“McRee, McCree, you’ll have us all drowned!” Mrs Maingot screamed at the captain of the Transport every time a wave hit the side of the boat. It was March 1958 and Colin Tennant, later the third Baron Glenconner, was on his way to Mustique in a local schooner with a view to buying the island.
The Transport sailed around Mustique as close as McRee dared, while Tennant scanned its seven hills and seven white beaches through an old pair of binoculars. It was on the way back to neighbouring St Vincent that he decided he would indeed buy Mustique and buy it, he did, for a little short of £45,000.
When Tennant’s wife, Anne, first visited the island later in the year she told him he was mad, and he would never make a go of any development. He famously replied: “You mark my words, I will make Mustique succeed and become a household name.”
And so he did. The first decade was spent putting the heart back into the land and the people. When the Great House burned down, he built another which was used for family holidays (during the oil crisis it was cheaper to go to Mustique than heat Glen, his estate in the Scottish Borders) and to entertain friends. When the time was right, in 1969, Colin formed the Mustique Company with two others and announced to the world that he was open to business.
His wedding present to Princess Margaret, first of a promontory on the south of Mustique, then a house, brought Mustique to the notice of the world – when she first inspected her new patch of land, the princess moved Colin’s boundary stakes when he wasn’t looking; he then moved them to their original positions. Back and forth they went until a compromise was reached.
In the pioneer years of the early Seventies, it was all very primitive and certainly belied its glamorous image. But raucous Mustique parties were legion.
Tennant left in the late-Eighties, having wearied of the island – he complained that those on Mustique no longer knew how to enjoy themselves – and today it is a very different animal. Everything is very efficient and is run by a committee made up of house owners.
Gone are the days when guests were excluded just because Tennant didn’t like them; he once ostracised some Northerners who complained about the “crocodiles” (harmless geckos) running over the walls. But though many visitors today have never heard of Colin Tennant, without him, it’s certain that Mustique would never have happened, or developed, in the way it did.
By Nicholas Courtney