Whenever I tell someone how long I’ve lived on the island the usual reaction is ““ “Wow, I bet you’ve seen some changes!” Well ““ yes and no. Changes are much more apparent when you leave for a spell and then return. But memories can be recalled and you can surprise even yourself when you explore the shifting sands of time. Ken
This month’s Celebrities Corner features two London boys who left their footprints on Tenerife.
Tom Keating (1917 ““ 1984)
Whilst we lotus eaters in the north were living the dream, Lewisham born Tom Keating was slaving away at the easel in his villa in the southern village of Vilaflor (above) happily churning out Samuel Palmer pastiches. These were being delivered to London galleries and auction houses by his girl friend at an alarming rate. She provided the provenances simply by re-inventing her family history.
Palmer (1805 -1881) painted 80 landscapes of Shoreham, Kent. Keating painted 80 more. In 1972 there were 14 Palmers circulating in London. This raised eyebrows and questions. Fraud was suggested.
By the time Keating had been uncovered as the perpetrator in 1976, he and his girl friend had already split up and Keating was back in England.
Tom Keating was not sent to jail. His girl friend, Jane Kelly, died tragically young and you can follow the full story by reading Matthew Sweet’s article for the Independent, The Faker’s Moll.
Keating wrote a best selling autobiography called “The Fake’s Progress” According to his friends he didn’t let the truth stand in the way of a good story.
Many years ago I made a half-hearted attempt to trace Keating. The idea was to uncover one of his “Sexton Blakes” as he called his forgeries, hanging in a bar in Vilaflor, the highest village in Spain. Late in the day I found that he drank in El Médano on the coast. By then I was tired and fed up. Maybe I’ll try again soon.
Fred Pontin (1906 -2000)
Fred Pontin was proud of being a cockney. He told me so.
In the 1960s Pontin decided to expand his holiday business to sunny Europe to meet the challenge of the package holidays. The enterprise advised holidaymakers to “Go Pontinental”.
By the 1970s he was keen to expand Pontinental, so in 1972 Pontins acquired 6 new sites through the purchase of a Belgian holiday club. One of these was Tenbel at Costa del Silencio in the south. Get it? Ten”“Bel, Tenerife-Belgium. You could now ‘Go Pontinental’ to Tenerife.
By all reports this was not a great success but it’s difficult to find folks who stayed there. However, Fred was a great gambler in business and, as he had won the Grand National with his horse Specify the previous year, he must have felt his luck was in.
His other venture into Tenerife was in Puerto de la Cruz in 1977 when he introduced solar heating panels. The party took place on the lawn of Ray Baillon’s house in the Taoro Park. The installation was called Pontin’s Sunsoaker. I think the sun sank on that one.
Fast forward to the year 2000 and John Lucas asked me to greet Sir Fred and Lady Pontin in the Orchid Garden as he had been delayed in La Palma. Sir Fred was wheelchair bound but he and his wife, Joyce, were full of fun and enjoying themselves.
We immediately got on so well that I plucked up the courage to ask him if there’s any truth that during a Pontin’s reunion when a medical research charity were presented with a sizeable cheque, the recipient on behalf of the charity said in front of a couple of thousand Pontin’s campers ““ “I’d like to thank Mr Butlin”¦”¦”¦”
“Right”, said Fred (good name for a song).
Sir Fred also wrote an autobiography entitled “Thumbs Up” which was his gimmick on the Pontin’s TV advertisements and repeated in our photo (above). He died later in the year and was a lovely man.