Lovely Lambay

Last week I was lucky enough to fulfil a dream I’ve had since I started researching the RMS Tayleur a couple of years ago: I was able to visit Lambay.  This beautiful island lies off the coast of Howth, a little to the north of Dublin, and I was taken over on a speedy inflatable called a ‘rib’ (I’d like to make some kind of Adam/Eve joke but my brain is still too giddy, do leave one in the comments section if you’re up for it).  I saw a sleeping seal bobbing straight up and down like a cork in the water, all sorts of seabirds that I won’t even attempt to (mis)identify, jellyfish, and a minke whale.  It was BRILLIANT.  I absolutely recommend contacting Eoin Grimes of Skerries SeaTours on [Irish code] 0863043847 if you’re in the area.with Tayleur book on Lambay - harbour

Lambay isn’t just a stunning bird reserve full of deer and wallabies (yes, really), it’s also where the RMS Tayleur wrecked 48 hours into her maiden voyage for the White Star Line 160 years ago.  290 survivors climbed the treacherous cliffs to safety despite horrific injuries and shock, and stayed there for a couple of nights (most of them out in the open) until they could be transported to the mainland.  It was gloriously sunny when I was there, with barely a breeze, but I couldn’t help but look on those near-vertical cliffs in horror.  They’re menacing even on a late summer’s day, let alone in a winter storm.

Tayleur Bay on Lambay

I took my copy of “The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian Titanic‘” (Pen & Sword, 2014) and read the names from the back of the book aloud, all 700+ of them.  It took ages and really drove home just how many people were directly involved with this horrific shipwreck.  I felt incredibly privileged to be there, and to be able to leave as I chose.  Many hundreds of those on board the RMS Tayleur that day did not.

Tayleur Bay

If you have any questions or information on the Tayleur do feel free to leave a comment or to email me at


Sickly Sea Travel

In the UK the summer holidays are now upon us (or at least upon lucky colleagues and school children), so if you’re in the Warrington/Cheshire area and fancy hearing about the plight of Victorians venturing overseas in a time before plentiful lifeboats, buoyancy aids, and loos, where even in a luxury cabin you could well be sharing your bed with a manky great rat, this talk might be for you.

Sickly Sea Travel

I’ll be appearing at Waterstones in Golden Square, Warrington, on Saturday 23rd August at 11am with a reproduction chamberpot, plastic rat, and genuine Victorian clothing including corset and bloomers – NB: I won’t be wearing them, they’d never fit – to talk about crinolines and crapping, being sick in a storm, and why you might be glad of rats on your vessel (they’re a more edible meal than putrefying pork).  Everyone’s welcome, it’s free, lasts about half-an-hour, and questions are encouraged – whether on Victorian sea travel in general, or Warrington’s own Titanic, the ill-fated RMS Tayleur.  If you can’t make it but want to know more, please feel free to contact me on twitter (@GillHoffs) or via

Waterstones has excellent wheelchair access (and parking above and below the mall).  If anyone with mobility or communication issues such as mutism/autistic spectrum disorder would rather ask about it in an online chat or as a one-to-one in person then do let me know.

If you want to read more, the new issue of Discover Your History includes my article “Travels and Tribulations” (downloadable here for £1 – you can have a nosy at the first page by clicking on the link.

Yes, I'm using a cockroach to pimp my book.  His name's Colin and he's a cutie.

Yes, I’m using a cockroach to pimp my book. His name’s Colin and he’s a cutie.

In short, Ireland was brilliant! (More to come…)

Although I was only in Ireland for a few days, I managed to pack a lot in, thanks mainly to the incredibly generous people I met there.

windy on the ferry - not going for the Morrissey look, honest

windy on the ferry – not going for the Morrissey look, honest

Too much happened to cram it all into one big fat blogpost, so I’ll let it out over the next few weeks or so, bit by bit.  I’ll definitely be going back over for talks and visits (and signings) sometime this summer so do feel free to get in touch with me on twitter (@GillHoffs) or at to let me know if there’s anywhere in particular I should get in touch with or if you’re a descendant of someone involved with the wreck and fancy meeting up for cake.

Hodges Figgis in Dublin, Manor Books in Malahide, and FeelGood Scuba in Howth all stock “The Sinking of RMS Tayleurso if you fancy a look, that’s where to go.  Alternatively, you can ask your local Eason’s or independent bookseller to get it in – some libraries have it too – or try here

The best bit of the trip, the indisputable highlight amongst a ton of brilliant things, was sailing to the wrecksite itself on a gloriously sunny day.  Many thanks to Howth Sailing & Boating Club for making this happen, and to Harry Breslin for his tales of danger and discovery on the wreck itself, spanning over 50 years.

Sinking of RMS Tayleur - Gill Hoffs - hi res image

Thank you again to the people who made all this possible, including the O Duills for adopting me for the duration and feeding me pasta and icecream, Mike Medcalf for taking me out on Yacht Taurus and feeding me cheese and tomato sandwiches and soup, and John Craddock and his mum for escorting me round the anchor memorials and feeding me toast and fancy hot chocolate.  Can’t wait to go back!Malahide beach - book - Lambay



Author Talk: The Sinking of RMS Tayleur – as part of Warrington Literary Festival, 25/4, 7pm

[NB – I copied this from  Free grin to anyone who brings me caramel eggs or Nutella!]

Date(s)/Time: 25 Apr 2014, 7:00pm

Ticket Price: £3

Location: Pyramid


Gill Hoffs Author Talk: The Sinking of RMS Tayleur


Join Gill Hoffs for this evening’s talk on RMS Tayleur, how this book came about and how Gill, inspired by a visit to Culture Warrington’s Museum & Art Gallery, researched this. Gill will also share insights on the practicalities of writing nonfiction including structuring the book, research, overcoming difficulties and deadends, approaching publishers and agents, editing, sourcing illustrations, and promoting the finished product and finish with a Q&A.

Bio: Gill Hoffs was raised on the Scottish coast but has considered Warrington home for the past ten years.  Her nonfiction book “The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian Titanic’” (Pen & Sword, 2014) was written after a conversation with a curator about the Tayleur artefacts in Culture Warrington’s Museum & Art Gallery, and her short fiction and nonfiction pieces are widely available online and in print.  Please see for further details, find her on twitter as @GillHoffs, or email


Irish launch events – RMS Tayleur

Following on from the success of the Warrington and Glasgow launch events for “The Sinking of RMS Tayleur”, I’m delighted to announce that come May I’ll be in the Dublin area visiting key areas featured in the book, and paying my respects at the memorials in Rush and Portrane.

The schedule currently looks like this:

The Sinking Of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story Of The Victorian Titanic

The Sinking Of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story Of The Victorian Titanic

EDIT: Tonight’s talk and signing event, planned for 6.30pm on Wednesday 14th May at Hodges Figgis, Dublin, has been CANCELLED due to circumstances beyond my control.

Weather permitting, on Thursday I’ll sail to Tayleur Bay to see the wreck site and view the cliffs survivors climbed while talking with people who’ve dived on the actual Tayleur wreck.  Many thanks to Howth Sailing and Boating Club for making this possible.  Once back on dry land I’ll pay my respects at the Tayleur‘s anchors, which serve as memorials at Rush and Portrane.

On Friday I’m visiting the (very) Grand Hotel in Malahide, where the first inquest took place amid much skulduggery (and being interviewed for RTE’s ‘The History Show’).  If I can master the DART and bus service, I’ll also visit the Maritime Museum where the artwork featured on the cover is located along with artefacts recovered from the wreck, and St Stephen’s Church and Herbert Place which also play a part in the book.  I’m REALLY excited about all this, especially since I’m meeting up with other people who share my passion for the Tayleur.

If you have any questions about the schedule, suggestions for the trip, or information about the Tayleur and the people involved with her tragic voyage, please contact me on twitter (@GillHoffs) or email me at

Typing tag – My Writing Process, Q&A

My Writing Process is a series of blog posts in which authors ‘tag’ each other to answer some questions about their work.  The award-winning writer Victoria Watson asked me to take part.  Here’s a bit more about the lovely Vic:

Victoria Watson is a writer, teacher and proofreader. She has a Masters in Creative Writing and her latest short story “Dangerous Driving” is available for download now at  You can follow her on Twitter as @vpeanuts. And if you’re looking for a proofreader, check out Victoria’s website at

What am I working on? 

I’m currently writing the last few stories in a series of 12 about a Mancunian sex worker and what she gets up to on the 9th of every month of 2014 for Pure Slush’s “2014 – a year in stories”.  This is an ambitious project masterminded by Matt Potter, PS creator, editor and publisher extraordinaire, involving 31 writers each allocated one day per month for the whole of 2014, their stories anthologized in a set of 12 books – for further information, click here  I’m fond of my character and will be sad to see the back of her when I’m done – I have that in common with her repeat clients.  For the sake of my dad and brothers who might be reading this, I shall state for the record that any resemblance between she and I is purely coincidental etc. etc. m’lud.  Apart from that, I’m writing articles and guestblogs to help promote my current book about a Victorian shipwreck, organizing talks on it, and preparing to research another shipwreck for my next nonfiction book.

The Sinking Of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story Of The Victorian Titanic

The Sinking Of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story Of The Victorian Titanic – OUT NOW!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The other 30 story-threads in the 2014 series are each wildly different from their sibling pieces.  Mine is a raunchy, explicit, tongue-in-cheek (and often elsewhere) account of an unnamed escort in the North-West of England who has themed pubic hair – e.g. a heart for February, a Christmas tree, a maple leaf – and a crush on her agency’s secretary.  It’s a world away from what I’ve spent the last two years working on, a nonfiction book called “The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian Titanic’” which is out now from Pen & Sword.  That had me crying over my laptop, this has me giggling as I type.

Why do I write what I do?

Because it’s what comes into my head.  I read across many genres and enjoy a variety of styles, and I think this is reflected in my work.  Also, I have a pretty infantile, filthy sense of humour – say “fart” to me (as my six year old often does) and I can’t help but snigger – so I tend to write about sex in a way that makes me laugh.  Writing about something relatively lighthearted is a real palate-cleanser after spending so long immersed in the tragic death of hundreds.

How does my writing process work?

If I have a first line – a remark, a line of description, the much-sought-after telling detail – then the rest of the story will flow.  I tend to have the end-line or image or action in mind when I start too.  I like to write as much as I can at once, in one go, but if I have to break off then I find it easiest to rejoin the story if I stop mid-sentence or mid-thought at a point where the piece is flowing easily.  I like to eat as I sit down to write, something tasty and usually bad for me (Nutella is thanked at the back of my shipwreck book for good reason), and sometimes if there’s a particular tune or song or film looping in my head then I’ll put that on in the background on loop so it frees up whatever mental energy I’m using up on remembering those words or images for mine.  Certain films and songs have really strong associations for me as a result, e.g. M*A*S*H* and the Blur documentary “Nowhere Left To Run” are shipwreck accompaniments, and Echo and the Bunnymen’s “Killing Moon” takes me back to writing a short story for the US-based site Literary Orphans last year.  I find writing a purgative process that’s also great for stress relief and a source of huge satisfaction.  I’m glad my brain derives such pleasure from what’s essentially just word-arranging and day-dreaming.  If my ‘everything is okay’ button was pressed by something risky or expensive or annoying then that wouldn’t be much fun for my family.  Thankfully, indulging my sweet tooth with chocolate dipped in Nutella is as decadent as I get.

These two brave writers will share their own approaches next week:

Matt Potter is an Australian writer born and based in Adelaide, who keeps part of his pysche in Berlin.  He is the founding editor of Pure Slush.  Matt has also been nominated for the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll’s Best Magazine / e-zine Editor.

Shane Simmons writes in between being a till monkey, stuffing his face and having brain frazzles in the middle of the night. He lives in miserable Glasgow, came from miserable London and is willing to listen to strangers talk about their lives if they buy him cakes. He doesn’t like Twitter as there is a word limit but he can be found blogging at

If you have any questions about writing processes, my Nutella habit, or a rude joke to share do feel free to comment or email me at