Colin Tennant Is Gone

The man who made Mustique the most glamorous island in the Caribbean is now happily buried in a tiny fishing village in St. Lucia.

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When his Mustique friends arrived for the funeral, large posters of Colin had been hung in the street, his houses were wrapped in black cloth, the large Lady of Lourdes Church was hot but overflowing with local Government Ministers, his wife, Lady Anne, and the family, close friends from England, fishermen friends of Colin’s and choirs. Children were dressed in pink, white and gold. Bryan Adams, a good friend, sang an old American folk song called “He Was a Friend of Mine.” The impact of color there was strong and so was the incense. The singing was beautiful and vibrant and you could feel it was a celebration of a life lived with ideas and enthusiasm from beginning to end. The coffin was carried through the town by Colin’s son and grandsons and the congregation and all the villagers in town followed them, singing. There was dancing. It was The Last Colin Party the way he would want it, as they lowered the coffin into the tomb on which there are carved doves and the party continued as the Mustique group drove to catch the planes. Looking back, Colin’s white tomb towered above the other headstones.

Most of us didn’t know he was dying. A couple of years ago a large statue of him by Philip Jackson was erected on a hill in Mustique. He attended the unveiling ceremony and there they were, two Colin Tennants, side by side on that hill in his cotton Indian trousers and long white Indian shirt. When he inherited his title, the 3rd Baron Glenconner, he had his shirts and pants embroidered with a big G and a crown. Once he traveled to London in that outfit and before arriving he changed into London clothes in the aisle of the plane, bemusing the passengers but not British Airways. His hat was his signature and during his funeral when his coffin was carried through the village that hat sat proudly on top. It is buried with him. I keep wondering where Bupa, his elephant is. It’s said that Colin rescued him from a zoo in London. Bupa arrived by boat in the North of St Lucia and walked across the island accompanied by crowds of people who had never seen an elephant before. Bupa – where are you???????

Colin Christopher Paget Tennant was born in Scotland to a wealthy family and led a Cole Porter sort of young bachelor life. He was handsome and charming and became part of the Princess Margaret set. He married Lady Anne Coke, a beauty, and they and the Princess became very close lifelong friends. After refusing to manage his families estates in Trinidad he saw Mustique and had a vision, he told me, so he bought it for about 45,000 British Pounds, and gave the Princess the best peninsula. A house was built and she merrily and cozily helped him make the island a starlit stage filled with celebrities. Some exciting ones like Mick Jagger and David Bowie bought land and joined the gorgeous circus. Colin was a great ringmaster and his parties were not just extravaganzas, they were fun, big crazy fun.

On his 50th birthday Bianca Jagger was carried into the party on a litter by nude fishermen who had been painted gold tip to toe and wore only a gold coconut shell in respect for Princess Margaret. Gold fishermen carried gold torches to light up the beaches; there was music behind every bush, behind every dune and as there were less than 25 houses on the island and only a couple of roads guests felt cut off from the real world and free to be outrageous and were. Those parties would make today’s reality shows seem ho hum. On his 60th birthday he staged a Peacock Ball that was the talk of the society world for a very long time. Colin had built a stunning Indian-style villa on the sea and for his Peacock Ball he had made costumes for his collaborators – he made them in India – they were fantastic! The Rolling Stones lighting group set the house into a glamorous blaze; trees had been painted pink, a small cruise ship fully dressed with lights sailed up and back all evening and Princess Margaret once said she had never been so happy. The party went on for days.

Mustique was becoming a famous island. Brian Alexander had moved from London to run it for Colin and from the day he set foot on Mustique it became a lot more than a dazzling party place, it became a business. Land was sold, houses and roads were built and year by year every modern improvement appeared and success bloomed. It was Colins dream, though, and he and Brian and Brian’s wife, Johanna, Basil Charles, my husband, Harding Lawrence, and other home owners and certainly Sir James Mitchell, the Prime Minister of St Vincent, held a determination to keep Mustique a community and not let it be bought up and turned into a typical big hotel resort. So although Mustique is the largest employer in St Vincent and although there are now 102 houses on the island it has kept Colin’s dream to stay simple and beautiful and fun. And young! Someone once said, “Mustique is not just an island, it is more a state of mind.” Colin’s.

He bought great land across from the Pitons in St Lucia and his eyes danced when he told me he was going to create another wonderful place like Mustique there. So wherever his spirit may be I am betting that we can count on Colin to create another Mustique for us to move to.

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