During the summer of 1980, on the curious advice of his wife, Yoko Ono’s astrology consultants, John Lennon set sail for Bermuda.
The former Beatle had grown up as a working class young man in Liverpool, and had not discovered his passion for sailing until his move to America. But, after taking up tacking and jibing, Lennon became so enamoured with the pastime that a 700 mile voyage from Rhode Island to Bermuda was barely enough to sate his sailing desires.
But, little did Lennon know, Bermuda was to steal his heart – putting the musician at the bottom of a long list of artists and songwriters whose creative juices were set flowing by the rum swizzles and clear waves of this Atlantic island. And, for several heady months in that early early-Eighties summer, Lennon and his son settled in a house, Undercliff, a couple of miles from Bermuda’s capital, Hamilton.
To this day, Bermuda remains a startling example of British culture dropped into a tropical environment. Lennon, who hadn’t set foot in Britain for nine years by the time he made it to Bermuda, likely viewed the experience as something of a homecoming – a feeling that place names such as Warwick, Pembroke and St George’s could only compound.
So, if you’re looking to recapture the atmosphere that charmed the legendary musician, here are some of John Lennon’s favoured Bermudian haunts.
The Botanical Gardens
Situated just outside of Hamilton, Bermuda’s Botanical Gardens are spread across 36 acres of hilltop landscape, with walks leading through flower gardens and lawns glowing in the shade of giant ficus trees and palms. There is nowhere on the island so teaming with nature, and the beauty of the gardens are perhaps seconded only by the seafront vistas Bermuda has to offer.
One particular plant in the Botanical Gardens – where all the plants and trees are labelled meticulously for tourists and experts alike – captured the attention of Lennon. The ‘Double Fantasy’, a strain of freesia, gave the musician the kernel of a creative idea – which would soon become a husband-wife recording project of the same name between Yoko Ono and the former Beatle.
Hamilton’s colourful Front Street, which today boasts a Marks & Spencer and HSBC in a reassuringly British turn-of-events – was where Lennon was introduced to local modern music of the time. And, where the musical icon sipped Swizzles back in the day, the party is still gently rumbling on.
Today home to Hamilton’s nightlife district, clubs, bars and restaurants team, and this row of pastel coloured buildings – designed in the typical colonial architecture seen across Bermuda – have become an enduring icon of the Island. Walk right to the end of the street and you’ll find the Gosling Brother’s rum shop – the spirit that epitomises the spirit of Bermuda.
Lennon’s son, Sean, was four during the months he and his father spent on the island. One of the youngster’s favourite pastimes was to wander the historic streets of St George’s. The first permanent English settlement on the island, St. George’s is the oldest continuously-inhabited English town in the New World and, with colourful architecture and no shortage of history, there is plenty for tourists today to see.
Saint Peter’s Church is an icon of the island, and the Old State House dates back to the early 1620s. This, the oldest building on the island, remains a cornerstone of Bermudian tourism to this day, and Stewart Hall – from around 100 years later – form the island’s UNESCO World Heritage Site – well worth a visit, if you’re a multi-award winning musician or not…
Article written in association Bermuda Tourism Authority. #GoToBermuda