Palisadoes Airport

palisadoes-airport

This entryway into Jamaica (now known as Norman Manley International Airport) is featured in three Ian Fleming novels – Live and Let Die, Dr No and The Man With The Golden Gun.

In Live and Let Die, Bond is met at the airport by Strangways following his departure from the United States via Tampa, a brief stop in Nassau, and a bit of a rough approach and landing in Jamaica.

This happy landing at Palisadoes Airport comes to you by courtesy of your stars. Better thank them.

Bond unfastened his seat-belt and wiped the sweat off his face.

To hell with it, he thought, as he stepped down out of the huge strong plane.

Strangways, the chief Secret Service agent for the Caribbean, was at the airport to meet him and he was quickly through the Customs and Immigration and Finance Control.

In Dr No, Bond is met by Quarrel.

Slowly the great aircraft turned in again towards the land and for a moment the setting sun poured gold into the cabin. Then, the plane had dipped below the level of the Blue Mountains and was skimming down towards the single north–south runway. There was a glimpse of a road and telephone wires. Then the concrete, scarred with black skid-marks, was under the belly of the plane and there was the soft double thump of a perfect landing and the roar of reversing props as they taxied in towards the low white airport buildings.

The sticky fingers of the tropics brushed Bond’s face as he left the aircraft and walked over to Health and Immigration. He knew that by the time he had got through Customs he would be sweating. He didn’t mind.

In The Man With The Golden Gun, Bond is killing time at “Kingston International Airport” before a connecting flight to Havana when he stumbles across a lead which changes his plans and keeps him in Jamaica.

There are few less prepossessing places to spend a hot afternoon than Kingston International Airport in Jamaica. All the money has been spent on lengthening the runway out into the harbour to take the big jets, and little was left over for the comfort of transit passengers. James Bond had come in an hour before on a B.W.I.A. flight from Trinidad, and there were two hours to go before he could continue the roundabout journey to Havana. He had taken off his coat and tie and now sat on a hard bench gloomily surveying the contents of the In-Bound shop with its expensive scents, liquor, and piles of overdecorated native ware He had had luncheon on the plane, it was the wrong time for a drink, and it was too hot and too far to take a taxi into Kingston even had he wanted to. He wiped his already soaking handkerchief over his face and neck and cursed softly and fluently.

 

palisadoes-customs
Immigration and Customs at Palisadoes Airport, late 1950’s – early 1960’s.

The airfield was constructed in the late 1930’s, the location was selected because it was close to Kingston (10 miles), and Port Royal (5 1/2 miles), could handle land and sea planes and there were good roads in the area.

When World War II broke out, the civilian airfield became a Royal Navy Air Station, commissioned on 21 Jan 1941 as HMS Buzzard. It was closed on December 31st 1944, and returned to civilian use.

In 1948 the Palisadoes Airport opened. This aerial shows the site in the late 1940’s:

In these 1962 stills, you can see the view exiting the terminal and curbside of the Palisadoes Airport, as well as the view from across the road. Interestingly these are before Ian Fleming wrote The Man With The Golden Gun.

Port Royal Lighthouse

plumb-point-lighthouse-port-royal

 

Dr No:

The other side of the mountains was in deep violet shadow. Lights were already twinkling in the foothills and spangling the streets of Kingston, but, beyond, the far arm of the harbour and the airport were still touched with the sun against which the Port Royal lighthouse blinked ineffectually. Now the Constellation was getting its nose down into a wide sweep beyond the harbour. There was a slight thump as the tricycle landing gear extended under the aircraft and locked into position, and a shrill hydraulic whine as the brake flaps slid out of the trailing edge of the wings. Slowly the great aircraft turned in again towards the land and for a moment the setting sun poured gold into the cabin. Then, the plane had dipped below the level of the Blue Mountains and was skimming down towards the single north-south runway. There was a glimpse of a road and telephone wires. Then the concrete, scarred with black skid-marks, was under the belly of the plane and there was the soft double thump of a perfect landing and the roar of reversing props as they taxied in towards the low white airport buildings.

The Plum Point lighthouse in Port Royal was built in 1853. Made of stone and cast iron, the 69-foot tall two-stage structure flashes every nine seconds, alternating between red and white. It sits adjacent to the end of the Norman Manley International Airport, (the Palisadoes Airport in Bond’s time) as can be seen here:

plum-point-lighthouse

The light on the tower has reportedly only gone out once, during a 1907 earthquake. A year earlier, in 1906, the cruiseliner Prinzessin Victoria Luise (the first purpose-built cruise ship) ran aground near the lighthouse and was wrecked.

plumb_p

Here is a look at the Harbor, and you’ll note that the lighthouse is not in the town of Port Royal proper, but is near the airport. This could a view similar to what Fleming described, with the “far arm of the harbour and the airport.”

aerial-photograph_palisadoes-spit_highlights

Reflections in Goldeneye

ge-pan
A panoramic view of Goldeneye.

For anyone who is a fan of the Ian Fleming James Bond novels, a pilgrimage to the spot where Fleming wrote the books is high atop the wish list.

At least it was for me.

After many years of thinking about it, I decided to do it. There was a lot happening in my life at the moment, and an escape to wander in the paths that Ian Fleming himself walked and lived seemed like the ideal way to find my own direction. I’m close to the age that Fleming was when he was writing the books, living in Jamaica for two months a year, and this seemed the perfect time to take the plunge and really immerse myself in finding out what appealed so much to him, and if it would give me similar inspiration.

Arriving at the Goldeneye Resort after a two-hour drive from the Montego Bay airport, you wonder if you’re even in the right spot. There is no sign out front announcing the resort, just a simple gate. It’s later explained to me that because of the celebrities who come here, any little bit to throw off the paparazzi is attempted.

A gracious welcome in the Ian Fleming lounge is the first stop, a simple room much in the feel of the original Goldeneye house, with open, windows and familiar, black-and-white images of Fleming adorning the walls. (Most of these images can be found in Matthew Parker’s excellent book.)

My stay was not in the actual Goldeneye house (Referred to as the Fleming Villa on site) but instead in one of the new beach cottages recently added to the resort. The next afternoon I would have a chance to visit the Fleming Villa.

Just coming here was something of a risk, as I wasn’t sure if I’d be allowed to go to the house. I was informed ahead of time that if there were guests staying in the villa, obviously I would not be able to tour the house. As it was the off-season, the house was empty, and with wild anticipation, I was brought up to the house that Ian Fleming built.

The villa is fenced in for privacy, so as I stepped through the gate I caught my first glimpse of Goldeneye, I saw only the roof and top of the walls over the tropical bushes, but recognized the building immediately. I walked along the side path and through the side entrance of the house. It opens into the living area, where there are a few bits of furniture set around a glass-topped table and a large day bed. While not quite as spartan as when Fleming lived there, the house remains simple. No television, no clocks or other visible electronics, save a speaker in the bedroom.

The wide windows with the opened shutters and broad sills had me imagining the people sitting in this room over the years and the conversations that were held here. The cocktails. The meals served by Violet. They took place in this very room. 

Moving through this large room, I stopped briefly at the door in the front of the house to admire Fleming’s sunken garden, where they would sit and read in the tropical sunshine, and where Ann would be painting.

Turning back into the room, you see the door leading into a bedroom with a desk set into the corner. This is where Ian Fleming wrote the James Bond novels. I nervously ask the guide if I may sit at the desk, she says “of course.” It is the original desk, and from all the photos I can find, this is the original chair as well. I sit in the chair, at the desk, and gaze out the window. Fleming would close the shutters on these windows when he was working, and then throw them open when he was done for the day and head down to the water.

What a moment.

I took a little bit to just absorb the moment. To reflect on the history here. Events 60 years ago in this very structure. It was actually pretty humbling.

Out the side door of Fleming’s bedroom led to a path down to the cliff side, and down the stairs that have been built into the cliff. Not the original stairs, but heading down them was still another thrill. There was the private beach. About the size of a cricket pitch, with the large rock about 10 feet out.

Another moment to pause and think of the hours Fleming spent exploring the waters here.

After a few minutes, it’s back up another set of stairs in the cliff which bring you up to the other side of the property. Getting more of a frontal view of the house allows you to get the measure of it. Back near the gate where I came in, I pause to look at a disheveled looking sign on a tree. This is the tree planted by the British Prime Minister Anthony Eden during his 1956 stay at Goldeneye to recuperate from Suez.

It’s one of the last things I see as I exit Goldeneye.

But I will certainly never forget this visit to the spot where it all began for James Bond.

(Stay tuned for more of my tour of the North coast of Jamaica, seeking out Fleming/Bond connected locations.)

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Mona Reservoir, Jamaica

After Strangways and Mary Trueblood are killed in the opening chapter of Dr. No, their bodies are deposited in a body of water outside Kingston.

As the first flames showed in the upper windows of the bungalow, the hearse moved quietly from the sidewalk and went on its way up towards the Mona Reservoir. There, the weighted coffin would slip down into its fifty-fathom grace and, in just forty-five minutes, the personnel and records of the Caribbean station of the Secret Service would have been utterly destroyed.

The Mona Reservoir is the main water supply for Kingston, located in the neighborhood of Mona, about eight kilometers outside of Kingston.

After many years of development and several setbacks, the Mona Reservoir went into service in 1959.

Mona Reservoir - the final resting place of Commander John Strangways and Mary Trueblood.
Mona Reservoir – the final resting place of Commander John Strangways and Mary Trueblood.
View from the Reservoir looking towards Kingston.
View from the Reservoir looking towards Kingston.

King’s House, Kingston Jamaica

Kings-House

Built in 1907-08, King’s House is the residence of the Governor is Jamaica. As Dr. No opens, Fleming sets the stage for us.

Richmond Road is the ‘best’ road in all Jamaica. It is Jamaica’s Park Avenue, its Kensington Palace Gardens, its Avenue D’Iena. The ‘best’ people live in its big old-fashioned houses, each in an acre or two of beautiful lawn set, too trimly, with the finest trees and flowers from the Botanical Gardens at Hope. The long, straight road is cool and quiet and withdrawn from the hot, vulgar sprawl of Kingston where its residents earn their money, and, on the other side of the T-intersection at its top, lie the grounds of King’s House, where the Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Jamaica lives with his family. In Jamaica, no road could have a finer ending.

When James Bond arrives in Jamaica, he is brought to his hotel, and then the next morning to King’s House for a meeting with The Acting Governor, and then with the Colonial Secretary, Pleydell-Smith.

This view of King's House, captured from a film, was taken in 1962, four years after the publication of Fleming's novel.
This view of King’s House, captured from a film, was taken in 1962, four years after the publication of Fleming’s novel.

At the end of the novel, Bond returns to King’s House for a mission wrap-up meeting, and is eager to leave the residence and get back to the coast.

Queen’s Club, Kingston Jamaica

The opening chapter of Dr. No has a disturbing scene taking place at an exclusive establishment in Kingston Jamaica, not far from King’s House.

On the eastern corner of the top intersection stands No 1 Richmond Road, a substantial two-storey house with broad white-painted verandas running round both floors. From the road a gravel path leads up to the pillared entrance through wide lawns marked out with tennis courts on which this evening, as on all evenings, the sprinklers are at work. This mansion is the social Mecca of Kingston. It is Queen’s Club, which, for fifty years, has boasted the power and frequency of its black-balls.

Such stubborn retreats will not long survive in modern Jamaica. One day Queen’s Club will have its windows smashed and perhaps be burned to the ground, but for the time being it is a useful place to find in a sub-tropical island—well run, well staffed and with the finest cuisine and cellar in the Caribbean.

Scene from a movie filmed four years after Fleming's novel.
Scene from a movie filmed four years after Fleming’s novel.

Inside the club, four prominent men are playing their nightly game of high bridge. One of the men, Commander John Strangways leaves the club at 6:15, as is his routine, to run back to his office for a daily call, after which he normally returns to the club.

This time however, he will will not return.

Just before six-fifteen, the silence of Richmond Road was softly broken. Three blind beggars came round the corner of the intersection and moved slowly down the pavement towards the four cars. They were Chigroes—Chinese Negroes—bulky men, but bowed as they shuffled along, tapping at the kerb with their white sticks. They walked in file. The first man, who wore blue glasses and could presumably see better than the others, walked in front holding a tin cup against the crook of the stick in his left hand. The right hand of the second man rested on his shoulder and the right hand of the third on the shoulder of the second.

From the same film as above.
From the same film as above.

Strangways is shockingly killed, and the events are set in motion which eventually brings James Bond to the island of Jamaica.

The Colonial Secretary, Pleydell-Smith later takes Bond to lunch at Queen’s Club, where he gives Bond some more background on the case and on the people of Jamaica.

Fleming’s Queen’s Club is based on the real life Liguanea Club. which opened in 1910, and is still in business to this day.

As it appears today.
As it appears today.

Interestingly, in The Man With The Golden Gun, Fleming has Mary Goodnight telling Bond about her house in Kingston, and she says:

‘And James, it’s not far from the Liguanea Club and you can go there and play bridge and golf when you get better. There’ll be plenty of people for you to talk to.

Whether Fleming’s change was accidental or due to the change in government (Jamaica became Independent) he removed the Queen’s Club name, I’m not sure, but it is interesting.

 

Review of Matthew Parker’s “Goldeneye”

IAN-FLEMING

 

The image of Ian Fleming pecking away at his typewriter at his tropical retreat while sounds of the surf pounding and warm breezes flow through the open windows is an idyllic one, especially for anyone who has dreamed of writing the next bestseller.

Those familiar with Ian Fleming know that his life was usually far from idyllic. A complicated, stubborn man of iron routine, who could be charming, but mostly preferred to avoid social entanglements, Fleming struggled with marital discord and declining health for much of the time in which he spent in his beloved Jamaica writing the James Bond novels.

Matthew Parker’s Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming’s Jamaica is a deep-dive into Fleming’s time in Jamaica. This is Mr Parker’s second book about the West Indies, having previously written The Sugar Barons: Family, Corruption, Empire, and War in the West Indies  the knowledge gained from that first book was almost a springboard to this one, as he discovered Goldeneye in the course of researching The Sugar Barons.

It’s worth noting that an adjustment in expectations for the book may be in order, though that is by no fault of Mr Parker. The book title after all tells us that it is about Ian Fleming’s Jamaica – not solely Ian Fleming. Thus there is much in the way of background and history of the island, all of which is fascinating and informative. If you were looking at 320 pages of Ian Fleming and James Bond, that’s not what this book is. In fact, it is not until page 124 that Fleming even begins writing Casino Royale.

All the background information is vital to the story of Ian Fleming and his creation, because there is so much of it in the writings of Fleming. This includes all the Bond novels, not just those in which the setting includes time in Jamaica – Live and Let Die, Dr No, The Man With the Golden Gun and the short stories For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy. All the books and stories reveal the influence of Jamaica, if not directly than by means of a look into the political climate of the time, especially when it comes to the decline of the British Empire and the breakup of the Colonial holdings of the Empire. Fleming’s views on Britain, the United States, colonialism, politics and race are all explored in the context of the influences on his life and it is shown how these views make it in the James Bond novels.

Mr Parker expertly connects passages within the novels with events in Jamaica at the time and within Fleming’s own life – sometimes amusingly. Errol Flynn was a prominent figure around Jamaica in the late 1940’s and it seems that Fleming and Flynn had no use for each other, even as they were vying for the crown of “Jamaica’s most noted expatriate lothario.” Flynn felt Fleming ‘pretentious and full of himself,” while Fleming apparently didn’t care for the Hollywood legend of Flynn either. Mr Parker notes that in From Russia With Love, when Tatiana Romanova tries to compliment Bond by telling him he looks like an American film star, Bond snaps back at her ‘For God’s sake! That’s the worst insult you can pay a man!’

The relationship of Ann and Ian Fleming is also crucial to the account, as once again, the ups and downs of this relationship are reflected in Ian’s writing. (See the views of marriage as written in Diamonds Are Forever.) Ann came to hate and avoid Jamaica, which left Ian free to carry on affairs with the likes of Millicent Huttleston Rogers, Lady Jeanne Campbell and Blanche Blackwell. Ann meanwhile carried on with Hugh Gaitskell in much the same manner in which she had carried on with Ian when she was married to someone else. Despite this, the pair never divorced, and would still write affectionately to and about the other. Ian’s friend and Jamaican neighbor Noël Coward even created characters in his plays which were obviously based on Ian and Ann, and Blanche Blackwell. Mr Parker draws these connections for us in Coward’s work, while detailing the unlikely friendship between the men.

Mr Parker spent extensive time interviewing those who actually knew Fleming. As the years go by, these accounts become even more precious, knowing that in the not-so-distant future, this generation will be gone. Blanche Blackwell, still going strong at 102, her son Chris Blackwell, who now owns Goldeneye, Jamaican swimming champion Barrington Roper, who Fleming used as a guide, and surviving members of the Fleming’s extended family were among those who assisted Mr Parker with his research for the book.

There are numerous photographs throughout the book, both in-line and as part of a color collection in the center of the book. I cannot stop looking at the photo on page 253 which shows Ian sitting on a windowsill in Goldeneye, and sitting next to him, on his right is Blanche and on his left is Ann. The contrast is startling. Blanche is wearing what looks like a button-down shirt over presumably a swimsuit, with her bare legs dangling down. Ann, on the hand is more formally dressed, with a high neckline blouse and long skirt and you see no leg from her. Ian is sitting up straight, arms crossed on his lap, with something of a sheepish look on his face.

Both Jamaica and Ian Fleming changed during the time he kept his residence there. The island gained in popularity as a tourist spot and won its independence from Britain, Fleming bought his land in 1946, was married there in 1952 as a ‘sleek’ 44-year-old and a dozen years later was a dying man having exhausted his body from years of living too hard. Mr Parker captures this period for both Jamaica and Ian Fleming, giving us a view that has not been seen in this detail previously.

The book was released in the UK last August, but is not set for a US release until March 11th of 2015.

On the image below you can preorder the book for its March US release:

If you can’t wait until March, you can order the book through Amazon UK, just be prepared to pay a bit more for the shipping – it’s not too much though. Click here:

This book is a most welcome addition to my James Bond/Ian Fleming library and I’m sure it will be to yours too.

Manatee Bay

After arriving in Jamaica in Live and Let Die, James Bond and companion Quarrel drive to the Western end of the island for a week of training before Bond is to make his undersea trek to the Isle of Surprise.

There is some confusion here, as Ian Fleming again took some creative licence with the naming. He calls the area near Negril Manatee Bay. There is a Manatee Bay in Jamaica, but it is on the Southern end of the island. The bay near Negril is Long Bay.

John Griswold in his amazing Ian Fleming’s James Bond: Annotations and Chronologies for Ian Fleming’s Bond Stories offers a possible explanation.

In short, the idea is that the name “Long Bay” wasn’t exotic enough, so Fleming searched for Bays near Long Bay. Trouble is, there are two Long Bays in Jamaica, and near to the “other” Long Bay was a Manatee Bay. That area is said to be where Columbus made a stop, something Fleming refers to in his story:

Here, because of the huge coastal swamps, nothing has happened since Columbus used Manatee Bay as a casual anchorage. Jamaican fishermen have taken the place of the Arawak Indians, but otherwise there is the impression that time has stood still.

Fleming may have grabbed the name Manatee Bay not realizing it was not near the Long Bay on the Western end of the island. Griswold notes Fleming had first typed Negril Bay, and later crossed it out and put in Manatee Bay.

Manatee Bay is currently a hot topic in Jamaica as conservationists are battling to keep it from being developed as another resort area. It’s being called most important remaining natural coastal habitat left on the island that link will show you some of the coastal swamps Fleming refers to.

Long Bay, near Negril is the place that Bond and Quarrel go to.

Bond thought it the most beautiful beach he had ever seen, five miles of white sand sloping easily into the breakers and, behind, the palm trees marching in graceful disarray to the horizon. Under them, the grey canoes were pulled up beside pink mounds of discarded conch shells, and among them smoke rose from the palm thatch cabins of the fishermen in the shade between the swamp-lands and the sea.

In a clearing among the cabins, set on a rough lawn of Bahama grass, was the house on stilts built as a weekend cottage for the employees of the West Indian Citrus Company. It was built on stilts to keep the termites at bay and it was closely wired against mosquito and sand-fly. Bond drove off the rough track and parked under the house. While Quarrel chose two rooms and made them comfortable Bond put a towel round his waist and walked through the palm trees to the sea, twenty yards away.

The area is still spectacular.

long-bay-beach

I couldn’t find anything about the a West Indian Citrus Company, but I did find this photo of a beach house used by the West Indies Sugar Company that was on Long Bay near Negril:

negril-west-indies-sugar-company-beach-house

 

negril-frome-beach-house

 

The photographer, Robin Farquharson has an amazing site of pictures from Jamaica from 1954 to present.

Did you ever wonder about duppies or the rolling calf?

No man walked alone for fear of the duppies under the trees, or the rolling calf

Well, wonder no more – Jamaican Folk Tales

Isle of Surprise

From chapter 16 of Live and Let Die:

It had always been rumoured that there was treasure on the Isle of Surprise and everything that was known about Bloody Morgan supported the rumour.

The tiny island lay in the exact centre of Shark Bay, a small harbour that lies at the end of the Junction Road that runs across the thin waist of Jamaica from Kingston to the north coast.

Fleming gives a small description of the Island:

His ships always anchored in Shark Bay and he careened them in the lee of the Isle of Surprise, a precipitous lump of coral and limestone that surges straight up out of the centre of the bay and is surmounted by a jungly plateau of about an acre.

And a few more details a bit later:

A few weeks after the sale, the yacht Secatur put in to Shark Bay and dropped anchor in Morgan’s old anchorage in the lee of the island. It was manned entirely by negroes. They went to work and cut a stairway in the rock face of the island and erected on the summit a number of low-lying shacks in the fashion known in Jamaica as ‘wattle-and-daub’.

Fleming has taken the real Cabarita Island, out on the bay outside of  Port Maria and turned it into the Isle of Surprise. From The Jamaican Magazine:

The curious little island of Cabarita is sometimes referred to as Treasure Island. It once belonged to Henry Morgan, the notorious buccaneer, who it is said lost it while gambling. This small circular island is a three-quarter mile swim from Pagee Beach, and forms part of the breakwater for Port Maria. It comprises seven and a half densely wooded acres, with steps cut into the rocks, which lead up to a two-acre plateau. Local lore tells of buried treasure, and of a shallow grave where the skeleton of a runaway slave was found along with a flint stone pistol beside an old hut.

isle-of-paradise3

isle-of-paradise2

I like the details about the carved steps in the rock leading to the plateaued top. Fleming took some creative licence in describing when the steps were made, the size of the island, and the distance from the shore. He says a couple of times that it is a 300-yard swim to the island.

On a side note, Fleming had a thing for pirates and treasure, didn’t he?