14-Aug-2017 • Literary
Blanche Blackwell, who died on August 8th, 2017 at the age of 104, was the mother of the record mogul Chris Blackwell, the mistress of Ian Fleming and one of the last survivors from the age when some 20 families ran Jamaica.
She was, perhaps, the last living person who knew Ian Fleming intimately. Blanche Blackwell was only four years younger than Fleming but outlived the 007 creator by 54 years.
In her obituary published this weekend, The Telegraph wrote:
Blanche first met Ian Fleming at a Kingston dinner party in 1956. At first they did not get on: he thought her “a stupid bitch”, albeit an attractive one; she found him insufferably rude. “Don’t tell me you’re a lesbian,” he demanded. Later he was said to have used her as the model for the glamorously bisexual martial-arts expert Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (less gallantly he named the decrepit guano tanker in Dr No the Blanche). Gradually they got to know each other, however, and Fleming, enchanted by Blanche’s mischievous wit and vivacity, started inviting her to his house, where she enjoyed snorkelling on his reef.
Fleming was married to Ann, the former Viscountess Rothermere, though the sexual side of their relationship, Ann claimed later, had ended after the birth of their son Caspar in 1952. As Fleming and Blanche became friends, gossip spread that they were having an affair, although Blanche insisted that it was only after a year and after Ann herself began an affair with the Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell, that she felt free to succumb to this “absolutely gorgeous” man.
In the meantime, however, Ann became increasingly jealous. While Fleming was away from Goldeneye, Blanche looked after the house and largely organised the famous visit of the Prime Minister Anthony Eden and his wife at the height of the Suez crisis in 1956, making the place more welcoming by planting flowers in the garden. Ann, on her return, tore up the “ugly shrubs” and hurled them into the sea. To a visiting friend, she pointed out Blanche’s estate, saying: “On the left is the house that belongs to Ian’s Jamaican wife. You may look, but I cannot.”
As their relationship developed, Blanche visited Fleming after his morning’s writing was finished, and he became a regular visitor to Bolt, giving her a fine collection of Jamaican prints. As a “thank-you” present, she gave Fleming a wooden fishing coracle, which he named “Octopussy”.