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.
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.
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.
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