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    Barry Watts gets dunked ...

E.J.'Ted' BANFIELD

Beating a Healthy Retreat

E. J. Banfield's evergreen classic, The Confessions of a Beachcomber , was published with the help of an eccentric, middle-aged English adventurer, who subsequently renounced a baronetcy, became a Czech citizen, and funded a Chinese revolution.

The author himself, 'Ted' Banfield, had trained as a journalist on his family's newspaper at Ararat, Victoria, and gained further experience before accepting the position of sub-editor in Townsville on the local 'Bulletin' in 1882.

He worked long hours and poured his boundless energy into his job. However, after 17 years of frustration under an alcoholic boss, Ted Banfield suffered a breakdown.

His wife took him to recuperate at their favorite camping site on Dunk Island. With a cheap, 30 year lease over part of the island, the couple decided to see if they could adapt to a long term tenancy there. Banfield quickly regained his health and they decided to stay.

In The Confessions of a Beachcomber he recalled that they were "not youthful enthusiasts, but beings who had arrived at an age when many of the minor romances are of the past." He was forty-six and his wife was almost forty.

So began their comparatively solitary 25 year occupancy of picuresque Dunk Island. Its terrain was rugged and covered in jungle growth, so Ted selected a spot facing the mainland to build their first hut and later a bungalow. They soon became self-sufficient, growing their own vegetables, cropping the abundance of wild fruits, and fishing in the surrounding waters. They also introduced bees and laying hens to the island, as well as a cow and goats for butter and milk supplies.

Banfield then decided to return to his old craft. He began writing nature articles for the Townsville Star , the Cairns Argus and the North Queensland Register under the pseudonym 'The Beachcomber'.

One of Dunk Island's many distinguished visitors was Walter Strickland, a multi-lingual natural scientist whose wide-ranging knowledge overwhelmed Banfield. Strickland insisted that Ted's columns be published as a book. He undertook to find a publisher and, if necessary, to guarantee the expense of publication.

That's how Banfield's first major book, The Confessions of a Beachcomber , came to be associated with such an unusual character.


© BARRY JOHN WATTS 2002

   


Ted Banfield, 1901
'Ted' Banfield
three years after
his breakdown

 


Banfield at Brammo Bay, 1912
Banfield the beachcomber,
Brammo Bay,
Dunk Island 1912

 


Banfield's memorial cairn
Memorial cairn over Banfield's
grave on five-star Dunk Island

 

 
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