A former Chronicle journalist’s dip into genealogy has led him to unearth an extraordinary story of rags to riches and back again, scandalous romance and brutal frontier ruthlessness, and now a novel based on the life of his pioneering great-great grandmother is set for UK and Australian launches. 


‘The End of the Sky,’ relates the saga of Ellen Bullingham, born in Cheltenham in 1849 who began her working life aged twelve as a live-in pub servant before emigrating to Queensland with her young husband, Enoch and a baby son in 1873, leaving behind a two-year-old daughter. 


Now her great-great grandson, Pontypool-based author and journalist, Bob Rogers, has brought her story to life. ‘All I knew was a branch of my mother’s family hailed from Uckington, Cheltenham, but when I began my search, I discovered that a relative I was unaware of in Queensland had done much of the groundwork - and it led to Ellen’s remarkable adventures,’ he said. 


Bob Rogers (Bob Rogers)

Ellen and Enoch’s landing in Queensland in January 1873 was fortuitous as it coincided with the dawn of the Palmer River gold rush which was to yield more than a hundred tons of alluvial gold unearthed by tens of thousands of European and Chinese prospectors. 


But conditions on the fields were brutal with searing heat, disease, toxic wildlife and explosive tensions as mutual hatred and distrust between Europeans and Chinese flared white hot with both factions also in dread of hostile native tribes. 


After Enoch transgressed the law and was sent thousands of miles to a Western Australia labour camp, Ellen encountered beautiful Irish teenager, Theresa Kelly. A friendship developed into something much deeper and Ellen had to contend with the conflict of forbidden love in a time of intolerance. 


Author, Rogers is no stranger to literary success with a London Playmakers Play of the Year award, international TV and radio script credits and the acclaimed children’s novel, Northwind. He told the Chronicle, ‘Even though the novel is a dramatised account of the Ellen’s travels and adventures, many of the people and the places are real.  

‘She experienced tremendous hardships and dangers, discovering and losing a fortune before also losing and finding new love, forging enduring friendships and making deadly enemies. But it’s a story of hope springing from tragedy.’ 

Bob’s previous forays into the world of books include his children’s bookNorthwind, the story of an albino hedgehog which was illustrated by Rebecca Paul, from Blaina.

The book was hailed as ‘beautiful’ by chief executive of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, whose supporters include former MP Ann Widdecombe, BBC presenter Ben Fogle, and Queen guitarist Brian May.

Singer, Sandi Thom, also fell in love with the book, describing it as ‘enchanting’.

 The End of the Sky is published by The Vanner Press and will receive its UK launch later this year as part of Cheltenham Literature Festival. However, a local promotional event is planned for Abergavenny Library on the morning of Saturday, May 18.