It is said that Ian Fleming, who created the world's best known secret agent, loved Jamaica and appreciated the privacy he enjoyed there to do his writing. He not only wrote all of his James Bond novels there but three of them have Jamaican settings - Dr. No, Live and Let Die, and The Man With the Golden Gun, as well as the short story, Octopussy.
Fleming was a British naval intelligence officer turned newspaper man. After World War II, having fallen in love with Jamaica (see article below), he asked a friend to find a dream home for him there and the friend did exactly that - found a beautiful 14-acre strip of land on the north coast near Oracabessa in Saint Mary parish where Fleming built himself his simple home & retreat, Goldeneye.
Many think Goldeneye was given a similar name to the Spanish "Oracabessa" (or Goldenhead), but Goldeneye was reportedly the British Naval Intelligence Division's code-name for a Spanish wartime operation which was masterminded by Fleming. Oracabessa is, however, the “beautiful little banana port” which James Bond drove through in Live and Let Die.
In 1947 Fleming wrote a portrait of his adopted home in Horizon magazine, and it caused a postwar tourist boom among wealthy Britons and Americans. “I have examined a large part of the world,” he wrote. “After looking at all these, I spent four days in Jamaica in July 1943. July is the beginning of the hot season and it rained in rods everyday at noon, yet I swore that if I survived the contest I would go back to Jamaica, buy a piece of land, build a house and live in it as much as my job would allow.” He did just that, as foreign manager for Kemsley Newspapers.
Adjoining Fleming's property is James Bond Beach, just east of Oracabessa, and about 30 minutes east of Ocho Rios. It's signposted just off Main Street along Old Wharf Road. In the mid-1990s, the Island Outpost corporation, owned by Chris Blackwell, bought 70 acres of prime coastal land and opened the James Bond Beach Club. The facilities are open every day except Monday from 9:30am to 6:00pm. There is a small admission fee, but James Bond Beach has really nice changing rooms with toilets and showers, so I find it well worth the small fee for upkeep! You will usually find watersports like boats and jet-skis for rental. There's also a two-story open-air restaurant and bar called Moonraker (and yes, you can get a martini, shaken, not stirred, if you wish!!). The grounds are quite large and quite often host parties and live music shows. The beach is beautiful and usually not crowded so bring swimsuits and a good book and relax for the day!
Goldeneye is now part of Chris Blackwell's new development and can be rented as a villa. If you're interested in seeing photos of the area and progress photos of the development on Low Cay Beach, visit Goldeneye Development's site. I love the classic wood-clad Caribbean cottage designs! It's going to be a beautiful resort.
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Ian Fleming in Jamaica (1946 - 1964)
Ian Fleming vowed that after the war he would build a house in Jamaica. He had visited there briefly for a U-boat conference during the war and had fallen in love with the country.
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, most probably after a wartime operation with which he had been involved. It was near the banana port of Oracabessa.
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, Noel 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 Ann Rothermere were finally married after a long but intermittent affair. Noel Coward was one of the witnesses. In all likelihood it was Ann who encouraged him to get on and write the book that he was always talking about.
Casino Royale was the result.
Thereafter, every January and February at Goldeneye, he wrote another adventure of James Bond. ‘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.’
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. In many Bond books are 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 like 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.