Tanzania and Turkey before returning to Scotland and making a home near Denholm.

Looking back, she said: “Of course, what strikes me now is that many of those places, those countries, are very closed to Westerners now.

“And even when they’re not closed off, they are very different. I haven’t been to India since...oh, I don’t know 1980, and even then it was only getting stuck in the Dehli airport because I was on my way to Australia and I didn’t have a visa. But things change,and there are experiences in these places that aren’t available anymore.”

Those experiences often revolved around water, as might be expected with Anne’s Navy husband, but also around Anne’s teaching career.

For instance, not many people would go to the effort to take a boat to Victoria Falls.

Why? Anne explains: “Well, the falls are 900m inland, and 3-4,000 feet above sea level, so if you want to do what we did, you have to put the boat on a train to get it to where you want to sail!”

While in Africa, Anne concentrated a lot of her efforts into educating people about water safety.

“I saw the kids there, and they could swim like trout,” she says, “but there were other people who were drowning in the reservoirs to the dams that were being built and rivers and other places, so I decided - in some very bad Swahili that the children, the Girl Guides and Boy Scouts, taught me - to teach them, because I had done Royal Lifesaving Society exams and so on. I don’t know if there was a favourite place that I lived, but I will always remember Tanzania for that.”

Anne’s book is out now from Austin Macauley Publishers.

It is available directly from their website, as well as WHSmith, Waterstones, Amazon and Foyles.