Legal action launched over Agar’s Island

  • What all the fuss is about: house on Agar’s Island (File photograph)

    What all the fuss is about: house on Agar’s Island (File photograph)

  • Brilliant man: James Martin predicted the use of computers and the internet (File photograph)

    Brilliant man: James Martin predicted the use of computers and the internet (File photograph)


The widow of a computing tycoon and philanthropist has launched legal action against the Minister of National Security over her husband’s private island.

Lawyers for Lillian Martin, an American, have filed a motion at the Supreme Court to ask for a decision on her application for a licence to acquire Agar’s Island, where she lived with her husband, James.

Her lawyers also asked for an order or declaration that a licence would be granted, or compensation paid, as an alternative.

Dr Martin, who died in 2013 aged 79, was a major influence in the development of computer science and his work included the creation of some of the building blocks of modern IT systems, as well as teaching other businesses how to benefit from technology.

The English-born businessman and author, who wrote 104 textbooks and became the largest benefactor in the history of Oxford University, moved to Bermuda in the 1990s.

He built a home on Agar’s Island, in the Great Sound off Pembroke’s Point Shares, after he bought the spot in 1997.

Dr Martin’s body was found floating in the surrounding waters six years ago.

An obituary in The New York Times said he was survived by his third wife, Lillian, whom he married in 2004, a daughter, four stepchildren and two grandchildren.

A notice of originating motion, which was published on the Offshore Alert website, said Ms Martin sought an order demanding a decision on her application under section 84(1) of the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 for a licence to acquire Agar’s Island.

The Act meant that a “restricted person” — someone who does not have Bermudian status — cannot hold or acquire land in the country without a licence.

Cox Hallett Wilkinson, the lawyers for Ms Martin, added three alternative measures, which were that an order was issued for her application to be granted, a declaration that she was “entitled to a licence and that the failure to grant a licence is unlawful” or compensation. Their notice listed the respondent as the Minister of National Security.

The present minister is Wayne Caines, but his name did not appear on the court papers because the case is a ministry responsibility.

The notice was stamped by the Supreme Court on February 14 but its registry said yesterday no date had been set for a hearing.

Dr Martin became famous through his Pulitzer Prize-nominated book, The Wired Society, in 1977, which contained accurate predictions on the use of computers and the internet 25 years later.

He was also aware of the global problems likely to be faced over the next century, from climate change and feeding a booming world population to the danger of epidemics and high-tech war.

Dr Martin donated $100 million to set up the James Martin 21st Century School at the University of Oxford in 2005.

The school was designed to bring together researchers from a range of scientific disciplines to work on new ways to deal with the biggest threats to humanity.

It became the Oxford Martin School five years later, made up of 30 institutes and the benefactor donated another $50 million, which was matched by other donors.

An interview with Dr Martin published in the UK’s The Independent newspaper in 2011 explained the island was bought by English investor Sir Anthony Agar in 1613.

The article added that the island became a British military outpost in the 19th century.

It said that Dr Martin bought the island in 1997 because he wanted a more remote home.

Building work was said to have taken four years and several million dollars to complete.

The Daily Telegraph website and Private Islands Online said in 2014 that Agar’s Island was on the market under the name Gunpowder Island.

Among the features listed were an 8,427 square foot main house, a three-bedroom dock house, a one-bedroom cottage, a boathouse and former military barracks.

Private Islands Online said: “The historic semi-underground vaults are fitted with a kitchenette, bathroom, billiards and table-tennis room, gym, cinema, and dining for up to 40 people.”

It also featured Japanese, Chinese, Italian and rose gardens, an orchard, a cliff walk, a waterfall, seven ponds and a pool.

Ms Martin could not be contacted yesterday and her lawyers declined to comment.

Mr Caines said: “The Ministry of National Security is unable to provide any details or comment on matters before the courts.”

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Published Mar 15, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Mar 15, 2019 at 8:03 am)

Legal action launched over Agar’s Island

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