“My Life on Karkar Island” by John M. Middleton

September 7, 2011 at 3:53 am (Book review, James Sinclair, John M. Middleton, Karkar Island, Papua New Guinea)

"My Life on Karkar Island" by John M. Middleton

My Life on Karkar Island

John Middleton with James Sinclair ISBN: 978186333320, 367 pages b&w & col
photos + maps Published 2011 by Crawford House , PO Box 50, Belair SA  5052  $39.95 + $11.00 postage

This is a tale about the intriguing and interesting Middleton family told by its present
senior member, Sir John Middleton. It is a chronicle of the ups and downs of
the Middletons and their habitat, Karkar Island. All started by Max, John’s
father, last century and continuing with his children and grandchildren.

Sir John’s easy conversational style of writing coloured with the obvious amusement he has with the antics of human behaviour gives the reader rare insights into PNG’s  colonial and post-colonial life. Much of the book is documented oral history.
And the remarks and comments by James Sinclair create a historical framework
that puts the lives of the Middletons in focus in a continually changing social
and political situation in Papua New Guinea.

William Maxwell Middleton, known as Max, created the plantation empire on Karkar and it
has more or less survived in spite of war, political and social changes. John,
his son, extended the family’s influence beyond the confines of Karkar Island
to the larger sphere of an emerging independent PNG. He’s received the accolades
of a grateful nation. But this book isn’t just a social history but an amusing
read written by a gifted raconteur with a twinkle in his eye.

Highly recommended!

David Wall



  1. Nathan Wangi said,

    Hi, Iam interested in reading this book as I am also married to a Karkar Islander woman and I am from Sepik. I have heard about this Middleton family and my sister in law is still working with this family in kulili, karkar island. I want to read more about this family history. Can you let me know where I can grab a copy of this book? or if there is an electronic copy, available, let me know.

    Nathan Wangi

  2. deberigny said,

    Nathan, perhaps you could approach Sir John Middleton on Karkar Island. Regards, David

    • Nathan Wangi said,

      Thanks David, Me and my family are living in WA and we will be heading home on xmas so hopefully I will catch up with John. Derrick and Brad Middletons, the two son’s are running the Kaviak and Kulili plantation now on the Island.
      They have given a lot of opportunities for the Karkar people to work and earn a living from the plantation and also help to sustain people lives with extra income from the sales of copras.


  3. Alison said,

    Hi – I too would love to know where I can get a copy. I lived on Karkar as a young girl from 4-10 years old (now 36) and have many a fond memory of running through the ‘big house’ as it is known and spending time with John’s wife Anna. I would love the opportunity to take my own children there to experience the beauty that is Karkar.

    • deberigny said,

      Alison, the book is available from the following address: Crawford House , PO Box 50, Belair SA 5052 $39.95 + $11.00 postage

      • Melinda Ronnback said,

        Is there an email adress from where we can order the books? And account number to pay?

    • Ali Gray said,

      Hi Alison. My name is also Alison and I visited Karkar when I was 9 in 1984. We were friends for the short time I was there. Do you remember me?

  4. Melinda Ronnback said,

    Hi, I lived at Karkar Island with my brother Steven and our parents Stig and Sirkka Ronnback 1974-75. My father worked for John Middleton at wodau plantation! He would like to get in touch with John now and we would like to order some books.
    /Melinda Ronnback
    Lulea, Sweden

  5. deberigny said,

    Melinda. I’ve sent your comment to John. David

    • Melinda Ronnback said,

      Thanx! It would be great if John could email me, because we think about him and Anna alot, with kind regards/melinda and family

  6. Debbie Zeller said,

    I stayed on Kulili in September, 1991 and it was fabulous! John, Anna, Roger and Rosa were wonderful. It was a rare treat to spend a little time on Karkar with them. I will order the book and remember my special visit with the Middletons.

    • Anonymous said,

      Thanks guys, how can I obtain a copy of the book? My father work for John Middleton in since 1980s & 90s as a tructor driver and we live at Kulili, KRX for about 15 years. My father passed away in 1999. It would be great to read about Middleton family and their beloved Kulili.

      • deberigny said,

        My Life on Karkar Island

        John Middleton with James Sinclair ISBN: 978186333320, 367 pages b&w & col
        photos + maps Published 2011 by Crawford House , PO Box 50, Belair SA 5052 $39.95 + $11.00 postage

        I hope this helps.

  7. Dr. Hans-Joachimj Dassel said,

    My Grandfather Adolf Dassel was Missionery with Kunze 1892 at The Station in Kavailo. The Station was abandoned because of vulcano eruption and outbreak of smallpox. I visited the Middleton Family in 1999 and had a very good experience with the people. My intention is to come back. But first I have to read the book.
    Please get in tauch with me if You are interested in the “first contact”.
    Dr. Hans-Joachim Dassel
    Peter-Roos-Strasse 20
    40547 Duesseldorf

    • deberigny said,

      Dr Dassel, I am very interested in your comments. I know Kavailo well.
      Keep in touch, David

    • deberigny said,

      Dear Dr Dassel Thank you for your interesting comments. I’ve sent a copy onto John Middleton. Kind regards, David


  8. Dr. Hans-Joachimj Dassel said,

    Mister David Wall, i apreciate if You give me an answer.
    Because of the history of my grandfather in Dampier as missionery of the Rhenish Missionery Society between 1892-1895 I got a lot of material concerning the first days of Karkar and the first contacts between Madom and the missionery. Madom was the bigman from Kavailo at that time.
    Please contact me
    Dr. Dassel

  9. Margaret said,

    Hi I would love to get a chance to contact John & Anna . I have very fond memories of staying with them as a child with my parents Herbert & Gwen Craig. I am not sure if this is the right forum but I was explaining to my daughter re KarKar island so we googled .. and this is why i am here now!
    thank you

  10. Alphonse k. Bannick said,

    I read the book. It’s contains fond memories of how beautiful Kar kar Island was in that era. I am from Kar Kar Island, Bangame Village. My Grade 5 teacher at Taleng Primary school in 1967 was Mrs Johnson (Australian) who was the wife of an employee of My. Middleton. My father Bannick Malapot worked for Mr. Middleton as a skipper on all his boats, Tuali1, Tuali 2, Kanaigio and Media from the early 60’s until he retired sometime in late 1970’s. He was a tough cookie all right, no crew had the guts to meddle with him. I have beautiful memories of sailing on all his boat with my late father, free of charge of course. On time a whale decide to swim by and rest under Tuali 2 when we sailing between Kar Kar and Madang. The whale was of the same length and breath as the boat. My father stopped the boat engine in case the engine might irritate the whale and tip the boat over. We could not wait forever for the whale to snooze off as the sun was setting in so he started the engine again and the whale took off under the boat in slow motion. It was pretty scary. Another time the sea was so rough that Tuali 2 literally sailed on its port side a such that the propeller actually came out of the water a made a very high ringing sound which scared the shit out of the passengers. My father was a very good friend of his store boy Mr. Sungasi. Every time I accompany my father down to Kulili plantation, he would drop in to chat with is mate Sungasi, and of course Mr. Sungasi would keep me busy with the plantation supplies – hard biscuits. Mr. Sungasi was originally from Salamua in Morobe Province but married to a Kar Kar Isalnd women from Kaul 1 village named Biti. Mr. Middleton respected and liked my father very much. I considered myself very fortunate because of my father’s employment with the Kulili plantation as he was able to pay my school fees from at Kar Kar High School -1969-1972. Thank you Mr. Middleton.

    • deberigny said,

      Alphonse, many thanks for your interesting comment. I’ll send John Middleton an email and alert him to it. David

  11. Alphonse k. Bannick said,

    Much appreciated if you can do that. Thanks

  12. Warren Doughty said,


    Is it still possible to obtain a Copy of John’s book at all?



    • deberigny said,

      I’ll make enquires for you.

      • Bob Byron said,

        Hello David,
        are you David Wall originally from Leeton NSW with a brother who was a BOAC pilot
        Bob Byron

  13. Susan Kayver said,

    Cool….it is very interesting to read comments from individuals from different walks of life who at one time came pass the Middletons. I am much touched by the comments I read and especially about the title of this book “My Life on Karkar Island”. I would very much like to grab 1 copy for myself coz I am actually from Karkar Island and once worked with the Middleton’s in their main Office until I decided to move on to Pom City and currently working in Lihir, New Ireland Province.

  14. Doyle Tiava said,

    hi I am much interested in the early missionaries on Karkar Is…. there is one that I really wanna know more about.. does anyone has any stories regarding Dr Edwin Tsarcke??

    • sylvie mileng said,

      my mums elder sister use to work for him.. I think he passed on

    • Rhonda McCreanor said,

      there is a book about him called “God’s Maverick” a fabulous read…I did have it but loaned it and it was never returned

  15. Ray Selby said,

    I was employed by the Middleton family on KarKar way back in the 60s.
    I’m retired and in London UK now and would love to buy this book.

    • Alphonse Bannick said,

      Thank you for sharing your photos and the days of yester years, those were days when PNG was at its best and peak so to speak as I can recall growing in the 60’s and 70’s on Kar Kar Island. Fond memories will remain in our dream forever.

      Warm regards
      Alphonse K. Bannick

      • John Murphy said,

        Hi , I go back to the 60s before Anna married John in Sydney !
        I now live in Melbourne and would love to make contact with them both again !
        John P Murphy then Kay rent a Car !!!

    • Gordon McLean said,

      Hi RAY Gordon McLean Dogowan Plantation I was on Kar K 1958 to 1960
      Now in Sydney

    • Gordon McLean said,

      Hi Ray Gordon McLean from Dogowan Plantation I was on KK 1958 to 1960

      • Anonymous said,

        Hi Bob,
        Dogowan plantation in those days was a “home” and a stopover point for all. It an’t the place it used be no more, mate. Thanks for your time and the commitment you endued to place Dogowan on the map.

      • Bob Byron said,

        Many good memories

  16. Ray Selby said,

    Have tried without success to find where to purchase this book on line.
    Any help will be most welcome.

    • Alphonse Bannick said,

      Try to contact Sir John Middleton on 71307165. He could be on residing at Kulili Plantation on KarKar Island if he is not in Australia.

    • Alphonse Bannick said,

      Hi There,

      Sir Middleton can be contacted on (675)71307165, if hasn’t changed his mb number. You may then ask him or Anna as to how you can obtain a copy his book.

      Alphonse Bannick

  17. Ray Selby said,

    Thank you Alphonse, I tried both numbers unsuccessfully.
    could you possibly email me his email address?

    • Alphonse Bannick said,

      You have to give me time. I may need to contact someone on KarKar Island to go and get Middleton’s mobile number. Land numbers to KarKar do not seem to be working.


  18. Alphonse Bannick said,

    I just spoke to Sir Middleton. You can contact him on (675)71307165. He is at Kulili on KarKar Island as I write.

    • Alphonse Bannick said,

      Hi Ray,

      You’re in luck mate, I just spoke to him. You can contact him on (675)71307165. He is at Kulili Plantation now. I told him that you want to purchase a copy of the book. He said that there are some copies in stock.


      Alphonse Bannick

  19. dama malapun said,

    I love karkar island so much and l wantto know more of karkar history and the first human beings living on it

  20. Bob Byron said,

    I worked for John and MR. Middleton at Kulili from 1960 till 1962, and would like to obtain this book
    Bob Byron

    • Ray Selby said,

      Hi Bob, I was also there during that time, I was at Wokilong plantation.
      No luck with the book yet, if you find it let us know.


      Ray Selby

      • Bob Byron said,

        G’Day Ray, i thought i recognized your name do you remember Howard and Joe Much, i think i may have sourced the books, will keep you posted
        Bob Byron

  21. Alphonse K. Bannick said,

    I last contacted Sir Middleton on mb # (676)71307165. Try the number is it is still working.

    Warm Regards to all,

    Alphonse K. Bannick

  22. Alphonse K. Bannick said,

    By the way who was that plantation manager at Wadau plantation back in the 60′ who used spin around in that little motor bike. I used stand by on the road side in my village (Bangame) and watch him zigzagging to avoid the dogs and pigs on the road when he whistles past to catch up at the Kinim Club every afternoon.


    Alphonse Bannick

    • Bob Byron said,

      may have been Brian Taggert a Kiwi who was managing then as was David Wall at one time
      bob byron

  23. Alphonse K. Bannick said,

    I recalled a name like Thor, used sling his canvas side bag all the time on his bike, killed a few dogs, though with his little bike, I remember.

    • Bob Byron said,

      that bike was a BSA Bantam

  24. Ray Selby said,

    Hi Bob, Any luck with the book?
    I think Howard may have been the guy that I purchased a Triumph Tiger Cub motorbike off when he left Karkar.
    I remember a Farther Much, could that be Joe Much? he was stationed quite near to Wokilong….My God! over 50 years ago.



    • Bob Byron said,

      Hi Ray,
      yes that was Father Much, and yes Peter Howard did have a Triumph tiger cub he was manager at Kavallo next door to Kulili, you might also remember the Lutheran Mission hospital and Ned Scharky, also my old mate Bill Duncan who was the Government first aid officer which was near the airstrip and Willy Parkes who managed one of Kulilis plantations , yes i have ordered J.M’s book from Abe Books in Brisbane here is my email address i can send you the link byrons@btinternet.com

      • Alphonse K. Bannick said,

        If Father Much was a Catholic priest, I don’t recall a priest by that name but I do remember a lanky German Brother who was stationed at Tab plantation owned by the Catholic church. The Brother used to run around on a big bike until he crashed head on into a land drover driven by Father Dowd at Tabel Plantation. Fortunately the Brother survived the crash.

        There was a Bill who was Planation Manager at Dogowan plantation near Gaubin hospital. Bill was a chain pipe smoker. I recall Bill and his wife run a mobile banking service for Bank of New South Wales on Kar Kar Island. The used to do the school rounds all the Island every Friday’s.

      • Ray Selby said,

        Hi Bob,
        I do remember Ned Scharky at the Lutheran Mission hospital, did a medical course there. Also Bill Duncan
        and especially Willy Parkes.
        How do you remember all the names?
        Thanks for email address, will send one right away.

  25. Bob Byron said,

    Hi Ray,
    you may also remember the Kulili bookkeeper Ross Williams he was at Kulili during those years

    • david allen said,

      my father Mick Allen was medical officer on Karkar around 1961 or 62. I visited one Xmas on school holidays. I remember John and. Roger Middleton and the boxer dogs. We had a new year party and all got dunked in the bath.

  26. Anonymous said,

    Hi Bob,
    yes I remember Ross.
    I received your email with pictures and I replied the same day with info.
    Did you receive it?

  27. Raymond Selby said,

    Hi Bob,
    yes I remember Ross.
    I received your email with pictures and I replied the same day with info.
    Did you receive it?

    • Bob Byron said,

      Hello Ray, no i did not receive your reply I would be interested in your info. maybe you could try an email to me again please, have you managed to acquire the book yet?

  28. Rhonda McCreanor said,

    hmmm hoping to get a copy of the book for a Xmas present…we lived there 91 – 94 and like everyone else have extraordinary memories of a weird and wacky place…..our children only have happy thoughts of Kar Kar

  29. Anonymous said,

    I am intreste

  30. Anonymous said,

    Iam Raynold Slim, my village is near Kulili plantation and was interested in reading this book, because my grandfather was a carpenter at Kulili in the past, and even now many people in my village were employed by the company and the company was also providing service to the Karkar Islanders and the life was easy for the people, where will I purchase a copy of this book?

  31. Rhonda said,

    Is this still for sale…I would love 3 copies….I am in adelaide in feb or am happy to pay postage to Canberra or an adelaide address.

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