In 1937  twenty year old Ernest Renault from Launceston became the  world champion banana eater. Yes…strange, but true. 😎 After a difficult childhood  there was  a brief period when the possibilities of life filled him with excitement and anticipation. He was the equivalent of  a social media  star.

In addition  to the theatre performances  mentioned above he left on a trip to Hobart  for the making  of a ‘talkies newsreel’ in which he was to demonstrate his unique skill. Oh my word, how I would love to view it!

It’s probably no surprise that nothing  much came of all this. People lost interest in  banana eating contests and Ernest was faced with the prospect of having to find a ‘proper’ job.  With little schooling and few employment skills his options were limited. He also suffered from asthma, and was receiving an invalid pension.  To his credit he was determined to pay  his own way  and became a travelling salesman. It sounds suitable enough, but  he was a naive young man and  got himself into serious trouble. In an effort to publicize his wares he had 500 flyers printed and distributed.  Let’s just say that the stir  they created  was not what he had hoped for!

LAUNCESTON, Wednesday. In the Police Court to-day, before the Police Magistrate (Mr. F. N. Stops), Detective-Inspector  W.S.C. Brown prosecuting, Ernest Renault was charged with having caused to be printed at Launceston about June 22, an indecent document. He pleaded guilty.

Inspector Brown said that some of the documents had come into the possession of the police, and when Renault was questioned he admitted having them printed. Renault told him that he had given them to everyone, including the police. He had seen a copy of the document, and had used it as an advertisement.

The police were not given any trouble by Renault, Inspector Brown added. He had given an undertaking not to offend again. (Examiner, Aug. 4 1938)

Thanks to the Inspector’s words in his favour Ernest received only a small fine. But  oh my goodness, his grandparents, who were his guardians, must have been horrified.

Ernest clearly had no idea  the document was indecent. It begs the question…what sort of products was he selling?  At one point someone stole his sample case on the way home from a dance.  After the person responsible was charged the case and  most  of its contents were  returned. However,  to my disappointment the newspaper reports gave no description of the stolen items.

In September the following year Ernest enlisted  with the A.I.F. Presumably there had been a breach with his grandmother, because he named  his father, Ronald Holmes, as next-of-kin,,,,address unknown. I must say that would not have been helpful in the event of death or injury. There is no evidence that he had even met his father.

A.I.F. enrolment form of Private Ernest Renault.


Private Ernest Renault, A.I.F.

Private Ernest Renaut, (Source – A.I.F Service File.)

Less than six months later he filled in a second form, with the object of becoming an army cook. He  now claimed to  have been  a cook  in civilian life, although there is no evidence of it.  His grandmother Elizabeth Renault was reinstated as next-of-kin.


Attestation form of Ernest Renault.


In the winter of 1941 Private Renault was sent to the  cooking school at Brighton army camp. The cold, spartan conditions  were too much for someone who had suffered from a weak chest since childhood. Ernest soon ended up in hospital with bronchitis. On August 1 1941 he was  discharged from the army  on medical grounds.

Two years later Ernest Renault met and married Miss Molly Carnes, from the midlands town of Oatlands. There was quite a write-up about the occasion, as the Carnes family were long term residents of Oatlands,  and highly respected in the community. It’s interesting that the best man was not a friend of the groom, but Molly’s brother-in-law.

Ernest Renault's wedding.

Source – Mercury, Aug. 30 1943.

A few days after the wedding 60 people attended a ‘gift evening’  for Molly held in the Town Hall.  It  was a measure of the affection felt for her by relatives, friends and neighbours.

Molly already had a daughter from a previous relationship,  and the couple welcomed a son early the following year.

Birth announcement of Ernest Renault's first child.

This union offered Ernest love  and stability.  Molly was a true home maker. Ironically, one of her passions was cooking. She could almost have supported the family through her prize winning recipes, published in  newspapers such as The Mercury and The Examiner. The following are just two of many examples;


Somehow I was not surprised that despite such a promising start, Ernest’s marriage failed. It seems  the responsibility of  fatherhood was too much for him. Regrettably, he walked out on his family at a critical time, when Molly was expecting their second child. By February 1946  she had returned to live with her parents in Oatlands. She gave birth to her second son, Danny Edward on April 15.  She did not remarry and remained in Oatlands for the rest of her life raising her three children. She  continued to win prizes for her  recipes for many years. To this day she is remembered in her home town with much love and respect.

When Elizabeth Renault died in 1947 the notice inserted by her family mentioned Ernest’s  late mother Violet, his uncle Ted,  and  his cousins. Ernest’s name was missing, even though  Elizabeth had loved him dearly and raised  him from a small child. Who knows where he was at the time, or if he even knew that his grandmother had died. The grandfather he’d had such a difficult relationship with while growing up  had passed away the previous year.



Ernest’s absent father Ronald Holmes died in 1950.

Elizabeth Renault left everything to her only son Edward (Ted). However, there was a touching clause in her will excluding from the estate all personal property belonging to  Ernest that remained in her home. Mind you, it’s doubtful whether he ever claimed it.

I could find no mention of him over the next few  years. Then, when I did find the name Ernest Renault,  I fervently hoped it was someone else with the same name.  But no, it was ‘my’ Ernest. I felt like crying. Silly I know, but when I write about people I become emotionally  invested in them.

He had left Tasmania and was living in Victoria at  Wodonga. Late one night  he got into an altercation with a local man. On Ernest’s part at least the fight escalated to a dangerous level.


Ernest Renault, 35, was charged at Wodonga Court this morning before Mr. D. G. Hartman, J.P. with having inflicted grievous bodily harm to Paul Dugan, 46, of High St.

Police allege Dugan was hit on the head four or five times with a heavy hammer during a fight in an allotment in High St, Wodonga, late Saturday night. Dugan was admitted to Albury Base Hospital in a serious condition. His condition remained unchanged last night. (The Argus, Nov 24 1953)

Whether Dugan was also armed was not recorded. Fortunately he recovered. Ernest could so easily have faced a charge of manslaughter. He was found guilty, but treated with remarkable leniency. The punishment  was simply  a heavy fine.

What happened to this troubled young man in his later life is a mystery. Did he  maintain any contact at all with his Tasmanian family? When his wife Molly died in 1975 she was described as a widow, meaning she was aware that he had died. I searched everywhere I could think of in Tasmania and Victoria  for details of his death without success.

Finally I decided to check other states.   Yes, there was Ernest Renault in the NSW  records, He had died in Sydney, aged 51.   R.I. P. Ernest.



  1. You might almost say, a tormenting story, well researched with filaments of joy. Largely it would seem that proved to mirror Ernest’s life.

    Now, without going back and checking, didn’t his grandfather deploy a hammer too, during the poor boy’s youth?

    I’m so glad I spotted this second episode, your first left me salivating for more. Especially as his banana cravings remind me of an earlier life amongst banana plantations in Western Australia.

    • Pauline

      Well Tim, the grandfather’s ‘hammer blows’ were actually verbal. but had a lasting effect on Ernest . Thanks for taking the trouble to leave a message.

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.