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Background to
The Merriman Chronicles

In the Spring of 1998, workmen demolishing an old nursing home in the country to the north-west of Chester, discovered bundles of old papers concealed behind a bricked up fireplace.  One of the men with more perspicacity than his fellows, rescued the papers from the bonfires of rubbish and gave them to his employer, a builder, who,  knowing of my interest in such things, passed them on to me.  The discovered papers were mostly in a very bad state due to the effects of dampness, mildew and the depredations of vermin over the years, and many of the oldest bundles were totally illegible.  Another obvious problem was that the papers had been written by different people and some of the handwriting was not of the best. Sorting the papers into chronological order took many months of part time effort, indeed I gave up on the job for weeks and months at a time, but as I progressed with the work I realised that it was a history of the Merriman family from the late 18th century to the early years of the 20th century.

Old papers, notes, photographs and documents found behind an old fireplace
Watercolour painting of The Merriman Ancestral home in North Cheshire
Merriman Family Estate in North Cheshire

The first clearly decipherable writings referred to a certain James Abel Merriman, a naval officer at the time of the Napoleonic wars, and revealed some startling facts about French activities in and around Ireland and the Irish Sea at that time.  I quickly realised that I had in my hands the material for a novel or novels about a little known part of our history. Other papers showed that beside those serving in the navy, other members of the family were connected with the 22nd Regiment of Foot, the Cheshire Regiment.  Intriguingly, a family tree was among the papers in one of the later bundles.  Armed with that and from research in local archives, church records etc., it appeared that the last direct male heir of the family, Albert George Merriman was killed in France in 1916 and the last descendant, his unmarried sister Amy Elizabeth, a nurse, was also killed in France in 1917.

I have written several novels about members of the Merriman family whose members served their country and sometimes died for it and I have collected them under the heading “The Merriman Chronicles”. The first novel is called “A CERTAIN THREAT”.

Roger Burnage

Listen to a sample of The Merriman Chronicles, Book One, A Certain Threat.

Narrated by Nigel Peever.

00:00 / 05:00
Captain Joseph Merriman - oil painting from Merriman Collection

Captain Joseph Merriman

Retired naval officer who embodied the quintessential traits of his era. As a firm yet just disciplinarian, he commanded respect with his stern demeanor. Captain Merriman was fortunate in accumulating prize money and receiving an inheritance. With these resources, he dedicated himself to running his estate with the precision of a well-oiled machine.

Elias Merriman, Josephs' father and the first of their lineage to join the Navy, defied societal expectations by marrying a lady from the aristocracy. Unfortunately, her family disowned her for choosing an obscure naval officer as her spouse. Nevertheless, Elias rose through the ranks to become an Admiral.

Captain Merriman himself possessed a robust and hearty disposition, reflecting his straightforward approach to life. While not particularly prone to introspection or profound contemplation, he was a man of action, especially during his younger years. Serving as a magistrate, he held significant influence within the district, wielding his position for the betterment of the community.

James Abel Merriman blue eyes V3_edited.

James Abel Merriman

The young James Merriman possessed a striking appearance, characterized by his dark hair, blue eyes, and a sun-kissed complexion. Slender and of average height, he carried himself with an air of purpose. From a tender age, James harbored an unwavering desire to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather as a naval officer.

Fulfilling his aspirations, James joined the Navy at the tender age of 13. He embarked on a journey that would shape his destiny. Remarkably, by the time he reached the age of 21, he had assumed his first command, demonstrating the early recognition of his potential. His skill and dedication propelled him forward, and at the youthful age of 26, he achieved the esteemed rank of Post Captain.

Driven by an unwavering determination to excel in his chosen career, James sometimes found himself teetering on the edge of recklessness, particularly when it came to his own safety. However, it is important to note that he remained a competent and prudent officer, prioritizing the well-being of his crew above all else. 

William D'Ablay 4th Lord Stevenage - Private Collection

William D’Ablay
4th Lord Stevenage

This influential figure held considerable sway within the corridors of power in London, boasting close ties to prominent individuals such as Prime Minister Mr. Pitt. His connections extended to the treasury, which wielded control over the Revenue Service, as well as influential friends within the Admiralty.

Interestingly, this gentleman's familial connection to Merriman traced back to his Aunt, who married James Merriman's grandfather. As a widower with no surviving descendants, he assumed the role of patron to James Merriman due to this family tie. However, he maintained a discreet approach and refrained from publicizing this fact widely.

With his extensive network and behind-the-scenes influence, this gentleman silently navigated the intricacies of the political landscape, skillfully leveraging his connections to further his interests. His support and patronage of James Merriman served as a testament to the enduring bonds of family, quietly fostering the growth and opportunities for the younger generation.

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