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The Caribbean, showing locations used in Dr No (1962), Thunderball (1965), Apocalypse Now (1979).
The Life of Ian Fleming by John Pearson published by Jonathan Cape, 1967: In 1942 Ian Fleming and Ivar Bryce are travelling from New York to Miami:
This was Ian Fleming’s first experience of the train journey which James Bond took with Solitaire in Live and Let Die. It was a journey he loved, with the power of the diesels, the efficiency of the big stainless steel carriages and the poetry of the long run south. At Miami the treat continued and they dined on soft-shelled stone crabs cooked in butter at a restaurant called Joe’s along Miami Beach. But from then on everything went wrong. They flew on to Jamaica, and by the time they had reached the Myrtle Bank Hotel in Kingston Bryce was regretting the trip. November is never a month for Jamaica, even at the best of times. It is the month of the monsoon, and in the afternoons, as the humidity creeps up, it often seems as if the whole damp green island is washing away in the unending downpour.
Besides, in 1944 the run-down, clapped-out old city of Kingston was a study in threadbare melancholy. The past colonial splendours of the Myrtle Bank Hotel, with its drooping palms and sad dank verandas, seemed unlikely to impress the comfort-loving commander, who was attending the conference on the U-boat menace, held in the heavily guarded hotel ballroom, while the rain dripped, the fans turned fruitlessly and his regulation blue naval serge soaked up the steady sweat of the Caribbean autumn.
The conference went on for three days. It was hard work.
On the last evening, when it was almost dark, Bryce suggested a hurried visit to his house high up on a shelf of the Blue Mountains. They hired an aged Austin which Bryce drove.
Bellevue is a house with a history. Fleming’s hero, Admiral Lord Nelson, had stayed there when mounting expeditions, and from its beautiful eighteenth-century rooms he must have seen exposed before him the southern coast of Jamaica and an unmatched immensity of the Caribbean. But like the rest of Jamaica, Bellevue was hardly at its best in 1944, and when they reached it they found the paint peeling and the fences broken and the giant trees looking menacing in the rain. The only person at home was a very old, slightly deaf Jamaican housekeeper who followed them round making plaintive noises and muttering, ‘Dearie me, Mr Bryce sir, dearie me!’ It was something of a Charles Addams situation.
When they asked for something to drink all the old girl could find was a dusty bottle of grenadine syrup. The furniture had been put away, but Fleming brought in a couple of old cast-iron chairs from the balcony and they sat on them in silence, drinking grenadine and watching the rain. The water trickled noisily from broken gutters. Below them were coffee-woods and tropical trees, a scene to Fleming at once beautiful and inexpressibly melancholy.
This one evening was his sole excursion during the whole of his three-day stay. With the conference over he and Bryce had to fly straight back to Washington. Fleming was silent for most of the journey, but just before the plane landed he turned to Bryce and said, ‘I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to live the rest of my life in Jamaica.’
Bryce was amazed. He had looked on the trip as a failure.
‘Could you please arrange to buy me a good patch of land?’ Fleming went on. ‘I’ll want about fifteen acres. There must be cliffs of some sort and a secret bay and no roads between the house and the shore. When you’ve fixed it for me I’ll build a house and write and live here.’
Bryce knew when Fleming meant business, and accordingly he wrote to an old Jamaican land agent called Reggie Acquart giving him the specifications exactly as Fleming had outlined them. A few days later a reply came back from Jamaica. ‘I’ve found you a place on the North Shore on the old donkey race track at Oracabessa.’
‘As Reggie described it in his letter,’ says Bryce, ‘it sounded exactly the place Ian had in mind. Acquart said the owner wanted £2,000 sterling for it. I wired to Ian in London. His reply came the following morning. He said, “Buy it.”’
It was then that Fleming (who resembled Proust’s Swann in this respect) started a new compartment in his life of many compartments. He had always taken trouble with the details of his dreams, and this was to be the greatest of them all. He spent hours looking at the Admiralty charts of Jamaica until he knew the jagged outline of the North Shore almost as well as he knew the walk down St James’s Street and along the Mall which he took in the morning from his new flat in Berkeley Square.
When Bryce sent photographs of the property, with its hidden beach, its cliffs and the overgrown wilderness behind, Fleming’s dream took more tangible shape. It was then at his desk in Room 39 that the commander started to plan his house and it was on his office pad that he sketched out the details. It seemed very practical but a trifle dull and spartan – a low roof set with thick local shingles, one vast living-room with big windows, slatted jalousies instead of glass, no bathrooms or hot water, and three unadorned four-square bedrooms.
Once Fleming had bought his land and designed his house the Admiralty seemed to go out of its way to help him realize his vision. At the end of 1944 it sent him on his travels again – this time to Colombo, Ceylon, and then on to Australia to report on Naval Intelligence in the Far East – and somehow his route home inevitably lay through Jamaica. He was there at the beginning of March 1945.
This time the island was at its best, with long blue days and starlit nights. He stayed with the William Stephensons at Hillowton, their big white house with the cool rooms and the scented garden overlooking the green horseshoe of Montego Bay. While he was there he put the finishing touches to the plans for his own house and showed them to Lady Stephenson.
‘It looks beautiful, Ian,’ she said, guardedly. ‘But what about cupboards in the bedrooms for the people’s clothes?’
‘I’m not worrying about cupboards. All you need really are a few nails.’
While he was staying at Hillowton he found a builder and accepted his quotation of £2,000 to build the house. And finally, to complete the occasion, Ivar Bryce arrived on leave from Washington and the two of them drove out to inspect the land at Oracabessa and decide on a name for the house. It was a beautiful morning and Fleming, full of excitement, insisted on borrowing the Stephensons’ jeep. When they reached Oracabessa they rattled their way down the track leading to the banana port and walked across to the edge of the cliff with the tiny bay beneath. Fleming reached it first. ‘Look,’ he shouted back to Bryce. ‘This place has everything.’ And then, according to an interview which Fleming gave to an American magazine, when they looked down at the sea there was a young Jamaican girl swimming naked in the clear water. Maybe. But it sounds just a little imaginative: most Jamaican girls, being Methodists, would shrink from swimming without a costume.
At any rate, it is somehow typical of Fleming that on his first excited visit to his new property he should have been chiefly preoccupied with what to call the place. Anne Rothermere, who was to marry Fleming in 1952, suggested ‘Shamelady’, the name of the plant which grows wild along Jamaica’s whole North Shore – a sensitive plant, she said ironically, and one which curls up if touched; another of their friends, Alastair Forbes, made a good punning suggestion, ‘Rum Cove’. Finally Fleming settled on ‘Goldeneye’. He had picked the perfect name to go with the myth he was to spin around his house.
And as with all the best myths there is an appropriate mystery which he seems to have done his best to perpetuate. Sometimes he insisted that he took the name from Carson McCuler’s novel Reflections in a Golden Eye. Sometimes he said it came from Operation Goldeneye, the Allied plan he worked on in 1940 to provide for the defence of Gibraltar if the Germans tried to invade through Spain. He had recently bought a print of a goldeneye duck. He remembered, too, that Oracabessa was Spanish for ‘head of gold’, and, most potent of all, in the garden there was a strange Spanish tomb with a golden eye in a golden head.
Whatever its origins the name was important for a man who had always known the value of a good title. For as he wrote in a letter many years later, ‘When I came to Jamaica, I was determined that one day Goldeneye would be better known than any of the great houses that had been there so long and achieved nothing.’
It happened. But before that both he and Goldeneye had a long way to go.
From Ian Fleming Miscellany by Andrew Cook, published by the History Press, 2015 : In 1942 Fleming and Ivar Bryce were at Bryce's house Bellevue on the south shore of Jamaica
Having gone over and over his notes with intense concentration for hours, he suddenly snapped his brief-box shut and turned to me sparkling with enthusiasm. He paused. ‘You know, Ivar, I have made a great decision.’ I waited, nervous of the news to come. ‘When we have won this blasted war, I am going to live in Jamaica. Just live in Jamaica and lap it up, and swim in the sea and write books. That is what I want to do.’
From Ian Fleming Miscellany by Andrew Cook, published by the History Press, 2015 :
• TWO MONTHS OF THE YEAR •
Ian had his mother’s confidence in her own taste but his Scots grandparents’ asceticism (in matters other than tobacco and spirits). Old Robert and Granny Kathleen, and their sons including Val, had been forever striding miles across moors in the teeth of a gale. According to Andrew Lycett, ‘when one Englishman dined with them in Scotland, he likened the experience to eating alongside muscle-bound bolts of tweed’. Ian wasn’t a great walker – he liked cars too much for that – but there was certainly something of the hair shirt in his attitude to comfort. For alongside the Flemings’ hardiness ran parsimony. Granny Kathleen did not simply inhabit a series of under-heated houses. She did not allow guests’ sheets to be washed between their visits, but had them left on the bed. There were three taps on the baths: hot, cold and – for economy – rainwater. As to her husband, who gave Val a quarter of a million on his marriage, he spent – in the same year – just £6,500 on wages for the 150 staff at their various homes.
So when Ian designed a house for the plot in Jamaica, which he did – without an architect – he designed his own Brutalist vision exactly as he wanted it, with no nonsense about hot water. Or, indeed, glass in the windows. Or carpets. Or a fridge. Or even floor paint; the concrete floors were blackened with boot polish that came off on the soles of your feet. Somebody suggested he call the place Rum Cove.
Others liked ‘Shamelady’. He called it, of course, Goldeneye. He had constructed something that sounds rather like a concrete blockhouse, which since he had recently spent five years staring across Horse Guards Parade at the Citadel is not surprising. Goldeneye had a sloping roof above one big reception room, several small bedrooms, cold showers and a small kitchen. It was all on one level. Instead of glass there were slatted blinds – jalousies, which rattled in the wind. It must have been a beastly shock to stay in, especially if you were Loelia Duchess of Westminster and didn’t like huge flying insects. Chilly nights, which do happen in Jamaica, the wind and the rain off the ocean, must have made the indoors bleak, and as for the outside elevation, Noël Coward – who lived further along the coast – declared that it looked like a National Health Clinic. He called it Golden Eye, Nose and Throat.
It is pretty enough now. Chris Blackwell, who has known it all his life, has it. But in the 1940s locals watched with relief as vegetation rambled all over and covered it.
Reggie found him a live-in cook-housekeeper, Violet, a comfortable woman. Ian would get up early and swim. After an excellent breakfast of paw paw, Blue Mountain coffee, scrambled eggs, and bacon, he would read. At around midday, he swam and snorkelled and looked for lobsters for lunch. Ackee and saltfish, curried goat and grilled snapper were Violet’s repertoire, and he liked them all.
Among the first visitors, in 1947, were his mother and his half-sister Amaryllis. Eve was fascinated by Jamaica, since Augustus John had been inspired by it before the war. Amaryllis gave a recital with piano accompaniment by Miss Foster Davis, whom they invited to lunch afterwards at the Myrtle Bank Hotel. All the other guests in the room got up and left when the Flemings and Miss Davis were shown to a table. They were white, and Miss Foster Davis was not. Eve, furious, whispered to her ‘take no notice’. Amaryllis recounted this shameful incident and said later that it was one of the few times she’d been proud of her mother.
They were unprepared for the rigours of Goldeneye, with its forbidding aspect and the legs of the beds standing in jars of water to keep ants out; they weren’t crazy about Violet’s curried goat, either. They fled to the Montego Bay Hotel and ran into Noël Coward, who sympathised.
Ian was 40ish, with some health issues, but still smoking sixty or seventy cigarettes a day. He had done so for twenty years at least. He would carry on smoking at the same rate. So to imagine him eating or reading or even swimming is to remember that he punctuated his every activity by lighting, smoking, waving around and stubbing out cigarettes. There was always a pack by his side.
He was the least considerate of hosts. He would set off in the mornings with Anne in a boat and not return until the evening. Loelia, playing gooseberry back in the blockhouse, had nothing to do except read, and despite her vast financial resources lacked the will to find anything. In the end she too packed and left for a hotel.
Ian had other visitors. Jamaica – with Coward living there, and Lord Beaverbrook, William Stephenson and Tommy Leiter, who had become friends with Ian in Washington – was increasingly attracting wealthy individuals. Ivar Bryce had married the fabulously wealthy Jo Hartford. Her brother owned Paradise Island in the Bahamas. She had an exquisite old house in Nassau as well as a place in New York State on the border with Vermont. In 1949 they decided to take a Caribbean cruise with some friends. On the way they would call in at Goldeneye, where Ian was in residence with a girlfriend.
Their party disembarked in Oracabessa Harbour. The friends were taken to a hotel while Jo and Ivar left for Goldeneye. Later that night, returning from dinner along the coast in Ocho Rios, they passed the captain on shore amid an agitated crowd – the entire population of Oracabessa – and their yacht, wrecked, in the harbour.
The sorry story was told. Unknown to the passengers, in the first days of the trip down the east coast, it became evident to the captain and engineer that the yacht company had hired a bunch of clowns to crew with them and they were the only people who knew how to run the ship. All the way here, they’d had to take entire responsibility for the yacht’s safe journey. Ocorabessa had been the one night when they knew the visitors wouldn’t be coming back. Both captain and engineer took their chance to go ashore. The crew, in a ship moored in a calm harbour, would look after it. What could possibly go wrong? It had occurred to neither of them that the crew might raid the bar, drink it dry and smash the boat up.
This was the night, over a nightcap later when the women were in bed, when Fleming told Ivar that he was planning to write his first book. He’d been thinking about it since he was a schoolboy. It would be a spy story and the hero would be a British secret agent.
Anne usually went to Jamaica when Ian did but they would leave and arrive separately. In 1949, her departure had been noticed in the newspapers. When she got off the boat from New York at Southampton on her way back, a man served her with a ‘cease and desist’ notice from Esmond. She was married to Lord Rothermere and had to stop seeing Ian Fleming. ‘But,’ she protested to her friends, ‘he knows Ian Fleming has been my lover for fourteen years.’
- Ian Fleming built a house for himself , called Goldeneye on the North Shore of Jamaica. Noel Coward came to stay at Goldeneye and so enjoyed this stay that he decided to build his own house there. He found a place ten miles away and built a house which he called Firefly.
- Ian Fleming picked the name 'James Bond' from the reference work he kept on his desk, The Birds of the West Indies by James Bond. For more material on editions of The Birds of the West Indies and the ornithologist James Bond see Cinema Retro special edition on Dr No (1961) (issue number 4) page 14.
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From Ian Fleming by Andrew Lycett, page 222.9:
»Vesper Lynd's name came from an incident Ian had experience with Ivar on Jamaica's north coast. One afternoon they had visited a large, isolated mansion tucked away at the end of a long drive. They were surprised to be met by an old butler who informed them, "The Colonel will be delighted to receive you." They were ushered into a dimly lit drawing-room where an old grey-haired gentleman sat. After chatting amiably for a while, they were interupted by the butler carrying a tray with three glasses. "Vespers are served," he announced stiffly. This turned out to be a mixture of iced rum, fruit and herbs which the Colonel habitually drank at six o'clock every evening. After a relaxing hour's conversation Ian and Ivar rose to leave. They promised they would return to see their elderly host. They never did, but in their boyish manner, the name Vesper took on its own aura of romance. They invented their own gin-based cocktail, the one ordered by Bond in Royal-les-Eaux, and called it Vesper. When Ian came to write his novel he appropriated the name, with its fiery connotation, for his heroine.«
Thus it seems that the cocktail invented by Fleming and detailed in Casino Royale (1957) was called by Fleming the Vesper, although he does not mention the name of the cocktail in the novel, or any subsequent novels.
Kina Lillet was a French aperitif wine made in Podensac and contained a lot of quinine. It would have tasted bitter. In the mid Eighties they changed the formula to reduce the quantity of quinine in it (quinine makes you go deaf, in the end) and the name became Lillet Blanc and Lillet Rouge.
A Vermouth is a fortified wine, a wine to which has been added alcohol, as well as other ingredients.
Location: Ian Fleming's house at Goldeneye
Ian Fleming's house at Goldeneye
Location: Noël Cowards house Firefly
Article Ian Fleming, Noël Coward, and Jamaica from Blueharbour
Noël Coward, Blue Harbour and Firefly
Noël Coward, the multi-talented British playwright, actor, songwriter raconteur, first visited Jamaica in 1944 on a two week holiday. The and peace of mind he found in Jamaica caused him to refer to it as his "dream island" and he vowed to return one day. Four years later he rented fellow author Ian Fleming's estate, Goldeneye (as in the recent 007 movie by the same name), located on the north shore of Jamaica in St. Mary's province. During a six-week stay at Goldeneye he became even more taken with the island and he combed the immediate area determined to acquire an estate of his own.
His search for a suitable property kept leading Coward to a place he called "a magical spot" ten miles down the coast from Fleming. It was situated on a slope that lead to a rocky beach and commanded an incredible view of the sea, the Blue Mountains, Cabarita Island and the nearby fishing and marketing town of Port Maria. The property, marked by a small "For Sale" sign was allegedly prone to landslides. Upon further investigation, it was found to have a solid rock foundation, perfectly suitable for building. Coward purchased the eight acres, tucked around a cove in the shape of a half-moon, for a song. With his architect Scovell he began planning the construction of his Jamaican retreat, which he dubbed "Coward's Folly". The building schedule was set and he left the island.
Upon his return to Jamaica a year later a two story villa and two guest cottages had been constructed and much of the landscaping had been completed. Inspired by the view of the surrounding Caribbean, Coward named his sanctuary "Blue Harbour".
Coward settled into his new Jamaican house and sent invitations to all his friends. He had a swimming pool built at the edge of the sea into which fresh saltwater could be pumped and then drained. Almond trees and coconut palms provided abundant shade from the noonday sun.
By the early 1950's Blue Harbour was in full swing, staffed by a cook, a chambermaid, several gardeners and a chauffeur. Coward began to play host to a wide spectrum of noted artists, actors, celebrities, socialites and dignitaries. The guest list included Laurence Olivier , Vivien Leigh , David Niven , Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontane , Errol Flynn , Alec Guiness , Marlene Dietrich , Katherine Hepburn , Mary Martin , John Gielgud , Claudette Colbert , and Patricia Neal to name a few. They flocked to Blue Harbour and Coward's gregarious personality, some for the day and some for the month as house guests. Jamaica was the place to be and Blue Harbour was an obligatory stop on the North Coast cocktail circuit.
Swarmed by visitors and feeling an urgent need for privacy, Coward began to seek out a retreat away from his retreat. With much foresight he had already purchased another beautiful tract of land called "Lookout", located on a lush hillside one thousand feet above Blue Harbour. Lookout had belonged to Sir Henry Morgan , the infamous buccaneer and first governor of Jamaica. Morgan had constructed a small fortress-like house from which he could spy on any stray galleon that deviated from the main sea route which looped south from Cuba, ninety miles away. He considered the Bay of Port Maria his private domain and seized any ship that wandered into his waters.
In 1956, Coward renamed Lookout "Firefly" after the peenywallys or lightning bugs that would congregate and illuminate the night sky. On the grounds, he designed and built a new house geared to suit the needs of one person: himself. He would now divide his time between the bustling social life at Blue Harbour and the peaceful solitude of Firefly, where he would write and paint and enjoy his "room with a view".
In the 1960's Jamaica was booming as the jet set turned into it's existence. Fleming's international spy-thrillers had gained popularity and film crew arrived at Goldeneye to shoot "Dr. No" with an unknown actor named Sean Connery. Fleming took the name of his hero, James Bond, from the author of a classic ornithological tome called "Birds of the West Indies".
Coward has achieved further success performing on American TV and doing his cabaret act in Las Vegas, where he was championed by Sammy Davis, Jr. and Frank Sinatra. In 1965 Elizabeth the Queen Mother visited Blue Harbour and Firefly, where she had a lobster mousse for lunch. Winston Churchill paid his respects several times to Coward and was quoted as saying, "An Englishman has an inalienable right to live wherever he chooses".
After all those delightful years in Jamaica, Noël Coward died there on March 26, 1973 and was buried at his beloved Firefly. His grave overlooks Blue Harbour and his memory lives on.
Noël Coward's house, Firefly
Sean Connery and Sir Noël Coward
NATO airchart TPC J26-C section Jamaica showing locations used in Dr No (1962).
NATO air chart TPC H-25C section Caribbean, New Providence Island , Bahamas , showing locations used in Thunderball (1965).
In the above map, you can see that all of the locations save one, are on New Providence Island. The scene shot in "Thunderball Grotto" is to the south at Stanial Cay . The bulk of the map is TPC H-25C but the lower edge, just below Stanial Cay, is TPC J-26B
1950s: Pre-Castro tourist poster showing downtown Havana. From those who knew it and had the experience to compare, I have heard that the nightlife of Batista-era Havana was the best in the World.
Map of Soviet missile range from sites in Cuba
USAF photograph from reconnaissance F-101 Voodoo of a Soviet freighter delivering Soviet missiles to Cuba. You can see the shadow of the aircraft in the lower right foreground. For tales of reconnaissance flights over Cuba see Gilcrist's Crusader: Last of the Gunfighters
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+ SEE ALSO
- COFFEE: Jamaican Blue Mountain from the Wallenford, Mavis Bank, Old Tavern or Clifton Mount estates.
Ian Fleming's short story Octopussy (1966) set on the North Shore of Jamaica
- Dr No (1962) - Jamaica
- Thunderball (1965) - New Providence, Bahamas
- Ian Fleming's novel Dr No (1958)
- Ian Fleming's novel Thunderball (1963)
- Ian Fleming's novel The Man with the Golden Gun (1965).
- The Dark of the Sun (1968) - Jamaica
- The Deep
- Live and Let Die (1973)
- Antigua Race Week #
- Poker Run #
- Big Game Fishing #
- Joe Carstairs - the Queen of Whale Cay
+ EXTERNAL LINKS
- Ministry of Rum
NSA Archive - Cuban Missile Crisis
JFK Library - Cuban Missile Crisis
- Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene - intelligence operations in the Caribbean.
- A Cruising Guide to the Caribbean - From Antigua to Venezuela by Michael W. Marshall published by Adlard Coles Nautical (A&C Black) 1991
- Islands in the Stream by Ernest Hemingway. The first half is set in Bimini before the war and the secnd half in set in Cuba, during the war.
- Crusader: Last of the Gunfighters by Gilcrist. Details some interesting Cold War reconnaissance missions over Cuban air-space.
- Several books by Patrick Leigh-Fermor on the Caribbean
- Bond, James The Birds of the West Indies
- A General History of the Pyrates by Captain Charles Johnson, 1724
- The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson - Peurto Rico in the 1950s
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