PHOTO: Stephen Fry
The Beginnings of Noël's Life in Jamaica
Noël's life is described in a quartet of major works that began with the first official biography by Sheridan Morley, 'A Talent to Amuse' written in 1969 in time for a celebration of his 70th birthday that took place in what Noël termed 'Holy Week,' that culminated in a midnight matinée bearing the same title featuring nearly 200 performers who came together to celebrate the life of ' The Master.' (a CD of extracts from this show is available at MCSR).
This was followed by perhaps the warmest of biographical tributes by his long-serving secretary and the man who, "knew more about Noël than Noël," Cole Lesley in 'The Life of Noël Coward (in the USA 'Remembered Laughter - the Life of Noël Coward').
Later Graham Payn, Noël's friend and companion from the late 1940s until his death in Jamaica in 1973, wrote another warm evocation in partnership with Coward scholar, Barry Day, 'My Life with Noël Coward'.
The final entry in the quartet is Philip Hoare's 'Noel Coward - A Biography.'
All of these provide detailed stories and anecdotes from Noël's life overlooking the Spanish Main.
In addition, Noel's autobiography, diaries and recently published volumes including 'The Letters of Noel Coward,' edited and annotated by Barry Day, provide a host of more personal reflections on his life there.
"He became instantly addicted to the island, its people, its scenery and above all its climate, and for the last two decades he has managed to spend at least three months of almost every year of his life there." Sheridan Morley 'A Talent to Amuse'
1948 - Noel and Graham Payn fly to Jamaica from New York following a failed revival of 'Tonight at 8:30.'
Noel rents Ian Fleming's 'Goldeneye' for the entire Spring of 1948.
Buys land to the East of Goldeneye;
"We were driving along the road from Goldeneye and there was this cardboard "For Sale" sign nailed onto a palm tree. And Noel said, 'Oh, let's have a look at this.' And he saw this marvellous position and said that's a good place to buy and build a house. So he built Blue Harbour. But they didn't do it as he wanted. He wanted it to go back in layers up the hill, but they just built it straight up. He was furious." Graham Payn
Saturday 8 May 1948 - (diary extract)
"Painted in the morning. In the afternoon drove up to Look Out where there is some land at £10 an acre. It is enchanting; an old stone house, roofless but with thick walls and the most fabulous view. I want to buy it, ostensibly as a writing retreat but really with a view to making it lovely for the future, letting or selling Blue Harbour and living in it." Noel Coward