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The Queen Of Whale Cay

"Joe" Carstairs was born in London in 1900, the daughter of a Scottish colonel and an American heiress. She was educated in Connecticut and returned to Europe in 1916, to drive ambulances for the Women's Legion in France. She deserted her husband at the church door (marriage having been a prerequisite of her coming into her $4 million inheritance) and settled in England, where she took up motor-boat racing, winning many trophies, and established a boatyard at Cowes. In the 1930s Carstairs began to travel the world and eventually settled in the West Indies, where she bought the island of Whale Cay. There she developed a community and embarked on a programme of building which ranged from roads and schools to lighthouses and churches. She established hegemony over the 500 islanders, controlling not only their sexual morals but also their diet. In 1944 she built a deep-water harbour for use by the Royal Navy and then, without a word to the islanders, left for Florida, where she spent 40 years, having built war-craft, run a steamship freight-line, and set up a chain of airports. This biography aims to bring out of obscurity an extraordinary woman.

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