This dramatic, harrowing, but ultimately uplifting story is based on the experiences of the author's grandfather who, in 1868, along with four other young boys from the Scottish town of Greenock, stowed away on a cargo ship bound for Quebec, anticipating a great adventure.
The young stowaways were discovered too late for the ship to turn around and return to Greenock and would have to remain on board until it reached its destination.
Angry at having four extra mouths to feed, the captain and mate took out their frustrations on their young prisoners, who were put on starvation rations and forced to work on deck in freezing conditions.
Worse was to come when they were put ashore on the ice off the Newfoundland coast and left to fend for themselves... And there they would have perished if not for the bravery and kindness shown by local Newfoundlanders who sent a boat out to rescue them and took them back to their homes to nurse them back to health after their ordeal.
The boys eventually returned to Scotland, where they were able to tell their story, which was picked up by local and national newspapers and became something of a scandal. This led to the captain and mate who had treated them so cruelly being taken to court and duly punished for their actions.