Sunday, 25 November 2012

Reception committee: Fleming and Bond arrive in Jamaica

In the novel Dr No, as James Bond flies into Kingston airport at the start of his investigation of Dr No's nefarious activities (Dr No, chapter 4), he runs into a photographer from the Daily Gleaner, who is eager to take Bond's picture. Bond is understandably keen to remain in the shadows and is worried about details of his visit reaching the paper. When Ian Fleming wrote this episode, which also appeared in the screen adaptation, he was writing from personal experience. Like Bond, he invariably gained the attention of the Press on his arrival in Jamaica, but, at least in the early days, he had his own reasons for wanting to keep his visits low key.

When celebrities came to Jamaica, the Daily Gleaner made sure that its readers knew about it. The paper even had a dedicated column, “Airport News”, to report the arrival and departure of notable visitors. Ian Fleming built Goldeneye, his Jamaican home, in 1946, and very soon afterwards the Gleaner, initially because of Fleming's association with the wealthy so-called 'resident-visitor' Ivor Bryce, had recognised Fleming as someone newsworthy. In February 1947, the Gleaner ran a story about wealthy visitors buying property in Montego Bay, and mentioned Fleming's recent purchase.

By 1947, Ian Fleming's relationship with Lady Ann Rothermere, the wife of newspaper proprietor Lord Rothermere, was some six years old. Ian and Ann were determined to keep their affair discreet, and on her first visit to Goldeneye in 1948, Ann had brought Loelia, Duchess of Westminster as a chaperone to help deflect suspicions and gossip.

Ann and Ian's flight into Kingston (Palidadoes) Airport on 12th January, however, had not passed unnoticed, and the following day, their arrival was reported in the Daily Gleaner. Fortunately for Ian and Ann, the piece, accompanied by a photograph of the couple, revealed nothing of their relationship, and appeared to suggest that Ian and Ann had to some extent made separate holiday plans. Readers learnt that Ann was to be in Jamaica for three weeks and was to stay with Ivor Bryce, as well as Ian Fleming, while Ian was planning to remain in the country for six weeks at Goldeneye.

When Fleming described James Bond's arrival into Jamaica in Dr No (1958), he was in essence recalling his own experience. The Gleaner's reporter who greets Bond at the airport asks Bond the same questions that the reporter must have asked Fleming: how long will you be in Jamaica ('in transit', Bond answers), and where will you staying ('Myrtle Bank')? There was also a flash of the camera and the prospect of Bond's picture appearing in print.

Ian Fleming drew from a wide range of sources and experiences when he wrote the James Bond books. Some of these experiences, such as his wartime role and post-war journalism, form an important part of Bond's character and adventures. But there are other, seemingly less significant events, including arriving in Jamaica, which also contribute and add fine detail to the stories.

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