ANYONE who tuned into the BBC on Sunday got to see Dewsbury’s real-life Robinson Crusoe – Brendon Grimshaw.
In the latest in a series about the Indian Ocean, presenter Simon Reeve talked to 86-year-old Brendon, who swapped Dewsbury for the Seychelles when he bought his island home in 1962.
The former journalist paid just £8,000 for Moyenne and has since toiled ceaselessly to transform the island into the world’s smallest national park, planting thousands of trees, bringing back birdlife and giving sanctuary to more than 100 giant tortoises.
He has also repeatedly turned down offers of millions to sell Moyenne. “I have always said ‘no’,” said Brendon. “The only reason they would want it is to build a big hotel.”
The interview showed that Brendon still has traces of his Dewsbury accent, a twinkle in his eye and the down-to-earth style of a true Yorkshireman.
Brendon grew up in Hope Street in Dewsbury, his family owning an electrical shop at Webster Hill. He edited newspapers in Africa, but grew tired of the life and moved to the island where he has lived ever since and has even prepared his own grave.
Seeing Brendon on screen was a blast from the past for a number of Dewsbury people who remember him from his younger days.
Albert and Margaret Firth were particularly glad to catch up with what Brendon has been doing since they were neighbours in Hope Street.
And their son, Brian, recalled the thrill of getting rides in Brendon’s green MG sports car.
Brendon shares his home with the giant tortoises – among other creatures.
“The tortoises are welcome in my house, they go where they like,” he said. Mischievously, he put his tongue out at the camera as he searched for the smallest of the brood, born in his bedroom and just a couple of weeks old.
Reeve remarks that the island life has knocked decades off Brendon. “Well, it has given me something positive to do,” said Brendon.
But when the presenter says Moyenne is ‘paradise’, he gets the reply: “I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s paradise. I’d call it hard work.”
Brian Firth, 66, said the programme brought back lots of happy memories.
“Brendon certainly seems to have an idyllic lifestyle,” he said.
His dad, Albert, 88, recalls Brendon as ‘a very friendly young man’.
He said: “It’s amazing when you see something like that. But Brendon came across really well. It’s an incredible story, but I wouldn’t swap places with him. Well, maybe for a weekend.”