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20th-century Robinson Crusoe bought a desert island and lived there until his death – Rejected a $50 million offer for the island he loved

In 1962, Brendon Grimshaw did something some of us only dream of. But few do.

He bought an island, the island of Moyanne, which is in the southern seas, and is more precisely one of the 115 islands of the Seychelles archipelago.

The island is tiny, 400 meters long and 300 meters wide. It was uninhabited but full of exotic vegetation, with snow-white beaches by the sky-blue sea. There are many legends on the island, including the one that pirates from centuries past hid their treasures there.
Image by Alamy
Grimshaw is originally from the UK but moved to Kenya where he worked as an editor. Tanzania had just declared its independence and Kenya was about to follow. Grimshaw therefore firmly assumed that his work would pass into the hands of a local, and at the age of 37 he began to think about what he should do next.

He dreamed of living closer to nature and preferably owning land in the Seychelles.

Love at first sight

So Grimshaw went to the Seychelles to see if his dream could come true. But after a few weeks, he was about to give up, because even in the early 1960s not everyone could afford a piece of an island.

The island of Moyanne belonged to Philippe and Vera Geroges from 1946 to 1962. They lived on the island for several years and Philippe then sailed daily to the island of Mahé, where he worked.
Brendon Grimshaw
But the couple had begun to age, had been moved among people, and Grimshaw unexpectedly learned from a conversation with a local that the couple were considering selling the island. He decided to visit this small island and was immediately impressed. Absolutely in love with Average. “It was completely unlike anything I had seen before,” he said years later. “It was a unique feeling. It’s the place I’ve been looking for all my life.”

More than enough to do

Grimshaw knew he had to act fast before a big corporation bought the island and built a five-star hotel there.

And at 11:56 p.m., the last day in the Seychelles, Grimshaw signed a purchase agreement and bought Average for 8,000,000 pounds. In today’s value, it is about 162,000 pounds or almost 30 million Icelandic ISK.

But Graham’s story on Middle Island was just beginning. The island was covered in vegetation, the trees were so dense that the coconuts couldn’t fall to the ground, and most of the island was impossible to walk on.

Weeds had taken up residence literally everywhere, and rats were breeding on the island, well, as rats do.
There was a lot of vegetation, mostly weeds on the island. Photo/Alamy
Grimshaw hired an assistant, René Antoine Lafortune, 19, from the neighboring island of Mahé, and together they set off. They cut down trees and removed weeds to give vegetation room to grow and planted all kinds of plants that were on the island but disappeared due to weeds.

In total, these friends planted 16,000 trees.


Once Grimshaw was reasonably satisfied with the state of the vegetation, he turned to his next task, the lack of wildlife.

There were no birds on the island, so Grimshaw bought 10 birds from a nearby island, but they just flew home. But Grimshaw wasn’t about to give up and bought ten more birds. They also flew away but some of them came back. Grimshaw and Lafortune carefully nurtured them by planting fruit trees, and gradually other species of birds followed. Perhaps they felt there was plenty to eat on the island. And with this, the foundations for the avifauna on the island were laid.

Today there are about 2000 birds on Moyenne.

Next, Grimshaw brought the magnificent Aldabra tortoises to the island. They are native to the Seychelles but have unfortunately become extinct on many islands and would likely have disappeared if Grimshaw had not brought them to Moyenne.

Grimshaw tagged the turtles and then began their extensive breeding. He loved them so much that he had mothers with newborn babies in his room to make sure everything was okay. “They are my children,” Grimshaw later said in an interview.

Today there are about 50 turtles on the island.
With their children.
$50 million denial

After ten years of hard work, Grimshaw finally moved to the island permanently in 1972. He installed running water, electricity and even a telephone line, and many thought he should now consider building a tourist resort .

But far from it, Grimshaw could not think of such a thing. Until his death, he rejected numerous offers to buy the island, including that of a Saudi prince who offered as much as $50 million for the island.
Friends Grimsaw and Lafortune
Grimshaw lived on his island from 1972 until his death in 2012. But he wasn’t always alone. When his mother died in 1981, he invited his father to come live with him and later admitted to being stunned, but delighted, when his father, then 88, gratefully accepted the invitation.

“It was wonderful living with my father in this beautiful place and we became even closer than before,” he later said. Grimshaw’s father lived with his son for five years until he died and was buried there. Grimshaw himself dug his father’s burial place and another next to it, and it was to be his own burial place.

old friends reunite

But Grimshaw wasn’t alone long after his father’s death because his old friend and colleague, René Antoine Lafortune, moved to the island and brought dogs with him. They started allowing occasional visitors to come for a day trip to the island, but under strict supervision. In 2010, Grimshaw accepted the arrival of filmmakers who made a documentary about Grimshaw and the island.

Lafortune died in 2007, when Grimshaw was 81. He knew the time had come to make a decision about the future of the island, for there was no telling what he had far ahead of him. He was single and childless and therefore no one to officially take over the island. So he struck a deal with the Ministry of Environment of the Seychelles Islands, which is Africa’s smallest country, whereby the state would take over ownership of the island after his death in exchange for the transformation of the island in national park.

Is Moyenne the smallest national park in the world.
One last photo of Brendon Grimshaw on the island he loved.
Grimshaw, as previously mentioned, died in 2012 and is buried next to his father on the island. Her tombstone reads: “Average opened his eyes to beauty and filled him with gratitude to God.”

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The Eastern Herald’s Editorial Board validates, writes, and publishes the stories under this byline. That includes editorials, news stories, letters to the editor, and multimedia features on easternherald.com.

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