I wish I’d known Colleen McCullough. She was born just up the road from my little town, in Wellington, population 4500, but of course, by the time I came out she’d gone onto absurdly bigger things – studying at Yale, becoming a neurophysiologist (what is that even?) and penning books that became best-sellers, then films and blockbuster television series.
So while I melted into a teenage swoon over Mel Gibson (have you seen how hot he was in Tim?) or Richard Chamberlain’s tortured priest in The Thorn Birds, it took a visit to Norfolk Island to really get a glimpse of what she was like.
Norfolk – an Australian outpost that combines eye-watering beauty, a bloody colonial history and a kind of insular mystery, thanks to the mutiny on The Bounty and the fact that so many of the population are descendants of nine of the ship’s men – was McCullough’s home for more than 30 years.
She moved there in 1979, buying 10 lush hectares on the island and the houses on its perimeter, presumably for privacy.