The River Calls Us Home – revisited!

Lucy reads a classic ‘Friend’ serial – do you remember it?

There’s lots to learn when you start any new job. Since I arrived at the Fiction Desk, I’ve picked up lots about what makes a good ‘Friend’ story just by listening to Shirley, Tracey and Alan. They’ve read so many stories and serials that they know what type of fiction appeals to our readers (and on the flipside, what’s less likely to appeal!).

Something I’d heard Shirley mention on more than one occasion is a serial the ‘Friend’ ran a number of years ago, called The River Calls Us Home. The way Shirley described it, it sounded not only well-written but an absolute page-turner to boot – a sort of gold standard of ‘Friend’ serial-writing.

One email to our Archive guys later, a bound copy of our 1991 issues was winging its way to us so I could read it for myself. Do you remember it?

Written by Betty McInnes, The River Calls Us Home ran for an amazing (and possibly record-breaking!) twenty instalments, running from April to August of 1991 – when the Friend’s cover price was 33p!

Set in Dundee, it told the story of Christina Kennedy, a Dundee lass, and the daughter of whaling captain William, who named his ship – the ‘Christina K’ –  for her. Spanning 100 years, it followed the fortunes not only of Chrissie and her family but also of the rapidly-changing wider world around them. It included the struggle to achieve votes for women, two world wars, and the decline of traditional industries such as whaling and the jute mills.

Like all families, the Kennedys had their fair share of good times and bad, of births, deaths, and weddings – or hatches, matches and despatches! Fall-outs, unrequited love, sibling rivalries, heartaches, and loss…but also real friendship, true love and happiness.

Think Barbara Taylor-Bradford, set in Dundee. The characters are so true to life they could easily be real, and the way the different threads of the family members’ lives are interwoven and set in the context of the times makes fascinating reading. And all the little extras like the details of Dundee make it an absolute belter of a story.

As our 150th Anniversary approaches, we’re looking to the future, and our talented present-day writers have lots of great ideas in production! But sometimes it’s nice to have a look back, too, to see where we’ve come from, and what works best. The River Calls Us Home is available from Amazon – if you get a chance to read (or re-read) I’d definitely recommend!



Do you remember reading The River Calls Us Home? Are there any Friend stories that you remember especially? We’d love to know!


Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!