Ian Fleming vowed that after the war he would build a house in Jamaica. He had visited the country briefly for a U boat conference during the war and had fallen in love with it.
So in 1946 he acquired 15 acres of land on an old donkey racecourse above a little cove with a coral reef. He constructed a plain bungalow and named it Goldeneye, after a wartime operation with which he had been involved.
At the time he was employed as foreign manager of Kemsley newspapers. He wangled, characteristically perhaps, a contract from them whereby he could spend two months – January and February – at Goldeneye.
The house was very basic and not comfortable, and his neighbour, Noël Coward, called it ‘Goldeneye, nose and throat’. He was looked after devotedly during all his time there by Violet who lived locally.
It was there in 1952 that he and Anne Rothermere were finally married after a long but intermittent affair. Noël Coward was one of the witnesses. In all likelihood it was Anne who encouraged him to get on and write the book that he was always talking about and Casino Royale was the result.
Thereafter, every January and February he wrote another James Bond adventure at Goldeneye.
I wrote every one of the Bond thrillers here with the jalousies closed around me so that I would not be distracted by the birds and the flowers and the sunshine outside… Would these books have been born if I had not been living in the gorgeous vacuum of a Jamaican holiday? I doubt it.
– Ian Fleming
Joanna Lumley at Goldeneye, Jamaica
Fleming, who was by nature a solitary man, loved the flora and fauna of Jamaica. He was knowledgeable about birds, dipping no doubt now and again into the authoritative reference book, Birds of the West Indies, by the American ornithologist, James Bond. Fleming always said that when he was looking for a good plain name for his secret agent, his eye lit upon that book. Later he met James Bond and his wife, who appeared not to mind his name having been used in this way.
He also loved the sea and all its creatures. Ever since joining one of Jacques Cousteau’s underwater expeditions for the Sunday Times, he became fascinated by snorkelling. Scuba diving was in its early days in the 1950s, and Cousteau was a pioneer. Many of the Bond books contain colourful and accurate descriptions of tropical fish and the coral reef.
Although he was happy on his own, nevertheless Goldeneye received many visitors when he was there – people such as Truman Capote, Cecil Beaton, and Noel Coward, whose house nearby was called Firefly, and whose company Ian always enjoyed. Prime Minister Anthony Eden borrowed the house to recuperate following his illness brought on by the Suez crisis.
Three of the Bond books have scenes in Jamaica, Live and Let Die, Dr No, and The Man with the Golden Gun. In 1961, Dr No, the first Bond film was filmed in Jamaica – and Ursula Andress came out of the sea wearing a white bikini and holding a conch shell.
Several years after Ian Fleming’s death, Goldeneye was sold to Chris Blackwell (after Bob Marley pulled out of buying it), founder of Island Records, and a member of an old white Jamaican family.Today it is a resort. Fleming’s desk at which he wrote the books remains in the house with some other belongings.