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E. J. Banfield E. J. Banfield i(A25359 works by) (a.k.a. Edmund James Banfield; Ted Banfield)
Also writes as: Rob Krusoe ; Rambler ; Travelling Correspondent ; The Beachcomber
Born: Established: 4 Sep 1852 Liverpool, Merseyside,
United Kingdom (UK),
Western Europe, Europe,
; Died: Ceased: 2 Jun 1923 Dunk Island, Tully area, Cardwell - Tully - Innisfail area, Ingham - Cairns area, Queensland,
Gender: Male
Arrived in Australia: 1854
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E. J. Banfield was born in Liverpool in 1852 and his family migrated to Australia in 1854. Banfield's father, Jabez W. Banfield, had been following the rushes to several goldfields, and when the gold rush to Ararat, Victoria was first reported in 1857 he established the local newspaper, the Ararat Advertiser. In Ararat the young Banfield worked as a reporter for his father, and he spent his spare time rambling through the surrounding countryside and reading. Here he developed the love of literature and nature that would stay with him for the rest of his life. He later moved to Melbourne and then to Sydney where he continued to work as a journalist, before travelling to Townsville in 1882 to join the staff of the Townsville Daily Bulletin.

In 1884 Banfield returned to England for treatment for an old eye injury. While recuperating, he met Bertha Golding (Bertha Banfield q.v.) and in 1886 she joined him in Townsville where they were married. Banfield's health began to fail and the couple started searching for an island to live on. In September 1896 they camped on Dunk Island and decided to apply for the lease for one section of the island; on 28 September 1897 they moved to the island and set up their home. They lived for six years in a small hut, before building a larger home and establishing a substantial fruit and vegetable plantation.

Banfield was an acute observer of the island's native flora and fauna, and as his health improved he began to write again, under the pseudonym 'The Beachcomber'. From 1907 his articles about Dunk Island, life in the tropics, and tropical flora and fauna appeared in various newspapers and periodicals, especially in the North Queensland Register and the Townsville Daily Bulletin. Much of his writing focused on tropical fruits, the flora and fauna of Dunk Island, the local Aboriginal people, and the prospects of industry in North Queensland. He was also particularly fascinated by the birds of Dunk Island, and he lobbied to have Dunk and the surrounding islands designated 'Reserves for the Protection and Preservation of Native Birds'.

In 1908 some of Banfield's articles were collected and published as The Confessions of a Beachcomber. The book won Banfield international fame among people who were intrigued and enchanted by the depiction of life on the island. Later collections of Banfield's short pieces were published as My Tropic Isle (1911) and Tropic Days (1918). A posthumous collection, Last Leaves From Dunk Island, was published in 1925. Banfield's other works include books on Townsville and the Great Barrier Reef and a travel account of a steamer journey from Queensland to England (1885).

Banfield died in June 1923 and was buried in his own garden on Dunk Island. His grave bears the inscription of Thoreau's words: 'If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears.'

Most Referenced Works

Known archival holdings

University of Queensland University of Queensland Library Fryer Library (QLD)
Last amended 23 Sep 2008 15:19:42
Influence on:
The Beachcomber's Wife Adrian Mitchell , 2016 single work novel
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