Statue of Noël Coward by Angela Conner in front of Firefly
|Location||Port Maria, Jamaica|
|Type||Historic house museum|
Firefly Estate, located 10 km (6 mi) east of Oracabessa, Jamaica, is the burial place of Sir Noël Coward and his former vacation home. It is now listed as a National Heritage Site by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust. Although the setting is Edenic, the house, built in 1956, is surprisingly spartan, considering that he often entertained jet-setters and royalty. The building has been transformed into a writer's house museum.
Noël Coward's mountaintop Jamaican home and burial site was originally owned by the infamous pirate and one-time governor of Jamaica, Sir Henry Morgan (1635-1688). The property offered a commanding view of the St. Mary harbour, and Morgan used it as a lookout. As part of the hideaway, Morgan had caused a secret escape tunnel to be dug, opening at Port Maria.
Named for the luminous insects seen in the warm evenings, Firefly estate has entertained a wide range of guests, including both the Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth II, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Laurence Olivier, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Sir Alec Guinness, Peter O'Toole, Richard Burton, and neighbours Errol Flynn, Ruth Bryan Owen and Ian Fleming.
"An Englishman has an inalienable right to live wherever he chooses", said Winston Churchill, who instructed Coward in oil-painting technique while visiting at Firefly. The Firefly art studio holds Coward's paintings and photographs of his coterie of famous friends, including Laurence Olivier, Errol Flynn and Marlene Dietrich.
Of his time at the Firefly estate, Coward wrote in his diary: "Firefly has given me the most valuable benison of all: time to read and write and think and get my mind in order . . . I love this place, it deeply enchants me. Whatever happens to this silly world, nothing much is likely to happen here." Writing, he believed, came easier when he was here, "the sentences seemed to construct themselves, the right adjectives appeared discretely at the right moment. Firefly has magic for me. . . ."
Coward died of myocardial infarction at Firefly on 26 March 1973, aged 73 and is buried in a marble tomb in the garden near the spot where he would sit at dusk watching the sun set as he sipped his brandy with ginger ale chaser and looked out to sea and along the lush green coast spread out beneath him. A statue of him gazing out over the blue harbour graces the lawn. The stone hut on the lawn that was once a lookout for Henry Morgan, then converted to a bar by Sir Noël, is now a gift shop and restaurant.
On one of Firefly's walls is written his last poem. It begins:
When I have fears, as Keats had fears,
Of the moment I'll cease to be,
I console myself with vanished years,
Remembered laughter, remembered tears,
And the peace of the changing sea.
- Jamaica National Heritage Trust - Firefly House
- http://articles.latimes.com/1992-01-01/entertainment/ca-1163_1_firefly-hill His last poem
- History of property Archived July 17, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- Salewicz, Chris (2000) Firefly: Noel Coward in Jamaica, Indigo Publishing pp. 71 – 78 ISBN 978-0575603387.
- Winston Churchill reference
- "The Magical Kingdom of Firefly Hill : Arts: Celebrities came to Noel Coward's winter retreat for the Jamaican sunsets and for their host's wit and wisdom". latimes.
- "Jamaica". google.ca.