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Today's quote:

Sunday, December 11, 2016

An email from an island that's further from anywhere than anywhere else in the world

 

Sometimes people asked me how I happened to live and work in remote places like Rabaul or Bougainville Island or Honiara or Thursday Island in the Torres Strait but those places don't even come close to the remoteness of Saint Helena Island.

Saint Helena Island had only been known to me as the place where Napoleon was exiled in 1815 and where he died in 1821. Now I also know it as the place where Ian Rummery resides, the son of Richard Rummery who worked with us on Bougainville Island from 1972 to 1979, after he had emailed me in response to my Bougainville blog.

"From Bougainville to Saint Helena - that's amazing! What's your story?" I asked. And here it is:

"Not sure when I first heard of St Helena", writes Ian, "but in 1991 I was living in Clare, South Australia. I had bought a map of the world and drew a circle around St Helena which had 'U.K.' written next to it, so I knew people spoke English there, and the remoteness attracted me. I remember driving to Adelaide and going to the library to look up shipping connections to the island (those were the pre-Google days when you had to physically go and find stuff)."

"Three years later I was living in Cornwall in England when, generally fed up with life, I walked into the local travel agent and asked if they knew how I could get to St Helena. Well, they had just received travel brochures about going to South Africa and on the back of the brochure was an advert for the Royal Mail Ship St Helena and so I booked."

"In those days the RMS travelled four times a year to St Helena from Cardiff. The voyage took two weeks, and my plan was to spend a week on the island and then travel down to South Africa. I met [my future wife] Belinda on the RMS. Belinda was going home to St Helena on holidays and I ended up staying five weeks on St Helena and then returned to the UK. Belinda followed about a month later as she had a nannying job in London. I ended up moving in with her and the family she was working for who lived in a massive house in central London."

 

Belinda and Ian Rummery with son Tobias

 

"In 1999 we were going back to St Helena to get married. About a day out, the RMS suffered massive engine failure and we wound up in Brest in France. As the RMS was out of action, they chartered another ship from Greece. So we flew to Gibraltar, got on this ship and arrived on St Helena on the day we were originally supposed to have got married. We got married several weeks later and invited the entire RMS crew as they had been so good to us while we were tied up in Brest."

"Then in 2003 we came out to St Helena to live and we haven't looked back. I work as a nurse and Belinda runs a creche from the house. I am not a believer in fate or destiny but all I know is that from the moment I first set foot on the island I was home."

Well, Ian, that's more than could be said of Napoleon who, having been exiled to the island of Elba in the Mediterranean, was back on the European continent at the head of a hastily-raised army intent on restoring himself to the throne of France. He was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo and this time the European powers took no chances and exiled him to this "escape-proof" barren and wind-swept rock in the South Atlantic Ocean.

 

 

If you're a history buff, read "Terrible Exile: The Last Days of Napoleon on St Helena" by Brian Unwin - here's a short preview.

 

Click here to open brochure in separate window

 

Better still, book yourself aboard the Royal Mail Ship St Helena and visit Ian who, unlike Napoleon, 'le moderne Prométhée sur son roc', is very much alive and happy to show you around Saint Helena Island.

Tell him I sent you! ☺