pawpaw for the passionate

Born in Liverpool England in 1852, Edmund James Banfield came to Australia as a boy with his journalist father. The young E.J. also grew up to be a journalist but suffered a breakdown in 1897 and was given 6 months to live.

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It was then that he and his wife Bertha obtained a lease on Dunk Island off the coast of Queensland. Originally named Coonanglebah by the Aborigines, it had been renamed Dunk by Captain Cook in honour of Montagu Dunk, the Earl of Sandwich.

(image caricatured Lord Sandwich slipping money into the pocket of an attractive carrot-seller, said to be one of his usual amusements)

Bertha and E.J arrived with very little apart from camping and gardening equipment and a small boat. But their new home had plenty of coconuts, avocados, oysters and fish and it didn’t take long for them to create an enviable paradise. In 1908, E.J. published “Confessions of a Beachcomber” which prompted hundreds of people to write asking him how to find their own tropical island.

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The profits from this book enabled the Banfields to invite a former servant, Essie, to move in with them as a companion for Bertha. In subsequent books he theorised that the human race could thrive on a diet composed entirely of bananas. He was also devoted to the pawpaw and assured readers that it made a woman more beautiful and a man more virile.

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Dunk Island was the location used in filming “Age of Consent” starring James Mason and a 22 year old Helen Mirren. It was on this film set that Mason met his second wife, Clarissa Kaye who played his ex girlfriend. Their bedroom scene was cut by the censors who deemed it too hot. Nothing to do with the 103 degree temperature she was suffering at the time

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Published in: on July 7, 2010 at 8:45 am  Comments (51)  
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51 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Helen Mirren could go snorkeling with me any day…

    • Another good reason not to take up smoking again 😉

  2. Ah …. the rare split tailed mermaid ….. Archie will get VERY excited ……

    • Now that’s something I’d like to see

  3. ….. it’s difficult smoking underwater BTW …..

    • daisyfae is capable of doing many difficult things

      • A flexible approach is very important …..

      • oh she’s flexible alright

      • i can stick a wet spoon to my forehead! video soon…

  4. If you stuck me on a deserted island alone I would perish within 10 days. Maybe less. Men were men back then. The closest I ever get to roughing it is if I drink a cup of coffee that’s gone cold.

    • But you can rock your babies to sleep; I like that trait in a man

    • An unbearable banishment indeed.

  5. Apparently in this island paradise he knew enough to bring a typewriter with him. Possibly to crack open those coconuts with before he got to writing his book.

    • Or something to play with while his wife was busy with Essie

  6. Ha! “Too hot” back then is probably “High School Musical” now…

    • I dunno…. James Mason always looked like a bit of a goer to me

  7. -earworm alert-

    pick’n up paw paws put em in yer pocket.

  8. Just livin’ the dream.

    • How beautiful does Dunk Island look in that photo? I must go there one day

  9. I fell for Helen Mirren in ‘2010,’ years before I saw ‘Age of Consent’ – but ‘Age of Consent’ didn’t hurt either . . . .

    • Hey FFE – good to see you back here again!

      • Amazing what the juxtoposition of Helen Mirren in a Soviet Air force flight suit and then in not much else can do for a man . . . .

  10. Isn’t there some sickness you get from eating too many bananas??

    • I don’t know bearman, I haven’t heard of one.

      • I have heard they can affect your potassium levels (at extremely high intakes of banana) and can lead to constipation.

  11. I’m not living on bananas, that’s for sure, but I’ll happily go skinny dipping. That looks like fun.

    • I was skinny dipping at Skala Erressos this time last week…. now I’m wrapped up in three layers of clothing and a blanket, nursing a head cold 😦

  12. Not sure about teh banana diet and I’d have to becareful about skinny dipping in case there was a Japanese whaler around….

  13. I like these tales of home-grown Australian eccentrics. Although cultivating pawpaw passions on a beautiful island seems rather sensible to me. Perhaps you might edify your foreign readers about the other famous island-dwellers, Charmian Clift and co? Or perhaps this was previously ‘gimcracked’ …

    • No, I haven’t blogged about Charmian. I’ll look into it

  14. A shame about the name change to Dunk Island. I rather like Coonanglebah. 🙂

  15. Is it just me, or does Helen’s bottom look quite masculine?

    • Perhaps. It is nice and pert though

  16. Helen Mirren is still damn hot. Saw her in “Calendar Girls” and it raised my…. ummm… interest in her all over again.

  17. I do hot bedroom scenes, did on last night cause I accidently shut off the Central Air upstairs

  18. My grandmother firmly believed in eating bananas. She pretty much lived on bananas, Cream of Wheat, and sliced turkey. She had a great bod. Unlike me, living on a diet of Cheez Its, Reeses Pieces, and Diet Coke (counteracts the calories in the first two).

    • I could live on peanut butter and seafood

  19. I for one would not want to live on bananas alone. However Helen is a wonderful actress.

  20. This is one of my longest running (since I was 4 years old) fantasies of my life! I would love to live on an island, alone! This was why I loved Lost so much too.

    Can I get some peanut butter with my banana?

  21. I love the idea of living on an island as long as I could get a decent burger.

  22. I have never eaten pawpaw, but I know all about it because of Disney’s version of The Jungle Book.

  23. My parents had four pawpaw trees in their back yard. I can say with some experience that pawpaws are nothing spectacular but definitely an acquired taste.

  24. Oh, the Pawpaw Festival! Haven’t thought about that in years. Thank you for bringing back so many memories of my time in Athens, Ohio.

  25. I just-missed the 2008 Pawpaw Festival. It probably wouldn’t have been as much fun as slipping some small change into the pocket of an attractive carrot seller.

  26. (Who sells all the ugly ones?)


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