Island of Dreams by Tony Williams
This is an old book from the early 90’s but I thought it worthy of mention, as I’ve been having a re-read.
The true story of a Welsh family who left Swansea to live on a remote Pacific island. Tony Williams was determined to fulfil his lifelong ambition. They would become the Bounty Hunters – he the latter-day Robinson Crusoe, Kathy his girl Friday, and the children his castaway clan. Tony Williams swapped the gloom of recession-hit Britain for a hut on the desert island of Mania, 10,000 miles away in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This is the story of their initial struggle for survival and of their eventual life in paradise.
Unlike many books of this type, the Williams family were not wealthy. They were not stockbrokers, or writers. At the start of the book, Tony is living in a damp one room, with no heating with 2 young children and a heavily pregnant wife.
He came from a broken home in the Welsh valleys, and was ‘a bit weird’. He practiced meditation and as a young man went to London for 6 weeks. On his return no-one wanted to know about it. As far as they were concerned, he might as well have gone to the moon.
His dream of an island life was not one of adventure but of escape, from the dreary existence of modern Britain. Teenage joy riders racing up and down their street at night. Hours and hours of homework and stress for his children. Bullies, and kids getting mugged for their trainers. Narrow-minded friends, poll tax bills and workplace bureaucracy.
Working as a school caretaker it takes them years to save up the money, and only then when a national newspaper offers to pay them for their story can they go. He doesn’t like this but takes it anyway.
A letter writing campaign to islands of the world hooks them up with the Cook Islands. Eventually they are offered a possibly of an island to stay on.
And so with a tent from Millets and everyone they know thinking they are bonkers, they fly off into the unknown.
Meeting with the headman of an island they may get permission to live on he puts forward his case;
He told them about pollution in south Wales. He told them about the pace of life, the desperate unemployment, the crime and unhappiness, the suicide statistics. Above all, he mentioned the materialism of life.
‘Everybody’s struggling with everybody else, see. There’s an expression; dog eat dog. That describes our culture in Britain. It’s very stressful, very unnatural and restless. The whole society concentrates on money and power. I think that’s corrupting. I mean, I want my children to experience nature, a life of nature, for themselves. Something pure and not corrupt, because that’s not a suitable type of atmosphere to be growing up in.’
It works an eventually they arrive on a lonely spit of land with little fresh water.
Of course it’s not perfect. They were woefully under prepared. In his desire to get away from the modern world, Tony wants little in the way of supplies. The island will provide. They are eventually persuaded by the locals to take some food and medicine with them.
Later a hurricane nearly kills them, Tony tying his young daughter to a tree to stop her being blown away.
And when one of the boys becomes really ill, they realize, they have to leave. They’ll be no coming back to the island. They will be returning to Swansea…
I’ve read this book many times. Its not about a desert island, it’s about fighting the naysayers and following your heart. I’d love to know what happened to the family next, but maybe that would spoil it.