Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Fiesta in Tenerife - from a Story in "The Skipping Verger and Other Tales"

           It was the early 1970s when a middle-aged English couple wandered across from the new San Antonio Hotel to savour a touch of old colonialism at the British Games Club in Puerto de la Cruz. They ordered gin and tonics, to which they were not especially accustomed, and walked up the steps to the tennis courts from where they heard very enthusiastic applause. Acknowledging whispered greetings, the visitors sat down on immaculately painted, green benches to watch an entertaining game of mixed doubles alongside a number of club members.

Needless to say, one wore whites to play tennis at the British Games Club

          After a few minutes they began to hear what sounded like heavy gunfire in the distance. It was their first time in Tenerife and the couple looked at each other in a rather startled manner whilst the other spectators continued to enjoy the tennis and to applaud as if the thunder of exploding shells were quite normal. At the end of a game and whilst the players were changing ends, the visiting gentleman couldn’t bear it anymore and decided to enquire.
          “Excuse me, what are all those explosions about?” he asked the man wearing whites and a matching Panama hat who was sitting beside him on the bench.
          “Oh, nothing to worry about old chap…..just the natives attacking again!” replied the club member casually in his best colonial accent before promptly standing up and wandering off down the steps to the bar, leaving the visitor and his wife open mouthed and confused. 
          The colonial, who apparently always liked to watch some tennis after his game of bowls, returned a few minutes later. He wore a broad smile and the twinkle in his eye betrayed a mischievous sense of humour. He was followed by Manuel, the barman, carrying a tray with two more gin and tonics for the innocent English couple. He thought it had been long enough for them to digest the thought of the attacking natives and whether or not they should speak to their Thompson’s representative about shortening the holiday.
          He explained that it was not gunfire at all but fireworks high on the ridge at La Guancha. The low cloud hanging in the valley did indeed make them thud like distant exploding shells. He had been in the war, don’t you know.
          “Fireworks...in the middle of the day?” asked the tourist in disbelief.
          “It’s a fiesta, old chap. They set off fireworks at all hours here, especially during a fiesta. They do it to make noise. They love noise. I’m afraid they can’t live without making noise. My wife loves a good fiesta. Personally, I hate them.”
          Sitting on the next bench and unable to ignore the conversation was the wife of another old resident and she began to chuckle. She remembered her first experience of a local fiesta twenty years earlier when they arrived in Tenerife after one of the coldest Dartmoor winters on record. One of the first things they decided to do was to go to the San Isidro fiesta in La Orotava on a very hot June day. They packed themselves, their daughter, the obedient black Labrador and provisions into the car before driving up into the old town centre.
          Just outside the upper part of the town anxious shepherds, goatherds and cowmen had begun to gather their oxen, goats, mules and donkeys on a country lane. The animals wore beautifully coloured rugs on their backs and whole families stood about dressed gaily in traditional Canary garments, mingling with all the livestock. Panniers full of fruit were being strapped to the donkeys whilst bullocks, thrashing their tails against stinging flies, were being harnessed to magnificently adorned carts. They were being made ready for the romería, a colourful procession through the streets representing agricultural and other scenes from island life.
          The family from Devon, who had made certain of learning an adequate amount of Spanish before settling on the island and Jan, their patient and understanding dog, found a good position from which to view the procession. In fact a very kind and proud lady let them share the raised position of her front door steps. They had already been invited by welcoming townsfolk to share wine, chick peas, cheese and balls of gofio when the proceedings began.

The Romería of San Isidro Labrador in La Orotava

          The swaying procession flowed down the cobbled streets like an undulating sea of colour and sound. Most of the men wore black fedora hats, white shirts, woollen breeches and scarlet cummerbunds. The girls also bloomed in rich scarlet waistcoats over their gypsy blouses, and their striped woven dresses covered exquisite petticoats.

The girls, in their  traditional "Maga" dress, were so pretty

          They were so pretty and they knew it and flaunted their beauty with a natural pride that is so much a part of the Canary Islander’s nature.

Massive bullocks lead the way

          There was much singing and even more laughter. Ripples of admiration greeted the beautifully adorned carts and strong men led their massive bullocks, leaning against their necks whenever they needed to stop or to slow them down. The lovely girls offered even more wine, fruit and delicious morsels of grilled meat prepared at the rear of carts which made their jerky way down the cobbles.
          The English family were feeling so much at ease, loving every second and totally absorbed by the charms of a real Spanish fiesta.

Canary Island charms at every corner

          As the wine flowed and morsels of food were shared out and exchanged for smiles, so the generosity of these people blossomed to even greater heights amongst themselves and towards total strangers.
          Even Jan, the Labrador, seemed to be enjoying the occasion. The scent of the huge, grilled chops filling the air and the pieces of meat being handed here and there on wooden spikes was just too exciting. There had never been anything so perfectly tempting. It was such tremendous fun.

The first giant firework exploded   
          But suddenly it happened. The first giant firework shot skywards and offered a deafening explosion immediately above their heads. They should have known better. Although he was well accustomed to the sound of shotguns during pheasant shoots on the moors, Jan objected, bolted across the merry procession and disappeared.
          “Jan, Jan, Jan” called the English lady cutting through the same colourful procession in hot pursuit after the dog. She was followed in the same direction, but much more discretely, by her husband and daughter.
           “I’ll bet he’s waiting for us at the car”, she shouted back, trying to be reassuring while shoving her way through the masses in what, to any onlooker, appeared to be a state of panic. People shrugged their shoulders and remarked, “Son ingléses” to explain the strange behaviour.
          The foreign lady was almost right. Like any well trained hunting dog, the black Labrador had gone straight to where they had parked the car. Unfortunately it was someone else’s car it had got into. It was a big, black saloon and all its doors were locked.
          How on earth did Jan get into it? Somebody said the car belonged to a man called Paco and that he was bound to be at the bar on the square. The Englishman and his daughter strode off in that direction, leaving the wife to talk nicely at her dog through a rear window.
          A short time later two smiling local gentlemen ambled up. They stared at the car for a moment with slightly bloodshot eyes and then gazed endlessly at the lady who was talking to the dog that was inside the car. She could feel how desperately they were trying to concentrate. After all it was an unusual situation for two drunks to deal with, but she was foolish enough to try to explain her predicament without being asked to. 
          “Never mind, señora, we will help you. You wait here. We will come back”, one of them offered just before another huge firework exploded.
          The English lady was just congratulating herself for their departure when they returned, one of them carrying a ghastly little brown dog with protruding teeth in his arms.
          “Here you are, we have found your dog”, he said, holding it out towards her.
          “I have not lost my dog. That is my dog in the car. I have lost the owner of the car and the car is locked with my dog inside it. Adios. Please, adios!” she begged, and looked around at the gathering crowd of amused spectators. A firework went off.
          “Why don’t you want this dog? We found it for you!” one of the two amigos said accusingly. They stood there swaying, for a minute or two thinking, and then one of them repeated, “You wait here. We will return. We know where to find you another dog!” They looked around them at the spectators with widening grins on their faces.
          “I don’t want a dog. My husband is finding the man who owns this car. Adios”, the English señora insisted very loudly. Bang went another firework and the two men wandered off to the bar again.

A policeman joined in the fun

          At that point a Guardia Civil policeman approached and enquired “Que pasa?
          She told him.
          “Ahhhhh!” he exclaimed.
          “That is Don Angel’s car. He has just been to the plaza with his wife, but how did your dog get into his car if it was locked?” he asked with a definite hint of suspicion in his eye.
          The English lady thought their troubles were over at last simply because a policeman had taken an interest, but she waited and waited.
          Half an hour later her husband and daughter returned. They both looked tired and very irritable, particularly the husband. They had been to the house of Paco but he was out. In any case Paco’s car was green. This one was black. She explained that the policeman had said it belonged to Don Angel, so her husband grunted and went off to look for Don Angel. Unfortunately Don Angel was also out and his servants said he might be anywhere. He was that kind of angel.
          A man in the crowd offered to smash the car window. Another said he would get a wire. Someone said he knew a man who was good with hinges. Another firework shook the proceedings just when the two amigos ambled up to the car again.
          “Does it wear a collar, señora?” the braver of the two asked kindly.
          “I have not lost my dog!” she retaliated, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. “I have found my dog. I am waiting for my husband!” A very loud firework ended her sentence.
          “I told you,” said the other drunk, “La pobre mujer has lost her husband, not her dog. You wait señora!”
          They wandered off, determinedly this time, and were back before long. On this occasion they were accompanied by an extremely tall, blond man with a very red face.
          Señora. He is here. We have found your husband for you!”
          Bonjour, madame”, said the foreign stranger very courteously indeed. “These two men told me you are looking for me”. In fact the poor man, a Swiss resident, had merely been having a beer or two at a corner bar when the two local gentlemen stepped in. They had assumed by his foreign appearance that he must without a doubt have been the missing husband, and dragged him along.
          Another loud firework exploded as the English husband came around the corner. He took surprisingly little interest in the two drunks and in the foreigner his wife was talking to in a very animated manner and suggested he take his family home and return later to look for Don Angel.
          However, at that moment another man parked his car alongside the black saloon. Hearing about the predicament he invited the lady to sit in it, where the dog could see her, while her husband resumed the search for Don Angel. This gesture, which was accepted gratefully, and the sincere assistance offered by the two drunks, was typical of the kindness of Canary Islanders. Meanwhile, as the English husband continued looking for Don Angel and everyone waited for the tale to end happily, all sorts of rumours were being whispered about what the almost certainly innocent Don Angel was doing, where and with whom.
          The drunks became drunker and brought more dogs and one or two husbands for the English lady to inspect. The policeman came by again and shrugged his shoulders, and a number of fireworks made people jump every now and then.

Jan, the labrador, had given up hope

          Jan the Labrador had given up hope and curled himself up on the rear seat of Don Angel’s car.
          It was late evening when the English husband returned. His wife was about to accept the sensible alternative, which was to be driven home whilst he waited by the car. But a tall, thin looking man with a delightful face strolled up and surprised them in perfect English.
          “You are looking for me. My name is Angel López. I understand you think I have a dog for sale!”
          Before the English couple could reply, a volley of fireworks thundered in the sky marking a triumphant end to the fiesta.

By John Reid Young

This publication happens to coincide with this year's very special fiesta and 100th anniversary of the famous Corpus Christi "Sand Carpets" in La Orotava.

Author of books "A SHARK IN THE BATH AND OTHER STORIES"  and "THE SKIPPING VERGER AND OTHER TALES", collections of his short stories set in Tenerife and the Canary Islands.


John Reid is also owner of Tenerife Private Tours

Friday, May 24, 2019

Darwin's Spanish Connection

When the name Charles Darwin is mentioned, wherever you are in the world, it is invariably in the context of nature and especially on the evolution of the species. In his work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, he was perhaps the first big-name scientist to clearly challenge the biblical account of creation.

Charles Darwin

But the idea of evolution, that plants and animals had changed and developed in the course of time, was not new. Even in classical Greece such an idea existed and geological discoveries in the 19th century gave rise to considerable scientific speculation. What Darwin did was to provide an acceptable explanation of how such development could take place. This was his theory of natural selection, that all living things reproduce themselves with slight variations to adapt to a changing environment.

But behind a great mind which was in the right place at the right time, there is often another great character, or several, who manage to remain less acclaimed or even anonymous, depending upon whose history books one prefers to read. Alexander Von Humboldt, for example, is perhaps the best known of these and, if you were to read Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of Nature, in which she describes Humboldt as “The Lost Hero of Science”, you might be forgiven in thinking that perhaps Mr Darwin was, in fact, behind the times.

The Invention of Nature, by Andrea Wulf

In fairness, Charles Darwin was a huge admirer of Humboldt and, having read so much of the Prussian’s writings, how disappointed he was in January 1832 when he and his expedition were prevented by the local authorities from exploring the island of Tenerife, from seeking out the amazing Dragon Tree in the Orotava Valley and from climbing the great Mt Teide volcano.

Mount Teide through the retama and flixweed in Spring
The famous Dragon Tree (Dracaena draco) at Icod de los Vinos

HMS Beagle anchored in the Bay of Santa Cruz on 6th January but, before anyone could be rowed ashore, a little pale-faced man, as described by Darwin, informed them that the Beagle was to be placed in quarantine for twelve days because of a suspected outbreak of cholera in England. HMS Beagle sailed on her way, catching los Alisios, the north easterly trade winds, towards the Cape Verde Islands.

Painting by Conrad Martens of the Beagle at anchor whilst surveying Tierra del Fuego

One of Spain’s own great adventurers and travellers had also been discovering the wonders of nature before Charles Darwin, and perhaps never received the attention he deserved. This often happens when a great nation or empire is in decline, as Spain’s was in the early 19th century. His name was Felix de Azara. He was a soldier, mathematician and engineer by profession. However, he was a marvellous naturalist at heart and has numerous species named after him, like Azara’s Night Monkey (Aotus azarae)

Azara´s Night Monkey at Cristalino Jungle Lodge, Matto Grosso, Brazil

He is also believed to have had a considerable, if unrecognised, influence on Darwin’s philosophy. Whilst Azara played out his role as a military defender of the Spanish Empire he still found time to make amateur notes on the virgin ecosystems of the South American continent. 

Azara's illustration of his "Tamandua noir", a species of anteater

He illustrated over five hundred birds and fifty mammals in a military exact manner but, what caught Darwin’s eye were Azara’s ideas about evolution which appeared in his later manuscripts. Azara´s findings were published in England and France but not in Spain, possibly due to greater religious pressures.

Sculpture of Felix de Azara by Eduard Alentorn (Barcelona's Martorell Museum)

Felix de Azara was more than a just naturalist. Indeed his adventures in the name of the King of Spain would make a thrilling movie. It all began in 1781 when he was ordered to set sail for Montevideo on a secret mission. He was a reputed engineer and loyal to King Carlos III when he was commissioned to draw up the borders between the Spanish and Portuguese South American territories, as agreed under the 1777 Treaty of Ildefonso. In this task he covered a surface as big as Western Europe from the Andes to the Atlantic coast, from Patagonia to the dense forests of Brazil and the Bolivian hills. 

It was evident, perhaps as scientists like Humboldt, Azara and Darwin began to understand that everything in nature appeared to be connected somehow, that the Spaniard had also, by accident, become a pioneering anthropologist. He identified forty different tribes or nations, as he preferred to call them, and studied their customs. Running against the tide of European colonial methods Azara is possibly one of the earliest Europeans to have shown concern for the manner in which different peoples in remote parts of the world were being cultured by advanced civilisations. Some movements today, in their absurd quest to annihilate history as a remedy for our sins, are asking Europeans to apologise for what Felix de Azara already recognised over two hundred years ago.

What a pity to see such beautiful and strong nations extinguished by our intervention. What I find most sad is that there appears to be no remedy”. 

It is no wonder his views were kept quiet in those days, but it is no surprise also that relatively new "nationalisms" are using these very understandable feelings to stir up nationalist sentiment today. On this side of the Atlantic, the Canary Islands were a stepping-stone for early American exploration and exploitation, and the islands' own indigenous nations or kingdoms, the Guanche people, were, as Azara would say, "cultured" and to a great extent, extinguished. It is since the Canary Islands were given the chance to have their autonomous governments, and have been governed by semi-nationalist coalitions, that interest in the Guanche heritage has become much more than just anthropological and, rightly so, helped Canary Islanders today to feel very proud of their indigenous background.  

Azara, Darwin’s Spanish connection, returned to Spain in 1801. In what is an early example of man’s continuing need to progress, even if it involves evident destruction of the environment and of the species, he discovered that many of the reports and birds he had sent back to Spain had vanished in mysterious circumstances. Nevertheless he continued to serve Spain as a soldier, especially against the French, whose culture, incidentally, he greatly admired.

(Certain images have been reproduced from internet with no personal financial gain intended.)

By John Reid Young

Author of books "A SHARK IN THE BATH AND OTHER STORIES" and "THE SKIPPING VERGER AND OTHER TALES", collections of his short stories set in Tenerife and the Canary Islands.

John Reid is also owner of Tenerife Private Tours

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

DITCHED! When an aircraft crashed into the sea off Tenerife.

A brief, almost matter-of-fact entry in Noel Reid’s diary on Friday 16th September, 1966 refers to an aircraft that crashed into the sea just off the northern town of El Sauzal on the Canary Island of Tenerife.
“Spantax plane for La Palma had to make a forced landing in the sea near Los Angeles. Very good work by pilot. One male passenger only lost due to fear. I think crew could not unfasten his grip”.

Lt. Colonel Noel S Reid OBE DSO MC TD

Noel Reid served in both World Wars and had been tea farming in Africa in between and for a short spell afterwards before returning to his home town of Puerto de la Cruz. His diary annotations clearly reflected his Army ways with a preference for precise notes.

Los Rodeos airport with Mount Teide in the distance

It was 08.21. The Spantax Airlines Douglas Dakota DC-3 lifted off from Los Rodeos, what is today known as Tenerife North airport, into the cloudy, panza del burro sky towards the west, heading for the island of La Palma. Apart from the pilot, co-pilot and airhostess there were 24 passengers, including three children on board.

Spantax Airlines DC-3 EC-ACX

The Dakota, a faithful old workhorse of the island airways, roared into a gentle climb. All seemed perfectly in order until seconds after entering the first cloud layer when the port engine over-revved. That was one of the worst possible failures to occur in those days and the aircraft began to lose height from 2,600 feet above sea level. The crew realised they were still flying over land but the dense cloud made it impossible for the pilot, Eugenio Maldonado, to judge exactly what their position was. He knew they were surrounded by hills and that there was a very strong possibility that they would plunge into one of them at any moment. 

We are going to kill ourselves”, uttered Fernando Piedrafita, the co-pilot quietly. He seemed remarkably composed.

After a horrifying thirty seconds and losing height rapidly, they spotted the coastline below El Sauzal. Miraculously they had left the hills behind them and the jagged and beautiful cliffs began to drop sharply to the sea.

It’s going to be all right. We’ll ditch her in the sea”, Maldonado reassured his colleague.

Pilot Commander Eugenio Maldonado

Eugenio Maldonado was only 26 years old but his actions were so calm and skilful that he avoided what would otherwise have been a disaster. He quickly informed the passengers of the situation and told them to put on their life jackets because he was going to try to land on the sea. He also asked everyone to remain calm but to be prepared for a rough landing.

In a local press interview thirty-seven years later Maldonado praised those aboard his plane.
 The passengers really responded very well indeed. There were no signs of panic at all”.

Nevertheless at 08.33 the silver Dakota with the familiar Spantax Airlines white and sky-blue colours hit the sea so hard that the pilot of another aircraft flying towards Los Rodeos reported upon landing that there would be no survivors. His pessimistic report led to the emergency services taking rather a long time getting to the scene of the crash. There was nothing they could do, they mistakenly thought.

After the impact the young pilot knew he only had five minutes to get survivors out before the aircraft disappeared under the surface. Luckily, a fishing boat had been netting an early morning catch nearby and was quickly alongside the steaming aircraft to help pick up some of the passengers and crew. The trickiest moment for the pilot was when he asked the mothers to hand over their children. The mothers refused to be separated at first but Maldonado was firm enough to persuade them. The children, followed by the women and the older men were lifted into the fishing boat. The remaining passengers simply had to make do with hanging on to the side of the swaying little falua as best they could.

Meanwhile, Commander Eugenio Maldonado realised that one passenger had a firm grip on the aircraft’s doorway and was refusing to let go.

I can’t swim”, was the only thing the man would say.

I will take you to the boat. You can hang on to me”, implored Maldonado, trying to get him to let go.

But the man wouldn't reply, however much Maldonado insisted. In fact his eyes appeared to stare straight at the pilot. What Maldonado did not realise was that during those few seconds the man was actually dying of a heart attack as the Dakota flooded and began to sink fast. The pilot grabbed the passenger but both men were sucked down into the deep with the aircraft and Maldonado, still holding on to the dead man, began to lose strength. He really thought he was done for but, during those desperate minutes, the airhostess, Mari Carmen Vázquez, in another act of courage, plunged into the depths herself to save her Captain’s life. The pilot, whom she pulled to the surface just in time, was still holding on to a piece of shirt torn from the passenger whose life he had attempted to save.

After recovering enough to check that the rest of the passengers and crew were safe he was landed ashore and was able to report to the emergency services that all except one person on board flight IB261 had survived.

Under Spanish transport and maritime laws at that time Commander Maldonado was actually condemned to death for the loss of one passenger. Perhaps it was assumed that most pilots would die anyway. Nevertheless he was released after an autopsy proved the lost passenger had died of a heart attack and had not been drowned as a result of the accident. The unfortunate passenger, Fernando Izquierdo, was a justice of the peace from the town of La Victoria where he had once been Mayor. So perhaps he would have been pleased to hear that justice had been done.

The Dakota crashed off the stunning northern coast of Tenerife

Maldonado eventually moved to live in mainland Spain. He was distinguished and praised for his skill and bravery in 1966 and never forgot any detail of that particular flight.

What you always have in mind is how to save the lives of the passengers and crew. You automatically organise yourself in such a way that you really believe in what you are doing. A pilot is capable of giving his life to save others.”

His advice to young pilots in an emergency today is not to abandon hope. There is always a solution. Nevertheless, despite modern technology, old twin-engine Dakotas, ungraceful as they might have looked, were probably simpler beasts to fly. There were fewer reasons for failure and the pilot, ultimately in control, had fewer possible solutions to consider.

(Certain images have been reproduced from internet with no personal financial gain intended. This is an adapted version of an article published by the same author in the Island Connections newspaper of Tenerife)

By John Reid Young

Author of books "A SHARK IN THE BATH AND OTHER STORIES" and "THE SKIPPING VERGER AND OTHER TALES", collections of his short stories set in Tenerife and the Canary Islands.

John Reid is also owner of Tenerife Private Tours

Thursday, November 15, 2018

A Flying Boat in Tenerife

An entry in the diary of a British resident living on the Atlantic island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands remarked on how an afternoon tea on the veranda with her baby daughter on 9th January, 1956 was suddenly interrupted by a far-off drone.

Although she was blessed to be living just above Puerto de la Cruz in the Orotava valley, a tranquil paradise where birdsong competed for attention only with the laughter and shouting of the men in the banana plantations, that sound made her shiver. Just for a second the deep humming noise reminded her of a German bomber high over her father’s farm in Kent as it headed to release bombs on the London docks during the war. She put her child down and walked to the edge of the garden to look into the sky.

Puerto de la Cruz, between the sea and the bananas

It was certainly an aeroplane but she knew it wasn’t one of the island-hopping Dakotas on its way from Los Rodeos, the old airport in Tenerife, to the landing field above Santa Cruz, the capital of the island of La Palma

Los Rodeos airport with a Dakota just visible to the left of the control tower

As she searched in the sky the drone suddenly turned magnificently into the impressive roar of a huge sea plane and it made a triumphant low pass over the lush northern coastline of Tenerife. What she didn’t know was that her cousin Tom was a passenger on the plane and that this once in a lifetime flight over Puerto de la Cruz was the result of another of his entrepreneurial ideas.

A Short Solent flying boat of Aquila Airways

That Short Solent flying boat belonged to Aquila Airways Ltd. The company began a regular service from Southampton after its founder, Barry Aikman, bought a number of the aircraft from BOAC, which was withdrawing its fleet of sea planes. To begin with they were just used as freight carriers but they were later converted into luxury passenger aircraft for the new tourism routes. The company’s first holiday destination was Madeira via Lisbon but they later extended it to Las Palmas, on the Canary island of Gran Canaria and opened new routes to Capri, Santa Margarita and Montreux. Passengers travelled in great comfort and service a l'anglaise or “silver service” was provided during meals aboard, reflecting early days of tourism when standards were extremely high.

Advertising posters, so typical  1950s, added a touch of magic

It was a time when the thoughts of attracting mass tourism to the Valley of La Orotava were beginning to take shape and the British lady’s diary seemed rather sceptical and concerned about her cousin, Tom’s ideas. He wanted Aquila Airways to fly to Tenerife as well as to Las Palmas. That is the reason he was on that Short Solent flying boat and why he had agreed with the company and pilot Jim Broadbent to make a small diversion, by flying round the coast of Tenerife before continuing on their way to Las Palmas. Naturally passengers on their way to holiday in Las Palmas were thrilled. Teide was sparkling with a fresh coat of snow and the Orotava Valley, as the flying boat passed by, was an enticing vision of paradise.

Sadly the Aquila Airlines flying boats never came to Tenerife. The idea never prospered. To begin with the local authorities took their time to digest the initiative, especially as the aircraft would have to compete for space with ships in the Santa Cruz harbour and landing in the rarely calm seas off Puerto de la Cruz was simply out of the question.

Ships line the south mole at Santa Cruz, the capital of Tenerife

But tragedy marked the end of the Tenerife project. In fact, it also brought a rapid decline to Aquila Airways. Just two years after that flying boat interrupted the British lady’s afternoon tea on the veranda overlooking the colourful town of Puerto de la Cruz a Solent flying boat on its way to Las Palmas developed engine trouble after taking off from Southampton and crashed on the Isle of Wight. The crew and all 35 passengers were killed. As a result confidence in the safety of those flying boats began to falter. At the same time it became known that Aquila had begun to have difficulty finding spare parts for the aircraft. They were forced to cease flying in 1958.
Captain Harry Frank (Jim) Broadbent

Coincidentally it was the same year when Jim Broadbent, who flew that magnificent aircraft past Puerto de la Cruz in January 1956, is presumed to have died. A legendary pilot who began his flying career in Australia, he started flying for a Portuguese airline called ARTOP after the demise of Aquila Airways. On 9th November he took off from Lisbon to Madeira in a Martin Mariner flying boat. An hour into the flight, at 13.21, a member of the crew reported they were making an emergency landing in the Atlantic. No trace of the aircraft, crew or passengers were ever found.  

(Certain images have been reproduced from internet with no personal financial gain intended. This is an adapted version of an article published by the same author in the Island Connections newspaper of Tenerife)

By John Reid Young
Author of books "A SHARK IN THE BATH AND OTHER STORIES" and "THE SKIPPING VERGER AND OTHER TALES" , short stories set in Tenerife and the Canary Islands.


John Reid is also owner of Tenerife Private Tours