PHOTO: Stephen Fry
HISTORY OF FIREFLY
In 1948, Noël Coward, whilst holidaying at the nearby home of Ian Fleming, ‘Goldeneye’, fell in love with Jamaica. He decided to buy his own house further along the coast. He bought and built the property that he was later to name ‘Blue Harbour’; a good sized property overlooking the sea. Later he expanded the main house, built three guest cottages in the substantial grounds, and, a lovely swimming pool down by the shore. Blue Harbour quickly became a Mecca for Coward’s friends and the post-war ‘celebrity set’ of stage and screen.
By 1955 Coward eventually decided that Blue Harbour was becoming too crowded for him to work; he needed ‘the valuable peace’. (The photograph below is of the staff at Blue Harbour during Noël's time there - probably taken by Cole Lesley).
He set out to buy a hideaway retreat, and found a site 1200 feet above Blue Harbour – which he bought for $150. He had a simple house built for himself at the top of the hill, and completed with an outdoor swimming pool. Coward named the property ‘Firefly’. The entire property enjoys remarkable views of the north coast of Jamaica. Life at Firefly with close friends revolved around the pool, Study, Studio and prolific use of the Music Room and open Dining Room – with food being sent up from Blue Harbour. Coward lived in the house alone. It was only towards the end of his life that a housekeeper and gardener lived nearby. Coward died at Firefly in March 1973, and he was buried in the garden of his beloved home.
In 1978 Graham Payn gave Firefly to the Jamaica National Heritage Trust. In subsequent years, sadly, Firefly became very seriously run-down, and eventually Chris Blackwell (whose mother, Blanche, had been a good friend of Coward’s in Jamaica) bought the property and restored it to its former glory. Chris Blackwell still owns the property and supports its upkeep financially. Much of the contents (including pictures) of the house are owned by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust and the Noël Coward Estate.
Peter Tod • 19th July 2010 • email • Photo of Staff at Blue Harbour restored by John Hunter Knowles from a stereo slide.
As part of the celebrations in Noël Coward's Centenary Year Victor Gollancz and Island Life published a book about Firefly written by Chris Salewicz and compiled by Adrian Boot for Island Outpost.
It is the first and only book about Noël's hideaway in Jamaica and currently only available via used book outlets.
Some of the text is quoted on this site together with images owned by the Noël Coward Estate.