THE TALE OF CAPTAIN JACK
Captain Jack Henderson first visited Antigua in the 1930’s on a World trip. Of all the islands and countries he visited he was particularly fond of his stay in Antigua, and was therefore delighted when Premier VC Bird, (later to become the first Prime Minster of Antigua) personally reached out to him and asked for his assistance in supporting the country.
As English as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding he was brought up in Belgium and spoke fluent French, joining the Army in 1939, he saw action throughout France, Belgium, Italy and was evacuated with 300,000 British and French soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk in May 1940. He told the story of how eager to enlist he attended the military enlistment fair on the declaration of War with the intention to join the Royal Airforce as he had both engineering and flying experience. Unfortunately, his eyesight let him down and in a fit of pique he marched into the adjacent booth and signed up without caring what regiment or service it was. He found himself part of the 7th Infantry Brigade, Royal Army Ordinance Corps, later known as the Desert Rats.
Following Dunkirk, he was deployed in the Middle East as part of Operation Dynamo which began on 27th May 1940. He played a substantial part in the battles in Syria and was part of the 1942 preparation for the First Battle of El Alamein (1st - 27th July). In 1943 he was part of the push from North Africa into Italy and ended in Rome. He received his release papers from the Army on 31st October 1945.
In the early 1950’s he again revisited Antigua, introducing his wife to the island. He loved the idea of being a ‘Pioneer’ and his constant refrain when they first moved to Antigua and suffered water or power shortages, or any other problems, was that they were Pioneers! Likewise, he enjoyed camping out at a remote spot on the island called Ding a Ding only accessible by land rover and walking and scene of the kidnap of Lady Warner the Governor’s wife by the Caribs. Here he would fish and ride his horses and relax in solitude.
He became actively involved in increasing the manufacturing market on the island, a promise he had made his great friend Prime Minister VC Bird and to this end he built and ran the first steel roofing factory making galvanised roofing for all the Caribbean and further afield. The factory still runs today and is the proud bearer of his name, situated outside the airport entrance.
Jacks three loves were his wife, his backhoe (a huge digger) and business. He found a perfect combination when he developed the bush land at English Harbour, discovering many artefacts which were given to the local museums, and building a beach club hotel which he named Galleon Beach. He was never happier than driving his digger with a cigar clamped between his teeth, whilst thinking of another adventure.
There are many stories of his twinkling blue eyes and poker face and how he loved to tease. April Fool’s day being his favourite when he would catch the gullible with his many jokes. One of his favourites was to get his daughter out of bed at crack of dawn because one of their horses was in foal! How he laughed.
Many Antiguans have a story about him, from his adventures on his boat fishing with Richard Burton to the story of him refusing a long haired, unkempt seaman to land on the beach, replying, when the poor chap said but he had come from Falmouth, “well you can go right back there it’s only the next bay” the poor man in fact meant Falmouth England and not Falmouth Antigua. He was finally allowed to come on shore only when the television cameras arrived! Jack was the host of the many parties his wife arranged with an eclectic mixture of guests from Antigua and internationally, mixing politics, sports and culture in a wonderful cocktail of people.
The Henderson moved to The Great House in the 1970s. Much work was needed on the house itself and the grounds which had fallen into a sad state, and of course Jack was in his element on his digger with a large cigar clenched between his teeth and tinkering with machinery to bring the estate back to its former self.
His love of Antigua and its sunshine and warmth stayed with him until his death there in 2000 - a true Pioneer.
INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL AWARDS
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The Great House Team