Part of the Northumberland group, 70 nautical miles south-east of
Mackay, the Percy Isles are a stunningly beautiful place of shimmering
beaches and wooded hilltops - a Robinson Crusoe island rising from the
indigo depths of the Coral Sea. Although only a day or two's sail from
the southern Whitsunday islands, the islands are rarely visited except
by cruising yachts and has never been exposed to tourism.
A conservation park on Middle Percy Island allows for some
historical uses to continue. Bush camping and private accommodation on
the island are managed by the lessee of the conservation park. While
other domestic animals are not permitted, dogs on a leash are permitted
on the walking tracks only on the Middle Percy Island Conservation
Park, but not in the rest of this island which is part of the Percy
Isles National Park.
Middle Percy Island has a fascinating history. Historical records
indicate the most remote location Aboriginal people on the east coast
were sighted was on Middle Percy Island in 1855 - with records of
people swimming the astonishing 27 nautical mile journey from
Shoalwater Bay to the Percy isles in groups supported by makeshift log
North East Percy and South Percy islands were gazetted as national
parks over 70 years ago, placing them among the oldest national parks
First charted by Matthew Flinders, and named after the Duke of
Northumberland (who later cruised the area with his courtesan, the
"scandalous" Lola Montes), Middle Percy was visited by Errol Flynn and,
in 1932, by the Australian writer Dora Birtles, who captures its allure
in her classic, North-West by North.
Until 2001, when it entered a dark period. Middle Percy was one of
the last remaining leasehold islands off the Queensland coast, bound to
a tradition of providing fresh water and supplies to passing seafarers.
Leaseholders - including Eton-educated eccentric Andrew Martin, the
self-exiled son of aristocrats who took over in 1964.Martin, who became
known as "Lord Percy" transformed the island into a boaties' magnet,
offering goat’s meat, fresh fruit and vegetables, honey and bread
and meals at the homestead, an energetic 1.5km uphill walk from the
Martin had no shortage of time, and in the end it was excessive
contemplation - not of nature but Old Testament prophecy - that would
lead him horribly astray. By the early '90s, with his physical health
in decline, Martin had become unbalanced.
Convinced that God was speaking directly to him, Martin rushed back
to England in 1996 to "save" Britain from its collective sins. A few
years later, despairing over Princess Diana's failure to rise from the
dead and accompany him back to Middle Percy with her two sons, Martin
recognised himself as a "false prophet" and prepared to be annihilated
by his Maker.
In 2010, when Middle Percy was made a national park by Queensland's
Bligh government, the then-leaseholders - Andy Martin's cousin, Cathryn
Radclyffe, and her partner John Morris - became the managers of a
portion (17 per cent of the island) known as a conservation park. It
includes the homestead and land extending down to West Bay.