The Man Who Lost Himself is Melbourne historian Robyn Annear’s amazing account of the true story of the Tichborne Claimant, a celebrated 19th century case of identity. In 1854 Roger Tichborne, heir to an English estate, was deemed to have drowned off Chile. In 1866, a butcher from Wagga turned up in London, claiming to be the long-lost survivor, come to claim his inheritance. It’s a fascinating tale, brought to life in Robyn Annear’s inimitable quirky style.
Here’s a Sensational Snippet:
By the Claimant’s account, the antipodean Tom Castro [aka Roger Tichborne] was born, full-grown, at Row’s Yard, Bourke Street, Melbourne, on or about Saturday, 26 July, 1854 [when Melbourne’s Gold Rush was in full swing].
There he was, just off the Osprey in stiff new moleskins, a China blue shirt and his pair of elastic-sided boots. He’d been led to the saleyard by a stream of rough-looking fellows (whom he would soon distinguish as ‘bushified’) on flash, toey mounts. The streets were all clay and mud, with slush-filled potholes deeper than his boot tops. Horses and bullocks – he’d never seen so many. With the riot of building in progress and the rowdy folk crowding what passed for footpaths, it was noisier than parts of London he could have named. There seemed to be a public house on every corner, with restaurants interspersed, all of them bustling with diggers – men dressed like him but with the stiffness rubbed off and a coating of grime and brazen clay laid on. They wore battered wide-awake hats and wild whiskers. Some of them sported fistfuls of gold rings, others dangled a nugget from an earlobe. At the front of the big stores the footway was made unnavigable by stacks of tin dishes and buckets, picks, shovels, wooden tubs and billy-pots. In every shop window was a set of gold scales beside an untidy pile of the genuine article, serving in lieu of a notice: Gold Bought Here. (The Man Who Lost Himself by Robyn Annear, Text Publishing 2002, p 205)
Fishpond: The Man Who Lost Himself: The Fabulous Story of the Tichborne Claimant