Many were avoiding the attention of the UK tax authorities or in some cases, the UK police. Others were returning from African colonies seeking a similar lifestyle to what they had enjoyed as an expat colonial, until they were ‘invited’ to leave the colonies.
It’s difficult to imagine how different the expat community was, but a good starting point is to understand that it was a dramatically smaller community. In fact, it was so small that nearly everybody knew everybody else. Following the 1974 revolution, there was a large exodus of the expats (unjustified), fearful of what this would mean to them. That reduced the expat community even further.
Albufeira was the main attraction
Albufeira was one of the most popular locations for expats, and they regularly congregated at the Galeao Bar overlooking fisherman’s beach. This was initially run by Peter Haigh, a well known BBC news presenter, in 1958 he provided the BBC commentary for the Eurovision Song Contest and also presented Come Dancing. He was married to Jill Adams who stared in many English films in the 50’s and was dubbed "Britain's Marilyn Monroe". That marriage broke up in 1977 and she partnered up with Mike Johnson. The Galeao Bar was the place to be seen, and this couple could best be described as colourful, it was never boring enjoying a meal here and Jill’s cooking was famous.
In one infamous afternoon, Mike called out to Jill, who was in the kitchen, that he needed a lemon. It came flying through the air into the bar. Mike and Jill had the ‘odd disagreement’.
Sir Harrys bar in the centre of Albufeira was legendry. Harry with his superb handlebar moustache was always there supervising his ‘domain’ and he was a wonderful and much missed character. Everyone went to Sir Harrys bar at one time or another and it gained publicity worldwide.
Pop stars and celebrities loved the Algarve, it gave them the relative privacy they liked. Cliff Richard, Eric Morcombe, Frank Ifield, Olivia Newton-John, Georgie Fame, Cat Stevens, Donavan and Ronnie Scott, in fact just about every pop star could be seen around, mainly Albufeira.
The Algarve still attracts its fair share of celebs, but these days they are more private for obvious reasons.
Why the Algarve?
The attraction of the Algarve for ex colonials is fairly obvious. The lifestyle they had enjoyed in Africa involved good weather and plenty of inexpensive labour to do everything from gardening to maids to do the housework. The UK couldn’t offer this, the Algarve could. Some came from senior positions in colonial police forces, and some were targeted by the secret police, the PIDE (Portuguese: Polícia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado) to keep an eye on foreigners. For ex police officers this was a task they were well accustomed to. Such things as a telephone were a pure luxury, five years was the minimum waiting time to get one. You could wait many hours for an international phone call which had to be placed by an operator who would, eventually, call you back. There was only a handful of cars in and around Albufeira.
Carvoeiro, a fishing village with two cars
Although far from as well publicised at the time as Albufeira, Carvoeiro was attracting a small group of foreign residents. Photographer Tim Motion arrived there in 1961 in an e-type Jaguar, he had one of the only two cars that existed in Carvoeiro. Quite what impact the exotic e-type would have had on the local fishermen remains a mystery. Believe it or not, Carvoeiro was then just a simple fishing village, the fishermen sold their catch with an impromptu auction on the beach most days.
In his book “Discovering the Algarve”, Tim recalls how he first arrived in Carvoeiro, back in 1961: “Following several coincidences, accidental and fortuitous contacts, of a beautiful girl , borrowing a “classic” car and impulsively turning south when crossing Lagoa, we advanced through almond and orange orchards and had incredibly positive feelings when I arrived in Carvoeiro”.“ It was as if I had been blinded by a ray of light,” he recalls. In the mid sixties Carvoeiro had only one street, Rua dos Pescadores. What is now Rua do Barranco was a reed lined river which ran into the sea.
He soon ended up meeting and befriending the Irish artist, Patrick Swift (Porches pottery). Just like the people of Carvoeiro at the time, who didn't speak English, Patrick was soon adopted by the locals as “Mr. Patricio”, just as Tim was Sr. Timoteo.
Tim returned the following year and remained until 1975. He opened the disco Sobe e Desce which became the favourite hang out for the growing expat community. It featured a restaurant upstairs and a disco downstairs. Breakfast was served on the terrace. To be tactful, the community mixed very freely, it used to be asked, “are you married or do you live in Carvoeiro?”.
Sadly, the relaxed atmosphere of the Algarve then attracted its fair share of dubious characters. Visitors could be befriended by a stranger in a bar who just happened to know someone with a property for sale. There were many disappointed buyers at the time. Many people lost money to dubious investments or just downright trickery. Portugal was quick to tighten its laws and ‘encouraged’ the more dubious con men and scam artists to leave and go home. The sudden and unexpected boom of tourism brought its share of cowboys, but Portugal was quick to bring in laws to control the situation.
The modern, well regulated and welcoming region you now see and enjoy had a few growing pains. Not entirely surprising. There was probably less expats across the Algarve than you might see on a popular beach these days. How times change, for the better.