Lionel Densham Aerodrome
Who was Lionel Densham? Why is there an airfield in Treasure Beach, Jamaica named for him? Sally Henzell tells all.
ionel, my father’s older brother, applied for, and got, a job as navigator on a sailing boat owned by a rich American. He was leaving Antibes and sailing around the world. Lionel taught himself to use the sextant in the two weeks prior to sailing and off they shot across the Atlantic. After Tenerife, their next stop was Barbados, then Trinidad and up through the Leeward Islands they came and stopped in for a good week in Kingston Harbour. Here Lionel found people of his ilk who loved horses and played polo, a new sport to him though brought up on horses as his father was Master of Foxhounds in Devon. So off they set again; Cuba, Key West, Miami. 1929. The boat’s owner found to his dismay that he was broke and the voyage had to end forthwith. “Sorry, Lionel.” “I don’t mind at all,” said Lionel, “I will go straight back to Jamaica and send for my brother to join me there.” So saying he sent a famous telegram which read as follows:
SELL EVERYTHING INCLUDING THE BILLIARD TABLE STOP. BRING # 9 HARDY ROD POLO STICKS AND COME STOP LIONEL.
And so Basil did. Sure enough, he also thought this was the best place and after buying some horses and learning the game—standing on the tea tables at Mona Hotel as the owner pitched them balls—they were ready to stay forever. Frugally the brothers found themselves staying with friends in their property house in St. Elizabeth, Long Hill House, belonging to the Robisons. For long-stayers, to this day, the English have a system called P. Ging which simply means paying guest. Property owners were delighted with the arrangement as traveling was a hard chore in those days of early automobiles and dusty lanes, so they welcomed the lads who would make up numbers, eight people needed to play polo, as well as competition on their race track and good entertainment.
It so happened the Robisons had a daughter called Kate who had been sent to Ancaster House, Bexhill-on-Sea, England and there befriended Joyce Tyler. Joyce had come out to be a bridesmaid to Kate, and there it happened—Basil and Joyce fell in love. When she left, he whizzed after her, married her and brought her back. They never left and we were the lucky ones to be born Jamaican.
Lionel built himself a house in Santa Cruz not far from the Long Hill House with a polo field that doubled as an airstrip as he had taught himself to fly and had a couple of Piper Cubs and a glider.
Because of this we’ve named the local aerodrome the Lionel Densham Aerodrome.
It’s just ten minutes from Jakes and our guests who would rather forgo the two-and-a-half hour drive from MoBay or Kingston can land here in 20 minutes where we will have a car awaiting them.
Lionel never married but lived to a ripe old age becoming a notorious eccentric of which dozens of improbable stories exist.
Jakes will arrange for guests to fly on either TImair or Airlink. The flight takes about 25 minutes. Prices vary according to the time of year.
Jakes will arrange for guests to fly on either Island Hoppers or Captain Aviation. The flight takes approximately 30 minutes. Prices vary according to the time of year.
Read more about the Lionel Densham Aerodrome.
Keron Ebanks, who’s worked at Jakes for one year
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