Ged Brown, the creator of the popular Low Season Traveller podcast catches up with old friend and Seychelles author Glynn Burridge to explore his extraordinary life.
Ged: Would you like to share with our listeners how you came to be where you are today?
Glynn: Well, I am originally English and was born into a farming family on the Devon – Somerset border before moving to Tehran, the capital of Iran, with my parents at age six. My father took a job there attached to the British Embassy and I remained there until I went back to boarding school at the age of 10. I have three homes actually: England, my genetic home; Iran, my spiritual home and Seychelles, my acquired home. After studying Persian (Farsi) at Manchester University, I returned to Iran where I worked as interpreter/translator. I also became English tutor to the present King, Reza, and private secretary to the Shah’s nephew, Chahram Pahlavi. The Islamic Revolution forced us to flee to Seychelles where in 1975 the Prince had already purchased Dárros Island, a coral atoll in the Amirantes group, 140 miles from the mainland. Here I was based for 20 years living off-grid in a traditional island community, living very much in the custom of island settlers two centuries before. The island was extremely beautiful but it was also a dangerous environment for the careless and very far away from any rescue services – if you made a mistake, the ocean was pitiless and you were gone; simple as that!
Upon leaving Dárros in 1998, I joined the newly formed Seychelles Tourism Marketing Authority (STMA) incorporated to market Seychelles tourism internationally. They were looking for a writer who knew Seychelles well to provide content for their promotional campaigns, brochures, training manual, website, TV programmes etc. etc. I am still writing for the tourism board two decades later.
Ged: Please describe something of your life as a Seychelles outer islander.
Glynn: Island life back then was amazing and very simple in nature. You can imagine it as an old-style plantation surrounded by a universe of water. It was an extremely pristine environment being so distant from the mainland at a time when few boats visited. At the outset we had a small plane until it became too expensive to run and we then fell back on traditional schooner transport to bring us supplies every few months. At the very beginning, our community was 100 strong and island possessed a clinic where I was the paramedic as well as a jail for the all-too-frequent offenders and breakers of the peace. We all had to double up to make things work and I often substituted as tractor driver and assisted in the unloading of the schooners, among other roles. There was no TV back then, not even a telephone and we stayed in contact with the outside world by radio-telephone. Life was very basic, authentic and down-to-earth and you needed to be very self-contained and resilient if you were going to survive there.
Fortunately, it was a life I adored and being something of an adventurer, I took to it like a proverbial duck to water, spending a lot of time in the ocean, boating, sailing, fishing and diving as I slowly learned the ropes of island living. Back then, I was supremely fit as island life was very physical in nature. For entertainment we played volleyball and football matches on Sunday afternoons on the grass airstrip.
Ged: You have great experience of Seychelles and Seychelles tourism, almost from its beginning, so what makes it so special?
Glynn: I consider myself very privileged to have lived here for so long and to have lived the very essence of the best in island living. I was not here at the inception of modern tourism which effectively commenced with the opening of the Seychelles International Airport in 1972, but when I first arrived on these shores in 1976, annual tourism numbers were still in the tens of thousands where, today, we have close to half a million. This, alone, dictates a different pace to tourism but our Seychelles tourism is still based on timeless and diverse attributes such as world-beating sun, sea & sand; a vibrant, multi-ethnic culture; an exciting suite of activities such as snorkelling, diving, fishing, hiking, island-hopping, golf, walks & trails, sailing & cruising etc. etc. Besides its grand diversity, sustainability is a big buzz-word these days and Seychelles has succeeded in protecting its exceptional environment thus far thanks to its strong conservation credentials. We should never lose sight of the fact that Seychelles is situated almost at the top of the list of those countries most reliant on tourism so we simply cannot afford to get it wrong.
Ged: You are a well-known author in Seychelles so can you please tell us something about your books and work?
Glynn: I started writing seriously in the early 90’s when the prince who owned Dárros suggested I wrote an account of the extraordinary life we were living on the island, details of which would otherwise be lost. As a result, I started writing Voices which is a compendium of short stories describing the realities and fantasies of island living. I am very pleased that I listened to him and wrote it, because, to my knowledge, there exist few other accounts of life on Seychelles’ outer islands which has now passed into history. I then began writing Kolony which is a 600-page historical thriller and very dark foray into the more sinister side of island living. Beyond that, my day job is sole copywriter for Seychelles tourism and over 20 years I have written articles on many, many topics, a selection of which can be found on my website: www.glynnburridge.com. I have also been a contributor to several coffee-table books such as: State House; Carnival; Underwater Treasures; SUBIOS: Seychelles Festival of the Sea; Coco-de-Mer; History of SEYPEC. My current project is as editor in chief of a new Seychelles history book to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the settlement of the islands due to be celebrated in August 2020.