Have I found Lord Lucan?
Thursday 14 February 2013
Portree's AROS centre has a Cafeteria with vast picture windows at which you may sit and sip, sup and stare at the beauty that is Loch Portree, Raasay and across the sea to the heights above Applecross, on the mainland. You can people-watch too. In such a small town - the only real one on a relatively small island, with a population of around 2,000 - you are pretty much going to spot everybody you know or recognise, one day or another.
In the summer, of course, it's different: thousands stream across the bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh to fan out across the Isle of Skye in search of hotels, holiday-lets, hostels, B&Bs, campsites, wigwams and yurts. Many carry their temporary accommodation on their backs (or in the boots of their cars) or straddled across their bicycles; others tow or drive mini versions of their own home-from-home.
So it would be quite easy if you were, say, on the run and wanted to find somewhere lonely and isolated in which to stay, but also were keen to be invisible in plain view, as it were; if you wanted to mingle a bit; have a pint; do some shopping for essential victuals in a suitably anonymous supermarket, perhaps. The last would be no guarantee of remaining incognito, however, as we know you are not an islander. Trust me; we just do. Even so, while in winter you'd be easily spotted, in Summer you've as good a chance as any round these parts of passing inapercu.
So, the elderly gentleman - I'd give him eight decades, easily and who I'm sure I've spotted from time to time taking tea in the AROS, or driving a battered Land Rover, or shopping in the bigger of the two Portree Co-ops ('the co-operative',universally pronounced 'coop' and still the island's unique national supermarket-chain representative) or supping a pint of Real Ale with a Talisker chaser, beside the fire in the Isles Inn – this elderly gentleman is not a local per se but is frustratingly familiar. And possibly famous. OR – or – infamous! Yes! That's it! It's Lord Lucan!
No, excuse me! Before you nod knowingly and escort me firmly but in a friendly fashion up Fancy Hill to the hospital, I know of what I speak. Unlike all the other supposed sightings of the long-lost Lord down the years, this is perfectly within the bounds of reason and rationality, because we now know he's been in our vicinity. We now know, in fact, that he made his way from the harbour of Newhaven, East Sussex, England, by some sea-going vessel or other to Scotland and to the tiny island of Eigg, to be more precise.
A Police report from Scotland Yard in 1979 has now been seen by the orphaned son of the woman, Sandra Rivett, the Lucan family nanny allegedly bludgeoned to death by Richard Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan, in 1974. It is thought that Rivett was mistaken by his Lordship for his estranged wife, Veronica. Sandra's son, Neil Berriman, 46, is a builder in Hampshire who was only seven when Sandra was murdered, and only discovered she was his birth mother after his adoptive mother died in 2004. You can read the whole story here.
Read it? Right then, so I'm not so daft meself now, am I? So if anyone laughingly jests - while waving a dram of fine Scotch in your face in the tartan-carpeted bar of the Sligachan Hotel that cowers beneath the Cuillins - and points to a white-haired but still straight-backed gentleman of some four score years intently reading old and new newspapers and occasionally casting a furtive glance across the Tableland of the dining area – and says to you, “Anyone'd think he was Lord Lucan! Hahaha!” you may take a discreet photo on your mobile phone and head straight to Portree Police Station with good cause. The case remains open to this day, see? And round here? We just know.
Picture: Flickr User Affendaddy