For 15 of the next 25 years he lived alone on the island, tending his garden and chickens, catching fish and coconut crabs. In 1966, a friend helped him publish his story, "An Island to Oneself". It's a fascinating, and at times, incredibly moving story, particularly when Tom is bed bound and on the verge of death only to be rescued by the first boat to call at the island for more than a year.
This "hermit of Suwarrow" stayed on his dream island until 1977 when stomach cancer forced a return to Rarotonga. Tom died that year at the age of 75 and is buried in the RSA Cemetery on Rarotonga.