The Errol Flynn/ Noel Coward/ Ian Fleming Connection

10 Dec

  Some people might be surprised that these three men, with their wildly different backgrounds were ever even acquainted, much less close friends, but friends they were and were part of the “British Mafia” as they were often jokingly referred to in Jamaica at that time. They made a habit of visiting each other for drinks and stimulating conversation.

  Usually, Errol and Patrice would make the drive from their base in Port Antonio to The sleepy town of Port Maria to Noels “Firefly” bungalow or Ian's “Goldeneye” beach house in Oracabessa. Other times, Errol and Pat would host the get together on the ZACA, which was moored at his Navy Island pier. Noel was better suited for visitors and owned the Blue Harbour hotel just down the hill from Firefly to accommodate his many famous guests.

  By all accounts, the get togethers were memorable, with Noel and Ian having diametrically different viewpoints on almost everything. i.e. Noel being unabashedly liberal and animated, and Ian just as apologetically conservative, stoic, and possessing a razor-sharp biting wit. Add Errol, who's views were someplace in the middle acting as defacto referee.(with Pat and Ian's longtime lover Annie Rothermere, whom Ian referred to as “Pussy Galore” in the cheering section) and you had the recipe for dynamite.

  Errol being Errol, would play one off on the other and it was “off to the races”. The squabbling would begin and just when it was whipped up to a fever pitch, Errol would burst into raucous laughter, fall out of his chair and roll on the floor while Noel and Ian would look on dumbfounded, and the situation was defused.

  Although the three truly loved and respected one another, it almost didn't happen. Noel wrote,”I was very hesitant about meeting Errol as I had heard many things about him, and not all of them were good, but I found him to be most gracious and pleasant, one of the most charming individuals I've ever met, So it worked out fine”

  Sometimes Noel and his long-time partner Graham Payne would make the trip to see Errol and Pat. An entry in Noel's diary dated Tuesday 27 March, 1951: “Left for Port Antonio 7:30 A- arrived 9:30 A. Rafted down the Rio Grande. Lovely weather. In the evening dined with Errol Flynn and his wife Pat. Drinks on his yacht, which is beautiful, then barbecue dinner on his island – palm trees – lit by torches. Both of them extremely nice; a really lovely evening.”

  Today, much has changed but a few things have luckily been preserved. Firefly is a virtual time capsule, looking for all the world as if Noel has just stepped out for a moment. Twin baby grand piano's in the living room, Noel's typewriter with paper still inside and unfinished correspondence, towels with Noel's monogram “NC” hanging in the bath, and even shirts still hanging in the closet, waiting for an owner who will never return. Ian's Goldeneye is much the same, with letters and memento's under glass in the living room, typewriter ever handy and my favorite: Ian's outdoor bathtub gracing the back yard.

   Navy Island and Port Antonio haven't fared as well, with the island overgrown and deserted. (Although the 100+ Royal palms that Errol had planted are doing fine) and the grand old Titchfield Hotel, long gone by a devastating fire in 1969. To visit those places is to visit history and memories that I, when going there today, could easily imagine and feel, even 50+ yrs. later.

— john


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  1. Anonymous

    December 12, 2009 at 3:47 am

    Do you know what the island was like when Errol first owned it? Very interesting reading, thanks for posting.

  2. Anonymous

    December 13, 2009 at 2:59 am

    Hi John;
    This is a very interesting and most delightful story. Keep on bringing these stories.

  3. Anonymous

    December 14, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Kathleen, I have some photos that show the island to be mostly low brush. It catches the brunt of the sea/salt air and when a hurricane strikes, it is/was defenseless and storms would knock most everthing down. I don't believe I saw one tree that looked much over 50 yrs. old, and I've hiked over pretty much all of it. Also, it's alot bigger than it seems when you're traipsing around. Even the places that look like smooth going are in reality knee deep ground-hugging vines that are almost impossible to make any headway in. After 4hrs. I was exhausted. John

  4. Anonymous

    December 23, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    John! Thanks for bring this alive for us. I've seen pictures of both homes Fleming and Coward owned and what an incredible life it must have been for them. I wish so much that Flynn's Titchfield Hotel was still standing. Year's ago, I think the actor Ben Vareen was considering buying Navy Island for about 3 million dollars or so, but the sale didn't go through?

  5. Anonymous

    February 25, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Although I only needed some info from you (I posted on a previous post), I realized you have quite a story here. I'm hooked on Errol Flynn and all the drama that surrounded him. I think I'm gonna make a post about it myself.
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