The Caribbean stevedore’s son who has inherited the West Indian estate of the late Lord Glenconner has spoken for the first time of his 30 years’ faithful service to the flamboyant aristocrat.
He spoke as relations gathered on Saturday for a memorial ceremony at the family’s Scottish kirk.
Kent Adonai, who grew up in poverty in a shanty town, is now the proud owner of a vast estate on the island of St Lucia worth millions of pounds.
The peer’s family has walked away with none of his Caribbean fortune, Colin Tennant’s will having been changed seven months before he died last year in favour of his trusted manservant. Even in death at the age of 83 — just as in life — Lord Glenconner, infamous party host and close friend of Princess Margaret, was causing a furore.
His widow Anne had thought the estate was being left to Cody Tennant, their 17-year-old grandson.
Speaking after the memorial service at the family’s baronial home, Glen House, in the Scottish Borders, Lady Glenconner, 78, told The Sunday Telegraph: “We are not angry; we are surprised. There’s no rift. We feel Colin [Lord Glenconner] was very ill, that he changed his will, but was not well enough. He had cancer very badly and I don’t think he remembered making the will. The will wasn’t Kent’s fault.”
She said Cody, had accepted, having taken legal advice, that the new will was not open to challenge in St Lucia. “Cody was to get something. I would get something, and the others too,” she said, “There’s no rift but a will like this does make it quite awkward.”
She said the will trusted Mr Adonai “to carry out my [Lord Glenconner’s] wishes towards the family” although it does not appear to be clear what those wishes were. “Kent is illiterate. He cannot read or write. He doesn’t seem aware of the wishes of the family,” said Lady Glenconner.
More than 4,000 miles away in St Lucia, Mr Adonai was paying his own tribute, sat in a wooden chair overlooking his master’s whitewashed grave and the shimmering sea beyond. “He taught me so much about the world, about history and culture. Every day, I miss him terribly,” said Mr Adonai. “I was with him every day. We would talk for hours, I drove him everywhere. He was a wonderful man.”
Mr Adonai declined to discuss the will and his plans for the estate, a stunning sweep of rainforest on the south-west coast of St Lucia wedged between the towering volcanic twin peaks of the Pitons. “Mr Tennant asked me to do certain things and I will carry out his wishes. I will do what I think fit,” he said, speaking in a mixture of English and the local French-influenced patois. “I find all the pressure very difficult.”
As he does most days, Mr Adonai, 47, then went fishing for blue marlin and tuna, his escape from the loss of the man who transformed his life and died in his arms in August after a massive heart attack.
Over nearly three decades, he had worked for Lord Glenconner in roles varying from elephant-keeper to estate manager and had been promised he would be looked after following his master’s death. An unassuming, quietly spoken figure who has never given an interview before this weekend, Mr Adonai insisted there were no bad feelings between him and the family.
“I was invited to the ceremony in Scotland but I couldn’t go because it just would be too emotional,” he said, his voice breaking as he recalled the man he knew simply as “Mr Tennant”.
His common-law wife Mona did make the journey to Scotland, indicating that relations have indeed perhaps not frayed irrevocably despite suggestions of pending legal action. “Lady Anne and their children have also always been very good to me,” he insisted.
Close relations at the memorial included Lord Glenconner’s grandson Euan, 26, who has inherited the family seat, as well as surviving sons Christopher Tennant and Joshua Bowler, 54, who only discovered Lord Glenconner was his father two years ago.
This September, Bonham’s will auction some of the peer’s eclectic collection of Indian, Chinese and Balinese furniture and other artefacts — a sale that will help to pay for the estate’s upkeep. The auction will fetch between £750,000 and £1 million.
For as eccentric a figure as Lord Glenconner, it is perhaps not surprising that Mr Adonai met him in 1982 in circumstances that sound almost too outlandish to be true.
As an 18 year-old, he used to help his father load the banana boats that crossed the Caribbean to Britain. One day, word went round the dock that one of the boats had returned with a highly unusual cargo of exotic animals, including an elephant.
“When we got to Soufrière, the elephant didn’t want to come out of its box. I helped to encourage her out. I think that’s why Mr Tennant said he wanted me to look after her. To this day, many people here still know me as ‘marrie l’elefant’ [the elephant husband in patois], not Kent.”
From there, he progressed to estate manager, driver and factotum for the aristocrat, whose family fortune was the product of an ancestor inventing industrial bleach.
He witnessed the peer’s infamous temper, but said the rages always passed quickly. “He was like a cane field on fire,” he said. “He would flare up but then it would be finished two minutes later.”
Mr Adonai says there has been no local envy. “Everyone knows that Mr Tennant was a very generous man who cared greatly for the local community. He was loved here.”
Mr Adonai has no plans to leave the spartan single-storey concrete house that he shares with Mona and their extended family, including two adult children. There he keeps hundreds of photographs of his life with the Tennant family — including trips on safari in Africa and to Hindu temples in Bali. Lord Glenconner is almost invariably dressed in his trademark straw hat and loose white muslin shirts.
And propped up in the corner is a blown-up reproduction of the front page of Hello! magazine from March 1994 featuring Princess Margaret attending the opening party of Lord Glenconner’s Bang restaurant in St Lucia. By then, Lord Glenconner had long made a name for himself as a host of infamous parties. He had risen to prominence on the back of his purchase of Mustique, the mosquito-ridden wasteland he bought for £45,000 in 1958 and which he transformed into a playground for the rich and famous.
In a row over the price of electricity, the “monarch of Mustique” sold up in the late 70s and moved to St Lucia, 45 miles away, in 1981. His fortunes were to take a tumble. His eldest son Charlie, a heroin addict, was disinherited in favour of his second son Henry. Charlie died of hepatitis in 1996 while Henry, who was homosexual, died of Aids in 1990. Their third and youngest son Christopher was disabled following a motorcycle accident in 1987.
Mr Adonai recalls some memorable parties, most recently for his boss’s 80th birthday at his Indian “palace”. But in his later years, the aristocrat, educated at Eton and Oxford, lived a tamer life.
He described the day Lord Glenconner died. Mr Adonai was with him as usual when the aristocrat was struck by a debilitating heart attack.
“I tried to pump his chest and bring him back to life as I held him, but it was no good,” he said tears in his eyes. He drove his master to hospital but the peer was already dead, and in tragedy Kent Adonai’s fortunes were transformed.
For the original report go to http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/centralamericaandthecaribbean/saintlucia/8584163/Servant-tells-how-his-devotion-to-aristocrat-led-to-him-being-left-a-fortune.html