Dream Island by R.M. Lockley

“The concept of ‘following your dream’ seems like a very modern concoction, but here we have an example of it in the first half of the twentieth century . . . And, for a few brief years between the wars, the dream blossomed.” Amy Liptrot

In 1927, R. M. Lockley became the custodian of Skokholm and its derelict farmhouse, where he spent twelve years with his wife and daughter, building his utopia from the bounty of the sea, recording and studying migratory birds, working the land, living out his dream until it was shattered by the outbreak of the Second World War. Dream Island is an inspiring journey of how R.M. Lockley, a naturalist of international renown, discovered his love of nature and the freedom and struggle of living a self-sufficient life.

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Read Amy Liptrot’s introducion

Paperback | 216 x 156mm| 176 pages

Cover artwork by Thomas Henry Thomas
With photographs from the R. M. Lockley family archive


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R. M. Lockley was born in Whitchurch, a Cardiff suburb, where his childhood was spent in the woods and wetlands around the old Glamorganshire Canal. After leaving school he started poultry farming, but gave this up in 1927 when he took on a twenty-one-year lease of Skokholm. Once settled with his family on the island, he began a pioneering study of migratory seabirds, notably the shearwaters and storm petrels, and established the first bird observatory in Britain. Returning to farming on the mainland when Skokholm was acquired by the military in 1940, he continued to be an active naturalist and conservationist, playing a leading role in establishing the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

Additional information

Weight350 g
Dimensions216 × 156 × 15 mm

1 review for Dream Island by R.M. Lockley

  1. Jason Denness

    Who out there hasn’t had that dream of living on their own on a remote island, getting away from the chaos of life and not only surviving but actually thriving…I have, but the issue for me is that an island isn’t the best environment for storing all my books and I go where they go. Lockley is one of those rare people who successfully followed their dreams when he became custodian of an island just off the Pembrokeshire coast, it is a rugged place inhabited by a large colony of birds, a derelict farmhouse and incredibly difficult to access via boat…for Lockley this was perfect.

    His first job was to get the island liveable for himself and his new wife, buildings needed to be fixed, walls rebuilt and gardens prepared, a huge undertaking…made all the more easier with a fortuitous ship wreck filled with a lot of the stuff he needed. Once the island is ready his wife moves in and they work together to become self sufficient which requires a huge amount of hard graft and they still find time to document life on the island, both theirs and the natural world…and when they need a break from island life there is the odd storm to go sailing in.

    The writing here is spectacular, Lockley is a natural entertainer on the page, he can ramp up the excitement during a storm one moment then describe some tedious hard work cutting peat and instantly change the mood as he stops work to admire some young fledglings taking shelter near him. He saw beauty in everything on the island and it was so easy to get caught up in his enthusiasm…at one point he was looking for help and I almost had me bags fully packed before I realised I’d missed my chance. One amusing quirk to his writing is how little time was spent describing his wife and daughter whilst the shipwreck takes up a large number of pages, you can still see that he adores his wife, anything she requires doing he jumps right on it and gets it done…nothing like how my dad deals with my mum’s demands.

    This was a wonderful book, filled with excitement, bravery, humour and a proper love of nature, highly recommended for an adventurer out there.

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